Video games can be more than a stupid power fantasy or an escape into an interactive reality but honestly they don’t have to be. This game chooses to be a stupid, slow-growing power fantasy and that is one of it’s few virtues. The conversation surrounding the early development and Kickstarter for Kingdom Come: Deliverance drew ire from progressive inclined games industry journalists before and after it’s release. It’s success likewise drew hurrahs from conservatives because the perception that the ‘social justice warriors’ had lost their fight for political correctness. I think this best illustrated how incredibly stupid any/all sides of professional video game journalism have become. Inserting personal politics where they don’t belong is infuriating for folks like me, who play games to escape from the world of fools abound that seek to divide human beings with feigned ideological diarrhea. It is the main reason why I’ve decreased submissions to video game sites and stuck with light-hearted blogging. Modern day political commentary doesn’t belong anywhere in the conversation surrounding Kingdom Come: Deliverance as it is just some half-hearted, historically accurate, slice of Czech history during the rule of the Holy Roman Empire. The feigned controversy surrounding this game is a tragic display of idiocy on all counts.
WarHorse Studio’s Kickstarter pitch and promise was an immersive and realistic simulation of a medieval Czech province. The throne for their region was devalued by the presence of a new king who did not want to rule as much as he cared to drink, frolic and fuck. The usurpation of the throne by his cousin, a ruler of another land, and the resulting wave of opportunist thuggery sets the stage for the brutal opening events of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. All of this of course occurred in 1403 and we know it did because records show the game’s prologue actually happened, where the town of Skallitz was raped, burned, pillaged and plundered in an effort to overtake the silver mines operated by the townspeople and pay off the usurper’s mercenary debts. You’re not given much time to get to know your family or your community no matter how much time you spend combing over the early game, but WarHorse Studios does some of it’s best storytelling in these opening moments with plenty of foreshadowing, decent voice acting, and a fairly realistic and functioning township beneath a small castle.
Your kinship, sense of self, and place within the town of Skallitz is hugely important because Kingdom Come: Deliverance pays careful attention to caste and karma in terms of who you are, what class you are within society, and how your actions define you in the eyes of others. Who are you? Henry, a blacksmith’s son destined to be a blacksmith. Your place in life is a step above a shit-dumper or a water carrier and at the very least you’ve got a home and not a stable to sleep in. Early on Hank is a scrappy bitch of a young man who might choose to talk back even if the player chooses otherwise. Thankfully your dialogue choices do eventually matter quite a bit. The game isn’t all dialogue choices, though, as you’re quickly tasked with a myriad of maintenance systems: Eat food to maintain nourishment, sleep to maintain energy, clean yourself and your clothing/armor to maintain charisma. Additionally if you drink alcohol you’ll get drunk and if you do it often enough you’ll become addicted. There are consequences for most everything you do and though the consequences that affect your statistics are often temporarily dire, the ones that affect your regional reputation are much more important.
The fact is that you might play this game for 20 hours before you realize that you’ve been a pile of shit and you may never be able to fix your reputation. You could start by paying off every member of a town repeatedly, bribing every vendor, killing a hundred bandits nearby, and generally doing tons of side-quests (if you can find them). Even in the process of redeeming yourself from the mark of karmatic justice you may be attacked by relentless guards who, regardless if you fight or flee, will lower your reputation ad infinitum until you serve time in jail. This system of reputation is only important in terms of economy and quest availability because the game smartly comes to you with questing opportunities in seemingly binary fashion: You get thief, illegal hunting, and murder jobs if you’re a murderous thief. You get more menial tasks and bandit killing quests if you’re a law abiding honest guy. If nobody in town will give you a fair price on the stuff you’re selling, fences will. If you don’t have nice armor or any money, you can go kill bandit camps and loot them for valuables. There is always some sort of workaround, thankfully.
I played Kingdom Come: Deliverance with a good heart for the first several hours until I began encountering enemies more frequently and I found my armor options were weak and I was surrounded by valuables and potential treachery enough to warrant theft. So, you might’ve noticed I haven’t really talked much about gameplay yet and the issue of gameplay is where the game loses a full recommendation from me. Yes, I love immersive simulation games and I’ve played hundreds of hours of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare just for the sake of old fashioned medieval combat so… this game was supposedly right in line with my interests. The survival elements really only boil down to Minecraft to be honest, where you need to eat some meat once a day, and with certain perks selected you have to sleep once every two days. Wait, so what is the gameplay? It is basically first person The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion with the stance/targeting system of For Honor/Chivalry melded in some respects. The combat is made simpler with practice as you’ll gain perks and each perk selected, regardless of what it is, will earn you an advantage in combat. By the time you finish this game you can literally just poke at enemies heads and stab away until they all fall dead. A well timed poke to the head can instantly kill/knock out most enemies depending on the quality of their armor.
Like Oblivion the more you do anything you’ll level up your skill in it and get a chance to select a perk when you reach a certain level in your skill progression. Raising levels of any skill will raise your overall level in the game, peaking around level 20. You can sort of cheese this early on with simple tasks, as in The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Pick herbs for a few days and you’ll get a perk where anytime your Herbalist level increases will get an extra (permenant) bonus to Strength at each gain, effectively making you a strong(er) warrior in the early game. Ride your horse around the whole world a few times and just keep going for a few hours discovering all of the cities and landmarks and your Horsemanship stats will give you perks for horseback battle, maneuverability and increased stamina. In this way Kingdom Come: Deliverance is at first a constantly rewarding experience when you commit yourself to tasks of exploration, Anything you do with your time will likely result in some kind of monetary or reputation gain. Herbs can be sold for quickly accumulating sums and in fact killing bandits and selling gear allowed me to afford everything I could ever want by the time I’d spent 10 hours with the game. In a game where folks seemingly live and die for a hundred gold, I had amassed over 40,000 by the end and hadn’t spent any for hours.
As rewarding as the game can be, it’s systems of conversation, charisma, and reputation make for obstructive and confusing moments in the story where a character might reward, praise, chastise, and then fight you within the same conversation. This was usually based on different quests or actions I’d completed before continuing the story. The main story itself has heinous quest design taken straight from old MMORPG style questing that relies on you crossing large areas for fetch-and-kill quests and there are rarely surprises or nuance in their design outside of some dialogue. The first sign of poor communication between game and player happens early on, you’re saved from death by a miller’s daughter and the miller pays your medical bills. He tasks you with what is essentially the beginning of the thief quest line throughout the game and I ignored it for 2 days and upon returning to the main metropolis of the map Rattay I was approached by an assassin willing to kill me for not hurrying up. Why is that weird? I’d already paid back the Alchemist/doctor. There was no way to communicate this to the miller because the game wanted me to keep the thief option open. I had to finish the quest to avoid repeated harassment from the miller’s men.
There are countless examples of poorly telegraphed quest goals and I felt this wasn’t just me being a bitch who needed my hand held in terms of quest descriptions. The worst was when I went to a bathhouse with hang out with a douche noble who is integral to the main story and a foil for the reality of the usurped king’s personality. I had to play an awful dice game and we’d gotten drunk off wine. He then tasked me with breaking into a heavily guarded cellar and the cellar waypoint was underneath the ground in the city of Rattay. How could I get there? Well, I spent a half hour looking for a way in and it wasn’t until I ran back to the bathhouse and grabbed his keys did I find the third story door that leads to the building that leads into the cellar. By the time I retrieved the wine for him the sun came up and I failed the questline. I was no longer able to continue his questline. This was typical for Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s bullshit and I had stopped trying to save-scum and get a perfect outcome long before this. You’d really have to play this game with a guide to see every part of it and it’s likely you’ll naturally fail most of them without foresight or a guide.
In fact, I made a lot of mistakes playing this game early on and it culminated with me killing the entire guard of Sasau. I didn’t realize that the second half of the main story took place in Sasau and it’s monastery, complete with an infuriating week spent pretending to be an inductee into the priesthood, so by the time this part of the story rolled around my reputation was less than 20/100 for the entire town. This meant having to spend around $4000 (well, Groschen not dollars) bribing everyone in town so that I could speak to them and sell goods. I ended up spending a total of 9 days in jail for killing the entire guard as well. To pass 9 days of time each day takes roughly one minute and this meant watching the games passage of time wheel spin for 10 minutes straight. In fact this is the biggest problem with playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance in general, waiting in game and loading screens. To be fair I was playing on Playstation 4 Pro and it wouldn’t be as fast or sharp as playing on PC but the loading times for this game were on par with those of the original The Witcher. This was compounded by every quest in the game being relatively specific in it’s time of day because every character in the game is tied to a day/night cycle and their sleep habits. Here is a YouTube video from a live stream where I was progressing the main story:
As you’ll see during my investigation at the coal burner’s camp early in the video every human in the game wakes up around 8am and becomes functional in their task by 9-10am. So, if I want to complete a quest I have to wait a few hours in the game to progress a quest even if I’m in the middle of it. This often meant waiting an entire day or running off completing multiple quests and watching the clock so that I didn’t miss my window for certain actions. This wasn’t so much a problem but maintaining food, sleep, and active quests that were missable based on time taken to complete became a completely boring chore. By the end of the game I was not only skipping through cut-scenes and failing quests on purpose just to get through them faster, I just wasn’t having any fun with the combat despite how much I enjoyed it early on.
As I pressed on through the story I began to realize that the only truly fun quests the game had to offer were more or less going off and murdering camps of bandits. The only true thrill offered by Kingdom Come: Deliverance is in it’s combat when killing Cuman (Hungarian) raiders and bandits in their camps. Fighting multiple enemies requires careful management of spacing, parrying and dodging. They grow increasingly smart and will flank you and switch to ranged attacks as you level up but never offer an incredible challenge if you spend enough time training and figuring out how combos and keep your attacks unpredictable. Dodging is important but learning to parry is key to completing the game without a ton of deaths and restarts. The least fun part of the game’s many systems is it’s unforgiving save system where you need a certain type of moderately expensive alcohol to save the game manually, though you’re able to save anytime you sleep, complete a quest, or receive a quest. I lost a total of 6 hours of playtime due to dying when I didn’t know I’d need to save, a careless death where I fell off a bridge and accidentally walking into a bandit camp lead to two deaths where I lost three hours of progress each time.
For all of it’s odd politically based reactions I don’t understand why more professional reviewers didn’t focus on the entirely janky and broken aspects of the game and it’s obtuse systems. One of the most unfair deaths in the game saw me open an alchemy bench and begin floating in the air above the world, when I hit a button I fell to my death on top of an Herbalist’s hut, losing progress. Climbing ladders caused me to fall through the world several times, walking down a rocky hill sent me flying to my death, and enemies would stand still motionless if you ride your horse away far enough. There have been several patches during my playthrough and many of the issues were fixed, but I can’t help but think I should have bought this game a year after release so it’s major problems might have been ironed over.
I don’t recommend this game to die-hard RPG fans looking for a PC RPG with considerable difficulty and redeeming story. Kingdom Come: Deliverance‘s bland political comedy of errors that ensues after the prologue culminates with a tacked on and completely predictable revelation that you are the bastard son of the noble who your father made a sword for at the beginning of the game. The silly grandstanding dialogue and increasingly terrible voice-acting for Lord Hanush and Sir Radzig reaches heinous levels of cheese as the game’s final small scale battles play out. It all leads up to a relatively small siege after a full three days of waiting for a trebuchet to be built. The main takeaway after spending a few days thinking about my time spent with Kingdom Come has me nonplussed. I just didn’t care about the inconsequential ending and didn’t see my choices reflected in the final events of the game. I’ve watched other people’s endings and found them fairly similar, so I’m generally uninterested in playing this game a second time. I really thought the early exposition of the game and it’s medieval historical setting and realism would win me over throughout, but the endgame (Epilogue) exposition was dire. The need to wrap everything up with endless dialogue felt rushed and was entirely told by puppet nobility gathered around a table.
The ending of Kingdom Come: Deliverance segues into a potential sequel and I would have been interested in a sequel if WarHorse Studios had delivered on the historical presentation they’d promised outside of the games extensive glossary within the menu. I wanted a lot more than introductory exposition and a glossary to teach me about Czech life in the 1400’s and medieval politics of the time. I think they missed an opportunity to tap into the market for medieval times-loving RPG nerds and folks like me who love historical fiction, and instead went the shitty western RPG route of The Witcher making quests where you fuck women, steal and get drunk. Parts of it seem unfinished and though the visuals are polished the simulation RPG aspects are cumbersome. Worst of all the world’s relatively small scale didn’t provide enough to do in Kingdom Come’s world that was fun beyond stab and loot anyone who looks at you funny.
|Genre||First Person Action RPG|
|Released||February 13, 2018 | Warhorse Studios [Deep Silver]|
|Platform(s)||Playstation 4 Pro|
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