After a slow initial start, there’s a game that has consumed both my free time and thought lately. That game is Kingdom Come Deliverance. While I may write a full review on it in the future, I am still progressing through the story and have much to see and do in 15th Century Bohemia. I will not review a game that I haven’t experienced fully and thus given KCD’s scope, that could be a few hundred hours yet. However, I want to offer my impressions of the game thus far as I’m finding it to be uniquely engrossing compared to other AAA RPGs on the market today.
For the uninitiated, Kingdom Come Deliverance was developed by Warhorse Studios which is based out of Prague in the Czech Republic. Warhorse Studios was founded by Daniel Vavra, a former game designer and writer for 2K Czech. After a few years spent pitching the idea to potential publishers and founding the studio, a Kickstarter Campaign was launched in January of 2014. The campaign was hugely successful. It secured more than three times the original goal and continued to raise funds through crowd sourcing even after the campaign had completed. Finally in late 2016, Warhorse Studios signed a deal with Deep Silver to publish Kingdom Come Deliverance on consoles alongside a retail PC release. The title officially released worldwide on February 13th.
While I bought the game upon release, I have only just started putting some quality time into it over the past two weeks and want to touch on a few of the aspects which make it special ; the first of which is its historical accuracy. There have been some tremendous Western-style RPGs over the past several years, Skyrim and The Witcher 3 come immediately to mind, but none with as strong of a focus on replicating a historical setting. The team at Warhorse spent a substantial amount of time during development visiting historical sites in the Czech Republic as well as learning the history of the time period and it shows. From the very outset, as you learn your role as Henry from Skalitz, you can see the attention to detail paid to the environments. The way people of various classes are dressed, how the towns are constructed and inhabited, the building architecture, and all of the small details in between demonstrate the prowess of the team’s understanding of the region’s history. In particular, the in-game codex, which provides writings and historical facts behind real world figures of the time period, impresses greatly.
The detail paid to your clothing, armor, and weaponry are not only visible reminders of the time period as well, but play a critical role in the RPG elements throughout the title. Everything has a purpose in Kingdom Come Deliverance and while it makes the game more suited to players who enjoy classic “pen and paper” style RPGs, I find the management systems truly enjoyable. Attacking a bandit camp at night from range? I better not wear this chain mail as it’s not only heavier, but louder, and will likely give my position away. Facing some rebels while traveling through the wilderness? Better make sure I have my mail hauberk and shield equipped as I’ll likely need to defend against slashing damage. You face key decisions at every turn in KCD and I simply adore it. The ability to mix and match so many different armor items at will depending on your task also adds a great level of variety to the looting aspect of the title. When combined with the ample amount of weaponry in the form of swords, axes, clubs, bows, and shields you can acquire, it gives you nearly limitless freedom in how you build Henry to suit your play style or even individual tasks.
Character development is a compilation of systems RPG fans will find familiar but injected with some KCD personality. Skill leveling is accomplished through every aspect of your actions so you’re continually building your character in a vein that matches your gameplay style. If you prefer using swords, over time you’ll be more advanced in swordplay than axe play. It’s a system most reminiscent of Elder Scrolls Oblivion but at pre-determined levels of each skill, you also gain the ability to choose from a small list of skill specific perks that are very similar to the recent Fallout games. I’ve found the implementation of these perks to be unique in that many force you to choose between improving one aspect of the skill while being detrimental to another. Over time, this allows you to further model your Henry to your liking, thus offering a very wide range of play styles. I also like that Warhorse decided to have a little fun with the names of the perks such as “Savage” which gives you strength and vitality bonuses any time you are far enough outside a town or city.
While the open world and branching quest-lines will be familiar to anyone who’s played modern RPGs, KCD’s world is strangely alluring in comparison. While many other games allow you to wander at will through their worlds, the forests, streams, and fields in KCD truly give you the sense that you are there. It’s challenging to put into words and is certainly something you have to experience for yourself. As I was hunting in the woods yesterday, I often found myself stopping to either take screenshots or to simply listen to the birds and wilderness surrounding me. At times it can be quite serene and the level of escapism it provides is extraordinary. Traveling the wilderness at night further emphasizes this feeling as it can be either calming or frightening as your vision is just as hampered as you would imagine, even when carrying a torch. Meanwhile, the quest lines vary from small fetch quests to extended, branching quests that will have you traveling to multiple cities. I’ve been impressed by the creativity in some of the quest lines with some making me truly laugh out loud. It’s a testament to the development team that some of the writing reminds me most of The Witcher 3, an RPG widely-recognized for its quest lines.
Expanding further upon the charm of the world is assuming the role of the main protagonist Henry. I genuinely appreciate playing a role that is clearly defined, yet places you in the shoes of a mere blacksmith’s son. Rather than give the player some level of power early which then escalates far too quickly, KCD puts you in the role of a simple, common man who has to earn his place in his world. This means dealing with disrespect, being under powered, finding alternative ways to complete tasks, and above all, failure, which is uncommon in the majority of games today. It’s refreshing and adds further to the authenticity of the world that’s been built around you. As I’ve acclimated to this sense of freedom, I’ve found myself thinking of ways to complete tasks that I wouldn’t have been able to in other games and many times if I fail, I simply move on and pay my penance rather than reload my last save. It’s oddly enjoyable at times.
Kingdom Come Deliverance isn’t perfect and it certainly isn’t for everyone. A large open world title developed by a small team is bound to have some hiccups and bugs and KCD is no different. However, Warhorse Studios should be immensely proud of what they’ve created as I find several aspects surpass RPGs from much larger studios. If you give the game’s story a chance to develop and immerse yourself into the world, you’ll likely find yourself engrossed. I certainly have. So that’s enough writing for now, I’ve got more nobles to rob.