History buffs rejoice! A video game with a decent replication of the middle ages is upon us, in the form of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. One of my friends is a lover of modern history, particularly the middle ages, and after he learned of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, I thought he might explode. It’s set in 15th century Bohemia, which is now a part of the Czech Republic, and puts you in the role of Henry, a simple peasant of Skalitz, son of a master blacksmith.
Radiant AI is something that Bethesda came up with – that every NPC has autonomy in the world and will perform certain tasks based on the time of day. I always thought that was cool, but it also felt fairly limiting, as these people would always have their lot in life and would never seek a life above their station. It was also strange that, out of all the denizens of Tamriel, my character was the only one who could be bothered to go around and help people. Kingdom Come: Deliverance went a massive step above what Bethesda came up with, and created a world in which you’re not the only person able to carry out tasks, where people do things of their own accord properly, instead of just ambling around relatively aimlessly. When you enter a town, you may think that the main quest is all-important and focus solely on that, deciding to pick up the side quests after you’ve seen more of the story. That is one of the worst decisions you could actually make in the game, as quest-givers won’t wait around for you to be gracious enough to spend some of your time with them. They’ll just ask another, kinder NPC to help them out and do the quest that you couldn’t be bothered to do! It may seem counter-intuitive – the game actually completing some of the game without you – but it adds significant realism to it that is painfully absent in every Elder Scrolls game I’ve played.
Another thing that impressed me with the AI, is when you wander around towns, people will come and talk to you. They won’t initiate a full conversation, but they’ll come up to you with specific details, waiting for you to start a conversation with them. Even right at the start, guards-people will mention the game’s events and you can either ignore them or chat to them about it. I’ve put a lot of hours into the game and this still hasn’t gotten old. The game also has something that I’ve not really seen in an open world RPG – neither Bethesda nor CD Projekt Red could manage it with the Elder Scrolls series or the Witcher series – and that is fantastic voice acting. I’d even go as far to say that Kingdom Come: Deliverance has the best voice acting of any game I’ve played of it’s size. With the vast amount of characters that you can talk to in it, and the tens of thousands of lines of dialogue in it, the acting and direction of the voice work is, to a word, incredible. Everyone speaks with a clear accent, and they know how to speak. They’re not trying to blast through their lines, and they’re not adding too much gravitas – or not enough – to what they’re saying. It’s all impressive and spot on.
Realism is the name of the game in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. More specifically, the combat is quite wonderful. Instead of the usual hack and slash foreplay, you’ve got to aim your blows properly, and mix it up a bit. You can’t just sit there and hammer away trying to punch some guy in the face repeatedly, because he’ll see what you’re doing and counter it. Instead, if you mix it up a bit, throw some body blows in there with a couple of jabs to the face, you’re more likely to win. They’ve also done away with the ridiculous armour that you see in every game going. They’ve developed an engine which actually accepts a hit where it hits you, and subtracts damage if you’ve got some protection there. No longer will some nice gloves protect your biceps, and it makes buying armour a more challenging proposition. You’ll have to unlearn everything you’ve learnt from other video games in the genre, because although armour does have defensive points, more points does not always equal better protection. For example, you wouldn’t want an exceptionally protective shoe that leaves your shins exposed, you’d probably prefer to have a moderately protective boot, to ensure the majority of your body is covered up.
Finally on the topic of combat, if you’re so inclined, you might even manage to get through the entire game without seeing very much bloodshed at all. Sneaky players can infiltrate an encampment at night and nick all their gear so they can’t put up an effective resistance. More eloquent players might try to use their silver tongues to prevent any fighting in the first place. You may even pick your battles more wisely, as just because you sway one way for one quest, doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. You will, obviously, get better at things the more you do them, but you’re never locked in to a certain path. You can alter the way you play the game at any point through the game, which adds to the experience immensely. If you think that you’re going to get your brain smashed out by an opponent, a sidestep into being less confrontational may be your best bet.
LA Noire released in 2011, and featured some of the best facial motion captures I’ve ever seen in a game. That was seven and a half years ago. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, unfortunately, did not learn the lessons that Team Bondi set down in that game, and the interactions with people suffer greatly for it. Despite being set in one of the most beautifully crafted games I’ve seen, no-one seems to care what you have to say. Their voices are wonderfully directed and have feeling and gusto put into them, but everyone is as stony-faced as Michaelangelo’s David. As a consequence of this, every conversation lost a lot of magnitude. Some of them really suffered, and it felt that even though I should be feeling something from the events in the game, I found myself reacting to the facial expressions on the characters and feeling almost nothing.
There’s also the small issue of tutorials – particularly around combat. Combat is a massive change from what players may be used to, and for the most part it’s pretty self explanatory, but near the start of the game, you’re given the opportunity to put your dukes up and clobber a local drunk. I took that option, and up popped a very brief overview of hand-to-hand combat. I gave it a quick read, and started to get my arse handed to me. I did manage to win in the end, but after the first few minutes of the fight, I was wondering if I’d missed anything. I did try to find the combat tutorial in the menu afterwards, but it was absent. I couldn’t find it anywhere in the game, when all I wanted was a brief refresher, or confirmation that I was actually doing the right thing.
One small issue that is a bit of a pain is the saving. As I’m playing on console, I don’t actually save all that frequently (a dangerous game, I know), but were I playing on PC I’d definitely be saving a lot more often. The issue that is presented here is that the game will autosave when you progress a quest, or if you have the required item – some booze – in your inventory. While I can definitely understand the developer not wanting everyone to save, do something, then reload and try it again, not having a quicksave option really hinders how you explore the game. Instead of wanting to wander out into the massive world, you’ll probably err on the side of caution and stick to the known areas, where you won’t get set upon by bandits, or lose your way. If you’re a more casual gamer, or someone who enjoys gaming but can’t set significant periods to play games, or even someone who gets interrupted by real life a lot, you will be put off by not being able to save as often as you need to.
The Final Word
This year has already been a cracking year for games – Laser League and Monster Hunter World spring to mind – but I think Kingdom Come: Deliverance is definitely up there. There are some technical quirks to figure out, but those things are definitely solvable. Once it’s been fully patched, I’d imagine this game would be one of the front-runners for my game of the year. It’s so absorbing and what Warhorse Studios have done isn’t just create a game, they’ve created a world in which to live in, to enjoy and to conquer.