Developer: Warhorse Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Release Date: Out Now
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Ever wanted to set out on a medieval adventure where you’re given the freedom to do exactly what you please? How about one where you’ve actually got to develop your character yourself, and walk them through the mundanities of life as they look to improve themselves? And how about one where you get to partake in a myriad of unique quests that can be tackled in a variety of different ways?
If yes, it sounds like Kingdom Come: Deliverance might be for you. Warhorse Studios’ eagerly anticipated open-world adventure offers all of those things and more, giving players a new way to approach an adventure where you’re just a small part of a bigger world that goes on without you. It’s a heck of a lot of fun to play and is certainly worth your time, though unfortunately it does have some technical issues that some gamers might struggle to look past.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance puts you in the shoes of Henry – a Blacksmith’s son who gets by in life by simply doing what’s asked of him and not aspiring towards much else. This all changes though when his peaceful hometown of Skalitz is attacked by invaders and his nearest and dearest are killed. This sets Henry on an adventure for vengeance, but one that is inspired by real-life historical events. It’s an enjoyable little tale and does more than enough to keep you intrigued throughout. However, it’s through the gameplay that you’re going to find yourself most engaged.
One of the best things about Kingdom Come: Deliverance is that there’s no pressure on the player to play in a specific way or adhere to any set of rules; you’re given the freedom to play how you want and tackle quests exactly how you want. You’re not some grand saviour of the world that HAS to defeat some dastardly villain, but rather a young man that simply grows from nothing in order to seek vengeance. That’s properly addressed in the game too, both with how you learn new skills but also how you approach every situation you face.
It made Kingdom Come: Deliverance feel like one of the most liberating gameplay experiences I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, you’re limited by what the gameplay offers and you obviously can’t do ANYTHING you want to – as long as you can find the means to though, the world is your oyster. You could easily spend hours exploring the world doing nothing, but you know what? You’ll still have a good time doing just that.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s world just so happens to be a fantastic looking one too. You’ll really feel like you’re exploring these living, breathing medieval landscapes and each locale you visit is full of impressive detail to uncover. The game truly embraces the beauty of the countryside and gives you a myriad of stunningly vibrant sights to see throughout. It does have its share of graphical hiccups here and there (more on that later), but for the most part Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a very pretty game to look at.
Even the towns themselves looks great, with smaller buildings often surrounded by looming structures of the higher class. What’s most impressive about these towns though is how each inhabitant has their own little life; they’re never just wandering around aimlessly, but instead partaking in jobs, gossiping with others, and then heading home after a busy day’s work (or heading to the tavern). It just adds to the realism and actually made me that little bit more wary of my actions and how they affected others.
One thing I really loved about Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s world was how its inhabitants responded or reacted to you based upon your appearance. Like similar games in the genre, you can use an improved speech skill to help you get your way in conversations. However, NPCs will also take into consideration how well dressed you are, how clean you are, or how intimidating a figure you look. There’s an obvious disparity of class in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and it’s something that’s telling from both a narrative and gameplay perspective. It’s game-realism at its finest and shows that the developers cared about even the smallest of details when crafting their adventure.
Of course, you’ve also got to develop Henry outside of his appearance or how well-spoken he is, with Kingdom Come: Deliverance adopting the ‘learn by doing’ mantra. Every facet of Henry’s character is improved by dedicating time to it in-game. Want to learn how to read? Try reading more books. Want to get better at riding a horse? Spend more time horseback. Want to become a better warrior? Spend more time fighting. Want to become more immune to alcohol? You get the picture.
It actually adds a somewhat mundane feeling to proceedings at times, but it actually fits in perfectly within the game world. Kingdom Come: Deliverance strives for realism, and that applies to improving your skills too. Don’t worry though – you’ll get plenty of opportunities to improve just about every aspect of Henry’s skillset throughout the game’s quests, so you don’t have to go out of your way to perform meaningless tasks if you don’t want to.
Combat is also fitting within the game’s overall vibe, with it embracing a sense of realism that makes even the simplest of battles turn into tactical affairs. You’ll be able to attack from all angles, all whilst targeting specific areas of an enemy with various slices. Alternatively, you can take the close-quarters side of things literally and grapple with a foe to overwhelm them. However you choose to attack, precision is an absolute must and you’ll have to carefully figure out the distance required between you and an enemy if you want to be the victor – there’s nothing quite like landing that killing blow with a sword all thanks to some clever thinking. It might seem simple to look at, but there’s a lot of depth to combat that just leave it feeling really satisfying. I found myself often taking the ‘punchy’ route in quests purely because I found combat so fun (even if there were times when taking that approach saw me swiftly finding myself an early grave).
One thing I really appreciated about the combat was how it looked like you were genuinely hurting your foe, especially whilst unarmed. Landing a combination of hooks really seemed to cause legitimate pain, whilst the dependence on thinking about each shot you throw rather than simply mashing the attack button made each precise hit feel all the more meaningful. Henry could definitely make it in the UFC – just saying.
Oh, it’s worth mentioning the bow and arrow too, which proved to be rather difficult to use. You don’t get a clear targeting reticule, but rather have to figure out the distance and angle needed yourself. It’s bloody hard, but like everything in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, practice makes perfect – just don’t expect to become the Robin Hood of the land anytime soon, though…
The only real flaw of combat would come when facing off against multiple foes at once. Now I’ve spent a long time with the game and even I haven’t figured out how flick between targets yet; instead, I’d typically rely on a combination of quick kills and blind luck. You could put it down to the game’s realism (fighting multiple foes at once shouldn’t be a breeze after all), but from a gameplay perspective it could be annoying to have the odds so greatly against you.
Whilst developing Henry into both a formidable and respectable force plays a big role in the game, it’s with the questing itself that you’re going to have the most fun. I mean, open-world game like this can be worthless without a good amount of quests and activities to take part in, but thankfully Kingdom Come: Deliverance more than delivers. Some are optional and some are compulsory, but if I were going to offer any advice it would be to get stuck into any that you uncover. You don’t want to miss out on the likes of playing detective, infiltrating a Monastery as an undercover monk, mingling with witches in the woods, or simply helping the guards out to patrol the streets…
Everything is just so entertaining and varied, plus you can approach each quest in a variety of ways. Your ever-growing skillset continually gives you new options, so there may be times where you’ll want to talk your way, fight your way, or even sneak your way out of a situation – there’s never a right or wrong way to play the game. Whatever you choose though, you can guarantee it’ll provide plenty of fun.
From a gameplay perspective, I’ve really been enjoying my time with Kingdom Come: Deliverance. From a technical perspective though, it’s been a slightly different story.
For example, the frame rate struggles to hit 30fps most of the time, even when played on the PlayStation 4 Pro. If you hit a really busy area it’ll completely slug out at times, and whilst it does recover, it can be frustrating if you’re in the midst of a battle with an enemy.
Then there are the graphical issues, such as textures not loading in, pop-in within maps, and even NPCs and objects seemingly floating in the environment. These are the kind of issues we’ve seen in big open-world games before so I can’t hold it against the game too much, but they’re definitely obvious and also very common.
Worst of all though are the loading times. Now I can appreciate that big game worlds need time to load in – it’s something I’ve dealt with in other games, and I’m sure I’m going to have to deal with it more in the near future too. However, in Kingdom Come: Deliverance they happen so often that it can start to feel ridiculous. Simple things such as opening your map or conversing with others leads to a loading screen, and these aren’t short load times either. There were times where I felt like I was spending more time in loading screens than I was playing the game, and whilst there’s no doubting that it’s probably a slight exaggeration, I’m sure other players will feel the same too.
Now I’ve been fortunate enough to play the game since before its release and since then there’ve been a few meaty patches released; some of which I’m sure will address some of these issues I’ve brought up. Given the time I’ve spent with the game already, I haven’t been able to fully appreciate these fixes – those new to the game should though. I can guarantee that over the coming weeks and months Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s technical performance will improve ten-fold, but as it stands you can expect to encounter plenty of little issues throughout your playtime.
One area in which Kingdom Come: Deliverance messes up that isn’t a technical issue though is with its save game system. The game auto-saves at specific mission points and you can save by sleeping in your own bed – however, if you want to manually save freely, you have to use an item called ‘Saviour Schnapps’. Now I’ve play the old-school Resident Evil games so can appreciate a system where you have to use a consumable to save game, but in a huge open-world like Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s where there are so many different approaches you can apply to any task, it was just frustrating.
I’m not going to act like the Saviour Schnapps are hard to come by, because they’re not. However, if you’re out in the countryside completing a quest or instead short on cash, not having access to any could be a massive pain. A lot of the fun of these open-world games comes from doing something risky or completely stupid but knowing that you can always re-load your save when things go wrong. Not giving the player the freedom to do this when they wanted just felt like a massive hindrance. I actually suffered the consequences of this when I played around for an hour or so exploring the world and didn’t save – one sudden death later and my progress was lost. Painful.
Outside of the technical issues and the annoying saving system, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a pretty huge game and you can expect to spend a ton of hours with it before you see it through to its conclusion. Heck, I’m approaching that forty-hour mark and I still haven’t seen it through to its ending, whilst there still seems to be plenty for me to see and do. It definitely won’t be one of those ‘one weekend and it’s over’ experiences, but one that you can expect to be playing for weeks on end. Fortunately, it’s a lot of fun, so all those hours will certainly be well-spent.
I remember reading in a preview that Kingdom Come: Deliverance was just a medieval Elder Scrolls, but after spending a ton of hours with the game I’ve learned that it’s so much more than that. This isn’t just a huge medieval open-world adventure that’s missing some dragons, but instead one that truly embraces the sense of realism that’s often missing from video games. You’re genuinely taking on the role of a Blacksmith’s son and you’ve really got to work hard to become the hero you so desperately aspire to be.
It’s bloody good too. Whilst I wasn’t initially a fan of some of the earlier mundane tasks and the game’s approach to progression, the more time I spent with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the more I began to appreciate it. It does help that the quest variety is fantastic though and that the combat mechanics will make you really feel like you’re getting involved in a proper little showdown.
Unfortunately though, the myriad of technical issues greatly hold the game back. It’s not just the drop in the frame rate or the long and constant loading times that annoy either, but there are also plenty of graphical glitches and even moments where you have to completely re-load the game. These kinds of things are typically a dime a dozen in such large open-world games, but given that Kingdom Come: Deliverance has an awful save-system in place too, they become all the more noticeable.
Do the issues stop Kingdom Come: Deliverance from being worth playing though? Definitely not. It’s a special little game and one that truly does something different in the genre. It’s unique, clever, and the sheer scale of it is mighty impressive – it’s just going to take a good few bug fixes and patches before it can really strive towards the level of greatness that it deserves.