My first experience with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was not a pleasant one. As I stared at the opening screen, images in the background began to pop in, glitching out my first moments. This was especially disappointing considering the large Day One patch but when the game started the fears disappeared as I was whisked through a beautiful country, complete with lush forests, majestic creatures, and beautiful lakes. While it is true that you do not have a second chance to make a first impression, KC:D proves that you should also never judge a book by its cover.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a medieval role-playing game set in 15th century Bohemia. There are knights, horses, and noblemen and you play as Henry, the son of a blacksmith whose life is thrown into turmoil. There are menus, debuffs, and traits to be earned and at first glance, KC:D seems like it is going to be just another sword and board RPG. What makes it different is it is historically accurate and there are no wizards, monsters, or dragons.
The setting of KC:D is beautiful. Grass looks full, bushes and flowers stand out, and water shimmers. The game boasts a dynamic weather cycle that shows its true beauty during a stormy day. Foliage sways and rain falls at an angle. This attention to detail not only looks good and adds to the game’s immersion. The lighting in the game is particularly well done as armor gleams and sunrises are gorgeous.Facial animations are a pleasant surprise. Characters are not only distinguishable, but are full of personality. Henry looks young, someone who thinks he knows everything but is still trying to figure it all out while his father looks like a tough but caring man. Everyone in the game looks great which is an impressive feat for such a character heavy game.
While not perfect, the sound is another highlight of the game. Henry sounds cocky early in the game before losing confidence. As the game progresses, Henry sound more sure of himself after each adventure. Much like the facial animations, the voice acting gives a distinct personality to each character though there is a character met early in the game who sounds completely out-of-place. KC:D is a deep game filled with menus and skill based gameplay. There are tabs and sub tabs to cycle through with sections for inventory, game lore, historical information, and game tutorials and the game itself requires hours of practice. Combat uses a five-point system that is about movement, defending, and well-timed attacks. The pickpocketing minigame becomes one of the best ever in video games, but it starts off slow and very frustrating. Haggling with shops seems easy, but early on it’s mostly guessing. As Henry continues his adventure, the fighting system becomes second nature, pickpocketing becomes less about chance and more about skill, and negotiations are a fun give and take. There is a true sense of progression here and it is an incredibly rewarding experience.
A strong main quest is important, but side quests are what separates a mediocre RPG from a good one. In many games, after around thirty hours, the main quest remains interesting, with the sides becoming fetch quests. KC:D gets around this by allowing every quest to be completed a multitude of ways. In an early side quest, I was literally told to pick the lock on a treasure chest. Instead, I waited until the owner was asleep and pick-pocketed the key. In a later quest, I investigated a bandit camp site by sneaking in at dawn when everyone was asleep. I did the same quest multiple times: pick-pocketed the bandits at night, used a divide and conquer technique, and just charged into the camp swinging my sword at anything that moved. Since there is no “correct” way, the player can complete any quest in their preferred play style.
For everything the game does right, it has been plagued with issues. I have been playing the game on the Playstation 4 and the pop in issues I mentioned in the opening menu happened throughout the game, most noticeably when the game first starts and when characters first appear. Characters also get mashed together and some cut scenes begin with me talking to the person’s crotch (I am not familiar with European history, so this may be historically accurate.) Thankfully, I have not encountered any game breaking issues.
The two most controversial features in the game are the lock picking mechanic and the save system. The save system is the less bothersome of the two. Not allowing constant saving makes major decisions and moments in the game seem more impactful. Lock picking however, is one of the most frustrating mini games I have ever played. The goal is to the find the “sweet spot” with the right thumbstick and then turn the left thumbstick after it has been located. It sounds simple until you learn that while turning the left stick you have to turn the right one at the same time. This system would be difficult enough, but there is also a seemingly nonexistent margin for error that makes even Easy locks incredibly difficult. This is the only aspect of the game to not adequately mix realism and fun. (The developers are reportedly working on a patch that addresses lockpicking.)
Kingdom Come: Deliverance will test the patience and love of fans of medieval role-playing games. Those who stay will enjoy the satisfying system, fun quests, and great characters. Inevitably, it will be compared to Skyrim and Witcher 3 whose fantastic settings were able to find mainstream success. KC:D is just as ambitious, but is for a specific audience.
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