A Bouquet Of Roses
HIGH Incredibly immersive RPG experience.
LOW Persistent technical hiccups.
WTF The game can’t render as fast as my horse can gallop…
Though it caught my attention when it was released back in 2018, I was correct to assume that diving into Kingdom Come: Deliverance would demand a clear schedule. This open-world first-person adventure is a behemoth of an RPG, with a ton of systems to learn before one can truly appreciate it. As such, it’s a rare example of a title that boldly swims against the current, aiming to evolve with the player while never ceasing to offer a huge, fat zero in terms of immediate gratification. Instead, it’s up to us to carve a path through the obstacles and pay attention to the rich world that can actually meet our aspirations.
Set at the start of the 15th century in Bohemia, we play as a young lad named Henry whose destiny soon becomes dominated by the ensuing war between two princes that divide the land, both offspring of the legendary King Charles IV. In the utterly engrossing opening (and tutorial) that exceeds an hour of dedicated play, we glimpse the main foundation of Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s world — we get better only by actually performing the thing we intend to get good at.
For example, leveling the strength stat requires completing laborious tasks, upping agility equals spending more time sprinting, improving horsemanship means we’d have to get a horse first, and so on. Interestingly, gaining levels in any of the dozen categories earns us the right to pick one of the many perks that slowly unfold. Though most of them offer convenient bonuses like being able to carry more items at once or using sturdier lockpicks, some of these cancel each other out — we can either gain charisma bonuses while in the wilds or when in a village, but not both places at once. Regardless, the perks don’t funnel us into a specific ‘build’ due to Kingdom Come‘s fixation on realism above all else.
While it may seem that this attempt at strict realism can only result in a game that steps on its own toes, Kingdom Come: Deliverance wastes no time in becoming a playground for us to find appropriate joy in.
An early lesson comes when Henry’s mom interrupts his wish to sleep ’till noon, so we take control of our slightly-hung-over hero as he tries to explain (or cover for) last night at the bar. In this exchange, I quickly learned to carefully weigh how my answers may sound to the other party, since the NPCs are not simpletons and will make accurate deductions based on what Henry spits out. (Naturally, correctly assessing how to shape the conversation’s outcome will earn the player a level up in the Speech skill tree.)
Once our forgiving mother directs us to speak to our father (the local master blacksmith), Kingdom Come frees us up to tackle the first of the many story quests. Due to plot-related reasons, the passage of time and the day-night cycle are halted at that point, allowing one to wander around the beautifully-realized town of Skalitz, perched atop a small hill next to a narrow river. The quests direct us to haggle with at least three merchants of various guilds, trying to produce a sum of coins equal to what a certain local drunkard owes Henry’s father (but refuses to give to his timid-looking son.)
Personally, I headed to the nearby prairie and collected herbs and flowers, which I later sold to the correct merchant. This raised both my Herbalism and Speech stats. However, Kingdom Come: Deliverance doesn’t hinder the player’s creativity in the slightest. There was nothing wrong with borrowing a few lockpicks from Henry’s mates and breaking into said drunkard’s house to rob him blind. Similarly, there was nothing stopping me from doing a favor for my three buddies before asking them to join me in a hand-to-hand fight against the poor fellow, and looting the key once we knocked him out.
This level of interactivity is the most potent quality that prevents this ambitious title from ever falling prey to mundanity. Supporting it is a superb level of writing, with characters that seem like actual people who can’t help but be themselves, and quests that evolve in organic and logical ways. I often opted to indulge the plea of a mere passerby, only to uncover a long chain of side-quests that took me for a ride.
One of the biggest highlights I can share without spoiling the story was the time when I had to find a cure for a plague-like curse that had befallen one of the neighboring villages. Trying to uncover the root of the issue meant taking the time to interview all members of the townsfolk that were not yet bedridden. Next, I headed to another, bigger settlement to confer with the scholars before inspecting their library. There, scouring through handwritten parchments that make up the limited medicinal knowledge of the era, I was able to identify what I was dealing with. At least, I think I did? After that, a monk explained how to brew the potion that might cure the ailing villagers, but to do so I had to find an alchemy table and carefully follow his recipe, grinding the herbs and bringing the base liquid to a boil.
Once I had the potion in my backpack, I went to the village and administered it. Still, I wasn’t sure whether I had chosen the correct medicine for a very long time. Just like in real life, several in-game weeks had to pass (or I had to progress the main quest to a certain point) before Kingdom Come presented the resolution. Until then, all I could do was hope, and that’s what made the whole affair so memorable.
Yet, even if similar adventures that led to mastering pickpocketing, alchemy, and lockpicking were all fantastic quests that demanded incredible nuance, Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s greatest strength lies in its unique combat mechanics. Swordsmanship is so vividly translated here that, at first, I had to get used to swinging or blocking from a first-person perspective — I had to learn how to fight like a medieval knight with a literal hands-on approach.
Just like Henry, I couldn’t hide my utter lack of experience in this area once events began in earnest. Trotting around the woods and stumbling upon a camp of bandits quickly spelled death, and such rapid defeats began chipping away at my spirit. Even as someone who’s platinumed most FROM Software games, I was woefully unprepared for Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s mechanics. Thus, there was no other way to pay back the grinning bandits than to beg one of the men-at-arms to show me the ropes.
Once he agreed, I spent the next two or three real-time hours in a ring with him, practicing with a wooden sword, shield, ax, mace, and halberd. Though he never hesitated to knock me on my ass, after a while I got the gist and could hold my ground. I noticed how each weapon type differed in speed, reach and stamina consumption. Also, I had to learn how to position Henry optimally before starting the next swinging animation. This gradual change was followed by a feeling of elation and further strengthened my willingness to dig deeper. At the same time, I started paying attention to what type of armor, undergarments, and helmet I wore, since they do impede speed and vision. The result of this invested effort was being able to challenge a handful of bandits and masterfully wipe the floor with them. Pure joy!
While there’s no doubt that Kingdom Come is an incredible achievement, what bogs down the sky-high immersion level of this experience are numerous technical hiccups. Merely booting it up takes full two minutes, and while there aren’t many loading screens after that, the act of reloading a situation to try another approach is far from smooth. On top of that, we can’t even save whenever we feel like it, since creating a separate save file is tied to a drinking mini-game, and doing so in rapid succession will leave Henry in a sorry state.
Similarly, Kingdom Come (on the PS4, the version reviewed) renders at an alarmingly low pace, especially in more populated areas. This didn’t bother me much at first since I expected as much, but after I spent a lot of cash on a heroic-looking white stallion, I was disappointed to witness it galloping through empty streets as the engine struggled to make its assets pop into existence.
Luckily, such shortcomings don’t mar Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s many strong suits. The historically accurate locations and events paint a somber and genuinely interesting tale of revenge and friendship. The fighting system is so memorable and immersive that it won’t take long before the player starts feeling like Henry and eagerly striving to make a name for themselves. This title certainly takes things slow, but it runs so deep and expands in so many directions at once that it’s hard to label it anything other than a true achievement.
I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone who might consider themselves an RPG fan.
— Konstantin Koteski
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Warhorse Studios and published by Deep Silver. It is currently available on PS, XB and PC.This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PS4 Pro. Approximately 80 hours of play were devoted to the game and the game was not completed. This is a single-player only experience.
Parents: This game has received an “M” rating by ESRB, and contains Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content and Use of Alcohol. The official ESRB rating for the core content reads as follows: This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a man on a quest for revenge against invaders in 15th-century Bohemia. From a first-person perspective, players explore open-world environments, complete objectives, and engage in melee-style combat against bandits and enemy soldiers. Players use swords, knives, and bows to kill enemies; large blood-splatter effects occur during combat, leaving blood stains on bodies and the screen. Players can also injure/kill non-adversary characters, though this may negatively affect players’ progress via a penalty system (e.g., fines, jail). A handful of sequences depict additional acts of violence and/or gore: a prisoner executed by decapitation; an eviscerated corpse shown at a crime scene. The game depicts some nude female characters with exposed buttocks and breasts. Brief cutscenes also depict characters engaging in sexual activity: a nude woman climbing atop a man; a man in the background briefly thrusting against a woman—sexual moaning sounds can be heard. During the course of the game, players’ character can consume alcohol, resulting in drunkenness (e.g., screen-blurring effects, passing out). The words “f**k,” “c*nt,” and “sh*t” are heard in the dialogue.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I’ve played with the sound turned off for around one hour, and it didn’t hamper my strutting around medieval Bohemia. However, some optional side quests revolve around following sound cues. The menu text and characters’ descriptions are all easily readable, but much of the in-game banter is hard to parse due to white letters drowning in light-blue skyboxes. This game is not fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game does not offer a controller diagram, and the control scheme is not remappable. We use the analog sticks to move and look around. The face buttons are for dodging, crouching and interacting. The bumpers are for combat (light attacks with R1, heavy attacks with R2, L1 to block, L2 to parry).