Warhorse Studios epic action role playing game Kingdom Come Deliverance has released after years of development and a successful Kickstarter campaign. Gamers on consoles and PC can enjoy the adventures of lead character Henry in the world of Bohemia as he rises from son of village blacksmith to noble knight. However, the journey from such humble beginnings is a long and perilous one where players can easily get lost along the wayside – or distracted. Ultimately though is this game worthy of your time or money despite the developer’s lofty ambitious and how they have managed to piece it all together.
Players begin the campaign as main character Henry, but sadly there are no customization options (in terms of physical appearance) and for those interested, no playing as an alternate female character either. It has to be said, there is no fantasy setting here where the entire premise and construction of the game is based on historic realism…to a degree. This means Henry has to eat, sleep, wash, repair, earn coin and train to make any sort of progress and this for all intents and purposes is incredibly drawn-out at the start. There is a handy fast travel option between key locations once more of the map is opened up, but aside from this “magic” feature that is about as far as it gets. Everything else has to be done by the player. For some, this approach might sound like a godsend, and in a way if you have the patience it really puts you into Henry’s shoes much more than most RPG characters. Henry’s opening story and motives are captivating and certainly a solid platform for keeping players pressing onward. However, those with itchy hands and less patience will find a sleep inducing opening few hours that leaves you desperate for something more interesting to happen. Even when reaching into double digits where the story begins to heat up, the to and fro nature of the main quest will leave some gasping for progression to receive a massive kick up the rear. Warhorse hasn’t done a very good job of catering to varying tastes from their potential audiences despite much promise showcased in trailers and gameplay videos prior to release. You either take on board the way the game wants you to play or lump it. So… be warned. Those expecting Skyrim or Witcher levels of action from the get go are going to be disappointed.
That said, for those who endure, Henry’s questing takes him to all manner of locations speaking to a delightful cast of wenches, inn-keepers dodgy priests, shop keepers and noble men/women. Early on, Henry is introduced the the rather shifty millers who are basically a front for a thieves guild which offer some interesting possibilities if stealth play is your calling. Players have choices in how they proceed and if taking the moral high ground means you can miss out on certain features and goodies. Your moral standing counts for a lot in this game, so although you can trespass and steal, being an upstanding citizen has its rewards also even if that amounts to staying out of jail and not being searched every time you enter a town. The role playing elements have to be commended here but are perhaps steeped in too much realism to be universally accepted as video game “fun”, especially when said video game is trying (successfully) to mimic real life. Lots of NPC folk have issues and Henry is all too eager to offer a helping hand – or not depending on how players conduct themselves. There is simply much to do here although putting things into perspective, not much of it is that exciting early on. It’s typical RPG fare for the most part, fetch this, do that, or kill a few bandits along the way. There is also plentiful bouts of the mundane tossed into the mix with things as time consuming as weeding a garden. Yes, no word of a lie weeding a garden which could take up to 10 minutes or longer. The breadth of questing is quite spectacular, yet not all of it is exciting enough to warrant its place here can sometimes feel misaligned with what Henry is about at times.
Combat is one area that is a mixed bag and takes some time to get used to. Whilst dodging, blocking stabbing and striking is all straight forwards with its upper, lower and side attacks, the implementation and responsiveness is savagely sluggish. Combat reaches a point of draining the fun out of it which is a shame because the potential is there. The entire combat system becomes a chore, even when using ranged weapons such as bows that it’s rare one can dive into a fight feeling confident of success unless you really spend the time to master how to fight. It’s also easy at times to cheap out the AI by backing away far enough so they can forget about you especially if stealth is your forte. There are a lot of perks and influences under the bonnet so to speak but sadly, the game doesn’t explain things very well so diving in to the menus and having a good old read is massively important – again, not everyone is that way inclined and would rather learn by experience. Learning by trial and error is an option as well but it simply doesn’t present everything that is on offer which can lead to the game appearing more difficult that it should be.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Kingdom Come Deliverance is the performance on PC at least which despite a day one patch is filled with bugs, glitches and stutter even when using top end systems like the GTX 1080 Ti. Players can expect varied performance depending on where Henry is located. In towns the frame-rate is going to be less than when out in the open which is a given but the difference is night and day unfortunately. The same can be said where there are lots of characters on screen. Sadly, the PC version performance is all over the place which means if gunning for smooth gameplay, dropping the settings down from Ultra High to high and using 1080p will offer the closest to a steady 1080p 60 fps (and that’s using a GTX 1080 Ti). It has to added dropping the shader option in the graphics setting to low can help with the framerate, and with some testing out in the open it’s possible to maintain around 60 fps at 1440p. Kingdom Come Deliverance does have its moments in the visual department sporting some fine looking NPC faces and lush locales – despite some poor lip-syncing. However the price of maxing out the details does take its toll and is in need of some refinement and optimization. In several instances you might spot headless NPCs walking around or textures that take too long to load. It’s all a bit of a mess at present which hopefully after some patches can be smoothed out. When it does work though there are some lovely moments and fine attention to detail to marvel at which are highly impressive.
Audio comes in as a mixed bag as well with fine and believable performances from Henry and supporting main cast. However, some NPCs are a little lacking. The orchestral music compliments the action but sits in the background painting aural colour with much success rather than being prominent. There are many moments where there is a relaxed tone to the gameplay such as riding across the lands at sunset on the back of a horse and it’s here the music provides the finish touch.
Players can expect to get lost in Henry’s world with the caveat, the more you put in (or role play) the greater things you will gain. That said, this is a lengthy title that offers enough bang for one’s buck although can appear to deliberately elongate things to increase the play-time. A lack of true manual quick-saving is also one gameplay feature that will no doubt be divisive amongst purists and those looking to enjoy the less complex features of the experience. You can’t quicksave in real life now can you, but then again this is a video game allegedly. As mentioned, the story does become quite interesting, but the hours required to get to this point might have already turned-off a number of would be players. Its slow snail-like pace at the start simply won’t win it any favours which is a shame really.
Kingdom Come Deliverance delivers an interesting historic experience for players looking to have a bit more control over the lead character. Bar going to work in the fields to earn a living, this game nails the life of the times as a rogue, nobleman or petty thief. However, it can’t be stressed enough that the approach here is not for everyone especially those who require a little more instant gratification. The combat takes time to get into, the RPG elements are a totally drawn out and the overall execution marred by performance issues and glaring bugs. But…if these are overlooked or to a degree enjoyed even and you become the character there is a decent game here that will serve much better after a few patches.