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Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review - Realistic, Daunting and Unforgettable

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After a successful Kickstarter Campaign, four years and 74,000 hours later, Warhorse Studios delivered on their promise as Kingdom Come: Deliverance finally released earlier this month. From the first moments I set foot in the game, it was clear that the game was created with love for the medieval time period.

Historically accurate and ultra-realistic, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a brutally challenging, rewarding and vast open-world RPG, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. You need to have patience, a willingness to learn and face hardships in this beautiful world that Warhorse has created. You will live there, die there and even face a lot of bugs, but the journey will be well worth it in the end.

A blacksmith’s son

The moment I stepped into the muddy boots of Henry, a simple blacksmith’s son from the town of Skalitz, I fell in love with the protagonist. Henry is, without a doubt, the most down to earth, relatable and lovable character I have ever had the pleasure of taking the role of in a game. He’s not a hero, far from it in fact, and he knows it. He is just a man and the game makes it clear throughout the campaign that Henry isn’t special, but through hard work and determination, one might be able to rise above their station in life, even in troublesome times in a brutal period of history.

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The game plays off in 15th century Bohemia (Czech Republic) during a time of turmoil and civil unrest. Medieval Europe was a dark part of human history and the game is firmly grounded in history, so much so that the developers faithfully recreated the whole area, including towns and even bathhouses with great success. In 1403, it was a turbulent time for the Kingdom of Bohemia after the death of their king.

The heir to the throne, Wenceslaus IV, also known as “Wenceslaus the idle”, was pretty useless, which lead his half-brother, Sigismund of Luxembourg and King of Hungary, to fight for control of the lands. Henry is thrown into the midst of all this in a tale of revenge and self-preservation that spans the countryside as he was taking under the service of Lord Radzig after the death of his parents at the hands of soldiers in service of King Sigismund.

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Everywhere you go, people are divided on the matter and Henry has to face the realities of the situation and try to survive throughout it all. From killing bandits, Cumans and thieves to helping townsfolk as well as noblemen, Henry’s journey is kept interesting and deeply personal with some brilliant quest design and a captivating story. As Henry, I saw what war can do to a country, tried to bury the remains of my parents, faced the harsh reality of my station as a peasant and had to deal with annoying noblemen.

I met so many interesting and deep characters on the journey, with one example being a young nobleman who I thought was the most annoying character I have ever seen, but when I got to know him on a hunting trip, I realised I could relate to his issues and situation as well. I sabotaged camps, drank with a priest and did his sermon for him the next morning after drinking ourselves into oblivion.

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I helped town guards chase down a thief, offered a beggar my shoes instead of some coin and simply lived in the world as the story progressed. I fell in love, felt the sting of betrayal, had to make life-or-death decisions for characters I really came to love. Everything I mentioned and much, much more happened in the first 25 hours of play.  

The main story is, without a doubt, a captivating experience and Henry is the most loveable, relatable character I have ever played with. Even so, Henry’s story of revenge and hardships is just a small part of what you can experience. There are so many side activities and most importantly, you can go off on your own mission, carving your own path and doing whatever makes you happy, be it helping people, cleaning out a town by stealing everything you can or simply going on a hunting trip to relax and get away from it all.

To demonstrate just how much freedom you have in the game and what types of memorable moments you can create just by exploring the world, I will tell you about a hunting trip I took in one the game’s lush and expansive forest areas after I just needed a break from all the politics, murder and war.

Off the beaten path

Early in the main quest, I was taken to a hunting spot by a nobleman, deep in the woods. Since I love playing with a bow and it takes a lot of practice, as you will come to understand in the next section of this review, I thought that going hunting would be a good way to up my skill. After about 15 hours into the campaign, I decided that enough was enough, and planned for a trip to those same woods to go hunt rabbits, or maybe even some boars if I was brave enough.

I stored away everything I didn’t need, bought a large number of arrows, two Saviour’s Schnapps (needed to manually save the game) and dried fruit that wouldn’t go bad quickly. I then climbed on my horse and set out at the break of dawn with a belly full of roast duck. On the way, I encountered some bandits, a beggar who almost took my shoes and a few other unexpected little things, which depleted some of my resources I so carefully packed.

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Since there were quite a number of distractions and the distance to the camping site was quite big, I only arrived at my destination at sunset. Too tired to go out hunting during sunset, I ate some dried fruit and slept until the early hours of the morning. Now, it was time to hunt, so I ate some more food, made sure I had only gear on that made very little noise and then set off.

Things were going swimmingly as I managed to hunt eight rabbits on my first day but then noticed some smoke not far away in the distance. It was a group of bandits probably cooking lunch, so I made my way back to the camp and noted that I should never go into that direction the next day. I cooked some rabbit as I was starving and went to bed early. As the sun rose and started seeping through the trees, I awoke to another glorious day of hunting. I ate some leftover rabbit because I didn’t want my hard work to go to waste, then set off in the opposite direction of the bandit camp, following a stream of water.

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Everything was going great and my skill with a bow increased quite a lot, but then, something happened. I saw this one rabbit prancing about and thought, let me try to stab it instead of wasting an arrow. I snuck up on the rabbit and just as I was about to stab it, it ran away. Obviously, I’m not a quitter so I ran after it several times, stopping when it stopped and sneaking up on it yet again. This went on for hours and hours of in-game time and the sun then began to set. Still, I was running around after the rabbit and lost my sense of direction.

You can probably guess what happened next, but at the time, I couldn’t foresee it. Night fell and the rabbit got away. Thankfully, I had a torch with me, but the problem was that I didn’t know where my camp was located. Slowly, I tried to make my way in the general direction I thought my camp was, but instead nearly ran into the bandit camp I saw earlier. I turned around and ran as fast as I could and thankfully they didn’t notice me, but I didn’t notice the ditch either.

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I fell and damaged one of my legs, frantically I tried to bandage and managed to get away, but I was almost fainting from the hunger, so I ate some food. Unfortunately, as the night progressed, I realised that I’ve been poisoned by some spoilt food because in the panic I didn’t notice what I was eating. Still bleeding a little and poisoned, fatigue started to kick in. I was dizzy, my head was spinning and finally, both the poison and loss of blood meant I fell face down in a small stream as my demise could not be delayed any further.

With that, I lost about 3 hours of play time progression because I forgot to drink my Saviour’s Schnapps (more on that later) on the second day of hunting, all because I chased that darn rabbit. However, the whole experience was so real, so wonderfully grounded, that I plan to go on another hunting trip this weekend. That’s just one tiny example out of almost a hundred stories I have to tell about my time with Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

Realism above all else

Just like the game world and the people who inhabit it, the game’s mechanics are built upon a foundation of realism and historical accuracy. That might be somewhat of a double-edged sword, as some players will give up on the game due to its high learning curve and brutally difficult combat. Melee combat is your bread and butter in Kingdom Come: Deliverance and it is one of the most detailed and realistic combat systems I have ever encountered.

There are several directions of attack, so what this means is that you choose to attack from certain sides, all while keeping an eye on your opponent’s weapon. You can pull off combos, yes, but it is not just some animation, but rather your own skill and fast reaction times. For example, if you see an opponent lifting their sword, you can go for a quick jab to the abdomen, then follow up with a blow to their side if they don’t move their shield or sword in a certain direction. Alternatively, you could dodge the attack (or parry it) and follow up with a blow to the head.

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The combat is just so dynamic and rewarding when you get it right, but you will have to practice, really practice, to get into it. After about 20 hours into the game, I was still learning new ways to handle myself in melee combat. You have to take stamina into account while all the frantic fighting is going on and if you miss a block with your weapon by even a millisecond, you could be face down in a puddle of mud bleeding out.

The way you get stronger is by practice, as you will only gain levels and additional skills in with a specific weapon or combat style if you actually go out into the world and fight. This goes for everything else in the game, including riding a horse, drinking alcohol, speaking to people, even reading a book. There are just so many systems working in tandem to create the ultra-realistic experience that is Kingdom Come: Deliverance that I could probably write a few books about it, but what you need to know is simple, play the way you want to play and Henry will eventually get stronger in that area.

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I love playing with a bow and arrows in RPGs, but I had to learn how to do it all over again in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. There is no cursor, so you have to actually aim, taking into account arrow dip, environmental factors as well as which type of arrow and bow you are combining. In the first few hours with a bow, I could hardly hit the side of a bathhouse, but through perseverance and about eight hours of practice, I could start hitting enemies between their armour. Playing with a bow in Kingdom Come: Deliverance was one of the most difficult things I have had to do in a game (and that's coming from a Dark Souls fan), but finally being proficient at it was an extremely rewarding experience.

If you want a realistic experience, then there also has to be player choice in whatever you do. The game allows you to finish just about every quest or side activity in multiple ways. One example of this is where someone I went on a hunting trip with got captured by bandits. I could run at them and try to kill the bandits, I could wait until nightfall and try to not make a sound, untying my friend, or I could even poison their food pot at night, wait until they get up in the morning to eat some food and get poisoned.

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In various encounters, you can talk your way out of trouble if you have had enough practice, surrender if you see you will lose the fight and much more. You can become a notorious thief or become known as a kind-hearted soul, you can drink yourself into oblivion each night and chase women if you want, you can help out a town or lie to people, throwing the community into turmoil. The choice is yours, and yours alone. I even had to learn how to read, because few people had that skill during those times. Reading led me to experiment with alchemy, where I actually had to read the recipe and mix the ingredients according to instructions.

Everything you do in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a risk versus reward situation, literally everything. Do you decide to take on a Cuman camp, or do you avoid it and get to a safe place to sell your wares? Do you try to haggle with a trader and get a better price for items, while taking the risk that the price might go up or that the trader will not want to talk to you?  Do you take the risk of starvation by not buying more food before heading off to the next town, or do you spend your hard-earned coin on some apples just in case something happens on the road? That’s all up to you and the level of freedom the game provides will surely give birth to many personal tales from players.

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With all these difficult choices in everything you do, the game is daunting, to say the least. However, if you stick with it, it can be the most rewarding experience you will ever have. All these choices add up and shape Henry in one way or another while affecting the world around you. When I saw the results of my hardships, I couldn’t stop smiling. This was the world I wanted to live and die in, a world that I will never forget.

Trouble in the lands

I’ve praised Kingdom Come: Deliverance and its realistic mechanics, massive open world and captivating story to no end in this review and I stand by everything I’ve said. However, I would be as foolish as an illiterate beggar outside a nobleman’s to not tell you about the game’s glaring issues. First up, there is the issue of texture pop-ins.

Every time you ride up to a town, a settlement or even just a camp, you will see the low-quality texture until you are only a few meters away and then the high-quality texture will pop in. This happened on the PS4 Pro so much that I grew accustomed to it, but for some, it might break some immersion the game does so well to create. Then, there are frame-rate issues when a bunch of NPCs are on screen at the same time and I also experienced some FPS drops during the cutscenes.

Thankfully, the drops in frame rate didn’t really affect gameplay all that much and it was hardly noticeable most of the time. What is very noticeable, however, is the bugs and glitches. While talking to someone, an NPC would sometimes drop in from the heavens above, while some other NPCs would get stuck in weird places.

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Then, the image above also happened as I tried to mount my horse. I had to restart the game and load an earlier save as I couldn’t move. Speaking of save games, the game does autosave at certain points during quests, but sometimes it can be quite a while before you reach another save point.

To save manually, you need an in-game item called Saviour’s Schnapps, but you can only carry three at a time and it is quite an expensive but all-important drink. This all means that you can’t just save your game whenever you like and makes exploring the world outside of a quest path somewhat risky. If you do find yourself in a situation without Saviour’s Schnapps and you’ve been exploring for hours, you could die at any moment and lose your progress.

You can’t just fast travel back to a bed to save either (the game does save when you sleep in your own bed), because you might encounter bandits on the road, pausing the fast travel and causing you to potentially come down with a case of losing your head.

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Even so, I could deal with the save game system, the bugs and the texture pop-ins, but one system that almost made me give up on the game about 4 hours into the game is that of lockpicking. Apparently, it isn’t as bad with a mouse and keyboard, but using a controller and trying to unlock even an “easy” chest felt almost impossible. You need surgical precision and great coordination with a controller and then hope your lockpick doesn’t break in the process too. It is such an infuriating system that the developer even announced they would be improving the system when using a controller. Sure, lockpicking is hard so it should be hard in a game that prides itself on realism, but I think the developers went a bit too far with this one.  

The Verdict – Escaping the executioner’s grasp

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the most difficult game I have ever had to review. Not just because of the game’s actual difficulty level, but because the game has all the makings of a cult classic and I am completely and utterly addicted to it. However, one simply can’t ignore all the bugs, texture pop-ins and some infuriating, unnecessary systems.

As much as I’ve praised the game, if someone asked me if they should pick it up right now, I would say wait a couple of weeks. An update is coming with bug fixes and the developer is working on improving those infuriating systems namely lockpicking and an addition that should alleviate the same game issue. With that being said, the game offers an authentic, realistic playground where you can do whatever you want.

The protagonist, Henry, is the most loveable I have ever seen and his story of revenge and trying to survive in the brutal times the game plays off in is extremely captivating. If you don’t mind working through some bugs and know about the save game as well as lockpicking system, then the challenge of Kingdom Come: Deliverance is waiting for you.

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The game will suck hundreds of hours from your life and leave you wanting to go back for even more. It is a must play and when the issues are fixed, I would give it a 9/10 or maybe even higher. Maybe just wait a few weeks, because the game is definitely worth experiencing.  

This review was based off a review copy of the game provided to us by Deep Silver

Available On: PS4, Xbox One and PC | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release Date: 13 February 2018 | RRP: R929

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