Open world games are always a challenge to review. We only get a few days ahead of the release date to tackle them, but most of the time you’ve seen all of the mechanics, and at least experienced a good chunk of what’s on offer before the game’s release date.
Despite playing it nearly non-stop, and enjoying nearly every second of that time spent, there is no possible way I could review Kingdom Come: Deliverance even if I had it two full weeks in advance. This review-in-progress will showcase some of the fantastic things I’ve seen so far, some of the minor challenges that could be remedied by the upcoming day-one 20+ GB update, and the myriad of ways that this game could be the best RPG I’ve played in years. To show you why I’m saying that, here’s the first 60 minutes of the game on PC, running at 4K and at Ultra settings across the board.
The foundation on which Kingdom Come: Deliverance is built is my absolute favorite part of what Warhorse Studios has brought to the table. You play as Henry, the nobody son of a blacksmith. You aren’t the savior, you aren’t a lord, and you most certainly are not a hero. No, in point of fact, you are a nobody without a Groshen to your name, no prospects beyond following in your father’s footprints, and you are most assuredly not going to save the land. You are a flea-bitten peasant, and nobody in the world of Kingdom Come will ever let you forget it.
While cranking out a blade for a local lord, war banners fly on the horizon. Without provocation or purpose, an invading army marauded through Henry’s little town of Skalitz, killing his friends and family alike. While fleeing to a nearby town to warn them of the impending slaughter, Henry catches an arrow in the thigh and nearly dies. Now an orphan, he is now penniless, without combat skills, and tight in the gut with a need for blood and vengeance.
Before we get too deep into this review, you might want to take a look at the requirements for this game on PC. With a 1080 TI card I am able to run the game at 4K with all settings at Ultra, with an average framerate around 30fps. Dropping back to 1080p stabilizes the game to 60fps at Ultra, but know that this game will push your system hard. The game will also be on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so other options are available given that you can’t buy a video card for less than triple MSRP right now. That said, if you’ve got the hardware to handle it, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is eye-poppingly gorgeous. The world is stuffed full of detail at every corner, and despite this game’s Kickstarter birth, it rivals and in many ways exceeds, any AAA title on the market.
This game could be retitled “Medieval Life Sucks: The Game” as you are constantly reminded that you are a peasant, life is hard, and you are very likely to die. You can succumb to all matter of injuries, bleed to death, be cut down in just a few hits, turned into a pincushion in any battle where archers are involved, be poisoned as your meager rations spoil in your pack, or even die from lack of sleep. It’s not all bleak death, though — through some story machinations you’ll get a shot to suck slightly less.
To quote Jake the Dog from Adventure Time “Dude, sucking at sumthin’ is the first step towards being sorta good at something”, and nowhere is that more true than here. If you pick up a recurve bow, you will have a hard time even drawing the string, much less hitting anything. I lobbed over 30 arrows at a stationary rabbit, who from four feet away, I’m fairly certain, was laughing his fluffy little ass off at my ineptitude. I kept hitting the range and then eventually…I sucked slightly less. I found an instructor, got some lessons, and then began to be able to hit a stationary target reasonably frequently. Soon I didn’t even need the vambraces to guard my wrist from damage.
I’d be remiss in my duties if I said that sword fighting was the same exercise in pain that archery is, when in fact it is far, far harder. Unlike archery, sparring with a wooden sword will still leave you laid out with injuries. You have six basic attacks – five directions, and a direct stabbing motion to start, except that you’ve never held a sword, much less in battle. Your first few fights will be frantic, difficult, and very likely lethal. Like all skills, your abilities improve through use, and eventually you’ll stop getting nearly killed at every turn.
Every system in the game has a similar, albeit less lethal mechanic. Alchemy requires practice, recipes, ingredients, and specific processes. Unfortunately, like most peasants of the time, Henry can’t read. Finding a scribe who will spend the time to teach him, having the coin to facilitate the lesson, and then knuckling down and reading books opens the doorway for alchemy, Latin, or even being able to read simple road markers. Here’s a look at some successful alchemy, as well as a peek at what it looks like being unable to read.
There are a staggering amount of skills and traits to upgrade, but Kingdom Come: Deliverance is often about reputation more than combat prowess. Talking to people leans on charisma and your speech skills, but it also relies on your ability to dress the part. Combat, mucking around in the forest, and general wear and tear puts visible tears in your clothing. Blood spatter and mud will cake all of it, and people will begin to notice, commenting that it looks like you’ve been beaten half to death. Washing your clothes, mending them, and wearing the right types and quality of clothing in the whopping sixteen designated slots can mean the difference between getting a positive reception and being told to “fuck off”. Did I mention that the game is rated M?
The save mechanics in Deliverance come courtesy of alcohol – specifically, “Saviour Schnapps”. You can carry only three of these at a time, preventing you from robbing everyone blind by using save scumming techniques, or trying to back out decisions you’ve made to see all of the options. You can brew more of them, once you’ve gotten your hands on the right ingredients and the reading skills to decipher the instructions. It does mean that you can’t just save and quit, so it may not appeal to all audiences, but in a world where mods exist, I can see this being short-lived.
While we are still waiting on the aforementioned patch, there are a few bugs I’ve run into that were frustrating but fixable. The archery range has an issue where the other archers won’t fire, textures flicker here and there, the camera gets fairly drunk during conversation closeups, and deviating from a mission in any way (e.g. talking to a NPC, stopping to pick flowers, giving alms to the poor) causes you to fail it. While we don’t have the full patch notes on what promised rebalancing or bug hunting is coming, the game is already in a fantastic state.
I’ve had a lot to say for a game I’m not ready to pass judgement on quite yet, but it’s safe to say that I’m absolutely blown away by what Warhorse has put together. I’m 26 hours into the game, and the skills hit “Mastery” at level 15, so by my guess I’m roughly half way through. Stay tuned for the full review, but take this as my full recommendation in advance.