Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review

December 21, 2019

While many games claim to value player choice, Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes things a step further by integrating personal agency into every facet of this medieval experience. Taking place in 15th century Bohemia, Warhorse Studios has crafted a thoroughly immersive albeit daunting adventure.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance often feels closer to a simulation than a traditional RPG. Boasting over a hundred weapons, a sprawling open world, a complex progression system, and real-time battle mechanics, Kingdom Come: Deliverance bears various prototypical characteristics shared among the genre’s representatives.

That said, this is an RPG devoid of any fantastical ingredients. At no point during the long campaign do you cast a spell, slay a dragon, or romance an elf.

Story

Like the calm before the storm, the opening hours provide a snippet of the protagonist’s mundane existence as the son of a blacksmith. Living in the peaceful town of Skalitz, Henry devotes his time to goofing off with his friends, hanging out with the local tavern girl, and disappointing his father. Like many such stories, Henry’s picturesque world turns upsidedown when an army of Cuman soldiers attack Skalitz, leaving him without parents or a town to call home.

Driven by a thirst for vengeance, Henry departs on an exhaustive journey to become a knight of the kingdom. Assigned to Sir Radzig Kobyla’s care, the blacksmith’s son accepts numerous quests while striving to build a positive reputation with the city folk.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance tells a grounded tale of self-growth, sacrifice, and determination. Despite the presence of a few grand battles, Warhorse chiefly prioritizes intimate character moments above cinematic or epic showdowns.

Following a purposefully quiet start, Kingdom Come: Deliverance steadily builds momentum as Henry ingrains himself in Bohemia’s political and social cultures. The main story rewards patience; in fact, many quests require traversing the broad map to reach completion. It is not unusual for a playing session to conclude with nothing of note being accomplished. The plot’s deliberate pacing suits the realistic and gritty tone.

World-Building

Along with Henry’s actions directly affecting his reputation in a town, NPCs also react to the protagonist’s appearance. Nobles are less inclined to offer a helping hand if the approaching person smells like and resembles a sewer. Luckily, Henry can visit a local bathhouse to scrub the dirt off.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s world building is its greatest asset. Bohemia feels like a fully functioning kingdom, one destined to endure even after the credits roll. Warhorse’s attention to detail is commendable and precious few RPGs offer such an organic universe to explore.

Missions

Patience is the name of the game. Kingdom Come: Deliverance rewards effort over accomplishments, which extends to the progression and weapon systems. Skills are upgraded through practice. Want a faster mount? Ride a horse to level up Henry’s proficiency. Struggling with a sword? Engage in a bit of training or scour the countryside for any bandits or Cumans seeking a challenge. Once certain levels are attained, new perks are unlocked accordingly.

Weapons

Along with fisticuffs, Henry has his choose of swords, maces, axes, and bows. While variety may be the spice of life, Kingdom Come fails to make much of a case for any class beside blades. Compared with the Sword skill’s nine perks and multiple blade subcategories, the Mace and Axe’s paltry three unlockables are underwhelming. With absolutely no combat-relevant perks to learn, archery is best left for hunting. Bohemia also comes stuffed with various armor pieces to discover, equip, or sell.

Skills

Progressions deals with more than just weapons. From the incredibly useful Herbalism to the absurdly frustrating Lockpicking, Henry can master 15 unique skills, with most containing multiple perks. Consequently, Henry develops quite differently depending on someone’s preferred style of play. Putting aside a few notable exceptions, most battles can be bypassed through quick thinking or diplomacy. That said, one unavoidable boss fight requires proficiency with at least one weapon type.

Combat

All the skills in the world mean nothing if the execution leaves something to be desired. Kingdom Come: Deliverance boasts a weighty combat system with a steep learning curve. Playing out like a complex version of rock–paper–scissors, Henry can swing his sword in six different directions, preferably targeting the area not presently protected by the opponent. Predicting the aggressive AI’s next move becomes key for achieving victory. When it comes to defensive options, players can block or dodge an incoming attack.

As two warriors engage in a fierce and strategic duel to determine who lives to fight another day, Kingdom Come: Deliverance produces some genuine moments of magic. Unfortunately, the combat system fares worse whenever Henry faces off against a group of Cumans or bandits. Unless decked out in the best armor or bolstered by around 50 hours of accumulated experience, chaotic crowd battles often require exploiting the AI’s shortcomings to score a cheap win.

The disappearing head bug in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Performance

Unsurprisingly, Warhorse’s huge open world RPG has its fair share of bugs. Such a massive undertaking can be forgiven the occasional disappearing head. However, I cannot forgive quest markers failing to trigger, which happens too often for comfort. This frustration is further compounded by an infrequent autosave system that could easily erase 30 minutes of playtime following a mechanical error or a regular game over.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, Warhorse has patched out many of the more infuriating bugs. While visually striking, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is not particularly well-optimized on any system. High-end PCs may struggle to run the RPG on the highest settings.

Final Verdict

While certainly not for everyone, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is ambitious and unique. Warhorse Studios has designed as authentic of a medieval adventure as likely to ever be produced. Henry’s journey encompasses a myriad of interesting places, characters, and stories. As situational and intimidating as combat can be, the mechanics came together just frequently enough to overshadow the more frustrating encounters. While the technical and optimization issues are disappointing, they do not come close to ruining Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

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