Inexperienced, poor, and vulnerable, yet determined. These are the traits that describe Henry, the protagonist, when Kingdom Come: Deliverance begins. Instead of an all-powerful hero of the people, Henry is the low-born and driven product of a feudalistic world. The approach of an insignificant protagonist that lacks any skills is something unusual to open world RPGs, but Kingdom Come: Deliverance brings a fresh experience to the table with Henry and its realistic medieval society.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes place in the 15th century, during an actual historical period. Bohemia lost its king and now would be kings are vying for power through the usual violence of the time. The player isn’t some royal subject or a valiant knight though; not until later if you choose that path. The player goes through this world as Henry, a poor blacksmith’s son living in a modest village, ruled by a lord. Life is simple for him, until the village is attacked as collateral damage in the coming wars. Henry’s family is killed, along with almost everyone in the village. Essentially, the game really starts with a Henry who is injured, broke, and lacking any skill in combat, as well as losing the last sword his father made before the assault. However, he does all he can to prove his worth as he looks to get the sword back in his hands. How he goes about that quest; that’s up to the player.
There are plenty of game mechanics that effect how Henry can tackle a situation, or even how people will react to Henry. If Henry’s clothes are bloody, people will begin to feel scared and intimidation will work more often. If Henry takes a bath and maybe puts on some nice clothes, higher born people will take more of a liking to him and can be swayed more easily. Even things such as eating and sleeping effect the game. Going to long without sleep makes Henry less alert but getting some rest and drinking a cold beer will give Henry more confidence and vigor.
Many players will find fighting more useful than talking, and with practice, Henry can become a recognized and skilled knight of Bohemia. Just like the rest of the game, there are plenty of mechanics involved in fighting. There are five directions in which to swing a weapon, and finding the best opening is key to combat. To get those openings, players can also parry, slash, thrust, and feint their attacks. Each mechanic offers a useful tool in a versatile combat system, and it feels more realistic and unique compared to other games of a similar formula. Fighting in Kingdom Come takes practice but is overall very rewarding and enjoyable, especially against a small group or a duel. However, the systems weaknesses come out in large scale battles. There aren’t a ton of battles in the game, but when there is, everything feels like a wild hack and slash. Weapons can feel clunky, and more than a few times, swings wouldn’t register at all. It makes what could be epic battles a bug filled swing fest.
The second aspect of combat is the armor. Kingdom Come: Deliverance features an extensive armor system that stays true to the medieval era. There is plenty of different slots that allow the player to pick and choose their combat type. Maybe Henry will only wear a leather vest and some pants, so he can use the bow undetected, or he could wear chainmail, padded armor, and plate armor to turn into a walking tank with a long sword. Collecting all kinds or armor to make Henry better and better as his story moves on is one of the best parts of the game. Each new slotted armor piece brings him closer to becoming that renowned knight he dreams of.
Of course, going from a low-born apprentice to a respected knight of the lordship takes a lot of time and work. Bohemia is a large open world, with more than enough to offer an up and coming knight. Cities and villages are faithful recreations of the period, and no other game offers the atmosphere that Kingdom Come Delivers. Every building is full of detail and life. They are made to look as if the NPCs in the game truly inhabit the 15th century world. Churches feature ceremonial and true to the period paintings. While taverns house the town drunks or a crowd looking to celebrate with mugs of ale, depending on the time of day. Even when leaving a city, the wilderness crafted in this game is truly special. The woods are dense and full of danger yet are a sight worthy of looking at. I spent a lot of time riding through the wilds on my horse instead of using a fast travel, simply to glimpse at the forests at differing times of day.
Roaming around Bohemia will take you to plenty of different quests, or the next piece of the story. Though the story of the game lacks real direction and seems to shift from one random bade guy to the next, it is the characters that make the story and quests shine. Many of the characters are written with genuine humor, personalities, and interesting plot lines. One minute I’m traveling like a dog with a lord who hates Henry, only to save him from his own stupidity and break through his barrier. Soon after I’m drinking with a hypocritical priest who asks henry to deliver his sermon in the morning because he’s too hung over from their crazy night before. Bohemia is brimming with great characters and some interesting story lines, and it’s what carries the game along much of the time.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a great game, but technical problems found throughout hold the full game back. Frame rate drops are common on PC and I can’t imagine what they are like on consoles. Quests will often bug out or mechanics will run into problems, rendering them useless. The worst problems though, belong to the saves. The save system requires the use of a drink or sleeping in a bed, but manual saves on a whim are not possible. This would be fine, if game crashes didn’t happen so often. There were at least three major crashes that I ran into before I could save the game, costing me hours of gameplay, hours that I had to replay. One even happened just after finishing a major battle in the story, and before it was possible to save, the game crashed. I then had to replay the entire buggy battle and a tough boss fight to get back to where I was.
Had the game been delayed for a few more months of polish, Kingdom Come: Deliverance might be praised for its achievement of a realistic and enthralling medieval RPG. I found myself
immersed any time I jumped into Bohemia and climbed further up as a knight, but technical problems always found a way to break that focus. If technical problems are a deal closer, then it might be best to wait for the game to go on sale a couple months from now, when it will be cheaper and have a lot more fixes. Though, if you can look past those blemishes, you will find a sprawling and unique world worthy of the players time.