Our thoughts at roughly the halfway point of this new realism-focused RPG.
[Editor’s note: Because we didn’t receive Kingdom Come: Deliverance for review until late last week and it’s estimated to be a 50-hour game, our review is still underway. We’re aiming to have it completed and scored by the end of the day on Thursday, February 15. In the interest of hitting that goal, we’re keeping these impressions brief.]
I’ve put around 25 hours into Kingdom Come: Deliverance so far, and I’m finding plenty to be impressed by. The large chunk of wooded, medieval Bohemia across which the bloody and dramatic story takes place shows significant attention to detail and is filled with little historical touches that help it feel like a real place. Towns, farms, and logging camps are all laid out with a strong internal logic and built on a scale that makes sense, as opposed to the standard RPG city in a game like Skyrim that’s designed to feel large, but really isn’t.
The “open” world isn’t always as open as I’d like it to be. I’ve run into a number of areas with invisible walls where it looks like I should be able to jump up onto a rock ledge, but am stopped from doing so by an immersion-breaking barrier. There’s also a fairly common tendency to use impassible hedgerows to prevent me from sneaking up on a bandit camp or other objective, though that at least seems consistent within the setting. If you’ve ever been out in the deep woods, you’ll know that getting from A to B as the crow flies isn’t always practical.
Combat has a significant learning curve, but it’s a lot of fun.
Combat has a significant learning curve, but I’ve found it to be a lot of fun the more I’ve gotten the hang of it. Most of the times developers have tried to create a “realistic” first-person melee system, the result has been the next best thing to unusable. But Warhorse’s designers seem to have struck the right balance here: sword fights have a nice tempo and reward technical skill, quick thinking, and most of all patience, but don’t feel cumbersome or incomprehensible. While my character does level up and gains new perks, I feel like the main thing allowing me to take on tougher enemies is that I, the player, am learning new techniques and progressing toward mastery of the mechanics. And in cases where I’ve found myself outclassed, a good majority of quests have a nonviolent solution.
It was a nice bit of levity among the brutal business of medieval life in wartime.
The story up to this point has been gritty, engrossing, and complex, though it tends to fall back on some old-fashioned ideas of medieval historiography in a couple of places. The focus is very small-scale. I find myself solving problems in the margins of a larger conflict involving two half-brothers competing for the throne, which is actually kind of refreshing in the wake of so many fate-of-the-world adventures. The stand-out quest so far has been a Sunday mass in which I had to recite a sermon inspired by contemporary Czech church reformer Jan Hus – an important predecessor to Martin Luther and arguably the real father of the Protestant Reformation – because I’d gone on a drunken bender with the local parish priest the night before and he was too hung over to do it himself. I laughed the whole way through, and it was a nice bit of well-written levity among the often brutal and unpleasant business of medieval life in wartime.
The presentation of the story could definitely stand to be more show than tell, though. During some parts of the main quest chain, I feel like I’ve been playing through wordy dialogue scenes longer than I’ve been doing everything else put together, while I’d rather out be out exploring or stabbing bandits in the face.
Deliverance has been delivering its own share of technical issues, as well. Most noticeably so far is the way that in many dialogue scenes my character has inexplicable missing polygons on his neck, exposing whatever is behind him to the camera.
There’s a lot to take in and by my own estimate, I’m only a bit less than halfway through the main story. My overall impression so far is pretty positive. The amount of work that’s gone into the worldbuilding and depictions of medieval society (with a couple exceptions) is downright impressive. Little touches that ground me (like the fact that having dirt on your clothes lowers your persuasiveness when talking to the nobility, forcing you to actually do laundry sometimes) are highly appreciated and help transport me more fully to the era being depicted.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a miscarriage of justice to correct. Probably with a sword thrust to one or more faces.
TJ Hafer is a freelacne writer and critic. Find him and ask him about midieval history (seriously) on Twitter.