Warhorse’s ambitious RPG finally arrives on consoles and PC. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the FingerGuns Review;
Our review of Kingdom Come: Deliverance is now complete and you’ll find our final thoughts and score at the bottom of the article.
REVIEW IN PROGRESS: PUBLISHED ON FEB 13TH
Reviewing on PS4 Pro;
Kingdom Come: Deliverance arrives with a huge weight on its shoulders. What this ridiculously ambitious RPG is attempting to do is somewhat rewrite the rule book when it comes to what we know and expect of the modern RPG. It doesn’t have its head in the clouds, and by another standard of the genre it’s playing out a very grounded story, one that tears through history as close as it can be to share a narrative that is built around a son’s desire to avenge his slain parents. It’s a tale as old as time, told at the very beginning of this mammoth adventure. It’s enormous, and there’s a hell of a lot to cover here.
There’s a metric ton of knowledge that this game throws at you almost immediately. You better be sure you have your reading glasses on as the game will throw information at you in a single bound, so you’re going to have to pay attention to a screen that looks like it’s been ripped straight out of the history books your school paid far too much for, with arrows pointing everywhere and no clear indication of what you should be looking at first, it can be a tad overwhelming to simply learn what you need to be doing at any one time.
The situation is only exacerbated as Deliverance progresses, as the sheer wealth of information that’s burned into your retinas throughout could be off-putting to some. There’s no denying that Warhorse Studios have gone deep diving into the lore of its characters and the game is all the better for having a strong backstory that easily sets up the games premise, but one look at your inventory screen and the more you click around the more it makes you think that you’re not smart enough to keep up.
You’re building up Henry from a simple blacksmith assistant to legend, spoken of in high regard throughout the society of Bohemia. This makes Deliverance far more grounded than your typical RPG fare, where dragons and wizards surround you at every point. I detest the phrase ‘boots on the ground’, but in a way this is exactly what this is. It’s The Elder Scrolls: Total War.
Giving over to the point that Deliverance isn’t really about increasing your sword-wielding skill or how fast you can run, the game is more focused on levelling you up as a character, and your place in the world of Bohemia. As you make your way through the game your character, Henry – son of the slain local blacksmith who must now prove his worth as a hero etc – succeeds or fails in the game via the conversations you have with the NPC’s around you, in a TellTale kind of way. People will react to your weapon being unsheathed, so in peaceful areas you’re going to want to keep it sheathed. They will also react to blood on your armour or clothes, and react if whatever you’re wearing is damaged in a way or dirty. Keeping yourself clean and choosing the right armour is a vital part of ensuring strong relationships.
Haggling is a big aspect of the early moments in Deliverance. Henry can head to various traders to swap items he finds in order to raise money and to do this, you need to haggle for the best price for his products, the same way you would when those guys come over to you trying to sell DVD’s whilst you’re on holiday in Spain. You can choose what you sell and naturally, different items have different value. Fruit and vegetables have little value but items such as hammers and iron will land you a little bit more moolah. If you have the means too, tipping is always welcome to keep up your reputation with the traders, and they’ll be willing to give you a little more as you progress.
Whenever you like, you can choose to move on with the game to essentially travel through Bohemia at your leisure. This can, however, be to your detriment – there are segments where NPC’s will wait for you and if you don’t turn up in time, they simply carry on without you and you’ll need to make the way up to them yourself. Whether you’re around or not, they will not wait for you as they quite evidently have a life of their own.
I didn’t find this to be a particularly bad thing at times, as exploring the vast world with your horse is at times the games most treasured moments. Finding yourself in a forest that is quite beautiful is one, particularly with the trees looking as real as you’ve ever seen them in video games, second only to Horizon. There’s a natural feel to Deliverance in these areas, where the rolling green fields can pop off your screen thanks to the use of lighting and its weather cycle. It’s an open world version of Kakariko Village, to put it bluntly. This is appreciated as a variety of RPG’s I’ve dived into over the years seem to delight in their grain, Deliverance reminded me that games in this genre can also be bright and full of colour. Darklands Remastered?
You learn very early on in the game that Henry can’t read or write. This is seemingly normal of the time, that a man of his age and his place in the world wouldn’t have the access to learn such things, so yet another skill tree in the game is built around reading and discovering literature, learning about classic art and visiting monasteries. It’s a really nice touch to allow the player to learn alongside Henry, and though you’re able to read and write, seeing Henry turn himself into someone who is not only versed in battle but cultured leaves you with a strange satisfaction. You remember meeting Henry at the start of the game, sleeping with a bandage over his hand because he got in a fight the night before, very unaware of the world. The character development is staggering.
Then there’s the combat, which will possibly be make or break for every player that takes on Deliverance.
I personally found the combat very tricky to begin with, but I think that may have been the point. There’s a mirroring to the player and Henry learning how to fight alongside one another. As the game progresses the basics became second nature and I applaud Warhorse for daring to do something a little more radical. The education continues here, and you learn about historically accurate information regarding a variety of weapons that you encounter throughout the game. The basics of combat are reactions, timing and movement. If you find yourself in a scuffle, a directional point will appear on your enemy and you can choose which direction you want to attack.
You have five options to slash and the centre will be a stab. Your enemy will react slowly to attacks on the side of them which does not have a sword or shield, but you’re going to have to move as quick as you can. The attack zone changes after each strike, but you can immediately change direction if you want to. Naturally sharper weapons are stronger against no or little armour, though enemies with chain mail armour are difficult to take down as they can take a blow a little easier. You’re going to want to find yourself some war hammers or axes before trying to take on soldiers as they are stronger and more powerful than you for the games majority.
My advice would be to not let the combat initially overwhelm you, you can begin to fear possible situations which may require you to use your sword and they shouldn’t. I’ve heard on the grapevine you can go through the game without killing anyone, though that’s an extra level of difficulty I didn’t need on my first playthrough. Once it feels standard and second nature, you’ll be taking down your foes without missing a beat. Using the bow is brilliant.
Until you get your head around the basics of combat you’re going to want to practice often if you get the chance, it’s not a particularly simple system and you can’t use health rations or place bandages whilst you’re in combat. If you do suffer a fair amount of damage and still manage to make it out alive, getting back to safe zones such as bathhouses or villages which you have a room for drinking potions. Food can boost up your energy and just as quickly bring it down if you eat too much. Apples aren’t going to fix your broken arm this time around. You can hunt for meat but only wild animals, poaching from villages is a crime and you’ll suffer the consequences should you get caught. Alcohol can also be used to heal thy self, though don’t overdo it because, well, I’m sure you can figure it out. There’s a mechanic in this game where Henry can become too reliant on alcohol, so levelling up your drinking skill will allow to you to not feel its affects quite as badly. You can also use bandages, a skill that Henry has to learn in the game. Even though we see him at the very beginning with a bandage around his hand. Did someone else do it for him?
Fortunately, this is an RPG, so a little bit of finding herbs and other ingredients can help you immensely along the way.
Alchemy is a skill that is most useful. Being able to grab a potion when you need to have a bit of a sit down is almost essential the later on you get in the game. Before anything though Henry has to learn what alchemy even is, and find yourself a recipe. Oh, and an alchemist’s bench. And everything you need to actually make the potion. Hey, it’s an RPG. An alchemists bench has a recipe book, and you’ll need to power through it to find the particular potion you want to create, once you’ve done that you should hopefully have the necessary ingredients on you to begin. The brewing up of these potions can either be very easy or very difficult, with recipes taking a number of steps in order to complete fully. Thankfully, the benefits far outweigh the time taken to actually get these damn concoctions complete, so whenever you come across an alchemist’s bench you’re going to want to sit down and brew up some potions. You’ll thank yourself in the long run, even if it isn’t the most exciting use of your time throughout the game.
And then, for every wonderful new mechanic Deliverance throws at you, in terms of how the game runs technically, sadly there’s a few small issues that build up to become a problem.
The game begins with a *loooong* prologue video, which acts as a loading screen and yes, you have no choice but to sit through it every time you boot the game up. I guess it beats a static image but at this point I could rattle the story off at a moments notice without breaking a sweat. It feels like it could have been condensed a little, though once the game has loaded it can be skipped. Whilst we’re on the technical stuff, why is there an option to start a new game every time I pause? And why is the ‘resume’ button at the end of the menu selection? There are some distinctly odd choices made in Deliverance’s presentation, and even after the mammoth day one patch – which is more or less half of the game you have to redownload, decisions like this remain.
Visually, it’s gorgeous. Surrounding areas that are brimming with life look terrific, with vistas that could rival Aloy’s adventures, and my review build had no framerate concerns. The issues come in with the characters themselves, who suffer from dead eyes and disappointing vocal performances. It’s a shame when more or less everything the game has to offer visually is counterbalanced with characters that instantly remind you you’re in a videogame, leading you to remember you’re not actually exploring 15th Century England. Despite the enormous day one patch there were still glitchy moments such as dialogue immediately repeating itself and characters walking through each other. Similarly, the vocal performances simply don’t measure up to the rest of the games presentation. Naturally the best performance of a bad bunch gets killed off in the opening hour, so you’re left with a barrage of voice performances that don’t do justice the otherwise terrific dialogue.
There’s certainly nothing much out there like Kingdom Come Deliverance, and at the moment, while I commend Warhorse for taking a different route with the game it’s going to be difficult to convince the RPG hardcore that this should sit alongside the likes of Skyrim and The Witcher. In blending the storytelling structure of both of them and adding combat elements which are similar to those of For Honor but not quite as tight and simple to understand, and diving deep into the lore of 15th Century England, guiding Henry through damn near every single experience one could imagine in order to become who he is meant to be by the end of the campaign – there’s a trophy for completing the game as a virgin. No, really -, fans of the genre who love to fully and completely immerse themselves into a world and appreciate the little moments that make RPG’s standout above the crowd.
The story is terrific and the world-building throughout is engaging. It’s *incredibly* ambitious and in terms of the medieval simulator genre? Well, there’s nothing out there as extensive as this. Just be ready to sink ten or so hours in before the game truly opens up, there’s a brain-storming amount to learn before you can really discover the core of why this games like this exist, and why single-player behemoths such as this still have a place in the gaming landscape. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is hardcore.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is for the purists.
UPDATE: FINAL REVIEW THOUGHTS AFTER UPDATE 1.03 – 16/02
On Feb 16th KCD received yet another hefty update today on PS4, this time to the size of 18gb which seemingly fixed sensitivity on the R2 button(?!) and well, little else. It would seem to bulk of what needs to be sorted is being held back for the next update which is due in ‘a couple weeks’, according to Warhorse Studios. This update is already being touted by the studio so the assumption is that it’s going to be another whopper, with broken quests and framerate issues taking a back seat into fourteen days from now and will take care of any lingering issues the game continues to be burdened by. So far, that’s over 39gb worth of updates that’s had to be download since the game released less than a week ago.
39gb worth of updates in less than a week shouldn’t be applauded. Warhorse cannot be commended for ‘patching the games issues quickly’ when it was released in the state to begin with. The game before the patches even had less features in the game than it does now. The game literally launched unfinished and I struggle to believe the last couple of months of development were discussions that concluded with anything more substantial then ‘we’ll put it the patch’. That’s not good enough. ‘Oh but they’re an independent team who had a huge vision’. Yep, there’s nothing wrong with that but their scope had to also match their goal to actually pull it off. As mentioned above I enjoyed Kingdom Come: Deliverance. It’s almost obscenely ambitious and you can’t deny Warhorse have something special here should they be successful enough with this initial outing. I held Skyrim and The Witcher and Fallout and Zelda and any other ambitious open world game to the exact same standards. The final product has to match the vision.
It’s crushing. Kingdom Come is a good game! As mentioned above, the narrative of KCD is fascinating, with terrific character development and some brilliant design choices I haven’t seen before in a video game (getting evil stares because you have some damn dirt on your clothes? Glorious), and the sheer vastness of what you can get up to in this game is unlike anything I can remember in the genre.
I’ve spent the majority of my weekend doing very little other than finishing off this utterly bewilderingly long campaign and I find it difficult to recommend picking up until at least two weeks from now when the patch that actually fixes issues with the game appears, even if it does. The technical aspects are of course not the entire game, but the issues are becoming more and more apparent as the game spreads across players and journalists alike.
There’s hours and hours of entertaining moments to be had here, the issue of course being it’s overridden by a multitude of tech issues that should have been ironed out before the games release and I’m struggling to wonder as to why we consistently put up with half baked games coming out and then fixed down the road. We seem to only want to pay for an idea of a game, rather than the game as a whole.
I don’t think it’s worth picking up yet. If you’re the kind of person who isn’t all that bothered about tech issues and will happily watch the game you paid £50 for get patched to high heaven than jump in. You’ll find a multi-layered story with characters that are engaging and a world that’s ripe for exploration where you get to make your own save points out of alcohol.
For everyone else, you’ll get the games best experience if you just hold off until you’ve got yourself a product that is as finely tuned as the story and gameplay deserves.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is available now on PS4, Xbox One and Steam
Developer: Warhorse Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.