I’ve played about 22 hours of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which was only enough to scratch the surface of the immense narrative of this game. As a result, I couldn’t classify this Hitbox article as a review since I didn’t beat it, or give my first impressions, so my experience is somewhere in between those two. Playing through the main story alone takes around 40 hours and supplementing that with side quests and exploring takes about 72 hours to complete according to howlongtobeat.com.
Developer: Warhorse Studios
Release date: Feb. 13, 2018
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a first-person historical role-playing game where you play as Henry, the son of a blacksmith from Skalitz, a small mining town in the Kingdom of Bohemia during the 15th century. The larger narrative setup of the game is that the new king, Wenceslaus IV, is an idle and incompetent ruler whose lands are attacked by his half-brother Sigismund, King of Hungary and Croatia because the former took the throne rather than the latter.
The larger scope of the story doesn’t matter too much, so don’t worry if you’re eyes just glazed over. There are also a few enjoyable-enough characters to grab on to and interact with.
During the first few hours, Henry’s village is attacked by Cuman mercenaries and after escaping the ensuing massacre becomes involved with nobles and knights who try to defend their lands and figure out why unfamiliar people are attacking them.
Because Kingdom Come is so dedicated to being a game about historical realism, it also comes with a few consequences to gameplay. When you start the game, Henry is terrible at everything. He can’t read and can barely hold up a sword. As the developers explain in the game, the son of a blacksmith during the 15th century wouldn’t know how to read. So in order to learn, the player must seek out someone who knows how and pay them for lessons. The same goes for any other skill such as sword-fighting, archery and speech. You can also level skills up just by engaging in the respective activity in the same way you level up skills in Skyrim.
Henry has the ability to wield swords, axes, maces and shields in combat. Each has its own handling characteristics, such as maces being hard-hitting, but slow to swing. Speaking of which, you can swing your weapon in five directions or perform a thrust attack. The combat is a lot to take in at first. Just going up against one opponent can feel overwhelming when they’re constantly blocking your attacks.
You and your enemies also have the ability to kick opponents to knock them off balance, but I couldn’t really figure out how to make effective use of it. However, the same can’t be said for the enemies I encountered. The simpler and more effective option always seemed to be hit enemies with the pointy end of my sword.
The combat felt fairly rough to control when fighting against single opponents, but it completely fell apart when fighting multiple enemies. Because locking on to the enemy to automatically face in their direction is essentially required to effectively fight, having multiple enemies swarm around you is almost impossible to deal with. This type of fight usually leaves you with several injuries or bleeding that you’ll have to bandage and deal with.
Another caveat of the historical realism setting is that in order to save the game, you must use a consumable potion called Saviour Schnapps, sleep in an owned or rented bed or quit the game. You also get saved checkpoints during certain parts of quests. I think Warhorse Studios thought that by removing the ability to save anytime the player wants, it would stop players from “save-scumming” and getting the perfect outcome from a conversation and lend more weight to their actions.
While I certainly felt that way, it led to a few frustrating moments where I would die and have to do everything I did up to my death such as killing bandits and looting containers. The whole process just to get back to where I was at previously sometimes took upwards of 15 minutes. At the time, I had a small stockpile of eight Saviour Schnapps, but like every other role-playing game, I felt compelled to save consumables for “later.”
Turning manual saves into a consumable item is an interesting idea, but I can’t help but think it should’ve been left in the prototyping stage of development. It causes more anxiety and frustration than anything, since I could just quit and save anytime I wanted anyway. The only thing stopping me was the load time to launch the game again. Instead, I wound up downloading a console command mod which allowed me to save anytime with the press of a button — a standard function of other role-playing games on PC.
There are also a few survival mechanics to keep in mind when playing Kingdom Come. Henry must eat, drink, sleep and even bathe regularly in order to avoid negative effects. For example, not eating enough will reduce your stamina and you’ll eventually start losing health points. Eat too much however, and you’ll also lose stamina.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a lot going on mechanically, but nothing that makes it a must-play role-playing game. The 15th century setting is likely to attract history aficionados. However, the combat feels rough in a way that games like Mordhau and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare have largely improved. I can’t help but feel that as interesting as a medieval life simulator is, the addition of unnecessary survival mechanics and arbitrary save restrictions hold Kingdom Come: Deliverance from being a polished role-playing game worthy of its engrossing historical setting.