Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a realistic, first-person, open world RPG game set in the 15th century. Currently in a closed backer beta, it was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and is slated for a Q2 or Q3 release on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Powered by CryEngine, it is a single-player title published and developed by Warhorse Studios.
Preview is based on the recently released closed backer beta version of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Who wouldn’t want to jump into the life of a sword wielding, vengeance-bound peasant on a date with destiny to exact revenge on the dastardly bastards who killed his family? Carve a path of destructive retribution through medieval times without silly wizards casting spells, dragons breathing fire, or fantastical worlds that defy earthy comprehension. We gamers have had enough of the mythical beasts and mind-blowing magic, right? It’s about time we can experience a realistic adventure in the shoes of an authentic medieval warrior. However, in the process of setting itself apart, Kingdom Come reminds us why game developers stick to the tried-and-true fantasy framework. After spending more than four hours tracking down some lost drunkard, speaking to this wench then that peasant, and wondering if I would ever swing a sword, I realized that life in the 15th century was even more boring than it is now. Oh, how I wished for a giant to crush me underfoot or a mage to transmogrify me into a prattling sheep.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance begins with a beautifully drawn cinematic, emulating the art style of Witcher 3’s loading screens. It illustrates a historically-accurate story of a beloved Bohemian king who reigns over the prosperous region inside central Europe. The king dies and the era of peace perishes with him. His indolent son inherits the throne, and a family feud (sans Steve Harvey) ensues, resulting in invading armies that herald the chaos of war. Henry, the story’s main character, loses his home, and his family is murdered by barbaric mercenaries. His family’s senseless slaughter leads him down a path of retribution. He must find who is responsible and bring them to justice.
For the purpose of demoing the game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s beta starts off with a gameplay cutscene that transpires halfway through the overall story’s timeline. This starting region was intentionally selected by the developers for your sake. Handpicking the player’s original placement is a common occurrence in betas and is typically implemented for good reason. Rather than starting at the beginning, which may not provide a true taste of how the game really is, the developers throw you into the middle of an exciting scene. Although, in the case of Kingdom Come, the bland, boring beginning befuddled me since this selective tactic of story placement is typically used to dramatic effect. I wasn’t thrown into the midst of battle, fending off hordes of berserkers. Instead, I have a strange conversation with an officer and am tasked with finding a missing tanner boy, aptly named “Reeky” (Game of Thrones, anyone?).
My only lead was the boy’s father, so I track him down without any assistance besides a shield icon on the GUI’s compass. The absence of GUI information was nearly startling. Halfway through my conversation with the father, I was presented with three dialogue options for extracting information concerning his son–whose birth name is actually Hynek. These dialogue options imitate those seen in Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Fallout. Though none the options I chose seemed to persuade, impress, or “might” the father. By the time the parlay was coming to an end, he was about as sick of me as I was of him. Naturally, I went on my way to find a “bathhouse wench” he mentioned.
I rode my horse to a neighboring village where Adela, the aforementioned bathhouse wench, resided. I caught up with her only to confirm that Reeky’s taste in women was about as top-notch as his personal hygiene. Nevertheless, my persuasion abilities proved to actually work on Adela–would you look at that, my Speech trait leveled! She informed me that Reeky spontaneously fled to the forest and that a local innkeeper may know more of the story. Now I had to embark on a search for the innkeeper. Much to my surprise, nightfall – along with a storm – was quickly approaching. It soon became so dark that I couldn’t see one foot in front of me. There were no brightness settings in the options menu, so I pulled out my trusty in-game torch. The fire managed to illuminate a mere two foot square radius around me. I was hopelessly blinded by the night and was forced to skip time, which ironically took a long time. Who would have thought that, already hours into the game, my sole and toughest opponent in Kingdom Come: Deliverance was the rotation of the earth?
Have I been boring you? I actually feel a little guilty while I chronicle my experience with Kingdom Come to you. Though I can assure you that playing the role is even more mundane than reading through an account of it. Heretofore, the story continued within the same vein: I impersonated a lesser Sherlock Holmes as I searched for the elusive Reeky, interacting with various bumpkins that led to yet another hamlet, person, or zone. Completing one minor objective would subsequently uncover an infinitesimal clue, prolonging my epic quest. Occasionally, a side quest would pop up while I traipsed the country, but oftentimes the optional quest was just as inconsequential as the main objective.
After a few hours, I was finally graced with Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s combat system. It emerged in the form of a tutorial, and I happened upon it by chance within the confines of a military encampment. At this point, I was more relieved to be embroiled in combat than a virgin viking teenager infatuated with Valhalla. I immediately likened the combat mechanics to those in the upcoming medieval title For Honor, but the execution was entirely different. Up to this point, I had hoped the one remaining aspect of Kingdom Come I had yet to encounter, the combat system, would be exceptional enough to make up for all its other shortcomings. To my dismay, I was wrong.
The fighting tutorial initiated and my cursor locked to the opponent. I was able to swing my sword in five different directions, and defense relied on anticipating the enemy’s directional attack. Dodging, parrying, and blocking the enemy’s strike were crucial, all while quickly depleting your stamina bar. Adding all of this together made the combat feel realistic and brutal. However, properly making my character attack or block was much more difficult than it should have been, whether using keyboard and mouse or an Xbox gamepad. Half of my thrusts didn’t land and parrying an incoming strike was near impossible. We danced around each other in a disjointed cock fight resulting in an awkward and haphazard experience. No matter how hard I tried, I felt like Samwell Tarly clumsily swinging a blade for the first time. The whole experience left me believing the combat system has yet to be ironed out and refined accordingly.
The genuine reconstruction of medieval architecture is one redeeming factor of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The 15th century environment is the closest to realistic you’ll get. Wandering the admittedly beautiful world, I admired the accurate portrayal of the medieval era. I was transfixed by the lone lumberyard here, a trickling mill there, while forests and hills swallowed up the rest of the landscape. The graphics are also gorgeous but demanding on your system. At 1440p I couldn’t go beyond the High setting without sacrificing a smooth 60 FPS. Very High chopped my framerate in half and it was a lag-fest at Ultra. Despite graphical settings, there were also some evident optimization issues scattered about the game.
We all know reality can be somewhat boring, but open a history book and you’ll find that truth is stranger, and often more exciting, than fiction. I wonder if Kingdom Come: Deliverance failed to tap into the magic that at times surfaces in real life and instead embraced realism to a detrimental extent. To this end, its most prominent obstacle isn’t a mystery. The flawed and uninspiring gameplay offered me scant enjoyment. I purposely omitted a few of the minor gameplay details because they don’t shed light on any of the game’s depth–or lack thereof. The specifics of character stats, traits, items, skills, leveling, and weapons are irrelevant to the overall gameplay, especially since they exist in nearly every other RPG.
Kingdom Come certainly hasn’t reinvented the wheel when it comes to the mechanics of RPGs, nor has it added any unique elements. As of now, Kingdom Come lacks any singular or intuitive aspects. Even its touted “realism” shines through only in the world’s aesthetics. Possibly the scenario in which the beta starts with was poorly chosen. Would its true beginning have provided a better experience? I can’t be sure, but from what is showcased in the beta, Kingdom Come: Deliverance falls short of delivering just about anything new or compelling. I hope that Warhorse Studios uses its remaining time to overhaul and refine most of their game’s core content before it’s released. An entertaining, realistic experience may be hidden somewhere, but thus far it’s buried too deep to exhume.