Reviewed on PlayStation 4, copy supplied by publisher.
I really wanted to like Kingdom Come Deliverance, on paper it sounds like my kind of game – however in execution I found myself sitting on the couch with glassy eyes and a wandering mind. What should have been an engrossing RPG turned out to be a questionable and often times baffling exploration into the mundane.
Set in the Bohemia (which is the modern day Czech Republic) in 1403 –Kingdom Come Deliverance sets out to be an immersive and story driven game that revolves round a genuinely interesting period of history – which saw the lands of Bohemia ravaged in a struggle of dominion. Developer Warhorse Studios seeked to capture this sense of turmoil and create a realistic and immersive experience that draws you in, but doing so it created a game that prioritises realism over enjoyment.
The setting certainly has the chops to make this a genuinely fun game, but I can’t really endorse it as being “fun”. That’s not to say the game is a complete write off, it looks great and the gameplay can provide some genuinely enjoyable moments – but for the most part I felt like I was surfing on a wave of boredom as I traipsed around the game’s world.
There’s nothing wrong with games that don’t shove combat and violence down your throat at every possible moment, but in this case I felt like it just needed a little push to liven it up. Walking through the woods is beautiful and all, but it’s kind of like just going for a walk through the woods… which I could do with my dog in real life. Maybe a few more rogue bandits to fight would add an extra dimension to it.
For those after a quaint experience, the level of detail the game provides is fantastic, and at times it’s nice to just lose yourself in a medieval setting and get some laundry done.
Yeah, so the game punishes you in certain instances for having mucky clothing, which can impact dialogue with nobility, the prices you get with merchants and even stealth, as your stink alerts enemies. It’s an interesting addition to be sure, but making sure your clothes are clean in a world that is almost entirely mud and puddles isn’t my idea of a good time.
Another interesting but ultimately tedious mechanic is the way you save in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Despite key save points at pivotal moments, the only other way to save the game is to buy and drink expensive tonics or hire a room at an inn, and considering money can be tight in the game – and combat can be very difficult – you can find yourself stuck in a loop of repeating sections of the game because of an inability to save. Apparently some people like this kind of mechanic. I am not one of them.
The combat in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is hard and slow, mainly to be realistic. I get that you don’t want to see superhuman ninjas swinging swords around at light speed whilst wearing heavy plated armour, but on the flip side it’s not great to play a game that feels like you’re stuck in molasses.
As you progress and level up your stats the combat does begin to feel more rewarding, but it just didn’t capture me in the same way that The Witcher 3’s combat did, which was also challenging and relatively slow paced for sword play. If I had to compare it to anything it would be For Honor, with you probing to get your weapon past an enemy’s defence and land a hit on one of their body parts with a swing or a jab. However you quickly deplete stamina and find yourself in an awkward dance to land a blow.
The effects certain weapon types have on armour are great and add variety, as are the customisation and inventory options. However the inventory system itself looks rough, and getting your head around it can take some time – which is a real shame because the game’s maps look gorgeous, leaving an inconsistent experience when it comes to these visual interfaces.
One thing that really works for the game is the flexibility around quests. Early on you need to figure out a way to escape a fort, and there are multiple ways to achieve this. After my main approach failed, I accidentally stumbled across another way out. The fluidity here surprised me because it really felt organic, making the quest paths seem almost endless, although I’m sure they’re limited to an extent.
Quest types are varied throughout the story, with your typical “fight this guy,” “be stealthy here,” and “get me this thing to progress” options. It’s kind of standard fare, but the interactive options the game has kick it all up a notch. Dialogue is highly customisable and multiple variables can impact an outcome, such as an NPC being grumpy with you because you keep bothering them or didn’t follow them quickly enough. Whilst this is amazing for those lapping up the detail on display, it does become just another little aspect of the game that you have to micromanage.
Which takes me to survival mechanics, such as the need to eat. Whilst this has been done before, Kingdom Come unsurprisingly kicks it up a notch with detail. For instance, overeating will make the protagonist feel sick and lower your stamina. For those who really want that level of detail in their entertainment, this really is the game for you.
Moving from the tedious to the terrible, there are some areas where the game caves in on itself. The most noticeable at first is the voice work, with inconsistent accents, flat delivery and bad editing. Matching this with the sometimes out-dated looking facial animations made me feel like I was playing a game from the mid 2000s, not a modern title.
The next point that really sticks out is the number of bugs encountered in Kingdom Come Deliverance. They ranged from the hilarious, such as NPCs contorting supernaturally or walking into cut scenes with no clear purpose, to the down right annoying, such as getting stuck in a rock and having to replay an entire section, or straight up crashes.
Another major turn off for me was how boring the protagonist is. Every time Henry opened his mouth I wanted to turn my TV off forever. The way the character interacts with the world is so tedious and every little insight and dialogue choice he makes made me feel like I’m playing as the village idiot. With RPGs, this is almost a cardinal sin, as you really want to inhabit the person you will be playing 50+ hours as, not despise them. So, sorry Henry, I feel bad for what happened to you in the beginning of the game, but I kind of hate you and think you’re a massive twit who deserved to be stuck in a rock.
Overall Kingdom Come Deliverance is a bit like plain rice. It’s not disgusting, but it’s also not great. I enjoyed some of my time in the game, but leave it with no real intention of going back and very little to reminisce about.