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Joe Reviews – Kingdom Come: Deliverance

 

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an interesting title for sure, being a revival of the long-forgotten historically accurate RPGs of old; having had the opportunity to play this title at the prestigious Hever Castle back in December, I had an absolute blast (Which you can read HERE) – Fast-forward 3 months and the game is finally about to hit Steam libraries and store shelves alike… So, has my opinion on the title matured, and changed with my newfound access to the full version of the game?

To begin, since I’m reviewing this title on PC, I feel it’s essential to tell you eager readers my current PC specs to help you gauge how the game would perform on your systems:

PC Specs

CPU: i5-4690K 3.5GHz not overclocked
RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury Red 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1866 Memory
GPU: MSI GTX 970 4GB Twin Frozr V
OS: Windows 10 Pro (Not using Game Mode)

Even with somewhat ‘dated’ hardware, Kingdom Come: Deliverance still holds up considering it’s been in development for 5 years now.

Story & Characters

The story of Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Which I’ll from now-on be abbreviating to KCD) starts off on a rather warm note; you play throughout the entirety of the game as “Henry”; a somewhat famed Blacksmith’s son who’s slowly learning the trade in the small village of Skalitz, ruled by the Lord, Radzig Kobyla; trusted aide of King Wenceslas IV – After another typically sunny day, a dark shadow looms on the horizon of Skalitz, as invading Cuman forces ordered by King Sigismund of Hungary (Wenceslas’s brother), run a path of domination and dictatorship throughout the land of Bohemia, slaughtering any settlement that didn’t accept him as their new ruler…

The opposing army of Wenceslas’ Hungarian Cuman forces are truly a sight to behold – Relentless and powerful.

…Well, long story short, Skalitz gets absolutely massacred and razed to the ground; it’s villagers being murdered, raped and robbed in cold hatred – Henry, having been ordered by his parents to seek refuge in the local castle, refuses their orders, arriving only in time to see his father and mother be brutally murdered, leaving only seconds for him to escape and alert neighbouring settlements of the incoming invaders, only having briefly remembered the army’s leader’s face, being that of one of Sigismund’s commanders – This event has a long-lasting effect on Henry, forcing him to deal with the very real horrors of grief, PTSD and his unbridled thirst for vengeance to avenge his murdered family, friends and townspeople.

Henry’s PTSD, guilt and trauma plays a major role in his character, especially in the early hours of the game.

I shan’t delve any further into the plot as to not spoil the main story points that I’ve encountered so far, but regardless to say, it’s certainly refreshing to be able to play an RPG such as this that is open-world and has an actually interesting protagonist that you want to invest in and see his character develop (Or decay); I felt a sort of moral duty to avenge Henry’s parents, and could feel his feelings of loss and despair – Surviving through vivid recollections of Henry’s trauma, seeing how dialogue impacts and changes him, and learning how to best deal with social situations in 1400’s Bohemia all plays towards building character and the world overall.

I tell you what, Henry certainly got the better end of the mirror, considering it’s the 1400’s…

Henry feels human, with his own personality, goals and ambitions, giving his own thoughts on social situations, standings and cultures – Think more Shepherd from Mass Effect rather than Link from The Legend of Zelda, for instance; whilst this may put off some people from getting immersed in the world of KCD, for me it more actively plays to the game’s strengths, and lets Henry be a more realistic lens for us as players to engage in the world of the 1400’s. You start off without a single penny to your name, trudging the dirty and cold streets of various settlements before finally making a name for yourself – And, to the game’s credit, it’s all earned by you – You have no guiding hand or grand overseer guiding you to become King or anything; you’ve got to make your own goals, and you’ve got to earn it.

Gameplay

This is most prevalent with the beginning of the game, with it’s gameplay, as you try to escape a settlement that you’ve been ordered to stay in – You have extremely limited resources, and have to get creative to escape to bury your parents, be it through your social skills, thievery, or by the power of bribery; there’s always a number of different ways to complete quests, and most of the time, it’s limited by realistic factors, such as social standing, the way you look or smell, or even if you’ve got a reputation around the local area – This reminded me a lot of the olden days of golden RPG’s like Morrowind, where things were always deeper than they seemed.

Combat is a balanced blend of offence and defense, engaging you in it’s gameplay rather than just smacking heavy sticks against one-another.

Now, combat is a bit of a wild beast in KCD – It follows somewhat traditional conventions for being a first-person RPG, being controlled in many of the same ways similar titles are (For instance, Skyrim); where KCD differs, however, is in it’s combat mechanics – Taking a note from games such as For Honour and Chivalry, KCD employs a sort of “Spoke-System”, where you target sections of a combatant’s body using a five-point-star, indicating their head, arms, legs and chest (Being the centre of the star); moving your mouse to target your opponent’s body part where they have their weapon raised and blocking defends you from attacks, and careful positioning of your strikes is key in overcoming battles – One thing to note, however, is that archery is still as overpowered as it was in the preview build of the game – You can still kill un-armoured opponents with a single, well-placed arrow between the eyes; realistic, but wholly overpowered – For this reason alone, I mainly never go without a fully-enclosed helmet if I’m expecting archers in a scuffle – Armour and the different types of clothing you equip also have a very real impact on your combat performance, with a notable example being that if you wear just a hefty piece of armour on your chest, with no underlays or mesh for it to rest over, then you’ll basically just be a walking aluminium can rather than a hulking tower of defense and strength.

Societal gameplay as well plays a large role in the world of KCD, with how you’re dressed, act and who you know coming strong into nearly every interaction you make – As aforementioned, you can influence guards, townspeople and shopkeeps to obey your demands given that you have a high enough social standing… Saying this, however, the exact opposite can work in your favour too – Having an extremely poor reputation around Bohemia for looting, stealing and murdering could actually help you to intimidate your foes and impact quests further – It’s all about how you feel as a person responding to Henry’s grief, and how you project your actions onto your protagonist.

Pro Tip: If you end up making every settlement you go through look like this, chances are you’re either going to terrify the entire nation, or start a war. Or both! Saying this, though, you’ll probably sooner be stone-cold-dead.

On top of all this, there are a number of minigames that impact your day-to-day life in KCD – Simply taking care of your weapons requires in-depth knowledge of grindstones and sharpening; pickpocketing is as random and risky as it is in real life, and lockpicking is definitely a step up from other interpretations in games such as Skyrim or Oblivion, where it’s relatively easy or luck-based – All of these minigames require a degree of skill; skill that you build by practicing, again, like in real life.

This mantra of building your skills through true practice runs deep into the veins of KCD, with your combat skills, agility, weight, energy, mood and activity-based skills all being based off of what you do, and how much you do it – Think of it, again, like Morrowind – You build up from a scamp that can barely use a sword correctly to a master swordsman only through proper practice, training and experience – Archery is possibly the best indication of this, as you lose your aiming cursor when you draw your bow, forcing you to rely on your own depth perception and judgement of distance to land that killing blow.

Presentation and Graphics

Densely recreated hamlets and settlements have their own style; despite some textures being rather low-res, it manages to uphold it’s wow factor quite remarkably.

I have to admit, whilst it’s by no means “perfect” in terms of visual quality, like what you’d see in titles like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt or the latest AAA games, it’s hard to ignore that for a game that’s been in the pressure-cooker for 5 years, this game certainly holds it’s own – Shadows look crisp and sharp when on the highest settings, foliage looks dense and well-placed (Barring some exceptions; for instance, the bundle of sticks just on the Rattay Executioner’s pathway that just floats in mid-air), and character dialogue models certainly look far more touched up than they were in the Alpha and Beta versions of the game. Animals move with the sort of weight you’d expect, and most instances of lighting look good; the menus, whilst somewhat cumbersome at times (For instance the main inventory), have a unique charm reminiscent of the time period represented, with the World Map having various religious and territorial insignias, emblems, figures and illustrations adorning each level of zoom – It’s certainly a nice touch, and makes you feel like you’re interacting with your very own time capsule, all thematically decorated like so.

Building on my thoughts from the December Preview

How far have I traveled..? Where do I go next..?

So what’s changed from my preview of the game in December? Well, for a start, my overall opinion of the plot has certainly matured and grown over time – What I initially passed off as a simple “Oh no your parents are killed go stab some dudes” plot unravelled into something far deeper and emotionally connective – Whilst I haven’t finished the game, so I can’t exactly comment on the plot overall, from what I’ve seen and experienced, I’m certainly invested.

Secondly, my appreciation for the combat has improved quite a lot as well; after my first experiences with the game I was totally on the fence about how the combat worked, especially with numerous combatants… But after playing for an elongated amount of time, it’s certainly grown on me – It’s still not what I would call absolutely 100% brilliant, but it’s certainly and intriguing and engaging step in the right direction.

Finally, the technical issues and bugs that were present in the AMD preview builds of the game…

…Well…

Technical Performance

Taking my PC’s specs into account, the game runs surprisingly well on my somewhat dated system; it’s by no means top-of-the-line, but it’s more than enough to run the game at a constant 60fps at 1920 x 1080 resolution presets with mostly everything whacked up to Ultra – Some lag is prevalent when loading new world chunks, or when entering loading screens, however for the most part, the game holds up exceptionally well performance-wise. One point to note, on a technical standpoint, is that when I played the title at Hever Castle 3 months ago, it was predominantly on AMD hardware, using Radeon GPUs – That build of the game was, unfortunately, ladened with numerous game-breaking bugs and performance issues, with locked loading screens being a prevalent issue throughout the playgroup (With 3-4 separate PC’s freezing on loading screens at different points) – I can say, however, that I’ve not experienced the majority of issues I had with the preview build on AMD hardware; I have, however, experienced a number of newer bugs, with the most annoying being an issue where opening and changing graphics settings takes around 3-4 minutes to render and apply, turning your textures to putty for a good half a minute before resuming usual gameplay. I’m sure, however, that these issues will be soon fixed in a future update.

Final Thoughts

Leading a strong example for future Kickstarted titles of this scale.

Overall, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a rare instance of a Kickstarter game gone right. It absolutely delivers a worthwhile and truly engaging experience to it’s backers, and does so whilst being not just a fantastic video game, but also a fantastic educational tool as well.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a very welcome fusion of classic and modern open-world RPGs, and it plays mostly to it’s strengths; it’s the 1400’s time capsule I’ll happily spend 60+ hours immersed in. Yes, there are a number of technical issues still prevalent within the game, however I’m hoping that these will be patched quickly and fully – The tale of Henry is a heartfelt one, and the world of Bohemia certainly feels alive – More-so than many open world RPG’s recently released.

I give Kingdom Come: Deliverance an 8.5 / 10 – Kingdom Come: Deliverance certainly delivered.

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