King­dom Come: De­liv­er­ance

A hum­ble black­smith’s son is thrust into a bloody war in the scrappy, am­bi­tious King­dom Come: De­liv­er­anc e.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Andy Kelly

The open­ing of King­dom Come is sur­pris­ingly peace­ful. You help your fa­ther at his forge. Run er­rands for your mother. Cause trou­ble with your mates. Flirt with your girl­friend. But just as you’re getting com­fort­able with pro­tag­o­nist Henry’s sim­ple life, an army at­tacks his vil­lage and kills ev­ery­one he loves. This is the bru­tal flash­point for the game’s tale of war, po­lit­i­cal turmoil and vengeance, and I was gen­uinely dev­as­tated when it hap­pened.

It helps that Henry is such a likable hero. There isn’t much to him, but I think that’s the point. He’s so nor­mal, so unas­sum­ing, that his pres­ence pro­vides a firm, re­lat­able foun­da­tion for the story. As he re­luc­tantly leaves his old life be­hind, be­com­ing a page for a lord who takes a shine to him and find­ing him­self on the front­line of a bloody war, he’s just as over­whelmed as you are. But his spirit and de­ter­mi­na­tion keep his head mostly above the wa­ter, and he’s an ef­fec­tive guide through the com­pli­cated cul­ture and pol­i­tics of this harsh, hard me­dieval world.

King­dom Come is an RPG with­out the dun­geons or dragons. There are no gob­lins, en­chanted swords, or mages. You’ll never cast a spell, slay a vam­pire or ful­fil an an­cient prophecy. And there’s some­thing re­fresh­ing about how it trades these fa­mil­iar fantasy tropes for some­thing that’s more un­der­stated and re­al­is­tic. It’s by no means a per­fectly ac­cu­rate recre­ation of what life was ac­tu­ally like in the Mid­dle Ages—Henry would die of dysen­tery in the first act if it was—but it does a good enough im­pres­sion of one.

The sim­u­la­tion that gov­erns ev­ery­thing is im­pres­sively deep. If you get caught steal­ing, you’ll end up serv­ing time in jail. If you draw your sword dur­ing a fist­fight, your op­po­nent will back down and apol­o­gize. No­bles will be more will­ing to speak to you if you’ve had a bath. If your rep­u­ta­tion in a town is espe­cially high, peo­ple on the street will shout your name and sing your praises. If you drink too much, you’ll wake up with a han­gover. Take off your clunky plate ar­mor and you will make less noise while sneak­ing. Eat rot­ten food, and you’ll con­tract food poi­son­ing.

These lit­tle de­tails keep pil­ing up, layer upon layer, cre­at­ing a world that is thrillingly dy­namic and re­ac­tive. And this makes the game, at times, feel more like a Thief- style im­mer­sive sim than an RPG, let­ting you ap­proach ob­jec­tives in dif­fer­ent ways, game the sys­tems, and be cre­ative. NPCs fol­low rou­tines based on the time of day, which can be learned and ex­ploited—par­tic­u­larly if you choose to pur­sue the thieves guild-style quests given to you by a shady char­ac­ter. It feels wrong turn­ing the good-na­tured, God-fear­ing Henry into a crim­i­nal, but it’s a great way to make some ex­tra groschen, which is in short sup­ply for much of the game.

No­bles will be more will­ing to speak to you if you’ve had a bath

CRIM­I­NAL MIND

One quest in­volves steal­ing some­thing from a man’s house, and gives you an early taste of this re­ac­tiv­ity. You can ap­proach him dur­ing the day and sim­ply ask to buy it, or you can sneak into his house at night and steal it while he sleeps. But he has dogs, and they’ll bark if they hear you creep­ing around, so you have to deal with them too—ei­ther by dis­tract­ing them with some dis­carded meat or, if you can live with your­self, killing them as they sleep. But this might wake him up, and he won’t take kindly to you be­ing on his prop­erty. And all of this is a prod­uct of the game’s rich, all-en­com­pass­ing sim­u­la­tion, rather than a se­ries of scripted events.

But this all comes at a cost. Like many games with this level of depth and am­bi­tion, King­dom Come is plagued by bugs. The sim­u­la­tion is dense and com­plex, but also feels like it could col­lapse at any sec­ond. There’s rel­a­tively harm­less stuff, like char­ac­ters getting stuck on walls or float­ing in midair in cutscenes. But some­times it’s more se­vere, like the archery con­test where my op­po­nent

re­fused to take his shot, trap­ping me in an end­less limbo. Or the con­ver­sa­tion that looped the same three lines of di­a­logue over and over, for­ever. Throw in some crashes to desk­top and other janky weird­ness, and you’re left with a game that sorely lacks pol­ish.

It doesn’t run very well, ei­ther. On a PC with a GTX 1080, an i5-6600K over­clocked to 4.5GHz, and 16GB of RAM, I strug­gled to main­tain a steady fram­er­ate—even af­ter sig­nif­i­cantly low­er­ing the graphics set­tings and res­o­lu­tion. It’s mostly fine in the coun­try­side, but as soon as I en­ter a town or any­where with a lot of ge­om­e­try, the game stut­ters badly and makes mov­ing around feel sludgy and un­pleas­ant. Which is a shame, be­cause this beau­ti­ful ex­panse of me­dieval Europe de­serves bet­ter. The forests in par­tic­u­lar are stun­ning; deep and lush and mys­te­ri­ous, like step­ping into an­other world. And while the set­ting isn’t as vivid or dra­matic as places like Skyrim, Thedas, or Skel­lige, it feels more real than all of them.

An­other thing to note about Henry is that, while he can han­dle him­self in a fight, he’s far from a mas­ter swords­man. Melee com­bat in King­dom Come is weighty and vi­o­lent, and ev­ery bat­tle feels im­por­tant. Make the slight­est mis­take and you’ll end up dead, which forces you to think care­fully about each strike, block, parry and feint. You can swing your weapon in five direc­tions, and fights boil down to sec­ond-guess­ing your op­po­nent’s next move and re­act­ing ac­cord­ingly. But it’s when you’re fac­ing mul­ti­ple en­e­mies at once that things get re­ally dif­fi­cult, and I rarely sur­vived an en­counter with more than two foes, even 30 hours into the game.

It doesn’t help that Henry is a frag­ile soul. In bat­tle you’ll sus­tain in­juries that will se­ri­ously ham­per your abil­ity to fight, and a bad one usu­ally means you’re done for. You can im­prove your chances by wear­ing mul­ti­ple lay­ers of ar­mor, but be­ing cov­ered in plate and chain­mail has its draw­backs too, neg­a­tively im­pact­ing your stamina. And the ail­ments don’t stop there. Henry can get sick, tired, hun­gry, drunk, hun­gover, overfed, mal­nour­ished, and a dozen other sta­tus ef­fects that will make him less handy in a fight. Keep­ing him healthy is some­thing that re­quires your con­stant at­ten­tion.

Sleep in a bed, and your in­juries will heal, and if you own or are cur­rently rent­ing the bed, the game will save. You can quick­save as well, but do­ing so re­quires bot­tles of ex­pen­sive booze called Sav­ior Sch­napps that have the un­for­tu­nate side-ef­fect of getting you drunk. Lim­it­ing sav­ing to these two op­tions is frus­trat­ing at times, but it does give your de­ci­sions more weight know­ing you can’t just eas­ily reload and try again like with most games.

SMOOTH TALKER

For those of us who pre­fer to avoid com­bat, you can usu­ally talk your way out of trou­ble. I spent the game hon­ing Henry’s speech skill, which is im­proved by suc­cess­fully con­vinc­ing peo­ple to see your side of things in con­ver­sa­tions. Sim­i­lar to Obliv­ion, Henry learns by do­ing. So your horse-rid­ing im­proves as you ex­plore, your swords­man­ship in­creases in bat­tle, and your bow gets more ac­cu­rate with ev­ery ar­row that hits its tar­get. I’ve al­ways liked this lev­el­ling sys­tem, be­cause it cre­ates the il­lu­sion that Henry is slowly getting bet­ter at the things he does, rather than ar­bi­trar­ily mas­ter­ing them af­ter amass­ing a cer­tain num­ber of ex­pe­ri­ence points.

A lot of mod­ern RPGs di­min­ish your agency by overus­ing map mark­ers—some­thing King­dom Come de­lib­er­ately avoids in its quest de­sign. If you need to track some­one down, it won’t mark their lo­ca­tion on the map, just the town they live in. And it won’t mark the lo­ca­tion of a ban­dit camp, but the swathe of for­est it’s hid­ing in. I can imag­ine this be­ing frus­trat­ing for some peo­ple, as the marked area can be quite large. But I find it im­mensely sat­is­fy­ing, mak­ing me feel like I’m ac­tu­ally ex­plor­ing and us­ing my brain rather than blindly go­ing wher­ever the de­vel­oper tells me to.

A good va­ri­ety of quests keeps things in­ter­est­ing, from large bat­tles and sieges, to more se­date ac­tiv­i­ties such as hunt­ing, set­tling dis­putes and rob­bing wine cel­lars for drunken lords. There are also times when the game turns into a very en­ter­tain­ing me­dieval po­lice pro­ce­dural, and Henry proves to be a tal­ented am­a­teur de­tec­tive. The story can feel quite dry and self-se­ri­ous at times, but there are some fun, mem­o­rable quests in­clud­ing an en­counter with a priest of ques­tion­able moral­ity and an event­ful hunt­ing trip with the afore­men­tioned wine-lov­ing lord.

King­dom Come is a mess of bugs, and there’s the con­stant feel­ing that de­vel­oper Warhorse is bit­ing off more than it can chew. But there’s a charm to its scrap­pi­ness, and it does enough in­ter­est­ing stuff that I’m will­ing to tol­er­ate the creaky frame­work hold­ing ev­ery­thing up. It’s one of the most sat­is­fy­ing, re­ward­ing role­play­ing ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had on PC for a while, but the in­con­sis­tent per­for­mance and the game’s ten­dency to com­pletely break does test my pa­tience from time to time.

Melee com­bat in King­dom Come is weighty and vi­o­lent

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