kingdom come: deliverance
Brave Sir Henry turned about, and valiantly, he chickened out
When we first meet him, young Henry seems to have it good in life. His father’s the village blacksmith with a suspiciously deep knowledge of swords, his mother patches up the wounds he gets from brawling with his friends, he’s got an outrageously flirtatious girlfriend, and he seems to spend most of his time delivering nails and daydreaming. Unfortunately, he also lives in Bohemia—the modern Czech Republic—in 1403, a time when death can arrive by sword-thrust at any time.
Henry is also the likable-but-blank protagonist of an action RPG, so it’s not long before death does arrive in the form of a horde of mysterious mercenaries ‘from the east’, who rudely interrupt Henry just as he’s getting the hang of his deliveries and is graduating to making swords.
Born a basic human rather than a cat-person or some flavor of elf—neither of which exist in this universe full of Bohemians with thick English accents, Welsh Germans, and unexpected Americans—Henry doesn’t have anything in the way of special powers, so he does what any sensible guy would do in the face of heavily armed attackers. He runs away. This isn’t an Elder
Scrolls game—although its closest analog from that series is probably
Oblivion, thanks to a similarly bucolic setting and a distinct hint of potato in the genetic makeup of its villagers— and the arrow (almost) to the knee he takes during his escape doesn’t deter him from coming back, looking for revenge.
We’re not sure a game has asked us to bury our dead parents before, nor spend quite so long looking for a shovel, but we appreciate Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s dedication to playing a role. You don’t get to customize Henry beyond leveling up his skills, which you do by using them and choosing perks. There are no classes, and absolutely no magic (beyond alchemy) in this most realistic of game universes, so Henry’s progression is purely the result of his actions and training.
One of his greatest enemies turns out to be his environment. He can climb stairs easily, but frequently gets stuck about halfway up. Hedges suck him in, stopping progress in any direction. It’s not the only issue. Guards on patrol pass through one another, equip Henry with an axe, and its blade protrudes painfully out of his stomach, and the words “Move now!” became a permanent fixture in the bottom right of our screen following a combat
tutorial. We’ve also heard reports of spontaneous floating, particularly when performing alchemy, and floors that you can fall through.
A reload clears many of the issues, until the next one comes along, but as there are no quicksaves—only automatic checkpoints, beds, and an expensive tipple, Savior Schnapps, that can leave you with the sort of deleterious effects associated with a night on the Lambrini—reloading is not always an option when your last save was three towns ago.
We see why Warhorse Studios implemented saving the way it did—it adds a fair amount of tension to encounters, even travel, as you never know when you’ll be set upon by brigands, and means that, as each day wears on, you have more to lose. Henry needs to eat, sleep, and maintain his equipment, so maybe you’ll do something dangerous in the morning, when a reload will cost you less, then spend the afternoon at the forge sharpening your sword or winning money in the affable dice mini-game. Death comes easily, especially early on when you’re under-skilled and armed only with a woodcutter’s axe, so getting to a bed where you can sleep and save feels like an achievement.
When not in bed there’s a great deal of combat, with a movementbased sword-slash system similar to that attempted by The Elder Scrolls but improved by a lock-on and an indicator of when to block. A yellow dot marks the center of the screen at all times, except when using a bow, which is when it would have been really useful.
Perhaps it made archery too easy, and Kingdom Come: Deliverance wouldn’t want that. It’s a game that refuses to hold your hand, exposing you to the full glare of its systems, mechanics and social hierarchies, and expecting you to read about them in its exhaustive passages of lore and historical detail. And it’s this kind of detail that sets
Kingdom Come: Deliverance apart. Warhorse Studios has poured love into this game, and it shows. The game has a clunky save system and a lot of bugs to patch, but underneath is a heartfelt RPG that immerses you in a role, a time and a place.
“Warhorse Studios has poured love into this game, and it shows”
far left Some of these soldiers have some most unusual accents.
Left Riding sees you canter or gallop, the latter draining your stamina bar as fast as the horse’s if you’re not trained up.
Right Archery is a real skill. You need to learn to anticipate the drop of the arrow, and Henry needs to learn to keep the bow still.