Warhorse Studios has finally released its long-awaited epic Kingdom Come Deliverance. An open-world role-playing game set in historical Bohemia and based on a true story, Kingdom Come does something that few sword and board role-playing games have done: created a compelling game and narrative without the inclusion of magic, dragons, or most other tropes that are common in the role-playing landscape.
Endearingly, (and historically accurately,) you play as a wide-eyed illiterate son of a blacksmith with dreams of adventure. In the opening cutscene and the game’s starting town, you can see the stunning amount of historical detail that was shoved into Kingdom Come. I can’t personally speak to its accuracy, but the developers seemed to pride themselves on their historical representation. Each town is incredibly detailed, and the landscapes are some of the most true-to-life I’ve navigated—all stunningly rendered via Cryengine.
The historically accurate representation of the struggle for the Bohemian throne is really just a vehicle for the protagonists’ quest for revenge. After watching his parents brutally murdered in Kingdom Come’s introduction, Henry of Skalitz must make his own way into the brutal world, working his way up from illiterate blacksmith’s son to—well, whatever you want. Unfortunately, you can’t create your own character, but the typical range of role-playing game stats allows you to customize him to your liking. You can be anything from a silver-tongued scoundrel to an oafish brute, and everything in between.
While there isn’t typical magic in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, there are things that are no different save for the theme. There are craftable (or purchasable) alchemist potions that allow you to heal horrible wounds in moments, see in the dark, and dramatically increase your strength for a period of time. Gear, in regular role-playing fashion, has stats and different strength/weaknesses—but refreshingly, they do not bestow special abilities on the player.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a pretty large open-world with the most beautiful, realistic landscapes I’ve ever seen in a video game. There are several major towns, and a bunch of small ones. Most of them have characters that give side-quests or those that can train you in anything from first aid to reading. The main quests and side quests will bring you all over Kingdom Come’s map, but there are plenty of things to find for those who want to set off without a guide, so to speak.
Combat sounds and feels visceral, and extremely satisfying. I’m not usually a fan of complicated combat systems, but Kingdom Come skirts the line between cumbersome and fun, if not occasionally awkward. Melee weapons hit with the appropriate thud or twang and hits that strike flesh or armor are represented accurately. Combat isn’t always a life and death thing, either, as you can surrender in some cases—and enemies will even surrender to you, giving you the ability to take their weapon and spare their lives. There are also stealth elements, with the ability to sneak up on and knock out (and later kill) unsuspecting people. If you’re into banditry and thievery, you can lock-pick and pickpocket to your heart’s content.
There is a lot to do in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. There are dozens of characters with extensive speaking roles and townspeople going about their day making the world feel dynamic and lively, many with tasks for you to perform. The more you do, the more renowned you become—and the more dastardly your actions, the more infamous you will get. I don’t know if it was the historically accurate setting that made it so striking, but once people started to react to me as someone other than the blacksmith’s son from Skalitz I felt like I was actually accomplishing something. As I went from helpless in combat to a force to be reckoned with, I felt a satisfaction in role-playing game progression I haven’t felt in a long time.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is not without its flaws, and it’s touting some serious ones. I ran through a gamut of bugs in my playtime, from headless NPCs and miscued dialogue to outright crashes. In most games these would be minor annoyances, but Kingdom Come has a fatal flaw: its save system. Instead of using a traditional save system, Kingdom Come only autosaves at certain points. You can only manually save if you drink a special item called “Saviour Schnapps.” If you have none in your inventory, you can’t heal unless you craft one, buy one, or sleep. Early on, this is a real pain in the ass because not only are you dirt poor, you don’t have access to any easy way to make the save item. Crashes and other glitches make the save system especially frustrating, and I’ve lost hours of progress due to crashes or bugs. Even worse, sleeping doesn’t always save your game, making the schnapps an ever-important item. Luckily, as your wealth and experience grows, so does your access to these Saviour Schnapps—but it does not make the early game any easier. Also, the developers decided to include a hunger and energy system in Kingdom Come, requiring you to find food and seek out sleep eventually. The system is mostly unobtrusive as it takes a while for your character to get hungry and suffer from these effects, but it remains an annoyance.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance really surprised me. From my early access to the alpha and beta, I expected a barely playable mess with a horrible framerate. Instead, I got an indie game with AAA sensibilities that rival even the great open worlds of Elder Scrolls and The Witcher, all within a novel historically accurate world. Warhorse Studios delivered a great game, even if it still needs polish— and I definitely recommend this, especially if you’re willing to forgive a few flaws. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is available now on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.