I’ve been waiting what feels like forever to sink my teeth into Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the original Kickstarter campaign concluding all the way back in 2014. I’m no history buff, admittedly, but a game with such authentic-looking arms and armor caught my eye immediately. Any title with swords that don’t look like boat paddles instantly gets bonus points from me.
Now that I’ve got it, though, is it all sunshine and rainbows? Or are there some glaring issues with this loving recreation of 15th century Bohemia?
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Warhorse Studios
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: Feb 13th, 2018
Players: 1 Player
Upon booting up Kingdom Come: Deliverance, you’re treated to a narrated section, which details the historical events leading up to the game’s outset. Charles IV, the king who is lauded by just about everyone, passes away and leaves the throne to his son, Wenceslas IV. He turns out to be a pretty crappy ruler, favoring prostitutes and lazing about to his kingly duties.
Sigismund of Luxembourg, Wenceslas’ half-brother, sees an opportunity and kidnaps Wenceslas. With no king on the throne, he’s free to do as he desires, pillaging the land and extorting people with his army.
The game begins only a year after Wenceslas’ capture, centering on the protagonist, Henry. He lives in a silver mining village called Skalitz, working as an apprentice blacksmith under his father. This beginning area serves as the tutorial, showing you most of the mechanics you’ll be using in the rest of the game in a thankfully non-obnoxious manner.
After getting into a fist fight, sneaking about in people’s houses, flirting with your romantic partner, and throwing poop at someone’s home who disagrees with you politically, the tutorial ends. Your goal is to gather materials for your father, who is making a sword for Lord Radzig, the ruler of Skalitz.
Unfortunately, it’s no sooner that you’ve completed the sword that disaster strikes. An army of Cumans, under the employ of Sigismund of Luxembourg, raids Skalitz and mercilessly slaughters just about everyone who doesn’t flee into the castle. Your parents are murdered right before your eyes, and you only just barely escape with your life.
I would have given a spoiler warning, but it happens so early [and is also shown in the trailer] that I don’t feel it warrants one. Henry flees to Talmberg and warns Lord Divish of the attack, resting to recover from an arrow wound in their care.
Under cover of a sudden storm, Lord Radzig manages to flee the imperiled Skalitz with all the survivors, heading off toward Rattay. He visits Talmberg, offering to bring the player along, but Henry is intent on burying his parents.
Lord Divish forbids you from heading back to Skalitz, viewing it as a suicide mission. The forces of Sigismund are likely gone by now, but bandits inevitably will come picking through the remnants of the town, making it too dangerous to visit. Despite this, I managed to pinch a set of armor from the guard barracks, sneaking my way out of the castle and heading toward my hometown.
As it turns out, Divish was right. In the process of burying his parents, Henry is ambushed by a group of bandits and nearly killed beside his own dead mother and father. He’s only saved by an old friend from Skalitz shouting out to distract them, followed up by the army of Talmberg showing up in the nick of time to run them off.
Unfortunately, the sword Henry’s father made for Lord Radzig is stolen, leaving the protagonist with two major motivations over the course of the game. Get the sword back, and get revenge on that bastard Sigismund who ordered the death of his parents.
All in all, I think the narrative playing out in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is fantastic. Henry is an incredibly likable character, and I was rooting for him without fail over the course of the game. Likewise, even minor characters you meet have a certain charm to them, making it clear that the development team took their world-building very seriously.
The graphics are also pretty impressive. Every character seems to have a distinctive face model, and animations in combat look really nice. Additionally, the foliage and landscapes are just a treat to behold. My screencap folder is full of sweeping shots of the gorgeous countryside from up high, the draw distance and lighting making everything come together in jaw-dropping fashion.
Sound design is also a place where Kingdom Come shines. The music is brilliant, adding further immersion to combat, as well as setting the scene in sleepy farm towns and bustling cities alike. The din of combat is brutal, with slices and chops sounding just as satisfying and meaty as blunt strikes. I used a warhammer, personally, and was never disappointed with the sound it made when caving in helmets.
Gameplay is fun, with some caveats. The combat system with weapons is interesting, if a bit clunky at first. It’s directional, mostly consisting of coordinating strikes where your opponent isn’t blocking. It gets a bit deeper as you level up and unlock combos, and you’ve also got the ability to feint, dodge, parry, and all of the usual goodies.
Unfortunately, hand-to-hand combat just isn’t as fun. The animations are awkward, and punches never feel like they’ve got the same weight as hammer blows or sword strikes. The mostly well-crafted combat system also falls apart when you’re facing more than one enemy, as the directional focus to battles only ever applies to one combatant at a time.
It’s also a bit too easy to steal from people, and stealth about in general. Civilian and enemy AI is pretty stupid when it comes to Henry sneaking around, making it trivial to creep into houses and rob people blind. The guards will occasionally stop the player and ask to search their belongings, but I’ve had them glitch out completely and not notice the clearly pilfered items I was wearing.
It also raises the question how some trader in Rattay knows I stole that gambeson from halfway across the game world. You’re also not able to repair items you nicked, as the armorer/tailor/etc will notice the piece of equipment is hot. Thankfully, you’re able to sell items to fences here and there, but they never seem to have enough shekels to buy all the stolen crap I’m hauling around.
While I’m on the topic of things that annoyed me about Kingdom Come: Deliverance, let’s talk about horses. The horses in this game handle like Mack trucks, and the ‘auto pathing’ they do on roads is janky as all hell. I’ve also had the misfortune of getting my horse stuck in permanent jump limbo after hopping over a bush, forcing me to have to fast travel or load a save to break out of it.
Of course, the fast travel system is useful, but I’m bewildered as to why the developers don’t allow you to cancel it once you’ve set your destination. There were myriad times during my playthrough where I would’ve loved to cancel fast travel, but had to instead sit through the minute-long trek of little Henry through the game map.
You can’t pause cutscenes either, or at least, I couldn’t figure out how to. Hitting the ESC key only brings up the option to skip it, but once you’ve brought that up, it never goes away. I had to run downstairs to receive a package during one of the earlier cutscenes, and since I couldn’t pause the damn thing, I missed most of what was going on.
This game is also absolutely riddled with bugs. Textures taking minutes to load in, horses floating in midair, people’s heads disappearing—there were even parts during the game where certain parts of stairs didn’t work correctly. I had to awkwardly jump and crouch until the game decided it was okay for me to ascend, making me scratch my head and wonder how such a thing made it past QA.
The parts where Kingdom Come: Deliverance succeeds are extremely impressive, and I frankly loved the time I spent with this game overall.
I adore the fact that you can circumvent a lot of fighting in the game by being well-spoken and charismatic. I admire all the attention to detail, and the interesting little tidbits of lore the game provides via codex. Unlike most games, it’s actual stuff from medieval history, and I learned a few things from reading through them.
These accomplishments are not enough to obfuscate the rampant bugs and annoyances, however. This is far from a perfect title, and you’ll be incredibly lucky to make it through the entire game without experiencing at least one immersion-breaking glitch.
For all its flaws, and there certainly are many, Kingdom Come: Deliverance still provides a gripping, inspired open world, replete with interesting characters, thrilling battles, and gorgeous views. If you can get past your horse occasionally floating into space, and characters appearing without heads here and there, you’ll be in for a real treat.
Here’s hoping a lot of my gripes will be patched out in the future!
Kingdom Come: Deliverance was reviewed on PC using a review copy provided by Deep Silver. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 7.5
- Beautiful recreation of 15th century Bohemia
- Well-told story, with unique NPCs and intriguing questlines
- Combat is visceral, challenging, and satisfying
- Voice acting, for the most part, is great
- Exceptional music and sound design
- Bugs, bugs, and more bugs.
- Did I mention bugs?
- Combat falls apart when facing more than one combatant
- Can’t pause cutscenes, can’t cancel fast travel
- Playing a thief is a bit too easy
- Unarmed combat is janky