Kingdom Come: Deliverance review (PC): Innovative, exciting, and tone-deaf

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an Open World Survival Medieval Simulator Role Playing Game or OWSMSRPG. It’s fabulously detailed; full of lush forests, quiet hamlets, and many NPCs for you to terrorize as you loot and pillage your way through the lovely European countryside. What’s more, it earns a seat among the more ambitious games to come out in the past decade of our indie gaming renaissance. It aims to take the formulas of modern blockbuster RPGs and ground those ideas and tropes in a realistic setting. There is no magic, only swords and bows. No living skeletons and ghosts, only normal people.

For the most part, it succeeds and presents an opportunity for us to discover what is actually fun about modern RPGs. Is the genre actually good when you wipe away all the fantasy, magic, and world-building that have propelled franchises like Dragon Age, Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls, and The Witcher into the mainstream? What happens when RPG mechanics are used to create an interpretation of reality.

kingdom come deliverance review pc fight with a knight
Occasionally, you would come across knights ready to fight you for honor! However, you could also ask them to fight you for more tangible goods, such as armor or weapons.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Kingdom Come: Deliverance makes the best case for realistic RPGs. Its world is dull and tone deaf, and overall doesn’t take advantage of its opportunity to tell a unique and well-crafted story based on an interesting moment in history. That said, the game mechanics are creative and interesting, creating a fun experience with a forgettable story.

A quick note:

Before I give my opinion on the game itself, I want to acknowledge the controversies that have followed Kingdom Come’s release. We have decided to review the game as a separate entity from the opinions and behavior of its creator. However, we are not trying to ignore what other people have said about the game. Specifically, about the lack of people of color or how it portrays women. I do encourage you to voice your opinions on the game in the comments though, as these are important aspects for everyone when deciding whether or not you want to buy it. We also have an article explaining this decision I encourage you to check out, written by OGGs editor and chief, Galp.

kingdom come deliverance review pc opening cinematic
The art style of the menus and even the paintings that decorated the walls in the game are gorgeous. I honestly think they could have dropped the realism thing and just based the 3D models on this art style.

Should you buy it?

I’m a bit late to the ball game here. But, if you’re still mulling over whether this belongs on your wishlist or not, I’ve got a good heap of opinions for you. But yes, you should buy this game.

Novel mechanics that allow for dynamic storytelling are what make this game. That strength lies in the small choices that you make instead of an overarching plot or theme. The kinds of armor and clothes you wear around town, what skills you choose, how you interact with local merchants all changes how the world reacts to you, to an extent greater than I’ve experienced before. In many ways, how you chose to live from day to day has more impact than the dialogue choices.

kingdom come deliverance review pc fist fight with guards
The only way to stop a bad guy with gauntlets is a good guy with gauntlets.

This is coupled with a skill-based combat system. Stats and armor do play into your ability to survive fights. However, you as the player must actually learn how to use the fighting mechanics. This will probably be the biggest turn off for people. It will frustrate you when you start, as the game doesn’t pull punches. You will have to practice timing and reflexes, just like you would in any other skill based game. If you enjoy simple block, attack, and roll systems, you might not find this very fun.

kingdom come deliverance review pc church service
I have a bad feeling the NPC faces are not going to hold up well in 10 years. To my eyes, they already look a bit malformed and uncanny.

The Game

If the jokey acronym from the intro didn’t key you in, Kingdom Come asks you to do a lot. So I’m going to try to organize my review by breaking down each of the game’s distinct elements.

At its center, this is a hardcore RPG. The game is unforgiving and has very little quality of life inclusions when it comes to questing and combat. You will fail quests from time to time. The stat system will leave you a bit confused. But the complexity and difficulty allow you to experiment. By creating a space for failure, Kingdom Come creates a unique divergence from other RPGs. While most franchises try to simplify, here they use complexity to add an interesting layer of choice to their game.

kingdom come deliverance review pc item menu screen
There are lots of skills you can pick, including an entire category dedicated to drinking. Most skills are pretty balanced, though so some are completely OP. One example, in the speech category, there is a skill that allows you to get free services from bathhouse. This means free food, rest, health regeneration, and a save any time you want.

For instance, there is no charisma stat. While you can invest time into getting good at casually talking to people by picking certain perks that help you talk your way through quests, you can also use your menacing strength to threaten everyone you meet. Or dress for the occasion, wearing rich clothing that makes people more receptive to you. Another option is to have deep pockets and throw money at problems. This is complicated further by each NPC responding differently to each approach available to you. There is a lot of nuance to what kind of a person you want to be with the stat system.

kingdom come deliverance review pc stockades
Even though we shudder at the idea of public punishments and executions, it’s interesting to note that in the west they never lost popularity. The last public execution in the USA drew 20,000 people. That was 1936. Our grandparents might have been there. The More You Know!

The World

The physical game world of Kingdom Come: Deliverance is astounding. The amount of detail included blows my mind. It has everything an armchair historian could desire, from the differences between hunting in tended and untended forests; to perfect recreations of castles. All filled with detail, down to the indoor toilets and wooden armaments that most of us are probably ignorant of.

The story which leads you through this world is sufficient. It’s unspectacular but stays fresh by focusing on talking to NPCs and exploration. What is most refreshing, is combat is not the main focus. Fights are used to create climaxes throughout the quests, which improves the pacing of the game immensely. I never felt like enemies were being thrown at me thoughtlessly.

kingdom come deliverance review pc date night
For every fault this game had in its portrayal of realistic people, its brutal and honest depiction of a first date left me in awe. I play video games to escape the pain of reliving social encounters. Not have them rendered in real time at 4k resolution.

Unfortunately, the NPCs who reside in this world are pretty boring. It seems in their endeavor to take the fantasy out of RPGs, they forgot to replace it with anything. There are very few quests or NPC encounters where I felt the characters had any sort of emotion or motivation. Most NPCs only served as a plot device. Even the main character and his love interest are devoid of any realistic emotion. They have zero response to the horrors of medieval warfare which they are made victims of in the game’s opening.

kingdom come deliverance review pc summon devil quest
This was an interesting quest since it was one of the few that actually showed how people dealt with issues we are familiar with. You act as an agent of society. Ill-equipped and ignorant of how to help a group of women cope with loss. That said, I don’t think the devs realized they accidentally made interesting characters and the quest gets silly pretty quick.

A rant on flat NPCs

I can accept that in a franchise like Elder Scrolls, NPCs might have a have a more laissez-faire opinion of warfare when there are literal monsters outside their doors. Seeing your village massacred might not rank as high on the list of emotionally traumatizing events when it’s competing with the fear of said village returning to life and eating you.

But, when you are trying to sell me the idea that these NPCs are living in an interpretation of the real world, I do expect a bit more nuance as to how people might cope with the deaths of their entire family and all their friends.

kingdom come deliverance review pc cutscene dead hand
It’s a good thing they only show the hand of this corpse during the cutscene. After walking past the mounds of dead bodies and roads littered with rotting horses, I don’t think I could have stomached it.

Furthermore, while the game does a good job of creating a superficially realistic depiction of history, it lacks some much needed in-world criticism. It is all good and dandy to show that there is a caste system at work, where a person’s standing in society corresponds with their job and family; but the characters have almost no expression beyond that. Or in its depiction of women, there is hardly any dialogue referencing discontent, justification, or hardly any opinions at all about their place in society.

I can believe that people in this time period genuinely felt that their society was structured in a moral and good way. But I imagine they were still were filled with opinions and thoughts about their place in the world just as we are. Instead, NPCs act as empty and opinion-less as a fantasy farmer who watched his father die at the hands of giants and but figures, that’s just the way it is. This is Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s greatest failing.

kingdom come deliverance review pc fist fight mini game
What RPG lacks a well-organized group of boxers? Somehow they always manage to create a hierarchy and communication system to relay who may challenge whom. All in order to ensure that a new fighter in the county must work his way up the ladder from the lowest fighter to the top.

Survival Elements

The first thing you are tasked to do after starting a new game is to eat some of your mom’s freshly made soup, lest you starve to death before her eyes. You also have to be sure to get a few winks of sleep in from time to time or your character’s eyelids will envelop the screen in a terrifying and uncanny eyelid shaped darkness.

Personally, I found the survival elements to be underwhelming. You must eat so your hunger meter doesn’t reach zero. The longer you wait the more your maximum health will diminish. If you let your sleep meter hit zero, you pass out. Sleeping also allows you to save your game. You can only save without sleeping by buying special alcohol. I find this system to be a little silly. However, it’s a survival game so, obviously, it needed to be included?

kingdom come deliverance review pc game map fast travel
I’m going to say it again, the 2D art in this game is spot on. This is the most beautiful game map I’ve ever seen. I need a giant version of it framed on my wall.

The only reason I don’t completely dismiss the survival elements is that they do manage to add another level of depth to the game. Despite being unoriginal and boring, they do force you to interact with innkeepers and food vendors from time to time. It also requires that you put a bit of thought into your travel plans as you go from town to town. If you use fast travel without thinking, you could arrive at your destination exhausted and hungry unprepared for a fight.

I lost quite a few battles because my stats were lowered when I ignored my hunger. So I appreciate that there are real consequences that come along with the system, besides just keeling over. But it’s a missed opportunity – a complaint not specific to Kingdom Come.

kingdom come deliverance review pc lord riding horse with dogs
I’m not a fan of this trend towards game’s deciding that since dog hair is difficult to make look good, lets just rid of the dog hair. No. I know for a fact that this is not how peoples dogs looked 600 years ago. How do I know? Because I’ve petted a dog before and I’ve never once thought, “this could be even better. I wish I  was just rubbing my hand on leathery, loose, fleshy skin. Lets selectively breed dogs like that please.”

Combat Elements

Combat is where Kingdom Come diverges the most from mainstream RPGs. It is very difficult but learnable. Its complexity allows for an incredible amount of control and interactivity in the battles, something open world RPGs are sorely missing. Fights feel much direr and more interesting since victory is based on your own reflexes and instincts rather than solely on timing animations.

When you wield a weapon, you are presented with a five pointed star around the center reticle which locks on to your opponent. This star and its center represent six basic positions with which you can begin an attack. Say you want to swing your sword down onto your opponent’s head; simply move your mouse up and the top point of the star will be highlighted and your character’s hands will rise above his head waiting for you to initiate the swing with a mouse click.

kingdom come deliverance review pc fighting with a shield
I realized I didn’t have enough screenshots of combat. I was usually too busy trying to win to hit the screenshot button. But I let poor Henry take a few hits for the team so you could have a good image to look at it.

From here, you have a huge amount of choice. You can try to fake out your opponent by clicking the attack button and quickly changing the direction of your attack or you can chain attacks by timing your swings and choosing new directions at the appropriate tempo. There are also combos which your character can learn and use to great effect. I’d compare its complexity to a fighting game, and I hope developers continue to explore new ways of presenting combat in RPGs, like Kingdom Come has done.

kingdom come deliverance review pc fight with guards
This time the guards decided my crimes were worth more than a little fist fight.

A bit on bows

If that all sounds much too complex and you’d like to use archery instead, they have managed to complicate this as well. Firstly, they removed the reticle when you try to aim, forcing you to learn intuitively how your arrows will fly. On top of this, your character’s hands are not steady, making aiming slow. Its near useless at first until you and your character both improve.

kingdom come deliverance review pc shooting a rabbit
There are activities to do besides quest and run around. Many inns will offer you big cash if you go hunting for them. I enjoyed it so much that for a few minutes I honestly considered picking up archery in real life and going rabbit hunting. But I’ve never actually killed anything except fish and lobsters, and I think rabbits have a lot more blood than fish. So probs won’t.

Furthermore, pulling an arrow back drains your stamina very quickly. Shooting more than one or two arrows with accuracy quickly is near impossible, especially early on in the game. But I enjoyed this complexity for both the sword and bows if no other reason than they dared to do something new and managed to pull it off decently. I don’t want to say either system is great, but they are functional and you will become good at the game after a while.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an Open World Survival Medieval Simulator Role Playing Game or OWSMSRPG. It’s fabulously detailed; full of lush forests, quiet hamlets, and many NPCs for you to terrorize as you loot and pillage your way through the lovely European countryside. What’s more, it earns a seat among the more ambitious games to come out in the past decade of our indie gaming renaissance. It aims to take the formulas of modern blockbuster RPGs and ground those ideas and tropes in a realistic setting. There is no magic, only swords and bows. No living skeletons and ghosts, only…
Overall, a great game. I give it an 84 because of my complaints with the story and world mostly. RPGs are not just pure mechanics and rules like a game of chess or checkers but are worlds created for us to explore, criticize, and be criticized. We want our choices to have repercussions and want to know what these people are feeling and thinking. Its cathartic to see the immediate result of our actions and to have these fictional characters open up to us and lets us into their thoughts. However, this game is fun and enjoyable and I plan to spend an objectively unhealthy amount of time in this game.

Kingdom Come Deliverance

Score - 84%

84%

An Innovating and enjoyable sandbox

Overall, a great game. I give it an 84 because of my complaints with the story and world mostly. RPGs are not just pure mechanics and rules like a game of chess or checkers but are worlds created for us to explore, criticize, and be criticized. We want our choices to have repercussions and want to know what these people are feeling and thinking. Its cathartic to see the immediate result of our actions and to have these fictional characters open up to us and lets us into their thoughts. However, this game is fun and enjoyable and I plan to spend an objectively unhealthy amount of time in this game.

User Rating: Be the first one !

Available from:  Steam

kingdom come deliverance review pc bird quest
This voice actor deserved every VO award available after this performance.

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At 10 years old I played Knights of the Old Republic. I thought I would like to play a Mad Max version of that game and discovered fallout 1 and 2. Shortly after my friends all bought Warcraft 3 and here we are today. I went to the University of Minnesota for computer science. Ended up playing more video games than I was studying for Calculus. I switched over to English, budgeted my video game time a little better, and got my BA.
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At 10 years old I played Knights of the Old Republic. I thought I would like to play a Mad Max version of that game and discovered fallout 1 and 2. Shortly after my friends all bought Warcraft 3 and here we are today. I went to the University of Minnesota for computer science. Ended up playing more video games than I was studying for Calculus. I switched over to English, budgeted my video game time a little better, and got my BA.
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4 Comments
  1. uts 2 months ago
    Reply

    Are you all seriously complaining that a game about medieval Bohemia doesn’t have any black people in it?!? Good grief. Is there nothing social justice warriors won’t bitch about?

  2. Mates 7 months ago
    Reply

    Hi, good rewiew, but …”Eastern European countryside”? Really? Prague and Czechia are in the centr of Europe, like Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

    • Caleb DeLaurentis 7 months ago
      Reply

      My apologies. I studied English and have a poor understanding of European geography. As retribution, you are free to refer to my home state of Minnesota as being apart of the wrong region of North America if you wish. Perhaps one of the coasts or something. Happy you liked the article though.

    • Galp 7 months ago
      Reply

      I should have caught it, being the editor. We (North Americans) are often guilty of being perfectly comfortable using broad, incorrect generalities for the rest of the world and being quite sensitive when people get our part of the world wrong. This is a perfect example of it. In my head anything east of Berlin is eastern europe. This of course leaves no room for a “central” Europe and is the same as someone calling Quebec “Eastern Canada” because it’s east of Toronto. I would mock that person. Mental geography updated, as is the article, thanks.

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