This is going to be a hellaciously long post because I have many thoughts on this game from both a mechanical perspective and a historical one.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a Skyrim-style first person RPG set in the early 1400’s in Czechoslovakia. The game is heavily political, unapologetic about it’s historical depiction, has a ‘git gud’ combat system/mechanics… and no magic. I asked myself many times while playing: how the hell did this get made?
Games have to appeal to the mass of gamers, especially open world type games that take millions upon millions of dollars to make, so how did a game set in a country that most Americans can’t even find on a map, about a local political situation that most American’s have never even heard of, with a steep learning curve and extremely historically accurate setting get this popular?
Well, it’s real good. Since most of you have played the new Zelda or Skyrim or one of the other open world RPG’s, I’m not going to go into what that type of game is much except to say that Kingdom Come, despite is core story line and despite it’s long story/tutorial/rails in the beginning, is an open world RPG, and one that should be reckoned with!
You play a specific character named Henry. You can’t alter his sex or appearance or voice or skin color at all. He is the son of a blacksmith in a small village next to a lord’s keep. None of this can be altered at all and this was a bit shocking to me until I got a bit into the story and realized these constraints were fantastic for the immersion and the quality of the narrative throughout the game. You have a ton of leeway how you play Henry, but you are him in this game and that’s that. In addition to looks, what you fight, what you want to swive, your lineage and how Henry is warped and weaved into the story is set, but how you go about doing everything else is up to you.
No spoilers, but things go very wrong for Henry, and like most good stories, Henry’s story is a story of revenge and the hero’s journey from country bumkin who can do jack and shit, to someone who hits like a sledgehammer, can sneak up on people and slit their throat in broad daylight and who has swived more whores than most holy roman emperors of the time.
Overall, the arc of the story is long, broken up into very interesting sections with lots of time in between most to jag around. You will learn a LOT about Czech, German and Holy Roman history and politics in this game and while this may seem tiresome, I was extremely impressed with the game’s lack of shyness around discussion of politics in cut scenes. What’s more they do not hold back on medieval brutality, rape, and slaughter of unarmed peasants. Yet the scenes of carnage and rape are made much more poignant because they seem wholly an anomaly in the verdant and peaceful villages and castles that make up most of the game. In addition to the revenge story which is an obvious driver, you also gain an affinity to the working way of life (even of the bandits and thieves) which is horrifically disrupted by events in the game.
The map to the game seems small at first, but there is a lot of detail. I felt completely lost many times in the woods, always looking back at the overhead map to see where to go. Even though the game feels populated, out in the wilds the forests go on and on without seeing anything of interest– so travel feels like it’s travel rather than the get to the fast travel spot and then fast travel back to where you came. There’s a lot to see and destroy and have sex with in the game.
Women in this game, it being the 1400’s, have traditional roles. You won’t see a transexual cyborg spouting a bunch of made up pronouns or taking on a male role in society. Nor did they sneak in some female-combat savant for the sake of inclusion (certainly, this existed with women pretending to be men in order to fight).
Lastly, the NPC’s are very well done even if it gets a little cheesy at the end with sort of a Kelley’s Heroes type of vibe.
I’m going to go through Combat, Stealth, Alchemy and the fast travel system. I’m not going to go into the haggle and social parts of the game just for the sake of brevity.
Combat is a bitch in this game and you will be glad if you put your lead shoes on in Dark Souls or Bloodborne before playing Kingdom Come. Those games teach you one thing that will help the most and that’s patience. Every fight has the potential to damage you if you are not careful and patient. Getting in fights with multiple opponents, unless you are heavily armored and experienced, will get Henry dead like very quickly. Combat is split into Sword work, Mace work, Axe work, and unarmed. Each of them follow the base combat system which is attack, parry and instant parry/counter attack and grapple. Your attacks can be combo-ed if you follow a rhythm of attacking and generate another attack the moment the first attack actually connects. This can be challenging for players who haven’t experienced say, Witcher 1, which has a similar rhythm combo system. You also have to control where your weapon is: either up, down or in the middle of the body. You can start an attack high and then switch to low or mid level during the attack which is quite fun. Henry has health and stamina and can also be damaged in various parts of his body, which causes problems regardless of your level of health/stamina.
Like Dark Souls, you use stamina to run and make attacks and block. If you get hit blocking with no stamina, you take damage and can get staggered, which is no fun at all. Fights without armor but with sharp weapons go rather quickly.
Unarmed combat, while it doesn’t happen often, is my favorite of the combat systems. You start fist fights early in the game during the tutorial when Henry is a fucking creamed puff extraordinaire, but later you get into many fist fights, sometimes protecting the women, sometimes fighting with friends, sometimes just to prove yourself and it’s awesome. Range, movement and timing are all critical components to good fisticuffs which really raised my cockles. I knew I had arrived wen I punched an armored knight out in a fight in a barn (his weapons were too slow and I was able to constantly hit-stun him until crushing his skull underfoot).
Sword work is typically used against the unarmored peasantry who are easy to slice open with a blade compared to the armored folks. Swords have the most attack combos and I can see them being very attractive for people that want to combo up. You also look cool with a big bastard sword, but for me, instead of a sword, I went for a mace.
Maces have very few attack combos, but do tons of damaged to armored foes, and still do enough damage to unarmored to warrant using them all the time. Henry can also get a perk where he can possibly knock anyone out with a headshot after which they can be killed via a coup de grace.
Axes I did not use much in my playthrough, so cannot comment, but they seem to fall between the sword and the mace.
Archery is VERY difficult in this game as you have to aim as you would in real life: down the bow and arrow without a reticle to help know exactly where you are aiming. Drawing back and shooting an arrow is also very slow, so in a fight or in just practice shooting, I had a lot of problems with archery in general throughout the game. However, it does help in mass-combat fights and to get at other archers. You can run away and shoot, hoping to take out a few of the peasant bandits or vs slower armored opponents, whittle them down. Overall though, except at close range, Archery is not something you can rely upon. You will need to learn it to some extent for the main plot.
While there is a lot of fighting, stealth (and lockpicking) are critical skills for Henry in the game. Your ability to sneak around effectively will make things a lot easier throughout. Early on, Henry is so clumsy that you have no hope at all of sneaking up on anyone, which can be very frustrating to new players who expect it to at least work some of the time based on other stealth games. Remember that Henry, from the outset, explicitly sucks ass at everything. You do get Henry better with practice, and eventually you are sneaking around in broad daylight. Getting caught in normal circumstances gets you laughed at or asked if you are taking a shit by bath maids. Getting caught in a place you’re not supposed to be can lead to a lot of problems.
Locking picking is essential and I can only say for new players: get your lockpicking skill as high as possible as soon as you can. There is a long part of the game where it’s essential. If you have played Skyrim, the lockpicking is familiar enough.
Alchemy is excellent, but fucking tedious. You need to actually craft the items on an alchemist bench and I don’t mean how skyrim does it where you pick your stuff and it makes a roll to see if it worked– nope: you have to physically guide Henry through the steps in the recipes you find in the game. For example, you will need to grab ingredients, put them in a pot of boiling water or spirits, and then cook them up for a specific amount of time tracked with an hourglass that you must manually turn. I ignored it for much of the game, but there’s a part where you must do it so just learn it.
Fast travel in the game is excellent. Instead of just appearing where you want to end up, your little avatar moves across the map and can encounter various things on the way which can drop you back into real time. Most of these are bandit ambushes. So it’s never guaranteed that you are just going to show up where you want to without being harassed, but it still functions as quite a time saver, especially later in the game when you’ve seen everything along a particular route many times.
Despite our differences on everything else, every race, gender and sexual orientation can agree on one thing: TITS. If you are going to play some of the romantic bits in Kingdom Come, note that there are tits and Henry gets down to fucking in the game. It’s not gratuitous, but enough to bring out the horny gamers for sure. Just make sure kids aren’t around when you are wooing or going to the bathhouse. There’s only one part of the main plot where you get greased up and fuck– the other nudie parts are optional and you will know when you are getting close to seeing tits in those. One of the side missions tits will sneak up on you during, so watch it if you are playing in front of your grand ma on the big TV in the living room.
Kingdom Come is an unbelievably immersive gaming experience, unrelenting in it’s depiction of life as a Czech during this time period. Some of it stands in stark contrast to modern existence and some of it is eerily similar. While the combat has a steep learning curve, coupled with Henry’s trash skills make it even more frustrating, pushing through so you can take out multiple enemies at once is very satisfying after taking such a beating for so long.
The writing is superb and the arc of the story, while nothing new, is well worth giving this bad boy a play through.