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Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC)

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  • Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PC)

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance
    I don't remember history being this buggy.
    If there is one area that video games come up short in, it's when they attempt to tackle real-life history. Specifically, games come up well short in being historically accurate without also including a healthy dose of embellishment or suspension of disbelief. In nearly all of the games that focus on real-world history, you almost always play as some overpowered jack-of-all-trades. Yes, this includes games and franchises such as Call of Duty, Battlefield, Total War, Civilization, and even Assassin's Creed.

    Thankfully, we have a game like Kingdom Come: Deliverance that comes along to not only embrace the idea of a "historically accurate" game but to completely redefine what the genre should be striving to achieve. Kingdom Come is set in 15th century Bohemia and no, you aren't some all-powerful character that somehow knows how to fight like a God and tank hits like your body was made of solid steel. You start out as a nobody named Henry that lacks almost all meaningful skills. With a little bit of luck and a lot of practice, you may find that you are a bit better than "totally inept" when you near the end-game. You, and by extension Henry, must work for everything. Nothing is given to you in Kingdom Come. This focus on realism is already enough to push some players away from the game. Plus, it certainly doesn't help Kingdom Come's cause when you add on a laundry list of game-breaking bugs to the mix.

    The greatest boon in Kingdom Come's focus on realism is with the game's story. The main protagonist, Henry, is the son of a blacksmith. He's not a knight, he's not a hero, and in a lot of ways he's not even a man yet. He's just Henry. He's a bit plain, can barely handle a sword, and he's kind of homely looking. Henry's world is unfortunately turned on its head when an invading army unexpectedly burns his small village and murders most of the townsfolk, including Henry's parents. Henry barely manages to escape the attack and finds himself serving Sir Radzig Kobyla. Most of the politics and dealings in the game are done without your input. After all, you are not nobility, you are merely a peasant. You are Henry. In any other game, you would be right in there with the rest of them making decisions, but we've already established that this isn't like most other games.

    It is this approach that really sets Kingdom Come apart from most other titles. In a way, it's quite refreshing to play as Henry. It almost allows for a deeper connection between character and player. For those that thrive on the power fantasy that most games bring, this might come as a massive disappointment. As Henry, you will get to make some decisions that may help you to find love or perhaps go on a multiple day hunting expedition, but you will not make any world-altering choices here. You can engage in drunken debauchery or find one of a half-dozen ways to "acquire" a ring for someone. And while there are multiple interesting side-quests, the game's main story is a major sore spot.

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance

    While Henry is often quite relatable, there is often a weird cognitive dissonance between what he does and what he says. This is perhaps a problem that arises as a result of the game being as open as it is. While you, as Henry, may have no problem stealing a good deal of loot from foes you have murdered, Henry the character will voice how such behavior is appalling and that there is no way he could ever do such a thing! I am, of course, paraphrasing here but these kinds of situations came up a bit too often for my liking while playing through Kingdom Come. The developers wanted Henry to act and be one certain way but that specific character profile gets thrown out the window when you have all types of different people controlling him. On top of this blatant narrative shortcoming, I also found that a portion of the late-game story was more of a setup than an actual resolution. By that, I mean it comes across as a setup for a sequel or even some story related expansions. Though I will say that despite these issues, the story was, at the very least, engaging enough to hold my interest from start to finish.

    Another hook that the game has going for it is in the way Henry develops his skills. At the start and perhaps through a significant number of hours, combat will feel clumsy. That is largely due to the fact that Henry is not all that skilled with the use of a sword, hammer, bow, or any other instrument of death. Henry's skills increase by repeatedly using those skills that you wish to develop. This applies to the combat mechanics, picking locks, alchemy, and even reading. Yes, you need to learn how to read in this game.

    It is perhaps a testament to the combat system that, as Henry becomes more confident with his abilities, you become more confident in your ability to engage in battles. It's never quite clear if the increase in skill and success is a result of Henry becoming better, or if you're becoming better and more acquainted with the gameplay mechanics as time goes on. The most likely thing is that you're both becoming more proficient at the same rate. I will say that despite my best efforts, I was never really able to come to terms with the lock picking system in Kingdom Come. Apparently those playing on consoles, or at least with a controller on PC, have it worse. All I know is that it never became what I would call "easy," no matter how much I practiced it. There is a fine line between wanting to be realistic and simply not being fun and it's a line that this game teeters on a bit too frequently. Thankfully, all of these skills and abilities do grow the more you make use of them. And when you use them enough, you do earn skill points that you can spend to receive special perks. These do not in any way break the game, as most have some sort of a negative effect in addition to a positive one, but they do help to tailor the game more towards your specific play style.

    Kingdom Come: DeliveranceKingdom Come: Deliverance
    There is a surprising amount of depth and nuance to all of the game's systems.

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance is not a game that you can simply pick up and play for short periods of time. I suppose you could, but with the game's heavy handed save system, you probably won't want to. To save, you must backtrack to an owned bed to sleep in. Quick saves are not a thing in Kingdom Come. Oh sure, you can save when you aren't near your bed, but doing so requires that Henry drink a special Schnapps. Unless you learn how to make them from learning Alchemy, these will set you back a fair amount from various merchants. Not only that, but drinking these will also make Henry a bit tipsy. They are alcohol after all, and as the game pushes for some reasonable level of realism, consuming alcohol in this game certainly has its consequences. You can even become drunk or an alcoholic if you aren't careful with your rampant saving. Don't worry though, at least this will help your alcohol stat so that you can eventually become more tolerant to the effects.

    I won't lie here. The save system really hindered my ability to experiment with the game's mechanics. During the review process, I was hesitant to test things out as I normally would in open world games. It made for testing various A.I. systems a real pain because I would freak out over the amount of progress I could lose. It was a big enough annoyance that I went ahead and installed a mod that allowed me to save anywhere and at any time without having to consume any Schnapps. Unfortunately, those playing on consoles do not have that sort of luxury.

    Kingdom Come also suffers from an unreasonably slow "fast" travel system. While it is nice to have included fast-travel in the first place, it almost defeats the purpose when it still takes quite a bit of time. In Kingdom Come, fast-travel is accomplished by watching an avatar of Henry move across a map from his starting point to his destination. Along the way, it is possible for him to encounter NPCs to talk to or even enemies to contend with. Encounters like these halt the avatar's movement and prompt the player for some sort of response. You may be asked to deal with the enemies, at which point fast-travel ends and you are back in the first-person perspective at the point of battle. Alternatively, you can try your luck and ignore the potential danger so that the fast-travel can continue on. It's a bit like watching the wagon from Oregon Trail move across the backdrop only to stop when trouble is afoot. Plus, depending on the distance, the "fast" travel can sometimes even take over a minute. It's just a minute of watching an avatar move across a map.

    For a game that is already on the slower side, the even slower nature of the fast-travel is just one blemish of many. Any time you wish to wait or sleep, you must stare at a time wheel that slowly spins to the desired time. If you are arrested, I hope it's for nothing serious because that 24-hour wheel will spin through multiple days' worth of time. It spins at the same mind-numbingly slow speed, meaning that a multiple-day prison sentence can turn into literal minutes of sitting and staring at a spinning wheel. Even worse is the fact that the final hour or two of your sentence will slow the progress of time even further. I don't know if that was intentional or a bug when I encountered it. All I know is that it was annoying as hell watching the final hour tick through in the same time it went through multiple hours just moments before.

    I probably wouldn't even harp on the slowness of the passage of time or "fast" travel as much as I am if it wasn't for the countless bugs I encountered during my time playing. Bugs that include but are not limited to:
    • Serving a prison sentence when the guard that was teaching me new combat techniques bugged out and arrested me right after the lesson ended. The problem? Well, at one point during the lesson I was tasked with attacking the guard, my teacher, using a new technique he just explained to me. The game took this training exercise as me actually attacking the guard. There was no rhyme nor reason for it happening. The guard said nothing during the training. I even went back to review the video of it (I was streaming at the time) and saw the exact moment I became "wanted" for my crimes. It was in the middle of the lesson and I was immediately arrested right after it was over. I had to sit and endure a multiple day prison sentence for assault because the game bugged out. With the annoying save system, I would have lost a fair bit of progress if I loaded a save prior to the bug happening, so I simply sat and endured it.

    • In another instance, a particular NPC wanted to meet me at a certain location at a certain time. I happily accepted their request and met with them at the appointed time. The problem now was that the NPC was just stuck up on his horse and would not allow the mission to progress. I tried talking to him, I tried going to the next location in the quest chain. Only when I had to reload a previous save did the NPC start to behave and allow that particular quest to actually continue.

    • During combat situations, I have found that Henry has an amazing ability to walk on bushes and even walk on air. This made for some truly awkward situations in combat where I suddenly found myself looking down upon my intended target.

    • I have seen enemies respawn constantly in a number of areas, making it nearly impossible to fully clear out certain camps without the danger of being repeatedly attacked.

    • Henry decided one day that he was able to fly way up into the air. This happened simply by approaching an alchemy table. Upon realizing he wasn't a bird nor a cartoon character, he came crashing back down to Earth in a swift and uncontrollable death.

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance
    Armor in a hot tub? Just one of the many "minor" glitches in the game.

    These are really just the tip of the iceberg here as far as bugs are concerned. There is a certain level of jankiness that I expected but these are all well beyond the threshold for simply being "jank" that can be waved away or even laughed at. It becomes a real annoyance when bugs result in the loss of significant chunks of your time. Bugs that when mixed with a poor default save system push the envelope from tedious to downright frustrating. I didn't even touch upon some of the visual bugs I encountered. At least when I see someone riding a horse and the reigns of the horse are nowhere near the rider's hands, it's not game breaking. When I see a drunken Henry sitting in a hot tub with a full suit of armor on instead of just his skivvies, it's not game breaking. When a character model or the camera freaks out during a conversation, it's not game breaking. Sure, it looks very sloppy when these things happen and it can take me out of the moment, but it's not like any of these things result in the loss of progress.

    The soundtrack and musical compositions for Kingdom Come did an adequate job of setting the tone for every major plot point. I wouldn't call the original soundtrack as being "memorable" per se but it's a solid offering from start to finish. Likewise, the voice work is largely commendable. I would have liked to have seen some of the non-critical NPCs receive a bit more love and attention when it comes to voice work but I'm not going to split hairs here.

    For those of you planning on the PC version, I will say that the game is incredibly demanding. Even with an Nvidia GTX 1080TI and an i7-6700K (4.5GHz), you will be hard pressed to play at max settings with a locked 60fps at 1080p. For the most part, the framerate will be okay but there are some scenes that will absolutely destroy current hardware configurations. Plus, thanks to some rather advanced lighting techniques, you may find that interiors will run at lower framerates than when you're out running through the foliage covered countryside. I also encountered massive framerate drops while in some of the larger towns at night and strangely enough, I also saw massive drops in many of the game's cutscenes for some bizarre reason. I would suggest lowering some settings from the max down to High or even Medium if you want a completely locked framerate. Some character models are reused a bit too often but I tend to let that sort of thing slide for most every open-world game and I'll make no exception here. It really isn't that big of an issue unless you're intentionally looking for repeating models. If you're okay with some framerate dips here and there, by all means, crank everything up. The game's scenery can be downright gorgeous and even relaxing at times. Perhaps this was done in an effort to keep players calm for when they inevitably run into one of the game's numerous bugs.

    Another major plus for PC players, besides the bump in visuals and mod support, is the fact that load times are a fraction of those found on the console versions. If you put Kingdom Come: Deliverance on an SSD, specifically an M.2 drive, it's possible to get to the main menu and load into a game in mere seconds. This is in comparison to the console versions that can easily take a minute or two just to get to the main menu. I just wish all of that speed mattered when you're watching a wheel spin or an avatar traverse a map.

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a game that tried so damn hard at every opportunity to stop me from enjoying it. There wasn't a single play session where I didn't encounter at least one game breaking bug that forced me to reload to an earlier save. And yet, I still found myself going back to it. I wanted to see where the story was going. I wanted to see what sort of random side-quests I could come across. The gameplay, although incredibly challenging at times, was enough to keep me entertained until the end. However, I simply cannot recommend the game in its current state. It's just so full of issues that it's hard to sit here and tell you that it's worth the $60 (USD) price they're asking. I would strongly suggest that you wait a few months to see what sort of shape the game is in at that point in time. It is also why the game warrants nothing above a 3 out of 5 right now. If it weren't for the bugs, the game would easily earn itself a 4 out of 5 or even a 5 out of 5. If those issues can be squared away, Kingdom Come: Deliverance has the potential to become a genre-defining classic. Until then, steer clear.

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance

    Special Editor's Note: persons of color in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The game was also accused of being xenophobic. It was also said that the game may also not accurately portray the role women played in society at the time. From my experience with the game, women certainly seemed to take a backseat to the men in Kingdom Come: Deliverance with one of the few major female leads being nothing more than a very brief love interest for Henry. However, I have read



    Score
    Kingdom Come: Deliverance - 2 out of 5 stars


    Additional Information
    Kingdom Come: Deliverance (Developed by Warhorse Studios, Published by Warhorse Studios and Deep Silver)
    Starting at $59.99 (USD) for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 (Reviewed on PC)
    Rated M for Mature 17+ for strong language, blood and gore, nudity, use of alcohol, intense violence, strong sexual content
    Game was reviewed on: i7-6700K at 4.5GHz, 32GB DDR4-2666, Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti, Windows 10 64-bit Version 1709
    This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.

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