It is not everyday that a historical role playing game asks you to step back into the shoes of an early 15th century Bohemian blacksmith. It’s that kind of game.
Kingdom Come Deliverance is the ordinary turned less ordinary story of Henry, the son of a blacksmith who lives in a small town in what is modern day Czech Republic. As the first sign that this is a curated experience, there are no options to create your own character. I thought this was a prologue and that I would get to make a character at some point but that does not happen. The small town that Henry lives in existed back then (and still does), as did the events that would have affected that character should he have lived in 1403. Frequent trips to Google maps will establish that this is a real world. This is a lavish and loving representation of the time period and the place. At the time, the King of Hungary was putting a bad Crusade behind him by seeking to unsettle and overthrow his half brother, the King of nearby Bohemia and part of the massive Holy Roman Empire. If this all sounds crazy exotic then the game’s extensive codex is there to fill in all the copious amounts of backstory. Each facet of the spectacular and the mundane is included.
This is a major red flag to anyone who is looking for quick trills and white knuckle action - this game is paced more like a simulator. After years of games thinking for us, I found myself lost in places while trying to engage my common sense. While it has some action gaming elements, its faithfulness to the genre is resolute and that could lead some to describe it as boring. For others, it is a slow burn to greatness. It really depends on your outlook and what you want from the experience. The long day night cycle can draw you into deep role playing Henry’s life. You might pack some food in your horse’s saddle bags and set off into the forest for a day’s poaching. Maybe you’ll go drinking and have a gamble. Quests often you require to set up shop for a few days in a town and I really found myself thinking of day to day life as a more present gameplay dynamic. Do I have enough money for food? How will I spend the afternoon before meeting a guy later on?
Realism and gameplay go one on one for most of the game. This is sometimes great and sometimes frustratingly hard or annoying. Things that in other games are a button press become evolved gameplay structures in Kingdom Come Deliverance. The tutorial is helpful, but very long, and at times very slow. It also reminds you constantly how poor you are and how Henry is a peasant. The game has beautiful maps that direct you well to go to your next objective but I could see that they really flirted with completely removing map markers and guides at all. Area guides are used a lot. At times it is genuinely old school to figure out where to go or what to do. After all 15th century Bohemians did not have an arrow pointing out how they should go about things to survive. That really is the mindset here. Kingdom Come Deliverance is a historical simulator and a massively intensive one at that. You can see that the developer’s passion for the time also prohibited any thought of chucking in the odd firespell here and there. Kingdom Come Deliverance looks like a fantasy setting - it should be a game packed full of wizards, dragons, and necromancers. Saying that, the influence of the Elder Scrolls series is clear and in particular leafy rural Oblivion springs to mind. The alchemy system is the closest this game gets to fantasy as some of the healing properties are close to magic.
The core gameplay in Kingdom Come Deliverance is realistic and unforgiving. The player needs sleep and food to function. Injuries from battle get worse and you need medicine and rest. Even reading books requires a place to do it and has a skill tree. In fact most activities have a skill tree of their own. Fighting with weapons is a dynamic affair involving a circular attack arc that the player must use to attack and defend. This takes a good while to become good at but it is very satisfying and again based on real combat from the time. The true genius of the life based gameplay is how each real life activity is linked to a proper role playing consequence. The best example is something as abstract as gaining body odour from not washing can impact conversation options and how well people like you. Funnily it even affects your stealth ability as you stink away in the bushes. There is even a perk called Manly Odour that flips that negative body odour into something those medieval wenches can appreciate and gives you bonus charisma. As with most perks in the game, your new manly scent also makes you even less stealthy as guards can smell your masculine musk from much further away. Add in these perks and different levels and qualities of places you can wash (my favourite is a bucket) and you can see that depth rabbit hole you are disappearing down.
The gorgeous art style and historical fidelity are a true homage to the era. Churches and other noble places have artwork from the era lovingly recreated. The architecture is remarkable and recreated in a way that makes you want to explore the fancier buildings in a way that modern build up landmarks lack. Each piece of equipment is lovingly recreated and has the true accuracy that only a fanatic developer would aim for nevermind deliver. The player character Henry has a ridiculous number of armour slots to fit all types of different medieval armour and clothing. Each is described in detail and if you want to you can learn a lot about the history of combat. There are hundreds of weapons with unique styles and designs. On the PS4 Pro the game looks amazing and it is truly remarkable that it was not made by one of the massive studios. One major let down to all of this is that the game does suffer from some performance issues and extreme pop in. You will see textures not loading, AI running off crazily, and there are some broken quests. As with any game released in the internet era, I would fully expect this to be remedied over time.
If you like deep role playing games or you are interested in medieval warfare then Kingdom Come Deliverance should be on your radar. Anyone with a casual interest beware - if you are not prepared to sink hours into a vast and unforgiving role playing game then it might not be for you.