The highly-anticipated crowdfunded open world RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance released for PC, Xbox One, and PS4 on February 13th. It takes place in Bohemia in the early 1400s, during a time of upheaval in the Holy Roman Empire.
Unlike most RPGs, where you play as some fabled hero, in this game you are merely the ordinary son of a village blacksmith. There are no fantasy elements, and you have no magic or supernatural powers at your disposal; instead, you must rely on your wits and skill to carry you along.
The game supports nearly any playstyle you can think of; most problems can be solved by either combat, diplomacy, stealth, cunning, crime, or some combination of these elements. Often, your only limit is your imagination.
We posted before about how we hadn’t been able to complete the game to offer a review, and that remains true; this is less of a Kingdom Come review than a commentary on the game’s current state.
I’ve put around 100 hours total into Kingdom Come: Deliverance at this point, and let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a love/hate relationship with a game in my life. When it works, it’s absolutely stunning, but that’s rare enough as to severely hinder one’s progress through the game.
In fact, as of writing this, I’ve got two completely broken copies on two different platforms. That’s right — twice I have encountered completely game-breaking bugs, and in the case of the PS4 version, it didn’t happen until after 77 hours of playtime. And based on the forums and other media outlets, I am far from alone in this respect.
I’ve tried to hold off writing anything about this game, because I know the developers have been working frantically since release to churn out patches. However, that they’ve had to is an issue in and of itself. I don’t want to tell readers not to buy this game, because when all the issues are ironed out, it will be nothing short of amazing.
But right now, it seems bugs have infested almost every aspect of the game — so I can’t recommend taking the the risk of sinking hours into it only to have your game break or save file corrupt, as myself and many others have.
The game could have certainly benefited from a little extra time to polish it — as producer Martin Klima has stated himself — but therein lies the problem with crowdfunded games, particularly ones as ambitious as this. There’s always that pressure from the backers to get that game into their hands as soon as possible, and this particular game had been in development for six years.
Let’s focus on the positives for a minute, though. The fact is that I did enjoy the game enough to try and work around the glitches, until I literally couldn’t anymore. If I encountered a broken quest, I thought, “Oh well; I’ll just leave that until after they patch it.” The game is like a historically accurate Elder Scrolls; it completely immerses you in the rich history of the Holy Roman Empire without ever feeling dry or boring.
It does get off to a bit of a slow start, but once you get past the introductory portion, it quickly picks up the pace as you find yourself positively inundated with quests. The sprawling open world is absolutely packed with areas of interest (as well as danger), so even just exploring the map is a quest in and of itself.
Visually, the game is gorgeous and utterly transportive. Although Warhorse does not consider themselves an “indie” studio, their relative inexperience and limited resources make what they’ve accomplished all the more remarkable; this game looks better than most AAA games I’ve played.
The environments are vivid and beautifully rendered, the characters’ facial animations are remarkably lifelike, and the charming interface looks like something out of a Renaissance Festival.
Which brings me to the game’s immersive quality. This is where the attention to detail is truly impressive; in addition to their commitment to historical accuracy, the developers added a lot of little touches (like the interface) that really transport the player to 15th-century Bohemia.
The soundtrack, for example, strikes the perfect note; it provides a subtle compliment to the setting without overwhelming. Additionally, the NPCs are mostly distinct and memorable, and every single one is fully voice-acted.
The variety of equipment and clothing is astounding, and everything is functional in addition to fashionable. In addition to armor stats, what you wear affects how those around you perceive you (your Charisma), and your ability to sneak. Additionally, your clothing, armor, and weapons all need to be maintained, or these effects will deteriorate.
You can physically hone your weapon on a grindstone, and with your armor and clothing, you can pay to have it repaired or do it yourself with a kit if your skill is high enough.
The only thing that really disrupted the immersion factor for me was the half-assed romantic storylines. If they weren’t going to make the romance options more in-depth, it almost would have been better to just omit it entirely and focus on other areas.
First of all, there were a couple times I unwittingly slept with some girl by choosing some seemingly innocuous dialogue option, so beware of that if you’re trying to get the achievement for completing the game as a virgin. One of these, in fact, was a married noblewoman (eep).
There is an actual Courtship quest line, though; this has you go on several “dates” with Theresa, the badass mill wench who escapes from the Cumins and then proceeds to save your sorry life from bandits. Choosing the correct dialogue options will reward you with some very sweet and heartwarming cutscenes, which is a refreshing change of pace from the otherwise bleak story.
However, the whole questline culminates in an awkward and unlikely sex scene in the barn, after which her dialogue options revert to normal and it’s as though the whole thing never happened. (Ouch – that hurts, Theresa. Surely it couldn’t have been THAT bad.) With the other women, it at least made sense to not pursue a relationship, but in the case of Theresa, it just feels abrupt and lazy on the developers’ part.
The combat is another sort of half-triumph; although it is smooth and realistic (they took the time to thoroughly research and incorporate actual sword fighting), they desperately need to work on scaling the difficulty. It starts out believably challenging for a peasant boy just picking up a sword for the first time, but within a few levels and armor upgrades becomes almost comically easy.
There have been several instances in which I was attacked on the road by bandits, and was able to leisurely shoot arrow after arrow at them from horseback while taking virtually zero damage. Also, there are weapon combos you can unlock, but for the most part I didn’t bother with them; they were too complicated and unnecessary.
Of course, I have to discuss the most controversial feature: the save system. There are some autosaves, but they are few and far between; otherwise, saving requires sleeping in a bed, visiting a bathhouse (another feature that didn’t seem to work properly for me), or using a potion that can be either brewed via alchemy or purchased at a fairly expensive price from certain shops.
Admittedly, this feature was made infinitely more frustrating by the fact that the game frequently (and unpredictably) glitched and needed to be reloaded from the last save point. However, limiting the availability of saves even in a working game does nothing to add to the historical accuracy and only makes things difficult for those who have responsibilities outside of the game.
Early on in the game, I can’t tell you how many times I was trying to fast travel to my bed in order to save, only to be ambushed and killed by bandits on the way there, thereby losing my progress. Fortunately, the developers have listened to the community and are changing the save system with the next patch. So, at least they have been incredibly responsive to criticism thus far.
Similarly to Elder Scrolls, you raise skills through actively using them. Or, if you’re impatient and have Groschen to burn, you can visit a trainer or read a book — which has the added benefit of raising your reading skill.
The great thing about the quests is that there are often multiple strategies by which you can accomplish them, and some even have optional objectives for a greater reward if you’re so inclined. How you handle quests and dialogue options doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on the story’s progression, but I’m not far enough in the main storyline to know for certain and the choices do feel satisfying in the moment. There have definitely been some blatant instances of railroading, though, where the illusion of choice in a dialogue is just that.
Right now, I think this game is missing two major features: a quest timer and a mini map. It seems like the developer sacrificed such aspects for the sake of making the game more hardcore and therefore realistic, but honesty those types of things are meta by nature and therefore can’t really affect the immersion factor of a game.
I understand that some quests would be time-sensitive by nature; my issue here is that there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to which ones were and which ones weren’t, and you didn’t know if a quest was time-sensitive until you suddenly got a notice that you failed an objective. And, of course, it makes sense that a peasant in the Middle Ages would have to consult a map constantly when travelling, but when playing a game, it just becomes annoying. You can ride your horse in a straight line towards your objective, which shows on the compass, but there are often obstacles along the way that make this difficult.
Which brings me to my next topic: horses. If you follow the main story quest, you are given your very own horse at some point. It’s not bad as far as noble steeds go, but there are a couple horse traders throughout the world from which you can purchase various horses with better stats, and also tack that affects those stats. You can whistle for your horse from anywhere in the world, and riding it is great fun. It’s also associated with the Horsemanship skill, in which you can unlock various Perks, such as a greater carrying capacity for your mount.
In short, though I can’t recommend buying the game in its current state, Warhorse is hard at work on bug fixes, so I would suggest keeping an eye on their progress. I also feel that I can’t give the game a fair review in its current state; were I to assign it a numerical score now, it would have to be seriously low based on the current unplayability of both my review copies.
However, I’ve seen enough to know there there is a great game underneath all the issues, so I don’t want to write it off completely. For now, I am putting it aside until the next patch is released (likely at some point next week) in hopes that my game will be fixed. Perhaps, once I’m able to finish the game, I can more fairly evaluate it.
It was an incredibly ambitious game for such a small/inexperienced studio. I am certainly not arguing against indie games being ambitious, nor do I expect such a game to be flawless upon release. I know that with a game of this magnitude, they’re not going to catch all of these issues during a Beta test.
Would they have benefited from releasing the game in Early Access first?
But the fact that I have two unplayable copies in my possession certainly begs some questions. Would they have benefited from releasing the game in Early Access first? Effectively, it may be the same because players are still paying the full price for an unfinished game, but at least they know what they’re getting into.
This would have taken some of the pressure off the developers and allowed them to polish the game and flesh out some of the content a bit more. This would of course exclude PS4 players, which is unfortunate, but I would rather have seen them do this than sacrifice their vision and cut back on the scope of the game. Martin Klíma acknowledged in a recent interview that they “have wasted time and energy on things that [they] eventually had to abandon”.
Is there a perfect solution? Probably not. While I would obviously love for the development team to have been able to realize all their goals for this game, unfortunately, they have to work within their restrictions. I hate for any studio to have to scale back on a game for lack of resources, but releasing a “finished” product in this condition is simply unacceptable. Hopefully Warhorse will learn from this experience, because I truly look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the future.