For those unfamiliar, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a medieval RPG that was developed by Warhorse Studios, a Czech video game developer based in Prague (now owned by Koch Media since 2019). Set in 1403, during a war in Bohemia, players control a protagonist named Henry, the son of a blacksmith who lives in the silver-mining town of Skalitz with his father Martin. Praised for its story, realism and detail, and a winner of numerous GOTY awards, it was unfortunately plagued by some rather game-breaking bugs at the time of release, and as a result put some gamers off when it was first launched in 2018. Chances are, if you were to look up Kingdom Come: Deliverance right now, you’d be met with numerous comments from angry people in 2018, rage-quitting because the game was a ‘buggy mess’ and should be avoided it at all costs. Even today, as a result of this reputation, you’re likely to find cautious gamers in the Kingdom Come Subreddit asking if the game is ‘safe to play now” and whether the bugs have been patched.
While it is true that the game did launch with some rather nasty bugs, Warhorse Studios stood by their creation and worked hard to correct the flaws, paying attention to people’s concerns only to turn the game into the near-masterpiece it is today. If the initial comments from players turned you away from playing this game two years ago, please allow me to tell you why you should now give it a second chance.
My journey with Kingdom Come first began out of an incredibly good deal at Target. Marked down (perhaps erroneously) to five dollars, I was drawn by the beautifully designed cover art, and the fantastic price made me pick up the game and read the description on the back. After virtually no deliberation at all, and considering I had no Medieval era video games on my PS4 (save for Witcher 3, if that counts), I thought I couldn’t go wrong with a five dollar video game.
The first thing that impressed me was the graphics. I remember playing this with my girlfriend next to me and thinking ‘damn, this is like an indie studio Skyrim’ – a slightly ignorant comparison in hindsight, considering how off-base I actually came to be.
Firstly, in Skyrim I feel like from the start, you are a capable fighter. You’re the damn Dragonborn! There are enemies that are far more powerful than you, of course, but in Skyrim you have strong magic that you learn fairly early on, and after a few hours of grinding you’re absolutely OP. With Kingdom Come, it couldn’t be any more different. From the very beginning my typical video game thinking was challenged and I was forced to come up with different ways to confront the challenges I faced. Much like others who played this game fresh, I nearly rage quit during the prologue. I couldn’t kill a Cuman (the game’s main enemy type) to save my life, and within the first hour I was being surrounded by several of them as I was trying to defend the life of Theresa, a mill-worker and friend of Henry. After some thought I discovered that the idea was not to fight them, but to run; to distract them so Theresa could get away, and then to get the hell out of dodge.
It was then that I realized this game was different. Unlike the traditional everyman in most video games, who still manages to be powerful despite being an average Joe, this game forces you to throw out your typical video game logic and way of thinking. You suck at combat, and will die despite your best efforts, because you’re completely skill-less and you’ve never had to fight before. You fail at things other games would let you excel in from the start, because you’re an illiterate peasant who spent more time throwing shit at houses with your friends than learning to read and make a man out of yourself. In essence, you play the village idiot, and this game penalizes you if you don’t take the time to ‘git gud’ and level up. It forces you to come up with different ways to complete a mission than what’s often initially presented. When it came time to prove to Miller Peschek that I could be a decent thief, the lock-picking mechanic made me curse the developers and their first borns. I broke all the training lock picks before I realized I could simply strip my armor off, reduce my noise to zero and knock the executioner out during the night. Once I levelled up my lock-picking, I was able to do it with my eyes closed. In another example, towards the beginning of the game you are tasked with saving a main character who has been captured. This would normally result in a swordfight in most games, but instead this game encouraged you to wait till nightfall and sneak away undetected. Stealth is optional in many games, but with this game it’s literally a matter of life or death.
There are so many parts of this game that you can tell were well thought out, and considered down to the finest detail. Roads have desire paths cut into the grass, graves you disturb have different bodies in them for each grave instead of a stock skeleton, roads pool with water when it’s raining (seemingly in real-time) and the setting genuinely feels lived in. It’s an absolutely gorgeous game world, filled with so much detail and so many areas to explore. It’s possible to ride around for hours and find new caves, ruins, or interesting sites that you never saw during your main play-through. As you find treasure, and immerse yourself in the game’s beautiful world, the area really seems to come alive. I’ve played a few RPGs, and Bohemia is honestly one of my favorite settings of those I’ve explored to date.
But it’s not just the graphics that impress: the game mechanics do as well. Combat is highly steeped in realism, and becomes so satisfying when you finally land that fatal blow after getting your ass kicked (prior to leveling up). Henry gets tired, Henry gets hungry. If you don’t go to bed, he’ll pass out. If you ignore his hunger, he’ll die, potentially killing hours of progress. The game doesn’t auto-save except for completed missions, and it’s up to you to remember to use ‘Saviour Schnapps’ (the game’s way of manual saving) if you want to avoid replaying mass sections. If you take the time to teach Henry how to read, there are countless books within the game’s world that teach you Bohemia’s history, including some real life history that took place in the game’s not only realistic but real setting. If you are a medieval history buff, you’ll be extremely excited about how much work went into researching 15th century Bohemia and the conflicts that tore the kingdom apart. It’s absolutely astonishing that many of the people who developed on this game had never worked on a game before, and that it came from such a small studio that obtained a good portion of the funding through Kickstarter. This game glows with major studio professionalism in places, and it’s exciting to think of how the team might perform in the future, now they can work with the far bigger teams and far bigger budgets of Koch Media.
Even if the game isn’t always perfect, there’s just so much about Kingdom Come: Deliverance to love. It’s still somewhat buggy and flawed in spots, and if you play on consoles you may occasionally become frustrated with the texture pop-in that happens in heavily populated areas, as the game’s engine struggles to render some of the highly detailed environment on the aging current gen consoles. This is likely due to inexperience on the team with console engine optimization, as well as the fact that the systems just can’t support a game that was clearly designed to be played on PC. Still, if you can ignore the occasional texture issues, and minor (but not game-breaking) bugs, you simply cannot find a better experience for the price. The current average retail cost is around $20 dollars. I’ve already sunk over 100 hours into this game, and I never would’ve thought my five dollar chance purchase would bring me such an incredible experience.