Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): February 13, 2018
- Release Date (EU): February 13, 2018
- Release Date (JP): February 13, 2018
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Warhorse Studios
- Genres: First Person RPG Adventure
- ESRB Rating: Mature
- PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
- Also For: Computer, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
My Kingdom from Warhorse
Originally announced back in 2012, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the very first title to come from developer Warhorse Studios. Built with CryEngine, KC:D is a first-person Western RPG, but there is no magic or fantasy to be found here, this is strictly a hardcore medieval simulation. An ambitious, epic tale, set in 15th century Bohemia.
This Review May Contain Spoilers - Tested on a PlayStation 4 Pro with the 23gb v1.01 patch installed. As of the time of publishing, there is now a 28gb v1.02 update for anyone starting the game on release day.
It's 1403 and I am introduced to Henry, a commoner from the small village of Skalitz and the son of the local blacksmith. It is Henry's adventure that you will play through, there is no character creation. I am tasked with running some errands for Henry's father - he wanted some coal so he can finish forging a sword. So off I go into town to find Kunesh, a local villager who owes us some coin. After watching the lavish intro, where the camera is zoomed out, high, panning over all of the beautiful locales, I couldn't wait to take control of Henry and start exploring all of the castles and countryside. But this first quest, a simple one of going into town and retrieving some money from an NPC, didn't go down too well.
Before I met with Kunesh, I had a quick spar in town to learn the basics of combat. It seemed easy enough to get to grips with - the right stick is used to choose the direction of each sword swing, and the right trigger executes each attack. You can chain blows after each swipe connects, but the strikes feel unresponsive with no visible feedback from the enemy. With a slight input delay on PS4, combat feels like a floaty mess, so I resorted to just using R1 on the controller and stabbing with my sword, as it's direct and reliable.
In the trailers for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the combat looks realistic and responsive, but when you actually play it for yourself, it's nothing like that, at least in the PS4 version. The game tries hard to simulate real-world swordsmanship, but in reality, it just feels like a flurry of precise, or random blows does nothing, and the only way to succeed is to stab, stab, and stab again. If you are faced with more than one attacker, you may as well run because they'll probably murder you very swiftly.
I found Kunesh near his home and demanded we be paid for the axe, hammer and nails Henry's father had supplied him with previously, but my speech 'check' failed in our conversation, and instead, Kunesh wanted to fight me. Having just done the combat tutorial with the sword, I was happy to oblige. Before I knew it, Kunesh was in my face, pounding me with left and right hooks. This time I only had my bare fists, and I tried to retaliate and smack him back, but alas, my effort was futile... He knocked me out cold and I had to return home to mother to get patched up.
I'm unsure of whether you can beat Kunesh on your first encounter with him. I would hope it's possible, being an RPG, and if you were good enough at first-person boxing. I tried 3 times and couldn't do it. After I woke up at home patched up by mom, I went back into the village and learned that some local yobs would assist me in taking down Kunesh, IF, I helped them out with a small favour - throwing manure at a house to lure out some other villagers. Upon completing the foul task, I returned to Kunesh with my newly-formed gang of thugs and commenced with beating him to a bloody pulp. As a gang the fight was easy, Kunesh got ganked. Maybe that is when the combat is at its best - when the A.I is controlling it, and it's on your side. Battered and bruised, Kunesh said to take what I wanted, and that "I hadn't heard the last of this" - I didn't care though, I got the coin, bought the coal and returned to Henry's father back at the forge, so he could craft the sword.
These few small quests, designed to show you how to use the speech, trade and combat systems, all work as you would expect in this type of game, but any kind of NPC or world interaction is cumbersome, from selecting the speech options or using the trade menu, to picking up an apple. Just talking to an NPC can leave you with a black screen for up to a minute while you wait for the conversation to load. Menu UI looks nice with art that is historically accurate for the time period, but it lacks polish all round and deserves to be better than it is - that KC:D is the team's first game really shows, as the fundamental mechanics of the game are not presented well. For want of a better word, the game feels overly clunky, at any time other than when there is a cinematic playing.
Check out the barter mechanic:
Once that tutorial text disappears, you are not going to remember what all of these numbers on the bar are for. It's poorly conceived and I shouldn't have to refer to the tutorial page every time I want to haggle with someone. The trader's inventory screen is also a jumbled mess, leaving me scratching my head when looking at all of the icons and numbers plastered all over the screen.
Then we have the RPG-staple lockpick mini-game:
The idea is to find the sweet spot by moving the small circle with the left stick of the controller, then once it's located you rotate both the left and right stick together, to move the barrel of the lock and the pick at the same time. Maybe it works on the PC version, but using a PS4 controller, the precision required to complete the puzzle and crack the lock just isn't there. I broke the only pick I could afford from the sole trader in town, and if I wanted to sell him some stuff to get more gold to buy another pick, I couldn't because he was cash broke. Now I consider myself a seasoned gamer, having played thousands of games across my 30-year career. I've picked locks in many a game, from Morrowind to Dishonored, and none of them has ever been a problem, but in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, I had already given up on becoming a master thief very early on into the adventure.
Last but certainly not least of my minor quibbles, is the ridiculous save system. Want to save your game manually? Better hope you have some Saviour Schnapps! That's right, you can only save the game if you have a stupid drink called Saviour Schnapps. Sure, you can craft these special brews, but ingredients are scarce and pricey. What purpose does it serve, that something so fundamental as saving your game (gamers often keep tens to hundreds of save files in RPG style games) is locked behind some pointless subset of requirements? How am I meant to try out multiple outcomes to conversations and situations, when I can't save as much as I want? Can the game not handle more than 3 save files, and is this a console only issue? Whatever you do, don't try and rely on the autosave system, it put me back over an hour in progress on multiple occasions, slowly killing any will I had to continue playing the game.
I'd rather have some mead.
Good King Wenceslaus
After watching his father forge a sweet looking sword, all hell breaks loose when an invading army made up of Cuman mercenaries appears on the horizon, coming to take over the village and its precious silver mines. Everyone in the town gets slaughtered and Henry watches his mother and father brutally die before his very eyes. Horrified at what I had just witnessed, I ran as fast as I could and stole a horse to flee to the next village, being chased and attacked the whole way there by the enemy forces.
Henry takes refuge in the neighbouring fortress settlement where he receives help, and after resting up, decides to return to his home village so he can bury his murdered parents. The locals warn Henry against returning to Skalitz as the entire town has been decimated by the invading forces.
Now this was a big part of the early plot of the game; with the young Henry, narrowly escaping certain death against inconceivable odds, after witnessing his mother and father being brutally slain, is bravely going to return to the scene of the atrocity, in order to give his parents, a proper, dignified burial. Leaving the safety of the fort, and starting my journey to return to Skalitz - something that should have been a weighty, emotional trek, instead made me laugh, and then instantly feel a deep sense of disappointment:
I was disappointed because this clip had sealed the fate of the game in my thoughts, that my mind was already made up; that Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a game that has bitten off more than it can chew. If it were just this small glitch, I could be more forgiving, but this was the cherry on the cake of a long list of issues I had with the game from within the first few hours of playtime.
I was meant to be precariously retracing my steps along a blood-soaked trail, to eventually find the corpses of my beloved dead family. Instead, I got to see Super-Peasant nailed to an invisible crucifix, before flying away like he had just been pricked with a pin - breaking any immersion that the previous, emotionally heavy scenes had set up. I soldiered on regardless until I was reunited with my dead parents - and then I spent 30 minutes looking for a shovel to bury them with. Nothing could prepare me for my next quest though: Awakening.
I'm not sure of the point of this quest - I think it was meant to be a fevered dream sequence. Whatever it was, it was horrible to play, because you can't see anything. Everything is red and blurry with thick fog and the screen has weird graphical effects all over it when you are moving. If you aren't lucky enough to be facing in the correct direction when the quest starts, then good luck completing the objective. You could wander around this area for hours, as any sense of direction is lost due to the visual mess that has been made out of the entire level. I lost my way and ended up closing down the game to get out of it, as I had no idea where I was meant to go. Closing the game was a bad idea though, because the autosave then put me all the way back to Super-Peasant, losing way over an hour's progress. It just isn't good design and not what I expect to find from a game that has spent this long in development.
Warhorse Studios have designed a beautiful world that looks fantastic, apart from when you are actually playing in it. The 3x3 square kilometre map has some gorgeous detail, but it also feels soulless whenever you have control of Henry. Kingdom Come's story setup is massive in scope, with good cutscenes and great voice acting, but I found myself fighting against the mechanics of the game instead of having fun within the world. You've probably played better games than this already, so unless you don't mind a fair amount of jank in your historically accurate RPG, I can't really recommend Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
It's a shame and I feel for the developers. Obviously, a lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this title. I wanted to like it and was really into the initial setup, the story had me hooked and I enjoyed all of the dramatic cinematics. I could watch Kingdom Come as a movie, no problem, but actually playing it is a chore and the gameplay doesn't match the grandiose scale that the narrative sets up for the player. There is a good foundation here, but when compared to standards set by titles over a decade and more ago, Kingdom Come just doesn't deliver.
UPDATE: The developers have issued a statement about the day 1 patch. You can read it here.
+ Voice Acting
- General gameplay & interaction
- User Interface
- Saviour Schnapps save system
- Finding spades
Kingdom Come: Deliverance's world looks good to an extent, but it has this weird contrast where the story cutscenes look great, but when they end, you notice the game world and everything in it, just doesn't look as good. I found it weird because they are in-engine cutscenes. I also found the menus and UI cluttered, hard to read and hard to navigate, with fonts barely standing out from the backgrounds. This may be better on the PC version at a higher resolution.
From the poorly executed lockpick mini-game to the lacking combat, KC:D feels archaic to control and interact with, and just isn't fun to play. Older games that share similar mechanics - such as first-person combat and exploration did a better job of it over a decade ago.
Apparently there are 80 quests to find and complete in KC:D, some with branching paths and various outcomes. I can't give you a playtime for completion, but if you can put up with it for longer than I did, then fair play to you. For me personally, the game lasted about 8 hours. I just couldn't take any more of it after that. I feel bad as a reviewer saying this, as I truly believe you should try and finish a game before you put out your opinion on it, but it is what it is. Kingdom Come: Deliverance broke me.
out of 10
(not an average)
From what I did play of Kingdom Come: Deliverance has left me with mixed feelings. I enjoyed the story and wanted to see if Henry became a great Knight and avenged his family, but at the same time, I found myself battling against the game's systems every time it gave me control. Warhorse Studios have created an ambitious world with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, unfortunately, it didn't deliver for me.