Back when I was around 10 years old, my friend introduced me to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Despite being a fantasy game, it managed to give me that medieval RPG that I wanted and ever since then I’ve been craving another game with that medieval feel. Skyrim did not scratch that itch due to its more Norse feel. But it wasn’t long after Skyrim released that a studio in Europe began development on a CryEngine-powered medieval RPG. The game and studio had no name, but they put out a few screenshots as a proof of concept. It would be a medieval RPG with no magic or other fantasy elements. And in January of 2014, the game finally materialized on Kickstarter as Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The Kickstarter was not intended to actually fund the development of the game, but to prove to their private investors that there was a demand for the game, and when the funding goal was met, the game went full speed into development as the rest of their funding was secured.
While the game would not meet its initial release projections, fans were happy to let its development go on as the games scope expanded greatly over the years leading to a much larger final product. And now, after three years, the game is scheduled to launch worldwide on February 13th for the Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
In recent years I’ve seen many game developers appear who treats their games, not as a product to be sold, but as a labor of love and passion that they want others to experience. Games like Cuphead, For Honor, and A Way Out are among those games where the developers just exude enthusiasm and passion for their games that borders on obsessive. They love what they’re doing and they hope others love it just as much as they do. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is no different. The developers struggled for years to get funding so that they could make this game that many investors and publishers thought wouldn’t sell, but they pushed on anyway and finally caught a break which allowed them to get to where they are today: Making the game they’ve long dreamt about, no compromises. So lets talk about the game itself rather than its history now. With the help of the developers only videos of course.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance uses a five point combat system for melee weapons, fists included. In the center of your screen you’ll see an icon with 5 spokes, each one representing a direction that you can strike or block from. The idea is to strike where your opponent can’t block you or to strike their unarmored sections. If they swing at you from the right, you shift your cursor to that side in order to block or parry their strike and potentially give yourself an opening to strike.
Physics play a large part in the combat of the game as well. If your opponent is wearing plate armor, you won’t kill them quickly by continuously striking the armored sections. In fact, your weapon will glance or slide off of the armor plating. Resistance is increased if your opponent is wearing multiple layers. Your best bet to finish a fight quickly is to look for openings in their armor and strike. If you can manage to land a strike, say, a stab to the unarmored section of the face if they have holes in their helmet, you can potentially take them out with a single blow if not critically wound them. A weapon such as a mace is likely to be more effective against heavily armored targets than a sword would be.
In the beginning of the game, your moveset will be fairly basic and slow. As you progress through the game, you can learn new moves that can give you an edge in combat. As you gain more stamina, you can strike more before tiring and increase your speed. The system is all about growth and experience. The more you play, the better you and your character become.
In terms of ranged combat, bows are an option in the game, though the gameplay is fairly basic with those. You pull out your bow, knock back an arrow, and fire. The caveat of course is that there is no reticule when aiming, so you have to learn to aim without it and hope to god it strikes where you want it too.
All of this is based on how medieval warfare was actually fought, though obviously some adjustments have been made to how it works since this is a video game. One alteration that was made was to the speed of combat. While you can strike fast, a lot of the animations are deliberately slowed down to telegraph strike and give you an opportunity to see them coming.
In games like The Elder Scrolls, just to name one for argument’s sake, you can only have one item attached to any given equipment slot. One chest piece, one pair of boots, one helmet, etc. This varies a bit by game, but it’s a very simple system. In Kingdom Come: Deliverance however, there are 16+ slots for clothing. You can match and match different pieces of equipment for varying effects and looks. You can wear padded clothing, with chainmail over top of it, followed by the plate armor, and then a coat or other clothing that can fit over top of it. The more you have on, the more protection you have, but you also make more noise depending on what you’re wearing and possibly move more slowly.
Another facet to this system is the ability to blend with certain groups if the right equipment is worn. If you run into a group of bandits, kill them, and take their clothing, you can wear it to approximate the appearance of a bandit and gain entrance to their camp. If you come across a monastery that is off limits to anyone that isn’t a monk, you can dress like a monk in order to gain entrance, though you may have to also act like a monk to keep up the chirade. And lastly, if you dress like a nobleman, commoners will treat you differently. It’s all about playing roles and dressing for the occasion. If you’re going to be an archer, there’s no point in wearing full plate armor now is there?
The World is Alive
There are two different kinds of RPG’s: One’s where NPC’s wander around aimlessly with many standing around waiting for the player to interact with them, and then there are RPG’s where the NPC’s have actual lives and the player rarely factors into what they do. Games like The Elder Scrolls, to reference it again, are of the latter variety though the AI’s freedom was dialed back for Skyrim due to the AI becoming too unpredictable for Bethesda’s tastes. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is of that latter variety in that every single NPC in the game, wildlife included, have lives of their own. They have schedules that they keep to on certain days, they have hobbies, and so the world feels alive and if the player wasn’t there at all, it would just keep running and act as a simulation of medieval life.
Now, obviously you can disrupt the peace and tranquility of a harmless village by walking to a tavern at night and starting a drunken brawl, knocking the NPC’s off their schedules, but that makes it more interesting because anything can happen.
Like any good RPG, Kingdom Come has crafting systems. But rather than be portrayed through static menu’s, the game makes you participate in the actual crafting of whatever you’re attempting to make. For example, alchemy is present in the game and you’ll have to crush and mix ingredients to create your desired end product. Another minigame that was originally planned, but sadly didn’t make the final cut, was smithing. As seen above, you would actually put your weapon to the grindstone, hammer it, all that fun stuff. It’s also how you would repair your damaged weapons. However, the developers ran out of both time and money and as a result this particular minigame was set to the side for the time being. They’ve said it might be added in a patch after the games release, though I expect modders to try and find the unused assets in the game files and restore and finish them themselves before that happens.
A Fork in the Road
Kingdom Come: Deliverance prides itself on giving players as many options as possible. When trying to get information out of other characters you can either try to talk them into sharing, trade for the info, or beat them until they’re willing to talk. Likewise, if what you’re after is a physical object, you can steal it rather than taking the legal approach. The game features lockpicking, pickpocketing, and a myriad of other options to feed your more wicked side. Need to get into a house, but lost your lockpick? No problem, if the door is wooden, you can break it down. Just be aware that if someone is inside, they’ll now know you’re there, as will just about anyone else within a certain radius.
When tackling enemies, there can also be multiple ways to deal with them. Taking them out quietly with stealth, shooting them with arrows, charging in and fighting them to the death, perhaps you even poisoned their food the previous day leaving them with less stamina. If you can come up with it, it may just be possible to do it. The developers have put great care into the amount of freedom that players are afforded.
A Game of Survival
While it may not be readily apparent, the game incorporates hunger and exhaustion into its gameplay by design. Every in-game day, your character will need to eat and sleep. He cannot go on eternally with no rest or sustenance. The longer you go without either of these basic needs, the more of an effect it has on your character. You can also get drunk and that in turn will not only effect your character right then and there, but also in the future. As an example, you can go to a tavern one night, get blackout drunk, pass out, and wake up the next day still being effected by it. You actually get a hangover.
Beyond that however, I’m not aware if weather effects your character or if you’ll also have to stop to go to the bathroom(probably not.), though I’m sure that’ll be modded in eventually if it isn’t already present.
Rule 35: If it Doesn’t Already Exist, it Shall be Made
For about the entirety of the games development, the developers at Warhorse Studios have promised a full suite of modding tools for the game that will allow players to change it to their hearts desire. If some aspect of the game is unsatisfactory to you, you can mod it. Maybe you feel something is missing, you can mod it in. The beauty of mods is that they turn a finished game, into an ever changing game. Anything and everything will be made. The combat could be completely overhauled, the smithing minigame could be added back in, full on character customization could potentially be introduced including the ability to change the sex of the character, the sky is honestly the limit so long as modders are willing to put the work in.
Meet the Cast
The video honestly speaks for itself on this one. The only thing for me to really bring up is that their whole performance capture setup is DIY. No outsourcing to other companies that probably could have produced an even better result, they just bought their own equipment, stuck it together with duck tape, and started filming. Props where they’re due.