Kingdom Come: Deliverance has been brewing for quite some time now, and there were delays, too. Certainly the task Warhorse Studios have put before them is a daunting one, but as the release date draws near and we get more materials about KCD, the more impressive and ambitious it looks.
Let’s find out what makes the game so special.
Protagonist, not a hero
Games made us used to being the hero, the one that saves the day, and usually even gets the recognition he deserves. In fantasy games you are typically in some way special, too, via a prophecy or being granted special powers by means unknown. Yeah, well, in Kingdom Come Deliverance you are a nobody.
Ok, that’s technically wrong, because your name is Henry and you are a blacksmith’s son, but that career path ends abruptly as your family is killed and you are somehow left for dead. If you think that means a roaring rampage of revenge and perhaps winning a fancy castle, yeah. Nope. You’re a lowborn half-baked craftsman with a chip on his shoulder and this feudalism. That you can try to find justice for your family is a benevolent act from your local lord, who takes you in and plants you in his own militia.
You won’t walk the typical “from zero to hero” road, but you might still accomplish something noteworthy, at least as far as the rather limited slice of land the game takes place in is considered. It’s been said that it’s going to be just 16 square kilometres, but that’s just numbers, what matters is how dense the map is going to be.
In keeping with the nitty-gritty of the depicted period, Warhorse Studios gave a lot of care to Kingdom Come’s combat systems and, after some initial unrealised ideas have arrived at something that reflect actual swordsmanship without being too complex to be playable.
As a result the combat system is based on attacks from five different directions and a thrust – a technique few games utilize because it’s not as flashy as a swing. Flashy they might not be, but with KCD’s detailed armour system (more on it later) a well-placed thrust may let you kill an opponent through the eye slit in their helmet. Over all there are reportedly going to be 36 zones of attack, opening up some impressive tactical possibilities.
Of course swords aren’t the only weapons you’ll be using, because the full scope of period-accurate weaponry will be available: axes, maces, bows, polearms, the whole bunch, and each of them brings you its own advantages and disadvantages.
Unlike most RPGs (with notable exceptions like Dragon’s Dogma), “armour” isn’t just a single piece, but instead a collection of different items, layered on top of each other. First you put a gambeson (padded armour) on your clothes, then you can add chainmail, and even a plate armour on all of that.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a complex layer system handling the different pieces of armour and clothing and making sure they don’t clip through each other and keep their respective functions. It looks very fancy, and a far cry from just putting on a “plate armour” on your character like that’s enough. Its surely is realistic, but we’ll have to wait until release to see if it’s actually fun or entertaining.
All RPGs are built on choices and consequences, so to say that KCD is going to make them an important part is something of a no-brainer. That said, Warhorse’s production might handle them better than most other games thanks to a simple principle.
The game world doesn’t revolve around you. You are just a guy, not a saviour and solution to everybody’s problems. Therefore a lack of action is a choice as well, and thus bound to have its own consequences.
An example provided by some media outlets concerns an official investigation conducted by local guards with which Henry is supposed to liaison, much to the captain’s dissatisfaction. If Henry sticks to it, it’s fine. But if he wanders off, like most players in an RPG are wont to do, the guards will close the case without him, and the captain’s going to have some stern words with the young blacksmith’s son.
Similarly, certain events take part whether you’re there to witness them or not, providing just a slight window of opportunity for you to exploit or stop them.
With a tightly packed map, a carefully crafted web of connections, events, and consequences of you both participating and ignoring them, Kingdom Come: Deliverance may turn out to be the most immersive RPG yet as far as a feeling of internal consistency and believability is concerned.
All things considered, Warhorse Studios’ production is easily one of the most ambitious endeavours in the genre, and a study in how to transplant a historical setting properly into an action packed without sacrificing neither historical accuracy nor player agency.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance launches on February 13th this year, which is when we will be able to check how well the promises of complexity are realised, and just how playable all these ambitious systems are.