Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Warhorse Studios
Release Date: Feb. 13, 2018


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Kingdom Come: Deliverance'

by Thomas Wilde on June 29, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an open-world, action-adventure, role-playing game featuring a nonlinear story and revolutionary, first-person melee combat.

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If you were looking for a long and involving action RPG that will also teach you a great deal about the Holy Roman Empire and 15th-century Europe, then here you go. That was a weirdly specific request, but somehow it got fulfilled anyway. Warhorse Studios is a Czech developer that's set a game in its own backyard. Kingdom Come: Deliverance has many of the trappings of a big fantasy epic, but instead of the more familiar practices, such as magic, demons, and/or screaming at dragons until they die, it's more grounded and pseudo-realistic. You don't get to heal in combat, most everyone you run into is a real historical figure, and you're taking part in an actual 15th-century civil war.

Deliverance is a long, choice-based, first-person RPG that puts you in the shoes of Henry, a Bohemian peasant and apprentice blacksmith. In 1403, King Charles IV is dead, and his son Wenceslas is a weak replacement. Wenceslas's half-brother, King Sigismund of Hungary, kidnaps Wenceslas, leaving the throne vacant, and proceeds to sack the countryside.

On an otherwise ordinary morning, Henry is running errands for his father when one of Sigismund's mercenary divisions burns down his village. Henry's father's greatest work, a sword commissioned by a local noble, gets stolen, and Henry resolves to get the sword back and take his revenge. He ends up as a hireling of Lord Radzig Kobyla, who forms a resistance against Sigismund's invasion that soon becomes a full-fledged civil war.

Deliverance is a first-person action-RPG with a flexible approach to problem-solving, in the vein of an Elder Scrolls game, but with layers of historical context to keep things interesting. You start the game by making a few simple choices as Henry speaks with his mother, choosing what his talents are and how he prefers to resolve situations: brute strength, finesse, negotiation, or stealth. You'll use them to solve a few problems your father is having around town, like trying to get the local drunk to make good on a debt, just before your bucolic village gets origin-storied to death.

The problem with the drunk is an interesting example of how the game works, and it's part of what I got to play at E3. He's belligerent and refuses to pay you out of sheer spite. Depending on how your first few choices went, and thus where your skills and attributes ended up, you can either try to pick his pocket, beat the money out of him, or fast-talk him into paying up. If you fight him and lose, which is entirely likely, you then have the option to get your three burliest friends and have them back you up for the rematch.

Combat in Deliverance is, truth to tell, a little weird, and I don't feel like I got a good handle on it. When you get into a fight, the game wants you to watch your opponent carefully and react in kind. You've got a lot of options based on your armor, weapons, and preferred tactics; for example, maces are slow, but do a lot of damage that gets through heavy armor. Daggers and swords are faster, but you really have to watch for openings against armored opponents, or all you'll do is break the blades. It's a thinking man's fighter, a bit like For Honor, but replaces that game's style and cinematic flourishes with a brutal, unforgiving realism. Deliverance's combat makes me feel like a hero just for surviving it.

The final version of the game is reportedly every bit as open and dynamic as other big-ticket RPGs, letting you specialize in multiple skills, craft your own weapons and armor, explore the countryside in search of side missions, and affect the outcome of Henry's story by the choices you make. The vertical slice of it they showed off at E3 made it look like they've put a lot of work into it, and I like how stripped-down and simple it feels, particularly in comparison to the fantasy approaches that most comparable games take. This is a title where the scariest thing in the world is a guy in heavy armor who wants you dead, and it feels like it.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance isn't the kind of game that sets the world on fire at E3. It demands to be sat down with in a quiet room and explored for a weekend, and despite some hands-on time and the chance to talk with the developers, I ended up feeling like I'd just scratched its surface. I think there's a lot of room for this style of RPG, however, and I'd like to see Deliverance do well because there are a lot of other historical periods that are ripe for this kind of exploration in a game.

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