I desperately wanted to like Kingdom Come: Deliverance since I first heard about it and what the developers were looking to achieve. A historically accurate RPG set in Bohemia in the early 15th Century. Having studied history most of my life it seemed to be a perfect fit. When I began to play it however it was missing one key ingredient many people play games for – enjoyment.
The game starts off with a small tutorial section in your local village where you play the son of a blacksmith. Life is simple and you set off to gather some ingredients to help your father make a sword for a local nobleman. It is quaint and likeable but immediately you begin to encounter problems with the game itself. While there is guidance, it comes in the form of detailed full-screen pages that you have to read all of to understand how to eat, sleep and basically just exist in the world. While there is nothing wrong with this method, I found that the practicalities of doing this simply didn’t follow the instructions.
One of the first things you had to do was go and collect some money owed to your father from a bad debtor. He was easily located but the conversation options led me to a fight. Amazingly for the first encounter in the game, this fistfight seemed to last 15 minutes as random punches, kicks and parries landed from both sides. After it was over, I was able to wash the blood off myself in a nearby bucket of water and go to the next stage of the task. This might be realistic and sound like fun in the game but in practice, this didn’t set a good impression on me. Firstly the fighting mechanics were awful. In a game like this I’m not expecting Fight Night levels of nuance but in Kingdom Come: Deliverance you pick an attacking direction and then just swing your limb in that direction. Even the town drunk was able to dodge or grab my attempts and hit me with a counter. The fight turned into a boring war of attrition that somehow I won. After something like this the first thing many people want to do is save it so they don’t have to go through the chore of it again.
Saving in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is another misstep. Despite the recent patch that lets you save and exit the game at anytime the only other way to save is to drink the limited Saviour Schnapps drink or go to sleep. In the example of the fight, I just wanted to save immediately after then carry on my journey, hopefully never to repeat this section. Instead, as I hadn’t got the Save Schnapps yet I had to play on. It didn’t feel right to go for a sleep in the middle of the first fetch quest of the game. If I had died or ran into a bug in the game I would have had no choice but to do it all again. Luckily I was fine in the tutorial, but soon after this exact problem happened many times.
Of course, the game soon takes a dark turn with the invasion of the village and tragic circumstances for your character. The next section of the game is thrilling and gave me genuine hope for the rest. You have to escape on horseback with soldiers in hot pursuit. After this great but clunky section, the game starts proper and unfortunately, it seems you have to do the tutorial section you needed earlier now. In this section, you are taught again about eating and given a basic quest scenario to teach you about the game.
Unfortunately, the best solution to this scenario includes lockpicking. In Kingdom Come: Deliverance lockpicking is simply awful. Even after the latest patch, it can be almost impossibly fiddly for no apparent reason. Looking at forums it seems to be a console specific problem as PC can use a keyboard and mouse. With analogue sticks, any lock you pick is a complete fluke. Despite this, you only need to do it once and you can save before it with the newly acquired Schnapps. Despite this after sitting through the loading screens ten times while you do it begins to grate.
Soon after the game seems to begin properly and you are given a fighting tutorial and of course a lockpicking one. Are they serious? Without ruining the plot you have had to do numerous instances of both before you are given the necessary tutorial to get through this. It is sloppy and sets a bad impression which nothing after serves to reverse.
The game seems to take a perverse pleasure in making everything you do as boring and awkward as possible. I get the realism factor and that life in the middle ages wasn’t a bed of roses but this is a game and meant to be used as a form of escapism for people. It shows a lack of user-friendliness that is staggering. Having to eat to survive is a great mechanic if deployed well but being stranded in early game because of poor signposting with only a pretzel to eat just screams of a lack of playtesting. One section had me looting dead bodies for food early in the game which was a complete break in character. No matter how noble you tried to be you ran out of food on the journey to where these corpses were and are forced to scavenge. It just isn’t enjoyable.
Despite my misgivings, this has been a sales success and is sitting at an inflated price online and in most stores. It is a great premise and has some good ideas but the core gameplay loop is one of underachievement and lack of fun. If you are looking for this kind of game you should only try The Witcher, it is much cheaper and much more polished. Unfortunately, the wait for this kind of game goes on.