From the painstaking recreation of 15th Century life in the Kingdom of Bohemia and its notable inhabitants, to the need to eat, drink and sleep in order to continue your day-to-day existence, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG that shies away from the fantasy side of things in favour of a more authentic medieval experience. As the game’s tag line puts it, this is ‘dungeons and no dragons’.
The opening chunk of gameplay I was given access to was set not long after Henry, the game’s young protagonist, woke up in the town of Rattay after being nursed back to health following a raid on his village that destroyed his home and family, and left him gravely wounded. One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times; it’s clear a lot of research and effort has been put into making the world feel as authentic as possible, though an inconsistent frame rate did spoil the immersion a bit.
I soon bumped into Peshek, the miller whose daughter had kept Henry alive. He wasn’t blessed with quite the same generous streak as his offspring, however, and wanted payment for his hospitality; namely the illegal moving of a buried body, an act that was considered sacrilegious at the time (and is, probably, still frowned upon today).
This was an early example of the many choices players will face throughout the game, with most decisions you make having a knock-on effect in some way. For example, by turning down Peshek, I was informed that he would send men who would harass Henry throughout the rest of the game unless he was payed off or they were killed.
One of the first things that struck me as I began to explore was the way the landscape, and even most buildings, looked almost photorealistic at times.
It’s a rule that can be applied to a large chunk of your interactions within the game world; while doing the rounds as a newly employed member of the Rattay night watch (the culmination of my time in the opening chapter) I came across a heated dispute between the local blacksmith and a beggar, which ended in my ordering the ‘smith to be a good chap and give the poor girl some alms, in this case a couple of coins.
This was a decision that could have a negative influence on a player’s reputation within the town, specifically with the traders, who, as a result, may give Henry bad deals or even refuse to trade altogether. Thankfully, Tobias (the Warhorse rep) did assure me that it's possible to reverse a poor reputation, whether through completing missions for the townsfolk or by tipping traders some extra cash while haggling.
Given my limited playtime, it’s hard to tell how far reaching some of the consequences of my actions could be. I can’t be sure that the animosity between Henry and the irritatingly smug Lord Hanush – one of many Game of Thrones-esque characters lurking amongst the walls of Rattay – would have been so great had I not bested him in an archery contest and won his expensive hunting bow in a wager.
Perhaps I could have rebooted the chapter and deliberately lost, but after spending two hours exploring the town, talking to the locals, giving drunk guards a good rollicking and even finding time for a nap in a tavern, I’d had my fill of peaceful medieval life. My sword arm was growing restless, and to channel a certain Robert Baratheon - I needed to hit someone.
Luckily, hitting people is what the second act was all about, as I was to take part in a siege on a bandit camp hidden in some woods. The three-staged attack consisted of taking a lightly guarded bridge and then razing the main camp, before a showdown with the imposing bandit leader.
For a game that encourages you to favour diplomacy over violence, battles in KCD are pretty darn fun, although, as I quickly found out, Henry is no super soldier. On more than one occasion my eagerness to rush ahead of my allies led to a quick (and bloody) death, as I either ended up surrounded by enemies and cut down, or picked off by archers as I tried to limp away.
Once I got used to the fact that I wasn’t a medieval Master Chief and learned to advance with others, battles became a much more tactical affair as I carefully picked my moments, taking on weaker, unaware or injured enemies in quick, hit and run attacks, whilst keeping an eye open for archers, who I would take out with my own bow.
While this section of the game was deliberately chosen to showcase the combat system in action, there were still hints of the freedoms KCD gives players to tackle situations in different ways, from the recce information Henry presents Lord Radzig regarding the best way to storm the fort, to more subtle and stealthier ways.
“Before this fighting quest, you could have snuck into this camp and poisoned the food, then most of the people would be a one hit kill,” said Tobias. “You can also burn the arrows of the archers, but this is super tricky because you need to sneak in and try to not get caught, though you can try to kill one of the bad guys and dress as him and they will not attack you.”
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more.
Combat in KCD uses a similar method to the one seen in For Honor, in that players can adopt a number of stances – high, low, left, right, etc. - while wielding a melee weapon to counter or attack an enemy. Dealing out damage felt accurate and weighty; I was able to target weak points in enemy armour and exposed areas, such as a bandit leader's completely unprotected head, which lead to him dropping very quickly. As for defence, I found it easier to just dodge an enemy attack rather than try to stop it with a correctly-timed block.
After my glorious victory came the third and final chapter, which tasked players with sneaking their way into a monastery to find a murderer who was posing as a monk, but by now reality was calling (also known as the last EasyJet flight back home to Amsterdam) and it was time to say farewell to medieval Bohemia.
Although my afternoon with Kingdom Come: Deliverance was cut short, it encompassed far more than I could fully recollect here, and left me wanting more. Medieval Bohemia feels ripe for exploring, and there looks to be a progression and choice system in place that allows players the freedom to approach the game however they wish.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is just around the corner, releasing 13 February on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.