When I previewed Kingdom Come: Deliverance a little over a year ago, my experience was limited to three specific chapters that were intended to show off the best of what the game had to offer. I had a great time with them, but, due to time constraints, I never got to explore medieval Bohemia in any truly meaningful way.
Travelling through woods, of which there are plenty in 15th century Europe, is especially atmospheric at night due to a pervasive darkness that’s often underutilised in other games. Think Dragon’s Dogma in terms making visibility an oppressive gameplay feature; and also in terms of traversal, as you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking, due to the lack of a traditional fast-travel system. Still, the opportunity to take in KCD’s serene landscapes along the way softens the blow.
It’s experiencing unabridged daily life as the game’s protagonist, Henry, that’s seen hours pass by so quickly as I play. Running errands for your father and making sure you’ve had enough food and sleep to last the day are the types of menial in-game tasks I’d generally avoid like the plague, but, due to Henry’s low standing in the world, coupled with the game’s focus on realism, I’d no choice but to knuckle down and get on with it or remain a penniless peasant.
Much to my surprise, I’ve found it oddly engaging not having to act as the story’s archetypal hero for once. In KCD, you’re not some super-powered soldier able to cut through hordes of enemies - heck, you can’t even read - and the world treats you accordingly. Henry may manage to work his way into the service of nobility, but he’s very rarely privy to the discussions of the inner circle and is often palmed off onto lesser Lords and tasks that are deemed unworthy of their time.
Most of what I’ve done during the opening hours (namely, investigating a brutal raid on a nearby stud farm) seemed insignificant whenever I presented my findings to my employers, who were dealing with an invading army ravaging their lands. I ended up leading them to a band of enemy soldiers, culminating in my first big skirmish, but even then it’s hard to shake the feeling that it all might have happened anyway, with or without my intervention.
Indeed, thanks to time-sensitive objectives, it may very well have done so; it’s possible to end up with entirely different outcomes on certain missions if you’re trying to seduce the miller’s daughter instead of carrying out vital orders, for example. Having been cast as the unflappable hero so many times before, playing the role of a mere cog in the machine has so far been a different, at times refreshing, change of pace on the whole.