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A Highly Flawed Masterpiece

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    Colonel Chow

    Kingdom Come: Deliverance

    Rating: 3.0 – Fair

    A Highly Flawed Masterpiece

    You are not a knight, not a prince, nor a king. You are the simple son of a blacksmith, but given the chance and a sword in your hand, you may prove to be more than that.

    First announced in 2012 by newcomer developer Warhorse Studios, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a first-person action RPG in the vein of the Elder Scrolls series, set in the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1403. The game promises to deliver realism, in terms of sword/weapon combat, medieval life, and character interactions, as well as an open world that let’s you play the game and storyline in any way you see fit.

    After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, the game shot to global prominence out of its native Czech Republic, igniting the excitement of video games fans hungering for an RPG that was more sword than sorcery.

    Released with some controversy surrounding its "inclusivity", I as a history buff and PoC personally found nothing wrong with its depictions or lack thereof of diversity. That is however an argument that has no place in my review, I just wanted to speak briefly on it as its come to the fore surrounding the game’s release.

    KCD is the next step in action RPGs when compared alongside its cousins Skyrim, Fallout 4, and to a lesser extent Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, providing a highly engaging story, refreshing new game mechanics that can quickly be picked up ¨Dbut are quite difficult to master and a setting that has never been explored before in games of this scope and genre (usually focusing on Western European or Western European inspired backdrops). That being said, the game is not without its imperfections, of which there are many, especially on PS4.

    A.) Bandit slayer B.) sneak thief C.) flower picker D.) (All of the above)

    As the main character Henry, you’re given the freedom to explore the province of Skalitz – Sasau, slaying bandits and selling anything you can scavenge from their corpses or camp in town, or become a highwayman yourself assaulting wayfarers on forested roads, or pickpocketing townspeople and villagers, though if caught don’t expect the town guard to stand idly by, they’ll chase you and pummel you to death unless you escape or surrender to them, causing you to get tossed in jail.

    You can also go a peaceful path and pick herbs and sell them to vendors, or use them to craft potions using alchemy stations. To get a real feel of the game, and to maximize your character’s potential it’s suggested you try to get competent in a bit of everything, including talking your way out of sticky situations.

    Every action related to a skill increases your main level, and unlocks new perks along the way which will help specialize or broaden Henry’s abilities. While part of the game mechanics are tied to stat progression, it also involves increasing your actual skill in doing certain tasks, such as lock picking or combat.

    Unlike Skyrim or others in the Elder Scrolls series, you don’t simply spam attack swings and then run away to chug a potion when your health gets low. In KCD weapon combat is directional, meaning you swing your sword, mace, or axe from different angles, or chain them with thrusts to create combos to keep your enemies on their toes. You cannot heal while in combat, so preparing for a fight with the right amount of armor, potion buffs, or weapons beforehand are crucial to helping you see the dawn of the next day.

    Sleeping and eating are survival game mechanics are also important to the game, as you play the game Henry’s energy / nourishment level lowers, decreasing your maximum stamina, which can only be raised by sleeping in bed and/or eating food or swilling a drink. It’s very possible for you to starve, but thankfully almost every campsite and house has a eternally boiling pot of food that you can eat from without repercussions, most of the time.

    Other than the basic necessities, it may also be necessary to occasionally take a bath and get your clothes laundered, as how clean you are affects how people perceive and how willing they may be to be convinced by a charisma check, which is separate from speech but similar to it in function.

    Wear a shiny set of armor, and people take you for nobility, and give your words more authority than if they just perceived you as a lowborn. Armor and clothing can be layered in a variety of ways, affecting your defense and charisma rating. If you so choose, you can stack chainmail and plate armor over your fancy tailored clothing. Each piece of clothing/armor also has a rating in terms of visibility / conspicuousness / noise, which affect your sneaking ability. Dark clothes are more appropriate for hiding in the shadows at night, and slowly creeping up on an unsuspecting bandit for a knife in the throat.

    When all these mechanics work, the game is absolutely marvelous, immersing and engrossing you in a medieval glimpse of the Czech Republic. However, more often than can be reasonably expected by a player, the bugs come out of the woodwork. Whether they range from the weird and hilarious, i.e. graphical / texture pop-in, headless NPCs, floating characters, to the infuriating and game breaking: quests that cannot be completed due to lack of triggers, or dialogue options from quest characters, failure to spawn of certain items, NPCs seeing you backstab someone through a wall in a sneaking mission, and the worst case scenario a bug that causes some or in certain instances all of your saves to be corrupted and deleted. I personally have encountered the aforementioned save deleting bug three times in 80+ hours of gameplay, forcing me to backtrack four hours, or download a cloud save back onto my PS4.

    These bugs would not be so bad, if it was not for the save system, which only allows you to save when you sleep in an owned bed, or consume an item called Saviour Schnapps, which can be purchased from NPC vendors or crafted. Because some quests are nigh impossible to complete until they’re patched, and some of them fail if not completed in a certain time frame, you’re forced to eventually fail them if you have started them.

    The difficulty was part of the draw, but the saving system like this is not defensible as long as the game and your saves are unstable.

    I’m not a peasant, I’m the son of a blacksmith

    Life in the high Middle Ages was brutal, but especially so in Bohemia in 1403 which was going through a period of turmoil due to the squabbling of the nobles in the country, and from surrounding ones, as well as marauders taking advantage of the chaos.

    You start the game in the idyllic mining town of Skalitz, helping your father forge a sword, however as with many games and stories of the genre things never stay so simple for peaceful for long. Completing the main story quests can be finished in about 35 – 50 hours of gameplay, depending on your play style, others who are completionists can expect to clock in around 70 – 80 in a single play through, and not even reach max level, or the highest level of all skills.

    The story is engaging, with a cast of characters that to me seemed flat at first, but were really fleshed out towards the end, some with surprising character arcs. The ending however leaves much to be desired, feeling incomplete and unsatisfying, setting up a future DLC or sequel to finish off the plot, which is something I would’ve expected from EA or Ubisoft. If you’re a Kickstarter, or have seen the Kickstarter trailer, do not expect grand or epic scale battles, there are none. Most of them are scripted events with 10 – 20 enemies fighting your allies who number similarly. In one of the early battles, I saw some soldiers off to the side trying to take a bridge, so I rushed over to their aid, and began firing arrows into the backs of bandits, only to find out they were scripted models that I could not interact with.

    In another instance, I saw an enemy in tight formation, and because I had a perk that increased my damage from behind, I immediately flanked and circled to their rear. They stayed in formation as I cut them down with my axe, only one or two turning around to actually engage me.

    The sounds of battle and the admittedly well done scripted events immersed me, but their failure to react in a meaningful way broke it for me.

    All-in-all, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a fun game, an evident labor of love by the dev team, I personally love it, warts and all, however I cannot ignore the astounding number of bugs in a game that is supposed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with AAA games in terms of value. In its current state, I cannot in good faith recommend Kingdom Come: Deliverance as a new purchase, as it feels like it’s still early-access, without the polish and stability it should have.

    It’s my personal recommendation that potential buyers wait for a sale, rent this, or borrow it until a massive overhaul to the game has taken place. There has been two patches so far, with the day one patch on PS4 in-effect doubling the size of KCD, to a massive 50~ GB of HDD space, and it is still plagued with issues, especially in the mid-to-end game.

    If you’re a veteran of Mount and Blade: Warband, you may be able to have the patience for bugs, as I have, and finish the game. Kingdom Come and War Horse were ambitious, a bit too much perhaps, a bit too much perhaps. Its evident the developers had a clear vision in mind of what KCD was to be, unfortunately the executions is just not all there, yet.

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