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2018’s Game of the Year: The Premiere Medieval Open-World RPG

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    Kingdom Come: Deliverance

    Rating: 5.0 – Flawless

    2018’s Game of the Year: The Premiere Medieval Open-World RPG

    Have you ever played an open-world game, like Skyrim or Oblivion, and enjoyed the general freedom you had and the options for builds and exploration, as well as questing and collecting rare artifacts, but then asked yourself "hey wait a minute? Why is there all this food when I don’t have to eat? Beds when I don’t have to sleep?" If you have, then Kingdom Come: Deliverance is your friend because you actually have to take care of yourself to survive in this Medieval Open-World RPG.

    Premise: Deadbeat Nobody Becomes a Somebody

    Tired of being the "Chosen One"? The "Savior of Blah de Blah?" The "Dragonborn" or "prophesied hero" or "guy in general who is fated to be great and spoken of like some kind of Greek God just for breathing"? Are you, broadly speaking, tied of being special just for clicking "New Game"? Have you ever wanted to…

    …Earn respect and glory? Grow from some nobody and become a big somebody through your own merits?

    If so, then Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the game for you.

    You are Henry, son of Martin, of Skalitz. You are some sixteen year-old kid who isn’t really good at anything and, up to the point where you take control of him and make him into whoever you want him to be, have basically just been a normal kid doing normal kid things but in Medieval times. You aren’t well-connected, you don’t have nice clothes, you aren’t super strong, super smart, particularly skilled, or even clean! You’re literally just some guy in 1403, Bohemia (known now as Czechia), and by the Devil’s luck have been forced out of your home and expected to live out a life of hardship and adventure in a world that doesn’t give a crap about you but is willing to at least bless you so long as you don’t go stealing their underwear to sell to the local fences.

    Henry’s not exactly a blank-slate protagonist like Link but he isn’t as defined as Geralt is either. Henry’s fully voiced and, especially in the main quest, has his own personality and character but for the most part Henry is essentially whoever you want him to be based on your actions and whether or not you can be bothered to clean him up and make himself a useful member of Bohemian society or just some two-bit thug with a chip on his shoulder and no respect for "the man".

    Early on, and I really want to emphasize this, you are some guy. You aren’t a fighter, you can’t shoot a bow (without risking shooting yourself at least), you can’t even put a band-aid on your booboos, and you can’t even read. So don’t go in expecting to be the hero before you can even properly cut a training dummy.

    Once you’ve freed yourself from the mandatory first few main quests, you have the freedom to do whatever you want throughout the whole of the Sasau River Valley, a region in medieval Bohemia that is approximately half the size of Skyrim in terms of rendered space. I think it’s about "8 square kilometers" compared to Skyrim’s 18-ish.

    This game is historically based and mostly accurate, but I won’t be getting into that until the end as that’s more setting than actual gameplay. It’s like how Tamriel is the setting for all the Elders Scrolls games but you don’t need to know that or be told much about it to sold or turned off by the prospect of buying an Elders Scrolls game. However, because historicity is a selling point, I’ll talk about that with my amateur knowledge of medieval history based largely on what more qualified YouTubers such as Shadiversity and Metatron have said.

    You Have to Take Care of Yourself

    You got to sew your clothes (or pay a tailor to do that for you), you got to take a bath (or have an interesting time talking to people repulsed by your stench and disgustingly dirty clothes), you got to get some sleep (or pass out and wake up somewhere scary), you got to eat (or die of starvation), and you got to build up your skills (as even a peasant-warrior can beat your crap up if you’re just a basic level 1 in everything Henry even if you have some player-skill on your side).

    Mending your gear is much like how it is in Oblivion or Fallout; you take care of your gear, and it’ll work properly. You don’t, it breaks (but you can mend it even at 0% condition as it doesn’t disappear or anything). It’s not that complicated, but there are actually perks to actively mending it yourself with repair kits and grindstones as the way levelling works in this game is pretty much the same way it works in Oblivion and Skyrim. More on that shortly.

    Much like in real life, you gotta sleep and eat or you’ll die. It’s actually pretty easy to take care of yourself since food is abundant in most places and you’ll probably excuse yourself to bed since it’s very difficult to travel in the pitch-black of night. On Hardcore Mode though, this game plays a lot more like a Survival Game. I’ll get to that later, towards the end.

    For now though…

    Practice Makes Perfect: How Leveling Works, and Why it Matters

    This game’s leveling system is almost identical to how it works in Skyrim and Oblivion or really any Elders Scrolls game; skills increase through continued use, player-levels increase through increasing skill levels. They all cap out at 20, at which point you’re a grand master of whatever skill you’ve leveled. All of them start out at either 1 or 0 (like in the case of reading, to indicate that you can’t).

    I give this special mention because while the game rewards smart-thinking and player-skill, you are limited by your statistical skill. Early-game, Henry’s weapon-swings will be slow and clunky, his enemies will frequently counter and slap him until he’s chopped up into bits and you’ll learn quickly that a dude in armor is worth a hundred without armor. Henry’s aim with a bow will bob around the center of the screen and if he isn’t wearing arm-guards he’ll even flay himself in trying to loose the arrow. Henry can’t even read, so you’ll see English letters scrambled up (which is in fact readable by the player, but in alchemy this is really significant because you need to be precise with your actions while brewing potions), and since Henry’s initial fighting skills are non-existent he won’t have access to any techniques on top of being slow and clumsy.

    Basically, very early on, don’t fight anyone until you meet a kindly senpai who’ll teach you the basics (at which point you can defend yourself against people carrying more than a sad stick and dressed in something tougher than a loincloth).

    If you want to become a real hero, a real villain, a real overall badass, you have to first practice your core combat skills and build them over time.

    By the time you’re maxed out and at the end of your playthrough, you’ll be taking dudes and making them cry just by looking at them. But that’s a very long way from the starting point, where you’ll be doing all the crying and running…

    Combat: Medieval Martial Arts & Gitting Gud

    Pro-tip: Souls players will have a special advantage since the combat system is stamina-based, therefore by managing your stamina pool and not letting it all go out, you’ll prevent yourself from getting beat in two blows (and on the same token, you’ll beat enemies very easily if you can exhaust them first).

    Stamina is the key to victory, as all the techniques in the world mean nothing if you can’t keep enough stamina to actually do them or gracefully take a punch.

    Battles themselves are conducted in real time, like most open world RPGs, but they’re a bit smarter and more sophisticated as you can attack from five directions plus stabbing, and also do parry-then-counters if you can time your blocks right (as well as earn the benefit of slow-motion viewing them once you’ve met Senpai).

    You can execute techniques that are done in a way similar to Deathblows from the old classic Xenogears. You do three or four attacks in a pattern and then do a technique which is not only unblockable but also, at the very least, significantly lowers your enemy’s stamina and allows you a chance at ending the fight quickly. There’s a lot, based on what weapon type you’re using, but generally speaking the simpler ones are better due to being easier to execute (and thus more reliable, as a broken chain cancels the build-up to the technique).

    Oh, and you can’t drink potions mid-battle so take care of that stuff before battles lest you not live to regret it.

    Combat: Melee & Ranged Weaponry

    Speaking of weapons, you have access to Swords, Longswords, Hunting Swords (basically Falchions of various degrees), Sabers, Axes, Maces/Hammers, and Spears/Polearms.

    Spears are the best weapons in the game, without exception, but have no techniques and cannot be carried in your inventory and thus can’t be relied upon as a main weapon in spite of historically being just about every soldier’s weapon (more on this at the end when I talk about historical accuracy).

    All the various sword types, except Longswords, share the same techniques while the Axes and Maces/Hammers also share techniques, thus resulting in an ultimate total of three groups (practically speaking): Cutting weapons, blunt weapons, and Longswords (who share no techniques with any other group).

    Cutting weapons are generally the sidearm of choice for many a medieval warrior. They’re quick, reliable, and can cut up a peasant like a knife against butter. They’re almost useless against guys in armor though, therefore you’ll need both Player Skill (that is smarts as the player) and statistical skill to compensate. Hunting Swords have some blunt damage on top of their cutting-focus which allows them some slight "armor-piercing", while Sabers are committed to slashing and tend to require more Agility (the main stat required to wield all Cutting Weapons properly) and are thus generally inferior to other Cutting Weapons of a similar Agility requirement until you get the Rare Sabers, which are basically magic since they can cut up just about anybody like Jedis or something and do so quicker before you can say "Oh, Sh…!". Shortswords, a.k.a. "Swords", are good at both slashing and stabbing with some specific shortswords acting like rapiers and favoring stabbing while others more like knives and favoring cutting. overall, a reliable side arm that compliments a shield much like any non-longsword.

    Blunt weapons are generally the sidearm of choice for medieval knights and smart people. They’re not as quick and can be clumsy at first, but they deal almost-guaranteed damage even against armored opponents as they were specifically designed for use against armored opponents back in Ancient times. Maces and Hammers count as the same category and function identically; you beat the crap out of your opponent and can easily injure their bodies in the process, thus potentially disarming/knocking-out folks and thus making it far easier to kill them (or at least force them to surrender–you don’t actually have to kill a soul in this game). I strongly recommend investing in a good mace/hammer, even if you’d rather look cool with a sword, as they’re the weapon to fall back on when you see a dude in full plate coming at you like the Terminator. Axes, like Hunting Swords, blur the lines between committed cutting and blunt weapons with their damage distribution but because they try to play it both ways they’re arguably the weakest weapon type since they have to pass two defense checks rather than one. But a good axe is still good! All blunt weapons are Strength based.

    Longswords are special because they’re the only primarily cutting weapon that have Strength as the stat needed to wield them instead of ability. They’re also long, and thus can outreach just about every other weapon type and thus can favor a newer player wanting to play it safe. You CAN wield a shield with a longsword, but I don’t recommend that early on since it makes your blows even clunkier and slower than they’d normally be early on and longswords are quite good at blocking/countering as they are, even more so than many shields actually. Some longswords are essentially estocs or rapiers, and can thus be very deadly at stabbing from a safe distance. Others are more like big meat cleavers, and thus are pretty poor at stabbing but excellent at chopping people up.

    Lastly, Bows.

    Bows are Strength based, mostly, though most bows also have a secondary Agility requirement as well. In the first 5 levels of the Bow skill, you’ll hurt yourself if you don’t wear a vambrace so be sure to wear one before trying to shoot! Once your Bow skill is level 10, you’ll be able to zoom.

    Unlike most games, you don’t get a visible cursor. Luckily, it’s actually hidden at the center of your screen with your aim more or less bobbing around the center point as you try to steady it and get a good line of sight. However this takes some getting used to and combined with having a low statistical skill, you’d be very lucky to hit even a stationary target with a bow until around Bow level 5. I suggest doing Archery Contests or a certain bow-related mini-game in a lovely town called Ladetchko before actually trying to shoot human beings as it’s quite difficult without both Player Skill and statistical skill.

    But once you actually can shoot something, you’ve essentially got the deadliest weapon type in the game under your belt as it’s very effective at not only picking enemies from afar but one-shotting enemies up close. As is historically correct, you’re far better off shooting people at point-blank than at range since the stopping power tapers off over significant distances. However I wouldn’t recommend point-blank archery initially since you’ll need enough Agility to strafe back quicker than your melee enemies can chase you.

    Combat: Mounted Fighting: Knight or Noyan?

    Mounted combat is rather simple with a melee-weapon; just try to whack them. Unlike foot-combat, it’s actually rather simple and needs no statistical skill. Spears are especially effective thanks to their range, just try not to get unhorsed or you’ll get beaten rather badly.

    Mounted Archery, however, is a true player-skill-based art that can result in you becoming the ultimate warrior so long as you can get used to hitting moving targets and effectively making use of your steed to do Mongolian-style hit-and-run tactics!

    Combat: Last Words

    Preparedness is key. Remember to drink your potions before combat because while in active combat (indicated by crossed swords at the top of your screen. If gold, it’s active; if silver, it’s inactive) you can’t drink them although you can swap weapons (but not armor!).

    The lower your total health (which starts at 100 and goes lower from there), the lower your total stamina until its recovered. The lower your total stamina, the less effectively you can fight. If your health is blow 70, take it easy. Below 50? Find the nearest settlement and rest because you’re in serious danger at that point. Be sure to bandage your wounds or else you’ll actually bleed out.

    Fighting multiple enemies can be a serious challenge as a mere peasant-warrior, but once you’ve become a combat veteran (both in stats and player skill) you should be able to handle three at a time. By the time your combat-related stats are maxed out, you could seriously take on dozens of enemies and not even lose a drop of health! Heck, at maxed stats, you can even take down enemies with weak weapons while wearing just you city-clothes!

    Settlements, Reputation, and What Your Look Says About You

    Unlike most games, what you wear and how you act actually matters. Not quite as much as it does in the real world, but far more than most RPGs where you could literally run around naked and nobody would care.

    All settlements have a reputation meter and every individual has an affinity for you that ranges from -100 to +100, with anything less than +30 requiring you to literally pay them to talk to you.

    You can raise your reputation by being a good guy; do local quests, give discounts to people you sell loot to, dress like a citizen rather than like a sociopathic deadbeat, and don’t give the cops a hard time when they see you look an awful lot like that wacko who knocked out a guy at a local bar and stripped him of his clothes…

    Speaking of crime, be careful when you do that. When you get caught, it’s basically the same deal as it is in the Elder Scrolls: pay a fine, serve jail time, or resist arrest. Unlike the Elder Scrolls you can actually wait a certain amount of in-game time proportional to the severity of your crimes until the heats blown over and then come back without having to worry about arrest.

    But don’t think they’ll act like nothing ever happened. If you do crime and get away with it, people will hate you and your time in the city will be miserable for it. Literally paying people to talk to you adds up quickly, and shop-owners won’t sell to you unless you pay them even more (and even then they sell at way higher than the norm and buy your stuff for far less to boot!) so making sure you don’t get caught is very important…

    …But even then, not getting caught still hurts your reputation–just very slightly and with plausible deniability. Repeated criminality, however, will make the local guards suspicious and they’ll check you for stolen goods rather regularly and give you a hard time whenever you try to enter and leave city limits.

    Therefore, it really pays to keep your nose clean even if deep down your Henry is the blackest hearted man to grace the Earth since Cain himself.

    On the contrary though, if you’re a great guy, people will never insult you and bless you like the second coming of Christ. Shopkeepers will sell at massive discounts and buy your goods at near to wholesale price, thus making legit business far more feasible than if you were a pariah.

    Whether you be good or evil, I strongly recommend watching yourself since the game reacts accordingly–and if you like that, then oh boy does the game deliver poetic justice!

    Quests: Both Side and Main

    Not much to say here, beyond they’re good. It’s basically like how it is in the Bethesda games: people ask you to do stuff (unless they hate you or you resolved another quest in a way that permanently puts them off) and you either go do it, do something else, or tell them to stuff themselves.

    Quests can vary greatly from doing a literal witch hunt to boxing local bruisers for sport to helping an outlaw redeem himself. The rewards are generally worthwhile, and sometimes very, very sweet. Other times your character can be screwed over if he trusts the wrong guy or botches it up too badly. Most quests have alternate outcomes depending on what you do, and this is especially true with the Main Quest.

    In the Main Quest, you can’t fail besides by dying. If you screw up Plan A, time for Plan B. If you screw up Plan B, you gotta figure out Plan C and get the show on the road–but you don’t get game-over for failures, instead you get alternate outcomes that allow for alternate ways of solving the quest at hand. Detective work features pretty heavily in the Main Quest, arguably so much so I’d say Henry’s more Medieval Detective than wannabe knight by the time you’re in the full swing of things, but there’s still plenty of combat and trials that essentially test how far you’ve come since your extremely humble beginnings.

    And remember: you don’t have to kill anyone. A pacifist playthrough is actually very possible…

    You can also do a variety of repeatable activities such as Archery Contests or (as of recent updates) weekly Tournaments, but I won’t go further on since I believe I covered the big stuff enough.

    Day to Day Living

    Arguably the biggest thing you’ll be doing most is taking care of yourself and going down rabbit-holes of your own choosing. Feel poor? Time to break into your neighbors’ house and steal their stuff to sell to the local fence! Feeling too moral for that? Time to go out in the woods and collect herbs to sell raw, or to brew into potions and then sell that! Feeling too impatient for that? Let’s head to the local tavern and play dice! And on from there…

    You do have to eat and sleep, but between that you’ve got 12 or so hours of daylight to do as you please in whatever self-set goal you’ve given yourself–from completing the Main Quest to doing Side Quests to mastering the art of battle to becoming a rich man owning every inn room and apartment in Sasau’s River Valley, to simply shooting animals from horseback and becoming one with nature or whatever whims might take you.

    Man’s True Best Friend: The Horse!

    Without a doubt the most important creature you’ll ever know in KCD is your horse; whether you get your first from the Main Quest or buy one yourself, your horse is pretty much the most important thing you possess as he or she can not only carry you long distances quickly but also carry a lot of loot and even be a great vantage point for mounted archery!

    All horses in the game are based off of real or mythical ones, such as Chollima, Sleipnir, and Pegasus, as well as even ones from other video games like Epona and Roach! They are not all equal and have various levels of Stamina, Speed, Carry-weight, and Courage (how much danger they’ll tolerate before rearing you off and abandoning you temporarily) which goes to determine how well they’ll fit what bill.

    These friendly beats are rather expensive, especially to a new player, but are well-worth the investment. I suggest you aim to save up a couple thousand Groschen (medieval Bohemian silver-currency) to buy a good one as a good horse is not only irreplaceable but immortal; the only thing that is!

    Last Words: Historical Accuracy

    Is KCD historically accurate? Well, obviously not 100%. It’s a video game, there was no Henry of Skalitz, and no one can be sure 100% what happened in 1403 Bohemia therefore the writers had to be creative to fill in the blanks. However, I’d argue it’s roughly 75% historically accurate.

    The 25% missing comes from the fact the game is more Medieval than pre-Industrial, as 1403 Bohemia had in fact some early firearms (which aren’t present in the game) and crossbowmen flourished here yet not a single crossbow can be found in the game. KCD is very much a Medieval Simulator, but the time period is actually just a few decades prior to the end of the era where the Bow and Knight ruled the battlefield, where firearms would present themselves as game-changers, where massed formations of pikemen would replace the more single-combat based warfare of yore, and even armor would take a step back since a bullet could at least knock a knight out if it didn’t penetrate.

    The game is still 75% accurate though, from the expressions they use ("God be with you", "Christ be praised", etc. are common greetings, even today, in Eastern Europe) to the iconography to the way religion was the center of medieval life and the burgeoning divide between the Roman Catholic establishment and its parishioners, and the terrible wars that would follow this transitory period.

    I’d recommend the likes of Metatron or Shadiversity if you want to get a fun education on medievalism and all that, as I’m far from an expert and can’t talk about the historicity of poop heaps or particular styles of helmets, etc. etc. and therefore won’t pretend I do.

    Last Words: DLC?

    So far, as of November 20th, there are two available DLCs for purchase at $10 each. "From the Ashes", where you rebuild a town and become it’s sheriff of sorts, and "The Amorous Adventures of Hans Capon" where you essentially do silly stuff in an attempt to get a guy a pretty woman.

    I bought and played From the Ashes and can say, like many others, that it’s all right but leaves something to be desired but I can’t speak of Hans Capon since I passed that DLC after reading its very poor reviews.

    Overall, I suggest you read other sources for advice on DLC and use your best judgement. Personally, I’d say From the Ashes is worthwhile if you want a lite city builder but definitely passable.

    Last Words: HARDCORE MODE…

    Hardcore Mode!!

    A.k.a. "the mode we veterans who felt the game too easy play".

    In Hardcore Mode, right off the bat, you have to take at least 2 of 8 or so potential disabilities which range from decreasing how much hunger you sate from food to halving experience growth to giving you random shakes and sleep-walking.

    Regardless of what disabilities you choose, you’ve got a game made even more realistic by reducing visible A.I. elements, disabling autosaves (thus requiring you save with Savior Schnapps, Sleep, or Save & Exit), and removing your cursor on the map as well as the cardinal directions on your compass–thus forcing you to use landmarks and the Sun to figure your way across the game world!

    It came free with an update, and overall it’s awesome! I suggest you read more elsewhere for details, but I’ve covered the most notable things.

    Last Words: Saving & a Serious Oversight That Needs Attention

    To save in this game, you have 4 options: Sleep, drink Savior Schnapps (a fairly pricy potion that’s easy to make and cheap mid-game but expensive and rare early on), Autosave via quest, or Save & Exit.

    Save & Exit works as it sounds: you save… then exit the game. Contrary to how it might sound, it doesn’t self-delete upon being loaded so it’s actually a safe way to save the game when you’re too far from a savable bed (can’t save in just any bed, and you’ll be able to tell because it says "Sleep and Save" when you can) and/or are pressed for time.

    The system works very well to both make you play cautiously and seriously, but there’s a serious problem: if you have too many saves (not known exactly how many, but a safe number to work with as a soft cap is 30) your saves won’t register, therefore you’ll have to delete obsolete saves (especially the autosaves that pile up in Normal Mode) or else risk losing hours of gameplay.

    As of November 20th, 2018, this problem is still a thing so I suggest would-be buyers beware and clean up their obsolete saves every so often as this oversight can be very demoralizing if you aren’t careful.

    Conclusion: This 2018’s Game of the Year

    Despite the severe issue mentioned above, I have to say Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a game that doesn’t disappoint and is truly the Indie rival of Skyrim and the Witcher 3 in terms of what you can do in an open world, immersiveness, combat, and the sheer fun factor of what it’s like to go from zero to hero–especially without hand-holding or being told how special I am just for breathing.

    This game’s definitely not for everyone though. It’s a pretty hardcore game that I think hangs out with Dark Souls or Bloodborne as a game that doesn’t forgive but doesn’t bull-crap either. It’s a challenging game but a fair one, especially since the glitches that plagued the game at release are mostly cleaned up.

    This game essentially has the thoughtful combat and challenge of Dark Souls with the freedom of Skyrim and the choice of games like Fallout 3 or New Vegas. If that combination appeals to you, it’s totally worth the asking price of $60 so long as you’ve got the grit necessary to go from useless deadbeat to decent guy to greatest champion who ever lived.

    This game’s a 10/10 and one of my favorites of 2018, easily Game of the Year material.

    For those reading this around the time it came out, Happy Thanksgiving and be sure to pick this up by the holiday season! It’s definitely too mature (nudity and violence) for kids, but very suitable for adults looking for a good time! :-D

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