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Review

Kingdom Come: Deliverance Review

Kingmaker or Kingbreaker?

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an incredibly ambitious game. It’s an open world adventure set in medieval Europe that has no fantasy elements, realistic combat mechanics, and little in the way of modern conveniences. Instead of starting out with some character defining power, the player is a mere peasant with nothing special about them. As an open world adventure, it’s like little else out there and I had huge hopes that this long-delayed Kickstarter game would deliver on its lofty promises.

With a war looming over the throne after the death of Emperor Charles IV of the Holy Roman Empire, the player takes on the role of Henry, the son of a blacksmith in the humble town of Skalitz, whose parents are killed during a raid by invaders. The story takes inspiration from historical events and is generally well told, tense, and full of intrigue. The fully voiced English cast has really decent writing backing them up, but are let down by some lacklustre sound mixing. It’s obvious that Henry’s voice was recorded in a different room to other cast members.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s biggest issue is performance. It’s practically unplayable at times because of regular slowdown, no matter which settings I had the game at. When things get frantic; mostly when there’s a battle going on, the performance tanks horribly even on the lowest settings – my PC runs a Core i5-6400 with a GTX 1070, more than capable of the recommended specs – to the point of freezing with alarming frequency. It got in the way of attempting to enjoy the gameplay more than it was worth bearing with.

But performance drops are just the tip of the iceberg. Long loading times are rampant throughout the game. Pop in is also frequent and while this can be mitigated by reducing the graphical settings, this barely helped in my time with the game. On top of this, character models popping in would occasionally change people’s appearance entirely. As for the character models themselves, they march straight into the uncanny valley. It’s understandable given the ridiculously large open world, but it’s still off-putting.

I can actually see where they were going with the combat as the more realistic approach is part of what drew me to Kingdom Come: Deliverance. When fighting one on one, the game performs relatively well and I was able to competently block attacks. Using the mouse to direct where attacks are coming from, along with feints and blocks is cumbersome at first, but this I eventually got used to and for most one-on-one encounters I was able to defeat opponents with relative skill.

However, when there’s more than one assailant, especially if there’s a big battle going on, the frame rate tanks to levels where it’s incredibly difficult to react. Often I would be doing rather well, only for some unseen foe to take tons of health off. I’m no stranger to unforgiving combat – I play and enjoy the Dark Souls franchise, after all – but the difference here is that I’m not enjoying combat in Kingdom Come: Deliverance because of the major performance hits.

Henry does also have the ability to fight using a bow and arrow, but really this felt even more of a farce. Ranged combat has no reticule so relies on guesswork by design, which is certainly more realistic but made all the more difficult by the swaying aim. This is by design, as you need to improve your archery skills, but discouraged me from using them unless in extreme circumstances, and even then it had as much impact as a spit ball through a straw.

Where Kingdom Come: Deliverance does excel is in its world building. Set in Bohemia in the Holy Roman Empire, there’s an eastern European vibe to this medieval landscape that translates well from market towns full of beggars, to country roads littered with bandits. Admittedly the characters in the English language dub are a blend of British and American accents that sound very odd together, but when the game allowed for it, I did get sucked into the world.

In a way, there’s a lot to compare to similar open world games such as Skyrim, only this game opts for a realistic and historical take on the genre that’s honestly refreshing. What’s also quite refreshing is how NPCs who give Henry quests won’t always wait too long for him. If someone says to meet them in the evening in the tavern, you may fail the mission if you don’t or have to find a different way to complete the quest. This non-linear approach is par for the course with many of its contemporaries, but the living world aspect is a remarkable achievement.

Even Henry’s growth as a character, while not wholly original, fits the game like a glove. Henry starts out as a smelly, ignorant serf, who can’t read, can’t wield a sword, and has little experience as a blacksmith. Through obtaining coin, he can pay someone to teach him the basics of reading, which look as if the words aren’t spelt correctly. As he levels up his reading ability, the words become clearer, simulating to our more literate age how not being able to read would be.

It’s not just reading though. Talking to people and using conversational types to respond in certain ways when given a choice allows Henry to gain the gift of the gab. Perks earned individually for each main level, each stat and each skill upon ranking up allows for bonuses to be applied, usually with some negative consequence for others.

There’s no shortage of content on offer and while it is entirely possible to run into the same random scenario when travelling again and again, word for word, the amount of side quests that require a bit of thinking and problem solving is staggering. Occasionally the map loses waypoints, though I get the feeling this was intentional to build tension rather than inconvenience the player.

Speaking of inconvenience though, saving is a huge point of contention and it’s completely by design. The game only saves if Henry sleeps in a bed, you hit a checkpoint in a quest, or drink a special brew called Saviour Schnapps. This doesn’t really affect the game badly, but if accosted and murdered by bandits, then it can send you back quite a distance to the last time the game saved for you. Having an arbitrary way of saving on the fly is part of the problem here and hinders more than it helps.

What’s Good:

  • Fantastic world building and script
  • Innovative sword fighting
  • Great sense of progression

What’s Bad:

  • Constant and persistent performance slowdown
  • Pop in and long loading times
  • Character models teeter on the edge of the uncanny valley
  • Archery is so difficult as to be worthless
  • Saving mechanics are archaic

If Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a ton of bug fixing to improve the performance drastically, it could be a hidden gem. It’s clear that the game, despite its grand ambitions, was simply not ready for public consumption. Shimmers of brilliance are there and had it seen more time in the oven, or set its ambitions at a more reasonable level, it could have been brilliant and scored significantly higher as a result. Alas, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is another cautionary tale rather than a trend setter.

Score: 4/10

Version Tested: PC

Disclaimer: During the review period, a 23GB Day One Patch was released. Review reflects performance of Version 1.2 with this patch.

10 Comments
  1. TRiLoGY
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    Oh No! I hope it runs ok on the PS4 Pro :(

    Comment posted on 13/02/2018 at 10:32.
    • DividSmythe
      Member
      Since: May 2012

      I’ve played a couple of hours on Pro and it’s crashed on me just. Loaded up save and all the way back to 30 mins gone, great.

      There is bugs in the game still and graphics don’t look too great either.

      Comment posted on 13/02/2018 at 13:34.
  2. Stefan L
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    Apologies for the missing comments today, they’ve been caught up by a server migration. In answer to the question about the version tested, we don’t have the game on PlayStation 4, but anecdotally from other reviews, it has also had bugginess and poor performance highlighted.

    Comment posted on 13/02/2018 at 13:31.
  3. Nate
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Shame, that’s the issue with KS, for every gem that wouldn’t have existed without it, you have to go through umpteen stinkers.

    Comment posted on 13/02/2018 at 15:05.
  4. NoseClams
    Member
    Since: Feb 2018

    Cons:
    Constant and persistent performance slowdown
    Pop in and long loading times
    Character models teeter on the edge of the uncanny valley
    Archery is so difficult as to be worthless
    Saving mechanics are archaic

    Sounds like Skyrim (9/10)

    Comment posted on 13/02/2018 at 15:47.
  5. NoseClams
    Member
    Since: Feb 2018

    “Disclaimer: During the review period, a 23GB Day One Patch was released. Review reflects performance of Version 1.2 with this patch.”

    “We know all of our audience will likely be on a PS4 with the day one patch and that they use reviews to guide their purchases, but we wanted our review to be out there first”

    Comment posted on 13/02/2018 at 15:52.
  6. stormy
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Yeh this is disappointing. I was quite hyped for this game but I think it looks like it’s fallen short.

    Comment posted on 14/02/2018 at 07:35.
  7. TRiLoGY
    Member
    Since: Apr 2009

    After hearing a lot on negative feedback regarding bugs and performance (even on the KC:D forums), I was a bit worried as i was pretty hyped for this.

    Anyway, I started it last night… I’m running it on a PS4 Pro and so far I haven’t experienced any bugs or performance issues. I have the Pro’s ‘Boost Mode’ switched on and I am running at 1080p (not 4k). I’ve heard people talk about a bug with the R2 button, but i’ve not experienced this yet when fighting with a sword or unarmed.

    I’m only a few hours in, but so far I’m loving it and it’s living up to my expectations!
    I think this game will be a bit like “Marmite”, you will either love it or hate it :)

    Comment posted on 14/02/2018 at 09:47.
  8. Jinx20001
    Member
    Since: Aug 2016

    This was a really bad review. all the negatives are valid points but they should never result in a score like this. the archery isn’t that bad and like most of the combat requires a lot of practice and training in game. how many of you can pick up a bow and arrow and fire an arrow fast even your own 2 feet? I know I cant and the game puts you in the shoes of a skill less character, you do get good with practice, the bow shakes a lot less, the more you use it the more you find your range as each arrow fires a different distance, its hard but your not forced to use it, its an option if you take the time to really learn to use it then it can give you power from further away.

    pop in isn’t so bad, its noticeable on lower graphics settings but really not that bad at higher settings, load times are fine, theres the odd long load bug when speaking to some npcs but again using a m.2 drive for the game or ssd and it improves a lot.

    the saving mechanic is crap, I’m not going to lie ive modded that aspect of the game in as little as 5 clicks of the mouse and now I can save any time I like, it was a poor choice of save system but again it does not warrant the score.

    I will hold my hands up now and say I’m using a 8700k @ 4.9ghz, a gtx1080ti and 16gb of dominator platinum ram, its about as high end a gaming machine as you can get and a game like this should not actually require this hardware but as I say 4 is not a fair and reflective score of the game, come on dude a i5 6400 is a 3 year old 4 core no hyperthreading cpu now, I bet big budget open world games like AC Origins and watch dogs 2 bring it to its knees also, the recommended specs id say have been very conservative aswell, an i5 3570 is not a weak cpu and id say its actually very close to a 6400 but both are on the weak side for games like this especially at 1080p.

    anyway, ive played the game for around 20 hours, at first I hated it, I didn’t understand why I was so crap at everything it just felt so unresponsive but as it has gone on it has gotten brilliant, its full of bugs and a game this full of bugs cant be rated 9 or 10 no matter how goos it actually plays but a 4? really? this is a real RPG, and you are the player in the game, your no hero, your no warrior, you cant even read, but you can take control of all of that and with a fantastic story and writing this good it deserves at least a 7.

    ofcourse a review is your opinion on the game but you speak for your whole crew, in the name of the website and I think its not a accurate reflection of the game myself.

    Comment posted on 17/02/2018 at 08:32.
  9. theirlaw
    Member
    Since: Feb 2018

    It’s badly optimised sure but on my rig runs at 60fps with minimal slow downs. Fights are tough, 2 on 2 very much so but shouldn’t it be? Turn down your detail or get a stronger PC. Badly optimised yes but a rating of 40? That’s crazy talk… exceptional game if not least for its vision alone. Is there anything on the market similar? As a gamer single the days of Pong and tabletop PacMan, it’s refreshing to see new ideas and depressing to see people trample all over them, especially as it seems there key problem is in underpowered review system…

    Comment posted on 17/02/2018 at 09:07.

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance
  • Developer:Warhorse Studios
  • Publisher:Warhorse Studios, Deep Silver
  • Platforms:PC, PS4, XBO
  • Release Date:13/02/18

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