Kingdom Come: Deliverance has been at the center of the spotlight for some time. Many history buffs and white-collar combat (including myself) have followed its development closely and awaited its release to see their dream come true of a realistic game. The inconsistency of many fantasy, where the armor provides ridiculous protections and even the swords can penetrate them, is rather annoying and felt the need for a more realistic approach to the techniques and technologies of medieval combat. Kingdom's approach to realism How: Deliverance is at 360 ° and involves not only combat, but also survival in a world very different from ours, both socially and technologically.
Will Warhorse Games have managed to reconcile this realism with the purpose of entertaining videogames?
The 1403 year is running. After a long period of prosperity under the reign of Charles IV, the Holy Roman Empire and the territory of Bohemia are in turmoil, due to the conflict generated between the legitimate sovereign, Wenceslas IV, and his half-brother Sigismund.
Our alter-ego is Henry, the son of a simple blacksmith who dreams of traveling beyond the narrow confines of his birthplace. The fate will hear, albeit in a mocking way, his prayers, forcing the inexperienced young man to flee his native village as a result of the assault and the raids committed by an army of Cumanian mercenaries, hired by Sigismondo himself. Driven by the desire for revenge and by the sense of duty, our protagonist will put himself at the service of Lord Radzig Kobyla and will cross the road (and sometimes the weapons) with a large number of really existent characters, retracing events and historical battles.
Considering the narrative framework inserted in the historical reality of our world, it should not be surprising that one of the main strengths of Kingdom Come: Deliverance lies precisely in the accurate reproduction of the geographical, political and social scenario of the time.
The developers of Warhorse Games have indeed managed to make the Bohemia of the 15 century a credible place, alive and interesting, and all this was possible thanks to a meticulous care of details. Great effort has been placed in both historical and geographical reconstruction, through a detailed survey of elements such as the conformation of the territory, the positioning and reproduction of characteristic places and landscapes (such as villages, castles, strongholds or forests) and the simulation of behavioral routines of people and animals (strictly related to the day-night cycle and to the variability of the weather). These elements, combined with the evocative background music and the engaging sound effects compartment, contribute to making Kingdom Come: Deliverance an extremely immersive medieval simulation. Great attention has also been paid to the making of the game videos, animated and directed in a very convincing manner, and interpreted more than competently by the different actors and voice actors.
A first-class interpretation would not have been sufficient, if not accompanied by an interesting characterization of the characters themselves and by a valid narrative interweaving. In fact, it is valuable that even the narrative of the game proves to be well made: intriguing and compelling right from the start, then driven by the excellent interactions that arise between the different and colorful actors of the events represented. And the medieval world created by Warhorse Games is not entirely bleak and inhospitable as it might, at first glance, appear. Despite the unpardonable realism of the game, made in many respects, throughout the duration of the adventure to darker situations, raw and violent there are moments of lightness and lightheartedness as unexpected as surprisingly spot on.
If the game footage is mostly a joy to watch, it should be noted, however, how the narration through cutscene is nothing short of oppressive in the early hours of play, when long kinematic sequences alternate short and simple sections of gameplay.
And these early hours of play could, for this and other reasons, be quite traumatic, especially for the less patient players. Slow and woody animations (even in the performance of trivial tasks such as sitting and collecting objects), rigid and sometimes out-of-sync facial expressions, continuous polygon interpenetration, graphic glitches, frequent uploads, inconsistent pathfinding of the npc, poorly balanced scripted sequences are just a few imperfections that afflict the title, and which are particularly annoying in these initial stages.
Another sore point is the general performance of the title that, on PS4 standard, is afflicted by small and large gaps: surprisingly little detailed textures, inconsistent frame rates, aggressive pop up of clothes and specific environmental elements, fluctuating image quality ...
To the weakness of these technical elements it must be added that the game mechanics are not introduced and exhaustively analyzed: combat in the first place.
The combat system, in fact, is presented briefly in a short basic tutorial, and then almost forgotten, without the player being given the chance to put into practice what he has learned for hours. A second tutorial, on the advanced mechanics, is presented later, but, even in this case, the game is not able to test gradually on what has until then "taught".
Specifically, the first tutorial introduces the basic offensive maneuvers, such as the possibility to perform two types of attacks, slashes or lunges, which can be directed towards 6 different parts of the body (head, torso, arms or legs). The second tutorial deepens the defensive mechanics (parade, dodge and counterattack), as well as describing some advanced offense techniques such as feints.
Every action, be it an attack or a parade, consumes our character's stamina. To attack furiously or defend oneself without ever attempting a counterattack are, therefore, tactics that do not pay.
At the end of these tutorials, however, it is not unlikely that the player feels lost about the complexity of the combat system, as well as unprepared to face a real fight and overwhelmed by the numerous mechanics presented.
The load from the winds puts the enemy's AI, which immediately turns out to be very aggressive, scores combinations of attacks, counterattack, dodge and responds reactively to our shots. So if you expect to dominate your opponents in 1 vs 1 right away, be prepared to be surprised and be brutalized over and over again. And this, it is clear, is for me an undoubted advantage, not for masochism, but because it makes every situation of fighting tense and interesting, each clash a survival challenge and helps to immerse yourself in the shoes of an unprepared son of a blacksmith.
Too bad that the learning curve is so steep and entrusted almost entirely to the good will of the player, who if he wants to become practical will have to train alone, trying and trying again the fighting, because the game is not interested in holding hands.
If at this point it was not understood, the Kingdom Come: Deliverance combat system is not easy to master, but its complexity does not stop at the simple execution of commands. Our performance in combat is, in fact, significantly influenced by another series of elements such as the armor worn (divided into well 13 different slots, which protect different parts of the body) and the type of weapon wielded. A sword, which inflicts sharp and piercing damage, will be lethal against enemies in light armor or without protection, but its effective is sharply reduced against opponents covered with plates. In the latter case, the wisest choice would be to use a club, able to scratch and damage even the most armored adversaries.
Not to mention the importance that also covers your character's ability to use the various types of weapons. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a full-fledged role-playing game, which does not lack a large number of features and abilities, which will increase through use (similar to Elder Scrolls) or that can be enhanced by paying specific trainers. Their development also allows to unlock special "talents", which often confer both bonuses and malus, some of which with values such as to cancel each other (for example Sprinter: when you run + 20% speed, + 20% consumption of stamina ). Selecting a talent rather than another is therefore an important choice that directs your style of play in a specific direction, sometimes to the detriment of another.
In Kingdom Like: Deliverance, however, combat is never the only solution. Diplomacy and stealth are also vital tactics. And, even in this case, the degree of development of our characteristics and the choice of clothing play a role of primary importance. For example, the more we talk to people, the more our Dialogue skills grow, which increases our chances of success in persuasion trials. If instead we want to make stealth more effective it is ideal, at least at night, to use dark and inconspicuous clothes, which make us less visible and certainly less noisy compared to a metal armor.
And these are just some of the countless systems within the title and are implemented and intertwined in an organic and convincing way. To complete the furtive mechanics there are, therefore, mini-games that allow you to force the locks and pickpocket.
But the swindlers most of you should be careful, as theft is difficult, and has important consequences. Stolen items (the most valuable ones) are marked as such and will not be bought by the merchants in the area. If you want to get rid of these items and make a profit, the possibilities available to you are two: find a fence to buy goods from dubious origin, while paying attention to avoiding the guards who may want to search you; or you could move away from the territory where you have committed theft, selling the goods stolen to unsuspecting merchants from distant villages.
The region in which you are moving is of primary importance for another reason: depending on where you are, your level of notoriety varies. Wandering through villages in which you are known (as you have completed various tasks there) citizens greet you, merchants make better prices, it is easier to persuade people by relying on their status, etc ...
Other central systems that deserve to be mentioned at least are hunger and fatigue, measured respectively by the indicators of Satiety and Condition. Spend too much time without eating, and there are a number of unwanted effects, including an annoying rumbling of the stomach (with consequences you can imagine on its stealth) ... and death. Continuing to travel when you are tired involves, among other things, an ever-increasing reduction in health and stamina bars.
Resting on a bed, in addition to recovering energy, is one of the two manual rescue methods currently present in the title. The second method, considered as a "quick save", consists in using a particular object that has, however, limited uses, causes undesirable effects, and is, at least at the beginning, rather expensive.
A rescue system of this type has undoubtedly been implemented to prevent some types of abuse, add "strategicity" to the movements of the player and help make every situation more decisive and meaningful. It is true, on the other hand, that such a mechanism discourages experimentation heavily and is not entirely respectful of our time. The automatic rescues are not so frequent and it is not rare to lose tens of minutes of progress due to unexpected events ... without considering that we may be unable to save the moment we have to, due to force majeure, turn off the console (god bless in these cases, the standby function).
A final applause goes to the general quality of the quest design. Both the main and the secondary missions are interesting from the narrative point of view and well structured from the point of view of the gameplay. The various tasks are numerous and very varied, and can almost always be completed differently, choosing the approach that we prefer and taking advantage of the systems that we consider most useful.
In conclusion, we answer the question posed at the beginning explicitly.
Warhorse Games has managed to reconcile this realism with the purpose of entertaining videogames?
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a brave, intelligent, immersive and new game.
It does not suffer at the level of gameplay of the problem common to many open-world games such as The Elder Scroll, or empty and redundant secondary quests, lack of immersion and a little detailed world at different points. It is a title that requires dedication, especially in the early hours of play, and that gives great satisfaction only after having fought hard. And perhaps, as only a few titles in recent years have shown, it is the kind of challenge that entertains and really satisfies.