Since video games reached mainstream popularity in the 1970s, improving the size, scope, and overall technological quality has been a central goal of the industry. While providing massive amounts of entertainment for gamers is certainly at the forefront of modern developers’ ambition, providing an innovative and challenging experience should also be an aspiration. Unfortunately, all too often, contemporary games seem to center more around impressive visuals than anything else. The challenge has dropped, with several instances of a game’s multiplayer being the focal point of any type of difficulty. Fortunately, some developers still aim to create a challenging experience that also includes phenomenal visuals, immersive audio, and innovative features.
Warhorse Studios is one such developer. With its upcoming medieval role-playing game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the company has created something unique and rather difficult. OnlySP was recently given the opportunity to play a demo of Kingdom Come, and the future looks bright for Warhorse’s work of open-world historical fiction. Based on the demo, Kingdom Come’s graphics draw players in easily, the audio convinces users of their involvement with a medieval setting, and the gameplay acts as the glue that sticks the innovative features together.
Soulcalibur (1999), Mirror’s Edge (2008), and L.A. Noire (2011) are all examples of games that raised the bar for video game visuals. With Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the bar will be raised again. The demo showcased a small village. The detail on the wooden buildings is comparable to examining the houses, pubs, blacksmith, and various other locations of a medieval setting in person. The grass, dirt, trees, and sky would be no less impressive if they had been painted by the late Bob Ross. Nevertheless, some fine tuning is needed before the game is ready for release. Despite the realistic visuals, the game still has a slightly cartoonish feel. The way everything in the game world works together to create immersion feels mechanical, forced. However, this drawback is minor and can easily be fixed with a few smooth tweaks.
Audio is usually hit-or-miss in video games, seldom resting upon some middle ground between fantastic and abysmal. Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s audio is no different in that regard. The sounds associated with certain acts, such as brawling with the town drunk or thwacking someone with a sword, give Kingdom Come a gritty, authentic feeling. Moreover, the dialogue, while cheesy and in need of a bit of work in terms of creativity, is delivered professionally, with accents appropriate for villagers and chainmail-wearing guards in feudal Bohemian society. Grass and dirt crunching beneath footfalls also augment the ever-arduous lifestyles of people laboring in more primitive times. If the game’s modernized mechanics are implemented skillfully, the audio will serve to drive up the quality of those innovations.
What will make or break Kingdom Come, however, is the execution of the inventive and challenging features Warhorse Studios has planned. When traversing the game world, players will explore to find quests and people with whom their character can interact. Rather than using indicators on a map, Warhorse Studios will use the quest journal and dialogue to point players in the right direction. Moreover, whatever decisions players make during their journeys will be permanent. Saving before a pivotal decision will not be an option, so gamers must live with the choices they make. This mechanic is interesting, and certainly makes one think hard about their decision rather than just setting up a save point for a redo if the decision made has consequences the user does not like. When playing the demo, one situation thrust at players is collecting a debt from the town drunk for the village blacksmith (the player character’s father). During this portion of a larger quest, players can try to persuade the drunk to give them the money, fight the drunk for the funds, or steal from the drunk’s house and sell the loot for the coin. Each choice leads to a variety of outcomes. For example, if a gamer chooses to fight the drunk, winning will obviously convince him to come up with the money, completing that part of the quest. However, if the player loses, they will have to find another way to come up with the money, as the NPC will neither pay nor speak to them about the issue again. Therefore, the player will have to either steal from the drunk without getting caught and sell the loot, or talk to the PC’s friends and persuade them to help get the money from the drunk after helping said friends with another side quest.
Joining the aforementioned decision system, gamers can also upgrade skills by simply playing the game. If players want their character to be an agile archer, agility and strength might be the stats for them. However, stats also affect abilities that have little-to-nothing to do with combat, such as persuasion, which directly influences the PC’s ability to convince other characters to see things their way, and can even be used to steer some quests in a non-violent direction. Whatever playstyle users desire can likely be supported in Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Lastly, Kingdom Come’s combat is nothing short of challenging. Most RPGs, even on the harder difficulties, utilize a combat system that is rather straightforward, often bordering on tedious. With Kingdom Come, however, players must combine strategy, skill, and equipment to overcome their adversaries. Fighting multiple opponents is no walk in the park, and even the armor players choose to have their character wear can affect how they fight. For example, heavier armor sets often come with helmets that might limit the player’s vision, but offer more protection at the cost of stamina and movement speed. In contrast, lighter armor gives players a wider field of view and requires less stamina when moving around or attacking, but is less protective. Moreover, constantly hacking and slashing is a surefire way to get killed in Kingdom Come as enemies are rather intelligent and will block while players expend their energy trying to land wild attacks. Without stamina, players are vulnerable, because every action requires energy, from blocking and striking to running and dodging. In addition, gamers’ maximum stamina cannot exceed their health. If low on health, stamina will only regenerate to an amount equal to the player’s health. This facet of the demo led to some interesting, fun, difficult, and frustrating situations.
While gameplay is promising and unique, combat does feel a slightly clunky, almost as though Warhorse Studios has not found the proper balance between realistic equipment weight and fluidity. However, this sluggishness is to be expected from a currently incomplete product. If the developer can strike that perfect balance between realism and smoothness, Kingdom Come should shape up to be an exceptional work that both gamers and fans of history can enjoy.
The small dose of Kingdom Come: Deliverance offered indicates Warhorse Studios has a promising title on their hands. If the rest of the game’s world is as challenging as the morsel tasted in the demo, Kingdom Come will create a unique symbol of persistence and depth married to immersion and acceptable levels of frustration. However, the project is rather ambitious, and oversight of the slightest detail may result in an overhyped disappointment.