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RPG Codex Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance

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RPG Codex Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Codex Review - posted by Infinitron on Mon 4 March 2019, 01:14:53

Tags: Kingdom Come: Deliverance; Warhorse Studios

Warhorse Studios' medieval open world action-RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance was released a year ago and became an immediate commercial success despite the best efforts of insipid cultural commissars. Since then the game has seen win after win. It's gotten three DLCs with another on the way, Warhorse have been acquired for a cool 33M Euros for their efforts, and it even won second place in our 2018 GOTY awards. How then can it be that it never received a proper Codex review? I assume PorkyThePaladin was wondering that himself, which is why he decided to write one. Porky finds Kingdom Come to be a wonderfully realized medieval adventure - albeit one that comes short of achieving true greatness, due to both combat balance issues and more intractably, a lack of narrative agency. Here's an excerpt from his review:

On top of the things mentioned before, KCD is full of interesting systems and simulation aspects. Aside from the deep combat system talked about earlier, there is fairly deep NPC behavior. At night, NPCs go home and sleep in their beds, taking off their day clothes. If they must go out, they will walk with torches or candle lamps. In the morning, they have breakfast in their homes and go outside, typically to their workplace. Farmers work the land, blacksmiths pound on metal, millers carry sacks around, and guards patrol the streets and roads. In the evenings, men often go to taverns and drink or play dice games. Women sweep the houses or streets. There are a lot of little custom touches that really make the world feel alive. There are even dogs and pigs walking around, or lounging under the sun. The AI is also good enough to run away from trouble, raise an alarm if it sees you doing shady things, close and lock doors when needed, and other such things.

There is an in-depth stealth and subterfuge system. You can sneak by staying out of sight and hearing, which is affected not only by your stats in the relevant skills, but also by what you are wearing. Put on soft, dark clothes, and you will make virtually no noise and blend into the night. Try sneaking in a suit of plate mail, on the other hand, and you will make enough noise to bring the entire Cuman army down your way. Correct clothes can also serve as a disguise, allowing you to enter hostile areas, for instance wearing Cuman armor will let you infiltrate an enemy camp in one of the main quests. You can also perform sneak attacks if you catch an enemy unawares, and there is an interesting lockpicking system in play. To navigate it, you move the mouse around until finding the lock's sweet spot, and then rotate the lock with the D key, while at the same time using the mouse to keep the sweet spot moving so that it stays in the same place relative to the rest of the lock. Not exactly rocket science, but it's probably the most interesting lockpicking system I've seen so far in a game.

There is also a very interesting and deep charisma system. It is affected by many factors, such as the quality of your armor and clothing (a shining suit of plate will impress people a lot more than peasant rags), your deeds and stats/perks, whether or not your clothing and armor are repaired and in good condition, or torn apart and covered with dirt and blood, if your weapon is covered in blood (this helps to intimidate people), when was the last time you bathed, and other such factors. The humorously designed perks add to this in various ways. For instance, there is one perk that makes your character more attractive to the opposite sex if he doesn't shower a certain amount of time. On the other hand, the stench is so strong, that your stealth is reduced by 30%.

Horse-riding is another in-depth system, with your skill at Horsemanship, and various equipment such as different types of saddles, reins and horseshoes affecting how well your horse can "handle", and how fast it can go. Horses themselves can be purchased (you get one free one in the beginning), and have different stats in different areas. They can also be outfitted with caparisons for that medieval knight steed look.

Even something like sharpening your sword is a detailed activity, as is alchemy and gambling. Reading is something that has to be learned, and until you do, manuscripts will appear as gibberish to you when you try to read them.​

[...] KCD is not a game like Fallout or Arcanum or New Vegas, where you can side with different factions, or complete the entire game without combat. The high level plot is locked in and will flow the same way regardless. You are Henry, and you will side with Radzig Kobyla and fight againts the forces of Sigismund, the Red Fox. While you can use diplomacy and speech and charisma at times to avoid combat, or at other times and with other builds, use your stealth and subterfuge skills to get what you need, you can never truly build a character around these things, and get through the game that way. At some points, you will have to fight. So from a strictly traditional RPG view, KCD would definitely be lacking in this regard. And yet, within that somewhat restricting narrative and mechanical structure, the game still manages to feel rather free and open-ended. This is partially due to being open world, of course, since at any given moment, you can travel in any direction, and choose to focus on various side quests or activities, should you not feel drawn to the main quest at that time. But aside from that, the way the quests are constructed, there is often some choice to be had on the micro level.

You can barge in and fight, occasionally sneak around and use cunning, or talk your way through some (but not all) situations. Sometimes you can pay your way around an obstacle. Sometimes you can poison your enemies so you don't have to fight them all. Or you can at least decide to fight them in melee, at range, or at range while riding your horse away. You can forgive your enemies and let them go once they surrender, or finish them off. You can dress yourself in different ways, do things in different order, or tackle problems in novel ways. So even though the overall story of the game will always be the same, and you won't always be able to handle things in different ways, the underlying details are varied enough to provide you with a feeling of a dynamic world.

For such a large game, there are not a huge number of quests, around eighty or so, but they are all very beefy. There are no fetch quests here, just substantial missions with a lot of stuff to do and many phases to them. For example, in one of the early game quests, you are supposed to go on a hunt with a young nobleman. So you travel to some woods together, and after an exchange of "pleasantries", the first phase of this quest revolves around a competition to see who can shoot down more rabbits within several hours. Once that's done, you embark on a boar hunt, and the noble rides off on his horse hot on the trail. Being horseless, you quickly lose track of him and must now find him in the large expanse of the forest. This is the second phase. Once you track him down, you realize he has been captured by two Cuman bandits. So at this point, the third phase begins, where you must either defeat them in combat to free him, or to sneak in and untie him, escaping together. So this one quest involves hunting, conversations, exploration, combat and/or stealth. And this is by no means an outlier, as pretty much all the other quests are similar in terms of not just being a simple "go to A, do B" type of quest, but rather involving multiple steps, and combinations of dialogue, combat, exploration and optionally (and only at times) stealth, diplomacy, and other approaches.

On the flip side, as mentioned above, people who love Fallout/Arcanum/Bloodlines type quests will find KCD quests not providing them with enough choice on a regular enough basis. There are some great ones in KCD in this regard, that allow the player to use their build to progress in completely different ways, including combat, speech, intimidation, stealth, or trickery. And yet, in many other situations, your hands will be a lot more tied, and you will have to resort to the more standard combination of combat, exploration, and limited-choice dialogue to get where you are going. So if having all or most quests be approachable from many different directions and to have all of this tightly tied to your character build is what's most important about RPGs for you, KCD might not be a game that will scratch that particular itch.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Kingdom Come: Deliverance



[Review by PorkyThePaladin]

For decades, Bethesda Game Studios has dominated the open world RPG scene, going all the way back to the 90s with Arena and Daggerfall, through Morrowind and then with Oblivion, Skyrim, and the later Fallouts in the more recent years. Other studios have developed open world RPGs during that time, often to critical acclaim or a cult following (see Ultima VII: The Black Gate, Gothic, Gothic 2, Fallout: New Vegas among others), but in terms of sheer popularity and market presence, Bethesda has had no equal. No game of theirs demonstrated this more than The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which came out in 2011, and was so commercially successful that it influenced the entire genre, causing many other studios to try their hand at open world games as well.

And yet, those of us who have been playing this type of RPGs for decades (or RPGs in general) have always had major reservations about the quality of their product. "Large as the ocean but deep as a puddle" is a common phrase used to describe their games among discerning RPG players, and it is quite apt. You can explore a massive Scandinavian-themed world in Skyrim, and have the freedom to go anywhere in it, and yet, everything about the experience feels shallow and badly designed. You can fight a thousand battles, but the combat system amounts to little more than spamming mouse-clicks until somebody's hitpoint bar goes to zero. There are hundreds or thousands of NPCs to talk to, and a huge number of quests to complete, but it all has the depth and emotional maturity of a Renaissance Faire production. You may delve into endless dungeons, but they all start feeling the same after a while, with their dull procession of Draugrs.

We can debate the reasons for why Skyrim is so shallow, and whether it's due more to Bethesda's incompetence, or a conscious decision on their part to keep things shallow and simple in order to attract the widest possible audience. But what if there was a game like Skyrim that was made by a talented studio, and the goal of which was not to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but rather to make something of quality, filled to the brim with in-depth systems and mature storylines? Well, I am glad you asked, because now there is, and its name is Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

Kingdom Come is the first game from the Czech Republic-based Warhorse Studios, a historical open world RPG set in 15th century Bohemia, which was then part of the Holy Roman Empire. In it, you play the role of Henry, a blacksmith's son in a small village in medieval Bohemia. As the game starts, you are busy goofing around with your friends, helping your parents with chores, and trying to get into trouble. But then, the world suddenly explodes in violence, and you find yourself embroiled in a civil war between the supporters of the King and the forces of his half-brother, the ruler of neighboring kingdoms of Croatia and Hungary. Your hand forced by circumstances, you find yourself training in combat, running errands and missions for your feudal lord and his allies, and getting entangled in the various dramas of this corner of medieval Europe. Over the course of the game, you go from an unskilled rag-wearing peasant oaf to a fighting machine in shining armor, and a major player in the unfolding drama.

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Sure, you start as a peasant, but play your cards right, and eventually you will look like this...

It is an extremely ambitious game in every sense, from the cutting edge graphics to the impressively realistic scope of the combat system to the uber-detailed depiction of the medieval game-world. Such ambition almost always carries a heavy price, and KCD is no exception. Almost every single great thing about it inevitably results in some related shortcoming, but at the end of the day, you might have to ask yourself, do you want a comfortable rehash of stale ideas and safe gaming, or do you want something brilliant that comes with a bit of baggage?

Visuals


To start off, Kingdom Come is a very beautiful game. Running on the latest version of CryEngine, it is able to render breathtaking wild panoramas, towering castles, and fairly realistic looking NPCs. The people's faces and general shapes look quite good, but the animations vary in quality, and can be stiff sometimes, although in Warhorse's defense, there are quite a lot of them. Artistic direction and attention to detail also plays a large role in how good everything looks, aside from the technical aspects. For example, there are a staggering amount of different clothing types that can be worn by the player and the NPCs in seemingly endless combinations, but all of them provide a nice immersive touch to the world.

The villages and towns that these NPCs inhabit may not look like much, with dilapidated huts, dirt roads, and pigs wandering out and about, but in a historically authentic way, they accurately represent these places, and what they looked like during this period. There is a certain pastoral charm and beauty to them. Peasants walking home in the evening, torches or candle-lamps in hand, a flock of sheep darting off to the other side of the corral as you approach, mills slowly being turned by water or wind, these are all nostalgic reminders of a world long gone.

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... and both looked like dirt

Next to these villages, or in some cases around them, stand massive castles based on their real world counter-parts. Warhorse actually used historical research to make these look authentic, and it shows. These are not your typical video game castles, but rather huge structures that are coherent and logical in how they are put together. Castles have multiple floors, stairways allowing people to get around and get to defensive posts, indoor "outhouses" in case of a siege, and rooms for the castle's noble inhabitants. Each castle is different in looks and layout too, as they tended to be historically, since each one had to conform to the terrain it was built on, and to fit its function. So whereas the massive fortification at Rattay encloses the entire town there, with walls connecting its two castles, the castle at Talmberg is a much smaller affair, situated on a hill atop the town, and thus leaves its populace much more exposed to danger.

There are also monasteries and churches in the game, and the walls of these as well as of some castle rooms are covered in beautiful murals and mosaics the likes of which you would likely see in a modern medieval museum. You can pause in the middle of the game (in-between combatting bandits), and spend minutes admiring the gorgeous biblical scenes or medieval perspectives.

Outside the towns, there is a dazzling world of rolling hills, tranquil woods, flowing rivers and brooks, swampy lakes, fields filled with colorful flowers, and all kinds of natural beauty. Galloping at full speed on horseback through such imagery is not just soothing but also remarkably reminiscent of being in a memorable movie scene set during that period.

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I think they brew Pilsner beer out of these flowers...

The price of this feast for the eyes comes in the form of performance. Whether due to CryEngine's inner workings or to Warhorse's usage of it, the game takes a hit every time you approach a sizeable settlement. As far as I understand it, a lot of this has to do with the advanced AI routines and scripts that are constantly running in the background for NPCs (which we will cover later), and because of this, areas near settlements really drain your hardware. So even with high-end specs, your rig will likely dip to 30fps in some places. The good news is that there are some settings you can tweak to improve this (there are 4 settings in particular that if set to Low can dramatically improve performance), and also much of the game takes place in the wilderness.

Writing and Characterization


Another impressive thing about Kingdom Come is its writing and characters, and the related cut-scenes and voice-overs. These are not quite as good as the Witcher series, partially due to the difference in main characters (ultra-cool Geralt vs some peasant), but by video game standards, they are an impressive piece of work. The game's historical nature is responsible for some of this, and the inability to use common fantasy tropes as a crutch. When you can't just have an "evil wizard" invade your quaint little kingdom, you need to come up with a deeper backstory, which history happily provides. This automatically results in more story depth and complexity than most RPGs. For example, instead of some cartoonishly evil bad guy, the main villain here is the ruler of neighboring kingdoms, but although he does some "evil" stuff, it's not really all black and white, because the reason he invades is due to your king's incompetence, and it's your own nobles that call him in to fix things up.

The characters are likewise well done, with many of them having nuanced personalities. There is a local parish priest in one of the game's towns who sincerely rants against the various injustices of the Roman Catholic Church of the time, such as the corrupt system of indulgences, and praises the Protestant Reformation fore-runner Jan Hus for daring to call them out. Yet the same priest indulges in constant debauchery, as he drinks and fornicates his nights away, and sees no problem with his behavior whatsoever, because, as he says, he is as poor as the rest of his flock.

Another example would be a snobby young nobleman, who takes an immediate dislike to Henry, and does his best to humiliate him. The two of them clash repeatedly, and it would be an easy matter to write this character off as a plot-related asshole. And yet, as they get to know each other better, and spend time questing together, you get to see other sides of him, and the nature of the relationship somewhat changes.

As an additional example, the wife of one of the lords in the game married him when she was very young, and he much older, and he was subsequently imprisoned by another noble for many years. By the time he comes back to her, he is an old man, and she is still a relatively young woman with certain needs which he can no longer satisfy. As she speaks with Henry, you can see that in her loneliness, she is yearning for a younger man's company, but does that make her a sinner, betraying her husband's trust, or simply human? This is not Shakespearean level stuff, but it depicts real life people, which in the world of cardboard cutout good and bad guys common to video games makes for a very refreshing change of pace.

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If you really can't get any of the female characters to fall for your charms, there is always a backup plan...

Dialogue is also quite good. If there is one thing that you can accuse it of it's that it's a bit too modern. A lot of the phrases and the language are probably more fitting to the 21st century than to how people would talk in the 15th century, but this is somewhat understandable, as it would be quite difficult to get video game writers to simulate six-century-old speech patterns. Whereas there are still medieval buildings standing, and we have found remains and drawings of medieval clothes and armor, we have no recordings of medieval speech, and manuscripts might be quite different from the spoken word. In addition to that, many of the original phrases might be difficult to understand for a modern person. But other than that, everyone talks in a very natural way, there are no fountains of drivel being launched at you by every peasant, which is, unfortunately, quite common in the genre. Peasants sound like peasants, nobles sound highbred and haughty, knights sound chivalrous, and everything adds to immersion. It is really no different from watching a decent movie about the medieval times, except in this case, you also control the main character.

Combat


The center-piece of KCD is its much vaunted combat system, inspired by and based on real-life medieval combat. Warhorse brought in Historical European Martial Arts practitioners and medieval fencing experts to design and implement the entire thing. The combat revolves around directional strikes and defenses. By moving your mouse around, you can select from five directions for your slashes (top-down, left-to-right, right-to-left, bottom-to-right, bottom-to-left), and two directions for your thrusts (to the head or body). NPCs can do the same. Both you and NPCs can also defend by blocking, parrying, or dodging. Blocking means holding up a block constantly, which uses up stamina quickly and makes you vulnerable, so this is generally a bad idea. Parrying (called perfect blocking in KCD) is when you do a timed block. If it's timed well, it uses no stamina, and aside from stopping the enemy attack, also interrupts enemy combos and allows you to riposte (a fast counter-attack). Dodging is a timed move to get out of enemy attack range.

Combat is also closely tied to character stats. When you begin the game as a peasant, you fight like one, and will get brutalized by just about anything. But leveling up your stats and skills over the course of the game, everything about your combat performance improves. Raising your Sword skill will cause your attacks to do more damage, as will raising your strength. Improving your Defence will actually slow enemy attacks down a bit, making them easier to block. And getting better at Warfare will improve the speed and therefore the success rate of your own attacks.

Once you raise a particular weapon skill high enough, you can learn combos for it, which are a unique sequence of directional attacks, e.g. left slash > thrust > bottom right slash. Completing the sequence results in a high-damage final move. But the combo can continue only if every step in it lands or is regularly blocked, while a parry or a dodge or a miss will interrupt it.

The final result of this is by far the deepest melee combat system in a game ever, one that makes Dark Souls and Mount & Blade look simplistic in comparison. This system is absolutely amazing, but (much like everything else in this game) it comes with a couple of caveats that prevent it from reaching its full potential, though both can be overcome with a bit of work.

The first problem with the combat is that the game doesn't really explain it as well as it should, which given the complex nature of the entire system should have been a development priority. You can train with some NPCs (one in particular), but the game doesn't really communicate strongly enough how important this is, so it's easy for players to miss. During training, certain advanced features of the system, such as combos or feinting are briefly covered by the trainer, but this isn't nearly enough to make the player understand how it all comes together. So really the only way to learn the system well is a lot of practice, and trying different things. This is why some players can look like swordmasters after some time, while others ragequit the game.

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This is Captain Bernard. He will beat everything you need to know into you. It will take time.

The second, and much larger problem, is that although the underlying combat system is very solid, Warhorse made certain top-level decisions about it that can be argued to completely ruin the whole thing. The most obvious of these is something called Masterstrike. In real life medieval fencing, this refers to an advanced maneuver whereby the combatant defends and attacks in the same motion, for instance, parrying an incoming high blow, while at the same time positioning the parry in such a way that his own blade can now strike the other guy without any extra movement. In real life, this is very difficult to pull off because you have to really understand well how everything works, read your opponent, and so on. But since you cannot implement all of these elements in a video game, in KCD, the Masterstrike is implemented as simply an extremely tightly timed block. So if you block within a small fraction of a second after the other guy attacks, you get a Masterstrike and a free unblockable hit on him. Likewise, the NPCs can Masterstrike you, and will often do so.

The problem with this in terms of the game, is that the combat system is based on the flow and interchange of attacks and defenses. When you attack, the NPC will defend, and then vice versa, while the whole time both of you are looking for opportunities for combos. Everything is counterable too, any attack or riposte can be parried, so everyone is on even footing. Masterstrike, on the other hand, is not counterable, and so it completely breaks the flow of combat, and makes it all about who strikes first. If you wait for your opponent to strike, and then perform Masterstrike, you get an automatic hit, while if you attack a high level enemy, you are almost certain to get hit yourself. This reduces the interactive and tactical nature of combat to a predictable and dull routine, and a sort of "I Win" button.

Some other examples of bad high level design decisions are things like melee damage scaling insanely high with stat/skill increases. This makes early and mid-game combat interesting, but late game fights dull, as you can often one-hit a knight. Or high frequency of regular blocks by NPCs vs lower frequency of parries. Regular blocks do not interrupt combos, so with this kind of setup, combos become arbitrarily easy to carry out, and lose their significance as an advanced move.

Do not grow disenchanted, however. As I mentioned earlier, all of these issues can be overcome with the wonderful world of PC mods. All you need are 2-3 mods really, which customize many numerical values affecting combat, and then you can even modify these mods to your own liking. I will link some of the better ones at the end of the review. The basic idea is to go from the vanilla combat to something that more resembles a true medieval sword fight, with just a few small changes:

- Remove Masterstrike from both NPCs and the player.
- Change the likelyhood of NPCs using different defensive techniques: increase parry chance, lower regular block chance, to make NPCs more challenging and to make combos harder to pull off, as they would be in real life.
- Lower damage gain from skill increase to prevent the player from becoming too powerful.
- Remove the slow motion effect whenever you land a parry, as it breaks up the flow of combat.

Some of you might be groaning right now, with memories of modding Bethesda games, but I assure you that all the changes above take very little time, something to the order of 20-30 minutes when you are doing it for the first time, and seconds after you are experienced with it.

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This is what will happen to you if you DON'T mod this game.

After these changes, KCD combat becomes what it was meant to be all along, an eerily accurate representation of medieval fighting. You will face off against opponents and attack them, while at the same time watching them keenly so you can parry their own attacks. Meanwhile, with levels to this stuff, you will also be watching how they defend against your attacks, to see the difference between a regular block (just holding their weapon in the way of yours) and a well timed parry. Assuming that you have leveled up and learned some combos by then, and memorized them, seeing a regular block (or a hit) on a particular directional attack, you will find openings for your combos.

For example, let's say you attack from the left with a rightward slash. The enemy parries it, you sigh and go back to the drawing board. But if instead, they regular block it, you have now made the first move of your Doubling combo, and if you can manage to quickly perform the other 3 (without the enemy parrying or dodging them), you will land a massively damaging special move to their face. The beauty of it is that there are something like 5-6 combos for the longsword alone, starting from different positions, so that almost at any time, you are in a position to start something, provided you have the experience and motor memory to do it.

The entire combat becomes an elegant flow of attack and parry exchanges, while searching for combo openings, and following up on them when available. Put in enough practice, and you will be able to land those regularly on any enemy in the game.

But there is much more to the combat system than that. There is also an intricate armor system with something like 20+ armor pieces for your entire body. You can put on layers of gambesons, chainmail, plate, and tabards/frocks, and the combat system takes into account where exactly you are hit, and calculates damage based on what armor you are wearing on that particular part of your body. There is a stamina system, whereby blows by swords won't even do any damage to somebody in plate, until you wear their stamina down. There is also a morale system, with enemies running away or surrendering when sufficiently beaten down.

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For those of you who enjoy playing dress-up... Charisma is so low because I haven't bathed in 2 months.

Aside from longswords, you can also fight with one-handed swords, maces, warhammers, axes, and polearms. You can fight with weapon and shield, or with a bow. Archery is very interesting, because there is no aiming reticle, so you have to actually develop a good sense of the direction the arrows fly. Finally, you can fight on horseback as well, riding down enemies, or peppering them with arrows from the safety of your mobile equine platform.

Most fights take place one-on-one or with you against a small group of enemies, but sometimes there are massive engagements as well, although CryEngine performance puts a limit on the total number of participants in any given battle. Still, you might get a good 40-50 people going at a time, which given the complex combat makes for chaotic scenes.

Exploration

Exploration is both good and bad in KCD. It's excellent in the sense that you have a large open world to explore, with beautiful scenery and interesting stuff to find. But at the same time, its realistic nature somewhat limits the fun. After all, if your world revolves around historical villages, woods, and plains, it will never be as eventful and filled to the brim with content as a fantasy world specially made for entertainment. Things can get a little slow at times, as you ride your trusty steed from one town to the next. One thing that I would strongly advise is to mod another variable, which determines the rate of random events. By default its set to 0, but by changing it to something like 0.5, you can significantly increase the rate at which you run into bandits, travelling merchants, knights, Cumans, or other encounters.

Playing on hardcore mode removes the compass and quest markers, as well as your position on the map, so you actually have to start noticing landmarks and checking the map, just like in real life. This contributes to the exploration in a major way, and turns it into a very interesting, active endeavor. For instance, when playing in this mode, you will often bring up your map and scan the area for roads, rivers, woods, lakes, and other features, and then put it down, and scan the in-game view for the same landmarks. It is difficult to explain how to much more fun this is compared to the modern handholding method of quest compasses, quest markers, and cookie trails.

There are various interesting quests placed around the world, so even riding into a small isolated hamlet or finding a deserted log cabin in the woods, you can sometimes find a fairly significant quest. Also, the game features many treasure maps, some of which you can purchase from merchants, some obtained from DLCs, which offer an incentive to explore as well. The maps are really well done, because they are challenging enough to make things interesting, but still reasonable enough that you don't tear your hair out in frustration.

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This is what real exploration looks like. The Chupacabra is behind the tree on the right...
There are also lots of side-activities to do, which adds to the feeling of exploration. You can obtain services at the bathhouses, play dice games at taverns, hunt game in the woods, and enroll in a combat tournament, among other things.

Systems


On top of the things mentioned before, KCD is full of interesting systems and simulation aspects. Aside from the deep combat system talked about earlier, there is fairly deep NPC behavior. At night, NPCs go home and sleep in their beds, taking off their day clothes. If they must go out, they will walk with torches or candle lamps. In the morning, they have breakfast in their homes and go outside, typically to their workplace. Farmers work the land, blacksmiths pound on metal, millers carry sacks around, and guards patrol the streets and roads. In the evenings, men often go to taverns and drink or play dice games. Women sweep the houses or streets. There are a lot of little custom touches that really make the world feel alive. There are even dogs and pigs walking around, or lounging under the sun. The AI is also good enough to run away from trouble, raise an alarm if it sees you doing shady things, close and lock doors when needed, and other such things.

There is an in-depth stealth and subterfuge system. You can sneak by staying out of sight and hearing, which is affected not only by your stats in the relevant skills, but also by what you are wearing. Put on soft, dark clothes, and you will make virtually no noise and blend into the night. Try sneaking in a suit of plate mail, on the other hand, and you will make enough noise to bring the entire Cuman army down your way. Correct clothes can also serve as a disguise, allowing you to enter hostile areas, for instance wearing Cuman armor will let you infiltrate an enemy camp in one of the main quests. You can also perform sneak attacks if you catch an enemy unawares, and there is an interesting lockpicking system in play. To navigate it, you move the mouse around until finding the lock's sweet spot, and then rotate the lock with the D key, while at the same time using the mouse to keep the sweet spot moving so that it stays in the same place relative to the rest of the lock. Not exactly rocket science, but it's probably the most interesting lockpicking system I've seen so far in a game.

There is also a very interesting and deep charisma system. It is affected by many factors, such as the quality of your armor and clothing (a shining suit of plate will impress people a lot more than peasant rags), your deeds and stats/perks, whether or not your clothing and armor are repaired and in good condition, or torn apart and covered with dirt and blood, if your weapon is covered in blood (this helps to intimidate people), when was the last time you bathed, and other such factors. The humorously designed perks add to this in various ways. For instance, there is one perk that makes your character more attractive to the opposite sex if he doesn't shower a certain amount of time. On the other hand, the stench is so strong, that your stealth is reduced by 30%.

Horse-riding is another in-depth system, with your skill at Horsemanship, and various equipment such as different types of saddles, reins and horseshoes affecting how well your horse can "handle", and how fast it can go. Horses themselves can be purchased (you get one free one in the beginning), and have different stats in different areas. They can also be outfitted with caparisons for that medieval knight steed look.

Even something like sharpening your sword is a detailed activity, as is alchemy and gambling. Reading is something that has to be learned, and until you do, manuscripts will appear as gibberish to you when you try to read them.

Choices and Quests


KCD is not a game like Fallout or Arcanum or New Vegas, where you can side with different factions, or complete the entire game without combat. The high level plot is locked in and will flow the same way regardless. You are Henry, and you will side with Radzig Kobyla and fight againts the forces of Sigismund, the Red Fox. While you can use diplomacy and speech and charisma at times to avoid combat, or at other times and with other builds, use your stealth and subterfuge skills to get what you need, you can never truly build a character around these things, and get through the game that way. At some points, you will have to fight. So from a strictly traditional RPG view, KCD would definitely be lacking in this regard. And yet, within that somewhat restricting narrative and mechanical structure, the game still manages to feel rather free and open-ended. This is partially due to being open world, of course, since at any given moment, you can travel in any direction, and choose to focus on various side quests or activities, should you not feel drawn to the main quest at that time. But aside from that, the way the quests are constructed, there is often some choice to be had on the micro level.

You can barge in and fight, occasionally sneak around and use cunning, or talk your way through some (but not all) situations. Sometimes you can pay your way around an obstacle. Sometimes you can poison your enemies so you don't have to fight them all. Or you can at least decide to fight them in melee, at range, or at range while riding your horse away. You can forgive your enemies and let them go once they surrender, or finish them off. You can dress yourself in different ways, do things in different order, or tackle problems in novel ways. So even though the overall story of the game will always be the same, and you won't always be able to handle things in different ways, the underlying details are varied enough to provide you with a feeling of a dynamic world.

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Beautiful and authentic church walls.

For such a large game, there are not a huge number of quests, around eighty or so, but they are all very beefy. There are no fetch quests here, just substantial missions with a lot of stuff to do and many phases to them. For example, in one of the early game quests, you are supposed to go on a hunt with a young nobleman. So you travel to some woods together, and after an exchange of "pleasantries", the first phase of this quest revolves around a competition to see who can shoot down more rabbits within several hours. Once that's done, you embark on a boar hunt, and the noble rides off on his horse hot on the trail. Being horseless, you quickly lose track of him and must now find him in the large expanse of the forest. This is the second phase. Once you track him down, you realize he has been captured by two Cuman bandits. So at this point, the third phase begins, where you must either defeat them in combat to free him, or to sneak in and untie him, escaping together. So this one quest involves hunting, conversations, exploration, combat and/or stealth. And this is by no means an outlier, as pretty much all the other quests are similar in terms of not just being a simple "go to A, do B" type of quest, but rather involving multiple steps, and combinations of dialogue, combat, exploration and optionally (and only at times) stealth, diplomacy, and other approaches.

On the flip side, as mentioned above, people who love Fallout/Arcanum/Bloodlines type quests will find KCD quests not providing them with enough choice on a regular enough basis. There are some great ones in KCD in this regard, that allow the player to use their build to progress in completely different ways, including combat, speech, intimidation, stealth, or trickery. And yet, in many other situations, your hands will be a lot more tied, and you will have to resort to the more standard combination of combat, exploration, and limited-choice dialogue to get where you are going. So, if having all or most quests be approachable from many different directions and to have all of this tightly tied to your character build is what's most important about RPGs for you, KCD might not be a game that will scratch that particular itch.

Technical Issues


Being such an ambitious game in terms of graphics, systems, and AI, KCD is naturally plagued by all sorts of technical issues. Aside from the perfomance dips that we already covered earlier, there are a litany of bugs and glitches throughout the game. Many have already been fixed in previous patches, now that the game has been out for a while, but some still persist, and new ones are introduced from time to time. Just recently, when the Band of Bastards DLC was released, the game was updated to a new version, and this stopped NPCs from attacking altogether for many people, until a hotfix was released a week later. Fun stuff.

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Even these walls couldn't keep the bugs out...

Aside from this, the game occasionally crashes to the desktop, or experiences other issues. Sometimes, Henry's paper doll on the inventory menu gets stretched out to 20 feet high, which is quite hilarious. Or, sometimes NPCs will hover in mid-air, 2 feet to the left of the bed they are supposed to be sleeping on. One time, an NPC walked inside the horse of the NPC in front of him, in such a way that it looked like he was kissing the arse of the cavalryman in front.

Fortunately, most of these issues aren't show-stoppers, and can often be fixed with a game restart. When more serious issues appear, Warhorse tends to fix them within a week or two. All in all, in a game of this scope from such a new company, this is to be expected.

Conclusion


As was stated in the beginning, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is Skyrim for adults, that is an open world RPG with mature writing, in-depth systems, and a painstakingly detailed and coherent world. It is also a game with many issues, but most of them can be overcome with low-effort modding or simply the realization that rough edges are a low price to pay for the gem that they enclose.

It is best played on Hardcore mode, and with the mods that I mentioned above. With this done, you will be immersed into medieval Europe in a way that has never been done before, and that undoubtedly breaks new ground in our favorite genre. So put on your Gambeson, and Chain Mail, and Cuirass, close your Bascinet Visor, and set forth on a grand adventure that reawakens everything that drew us to games in the first place, all those years ago! Bon voyage!

Link to modding thread: https://rpgcodex.net/forums/index.p...liverance-modding-thread.126473/#post-6034566

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