Kingdom Come: Deliverance Preview

With slightly over a month until Warhorse Studios' historical RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance launches on February 13th, we get this preview from PC Gamer that focuses on the joy of being a nobody in an RPG, the unceremonious and clumsy nature of medieval combat, Kingdom Come's Fallout and Arcanum-like random encounters, the importance of outfits and the highly complex nature of the game. An excerpt:

I am so tired of being the hero. Too often RPGs rely on the 'chosen one' trope to drive a world-rending conflict and take you on a hopscotch journey throughout whatever pretty open world you're stuck in this time. In Kingdom Come: Deliverance, no one knows your name. It might look like Skyrim at a glance, but you're not going to be graduating from the mages' college or throwing fireballs at dragons on snowy mountaintops.

Bohemia in the 1400s was a much simpler (yet no less violent) place. Lords were the dragons, monks were the mages, and arrows the fireballs. Chances are, you'd be born into a working class and stuck there for life, the very dream of swinging a sword an impossible one. In fact, that you get to swing a sword at all is one of the few times developer Warhorse Studios' bends the truth for the sake of play. You're not playing the hero this time around. In fact, you're a pretty big loser. Like, the kind of guy that the nobles won't look at unless they need manual labor or a punching bag.

During a recent hands-on demo, I got to see exactly how Kingdom Come: Deliverance is making you a nobody loser who dies in two hits, and how the world doesn't treat you like anything more than a worthless bag of meat and bones (unless you dress and act accordingly).

You're a nobody

Like, a total nobody. As the son of a blacksmith, the only reason you get to suit up and wield a sword is because a charitable noble agreed to let you reclaim a family heirloom. No one knows your name and few care whether you live or die. Your quest is personal.

Of course, it would be difficult to get the player behind 50-plus hours of role-playing some young buck looking for a sword, so his entire family is killed and revenge becomes his motive. The honor of joining your local armed forces is as close to 'chosen one' as it gets in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Unless you're wearing the stolen garb of the upper class, that is, but we'll get to that in a minute.

Combat is violent and abrupt

In most games, if you see a big space marine encased in a minivan's worth of armor, the general idea is that they'll be difficult to kill. Hit points stacked to the moon. But in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, if you manage to poke their head through their visor, they'll be dead in one or two hits. I've yet to see how accurate the armor system is, but Warhorse Studios went all-in on hit detection. Skin behaves like skin, leather like leather, and iron like iron. Armor stats matter, but what you see (or can't see) matters more.

That means if an arrow manages to find the soft spot between plates of armor, the recipient bleeds and (probably) dies shortly after. Good luck aiming without a reticle though. And if you choose to suit up in full plate armor, including the helmets with the tiny slits for vision, you'll move like a penguin with keyholes for eyes.

The combat itself is a bit hard to parse, but from a top level, it hinges on stamina management. Swing too much, too fast, and you'll leave yourself open to attacks. Combined with six different attack directions (five angles and a thrust), some quick blocking prompts, and a whole bunch of other mechanics I don't quite understand yet, it's complex as hell. I'm just not sure it's good yet.

I do know that I love how unceremonious it is. You might run into a bandit on a mountain road, he'll threaten you, then click, bang, clang, oof: now there's a corpse. Even the bigger battles speak to the clumsiness and intimacy of medieval combat. In missions where you take a fort, for instance, you're not the commander. You're just another grunt. The couple dozen enemy and ally soldiers are all AI-driven, which means you have to monitor your allies and respond to their needs.

For instance, arrows are serious business. One or two elevated archers can decimate your forces, so it's often up to your own archers to take them out. You can certainly help, just be sure to watch your back. And make sure to bring your bow, though in our demo you could also light a patch of dry grass to smoke up the sky and screw up their aim.

And as a nice touch, fast travel is interrupted by random events. Once you find a major hub, you can use the map to teleport there. But at any point, bandits might jump you, or maybe you'll stumble onto the aftermath of a bloody fight. It's similar to cRPGs like Fallout 2, except you can also physically walk between locations. All that fast travel should come with a price for the convenience, and I'm glad Deliverance isn't letting anyone off easy. We all deserve to be harassed by roadside bandits for all eternity, because we're nobody losers that die in two hits.