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As you might have expected from someone contributing to GameBanshee, I enjoy fantasy games. I firmly believe that there isn't a game out there that couldn't be made better by throwing a bunch of dwarves into the mix. But when Warhorse Studios launched a Kickstarter campaign for their historical open world RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance (KCD) way back in 2014, it quickly became apparent that there were plenty of people who didn't share that opinion.
However, I am not the biggest fan of open world games. I don't enjoy exploration for the sake of exploration, and the idea of being buried in countless minor tasks wherever I go bores me to tears. As such, it took me a while to actually give KCD a shot. But when I did, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Read on to find out why.
The first thing that needs to be said about KCD is that it's a game. Now, you might think this an obvious and unnecessary statement, but bear with me here. You see, KCD is incredibly system-dense. Pretty much every action and interaction in it is governed by an intricate system tied in some way to character progression.
There’s a system for lockpicking, a different one for alchemy and herbalism, and another one yet for haggling with merchants on top of a separate persuasion system. The latter takes into account not only your character’s skills but also the clothes he’s wearing and how expensive, dirty, or bloody they are.
All of this comes together to create an authentic digital representation of medieval life in the 15th century, so get ready to run around plenty of rustic towns and villages full of NPCs that go about their daily lives, gossip, take baths, visit the tavern in the evenings, and try to avoid standing in the rain.
Occasionally, though, the game’s interpretation of its systems will stand in the way of all that realism. At one point I was entering a town while carrying a bunch of stolen goods. As the guards didn’t like me too much at the time, I ran a good chance of getting frisked. If that happened, all the stuff I stole would get confiscated. I had a bright idea - transfer all the stolen goods to my horse’s saddlebags and leave it outside. Unfortunately, the game considers saddlebags to be a part of your inventory, so when I got searched, the goods got taken away.
Then, there’s the game’s AI. It’s not exactly stellar, which can lead to some goofy interactions. When the game plays things straight, but its NPCs stumble around as if they were in a Monty Python movie, it can be pretty tough to buy whatever it is the game is trying to sell.
This also applies to combat. After you get a hang of the basic mechanics, it won’t take long for you to discover plenty of ways to abuse the AI and utilize a variety of cheesy combat tactics the game isn’t equipped to handle.
At the same time, while this isn’t something you generally want to see, just having a game with production values of KCD and a difficulty level that at the very least incentivizes using your head to figure out a way to circumvent its challenges is a huge plus in my book.
In fact, this high degree of challenge is one of KCD’s best features. Early on, you will be bad at pretty much everything you do. You will fail at picking locks, you will be defeated in combat time and again, you won’t be able to hit the broad side of a barn with your arrows, and so on. In a way, this will mirror your character who at that point is a young and inexperienced peasant.
But as you keep playing, you will gradually figure out all these systems that may initially seem impossible, and then you'll start getting better of them. Add to that your character’s progressing skills that will also make those tasks easier, and you have yourself an RPG. Playing a game that presents you with numerous unique systems that you first have to learn and then gradually master honestly feels like a breath of fresh air in this day and age.
Now, it’s also important to note that not all of KCD’s systems are created equal. A lot of them, like for example alchemy, require a good degree of time investment, which makes them feel more unwieldy than I would have preferred. Sure, manually brewing potions by grinding herbs and fiddling with all sorts of levers can be cool, but after a while it just gets frustrating. Now, an argument can be made that this just serves to show how life was slower in the middle ages, but that doesn’t make spending what feels like eternity to brew a single potion any less annoying.
Stealth is another good example. While the basic idea of having noise, visibility, and conspicuousness as stats may seem interesting, the reality where you can at times run circles around NPCs while wearing plate armor and not get spotted, and then get noticed while crouching in a dark corner at night dressed in all black feels anything but consistent and reliable.
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