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This story has you, as Henry, go from zero to hero, mingle with some nobles, discover some hidden truths, and save a tiny plot of Bohemian land from being overrun by suspiciously well-organized bandits.
The story is engaging and generally well-written. It helps that you’re playing a pre-defined character and your options in conversations are fairly limited. This last part can easily be seen as a negative, but I found the writing to be enjoyable enough to mostly overlook it.
Now, you may be wondering how such a story fits into an open world game. Barely, is the answer. KCD is significantly more story-driven than your average open world RPG. That is not to say that there aren’t any side-quests or repeatable activities you can do in your spare time - there are plenty of those. But the bulk of KCD’s best content can be found in the main quest.
More often than not, I really liked this approach, though at times, most notably during the prolonged intro, the railroading can be a bit much. If you’re someone who prefers to tackle content on your own terms, you should just make peace with the fact that the first three or four hours of KCD are linear to a fault and power through them.
Once you’re done with the intro, you’ll be free to pick locks and pockets, poach, brawl with peasants, and deal with local witches as you please. The game’s world is highly detailed and quite dense with activities and points of interest. It may be a touch too static, with little potential for emergent gameplay, but I don’t hold this against the game as it never set out to be a sandbox experience.
Instead of unforeseen interactions and copy-pasted caves, KCD offers great characters and free-form quest design. Most of the game’s characters have engaging personalities and the fact that many of them are based on real people just makes the whole thing that much better.
The game's quests are designed to make sense. Most of them have multiple solutions, and you can even fail a lot of them and still proceed with the story. NPCs frequently give you directions and you can actually follow those to arrive to your destination instead of quest markers. And even those markers rarely magically point you to the right spot, and instead show you the rough area where you need to go.
In fact, the game even has an optional Hardcore mode that makes things truly medieval. Among some other things aimed at making the game harder and slightly more realistic, it turns the map into an actual map that doesn’t show your location, so you have to rely on landmarks and directions to navigate.
And on top of that, the game’s quests are very flexible. Here’s just one example. Having followed the game’s reception I knew that some people didn’t particularly enjoy the monastery quest line. Were they right? I have no idea. When I started that quest, I was on a bit of a crime spree and was already wearing my dark and silent gear. I also knew that quest markers were merely suggestions, so instead of following them, I listened to the quest-giver NPC, snuck into the monastery at night, puzzled out what I had to do there, and got out in roughly five minutes. This meant that I technically failed the monastery quest that wanted me to sign up as an acolyte, but still advanced the story in the process.
One last thing to note here is that KCD is at its best when you play by its rules. Sure, you can decide to be a daring highwayman who leads a life of crime and leaves no witnesses. But by doing so, you’ll rob yourself of some neat interactions and fun quests. Plus, some of the important NPCs can’t even be killed, so you’ll be fairly limited in the chaos you can inflict on the game’s world.
Since the game’s release back in 2018, it received a decent amount of downloadable content. The list includes Treasures of the Past, From the Ashes, The Amorous Adventures of Bold Sir Hans Capon, Band of Bastards, and A Woman’s Lot. As a general rule, the DLC are seamlessly integrated into the game and offer a few bits of extra content. There’s also the Tournament that counts as a DLC, but is in fact a free update that expands the game with a couple of minor quests and an opportunity to practice your combat skills without worrying about damaging your equipment.
Treasures of the Past simply adds a few treasure maps to the game. You can use them to find some old chests with decent gear.
From the Ashes turns you into a bailiff in charge of rebuilding a long-abandoned village. This means you will be constructing and upgrading structures, judging petty disputes and running all over the place while establishing trade routes. This DLC acts as a huge money sink and doesn’t respect your time in the slightest. If not for the review, I would have skipped it altogether and I recommend you do the same unless the prospect of playing a Facebook game in an environment highly unsuited for it sounds like fun to you.