On abusing the peasants in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

All the NPCs play the same mini-games as the player to craft items and resources

Kingdom Come: Deliverance [official site] is about the ring of steel on steel, the august machinery of feudal politics and the intricacies of village society. It’s also about throwing turds at houses, as I discovered during a hands-off showing of the game’s prologue area. The house in question belongs to a man who has been singing the virtues of the German-backed Hungarian invasion of Bohemia at a nearby tavern. As a proud Bohemians, it’s up to Mr Protagonist and his fellow yokels to defend the country’s honour by, in this case, carpet-bombing a small piece of it with dung.

Other fun activities in Kingdom Come include getting drunk whenever you quicksave, because the only way to quicksave is to take a swig of a particularly heady local liquor, which means that overly prudent players risk spending half the game with a crippling hangover. Oh, and if you’re really at a loss for direction, you might while away a few hours reducing well-adjusted villagers to sickly introverts by poisoning the cheese, starting brawls at all their favourite watering holes and stealing their fishing equipment. From a distance, Warhorse’s much-postponed open worlder can seem rather dour, obsessed with historical accuracy and depth of simulation to a degree that makes you wonder whether this is a game or an interactive monument to a period. But somewhere beneath the boiled leather jerkin of this dragonless Skyrim tribute, there’s some of the farce and fanciful nature of a first-person Fable reboot struggling for air.

The period in question is the early 15th century, and you are the whey-faced sprog of a humble blacksmith, scraping a living in the shadow of a castle wall. An hour or so into the prologue, your entire family will be put to the sword by the Hungarian army. Cue a heroic struggle to restore the rightful ruler to the throne. At the outset, however, the task at hand is simply to shop for beer and charcoal, pick up a crossguard from a merchant at the castle and track down a belligerent drunk who owes your dad money.

Skalitz is your home village. Soak up the ambience while you can – there's an army on the way

This last mission proves a small-scale advert for what happens when you mash Kingdom’s malleable quest design, day-to-day AI behaviours and arsenal of item variables together. The obvious thing to do is to beat the drunk into submission, but he’s stronger than you and besides, that nice cold beer might get warm in your pocket while you’re ducking and diving, much to your father’s ire. Another option is to break into the guy’s hut while he’s out drowning his sorrows, steal his work tools and sell them on but, this being one of those cosy backwaters where everybody knows each other, the local tradesman can spot pilfered goods and may refuse to do business.

You could always run crying to your dad for assistance, but it won’t be great for your relationship – every NPC in Kingdom Come has an opinion of the player’s character, manifest as a reputation bar, and lower reputation has consequences that range from higher prices at market stalls to fewer possibilities in dialogue. Or you could ask your village buddies to clobber the man, after first helping them out with the aforesaid question of national pride. Of course, the village guards won’t take kindly to your turd-tossing antics – you may even end up in jail. And while you’re in jail, you might bump into somebody else who will change how you think about the situation entirely.

There's no Dead Rising-style world timer, but some activities may play out without you if you choose not to involve yourself

Kingdom Come’s tentpole feature continues to be its nerdily in-depth melee combat, which factors in everything from how tired you are through which limbs you target to blades glancing off tree trunks on their way to an enemy’s throat. But the more I see of it, the more I think the game’s long-term appeal might lie with its AI sandbox. The simulation has a few conspicuous hard limitations – notably, NPCs don’t have opinions of each other unless it forms part of a quest storyline, so anybody hoping to plunge a community into civil war, Needful-Things-style, will be disappointed. The broad events of the storyline are also unalterable – this is, after all, a work of historical realism – though your presence is required in order for key scenes to unfold. But within these fairly generous parameters, there’s plenty of opportunity for mischief.

Take the realm’s regular tournaments. You can choose to enter the listings if you fancy yourself a bit of a Galahad (there are no artificial level-based difficulty gaps in Kingdom Come, but experience with a small “e” and quality of gear naturally count for a lot in combat). Or, if you’re more of a Roger Godberd, you could rob nearby settlements while their residents are out enjoying the festivities. Almost every character in the game, from sweaty labourers to haughty princelings, has a routine, a vocation and preferences that can be preyed upon to varying effect. Deny somebody a seat at the pub, and they may choose to drink elsewhere tomorrow. Ransack a forge and the owner may lack the means to create metal products, causing prices to rise.

Open-palm combat is one of the period touches – apparently, knights of the era would brawl this way to avoid breaking their finger bones

Some of the guards are faceless obstacles, inserted for the sake of challenge, but many are residents of the area with their own homes and belongings. I’m extrapolating a bit here, but – if you’re planning a crime spree, one way to start might be to deprive the garrison of sleep so that all the enforcers are in bed while you’re running amok. You’ll also want to think about killing witnesses, as word of a misdeed spreads mouth to mouth. And hiding bodies, because if too many villagers turn up dead the others may decide to bear arms.

The biggest question I have at this stage is whether Kingdom Come’s narrative – which apparently features scenes of rape and references contemporary perceptions of homosexuality, amongst other difficult topics – will be a sturdy enough foil for the bubbling volatility of the simulation. In the absence of voiced dialogue, character acting or final English localisation, it’s hard to get a handle on this at present, but the world’s rather lumpy, curly-fonted stylings suggest that CD Projekt, at least, has nothing to fear from the comparison. This and the game’s delayed release aside, Deliverance continues to be an inviting alternative to the Elder Scrolls series that trades sorcerers and lizardmen for a big ripe handful of rustic squalor.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is due for release next year.

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36 Comments

  1. Chalky says:

    I’m very pleased that RPS has taken steps to ensure that people aren’t too shocked at the length of their articles, warning readers at every opportunity that the article continues below. <3

    On topic, I'm rather excited for this particular game.

    • Pogs says:

      Now the Internet has given my an attention span of barely 15 seconds, I too am glad the article told me to read on regularly. Personally, I think it could have done it more often since I was struggling not check Facebook, watch a Twitch stream or send a Tweet before the end ;)

    • alh_p says:

      Comments Continue Below

    • Rumpelstiltskin says:

      I appreciated the reminder as well, although it would have also been helpful to have a more explicit notification about the end, otherwise it can get a bit confusing.

    • klops says:

      I don’t see any “Article continues below” in RPS articles that’s been the thing for a day or two. What’s wrong with me?

  2. goodpoints says:

    How’s the soundtrack? Is it standard faux-Latin chanting (“Hoo Hah Hey Ho”) Epic Music or can I hear someone grind on a hurdy gurdy while I grind some Utraquist traitors into the ground?

  3. Stevostin says:

    “CD Projekt, at least, has nothing to fear from the comparison”

    The Witcher is a TPV RPG which means that no matter what, it can’t be immersive (hence that I’d never buy it. Tried hard on I&II but TPV simply doesn’t work for me as long as the point is about a world that I can’t really travel myself)(and BTW judging by sales vs Skyrim, I am under the impression that I am rather representative of the crowd).

    This OTOH is a paragon of immersion. Don’t know if it will do it but at least it’s trying to put you somewhere else. So at the very least the two games try to accomplish vastly different things.

    • dashausdiefrau says:

      This is boring, similar to those mindless audiophiles, the immersion crowd is such a laughable crowed. Yeah, you have small pow, you can move your eyes, you cannot move your arms freely, not all characters are speaking, if speaking not on their actual language, they have a preset number of blobs for dialog, and there are tons of things which have no connection to the real world, but pov is a deal breaker. Skipping a fine game like Witcher because of this single thing is ridiculous to me. Also denying the tps mode in this, where it wouldn’t matter, because they need to to do the 3rd person animation anyway, just because of immersion, but they are too poor to add full localization among others is another ridiculous thing.

      It is going to be a great game mind you, but “immersion”, whatever it is, is highly overrated.

      • Premium User Badge

        modzero says:

        It is going to be a great game mind you, but “immersion”, whatever it is, is highly overrated.

        Actually I’m really missing immersion, but flats with bath tubs are hard to come by.

      • geldonyetich says:

        In an age where VR headsets are making a serious try for the mainsteam, I’m pretty sure those interested in greater levels of immersion in games are not the odd ones out.

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          modzero says:

          Immersion is one of those things, like, say, “the ultimate game” i.e. everything simulator, that everyone asks for, but barely anyone actually wants.

          VR is another one of such things.

          • geldonyetich says:

            I’ve long since given up on the idea I have an objective perspective on what everybody wants. Nor do I think it wise to predict technology. But I’m pretty sure we’ll be wearing our computers as hololens-like apparatuses in 20 years, whereupon the question of if anyone wants VR or immersion will be moot, as it is the new default.

          • consolitis says:

            Exactly. geldonyetich is just one of those closed-minded fat simpletons sitting down at the facebook conference with all the other low-level idiots wearing a VR headset, while Zuckerberg proudly strides by eyes open, alert, awake and upright.

    • alh_p says:

      If you say immersion is primarily about first person perspective and Skyrim is your watchword in immersion, my god you have a funny idea of it. Whatever floats you boat…

    • Sian says:

      Bit of a leap there, jumping from sales figures to people’s preferences on perspective. Skyrim is part of the much-beloved Elder Scrolls series and a product of a well-known dev team with a massive amount of hype behind it. The Witcher was at the time more niche, and the devs weren’t as famous. Personally, I think those were more relevant factors rather than how big an impact on immersion perspective has. Also, Skyrim on the surface has more things to do, including forming your character (Geralt is pretty much complete and you can only nudge him in certain directions both in behaviour and build), making a home, joining various guilds …

      And yet, I find myself more drawn to the Witcher. It’s just a better game for me. The combat’s better, the story’s more interesting and focused, the characters are more compelling and not a single guard has told me he was an adventurer once, but an arrow to the knee put an end to that in a world where spells can bring someone back to fighting form from the brink of death.

      Eh, I went a bit off the rails there, but in short: I highly doubt the perspective was the deciding factor where sales figures are concerned.

      • CartonofMilk says:

        this is what killed witcher 3 for me, the fact that i’m playing an already created character whose look and class is already determined for me, who already has a history and motives and what not. THAT killed immersion for me. Not the perspective. This is the main reason by far why i favor elder scrolls over witcher 3. Give me a witcher game that allows me to be my own character and i might change my mind (then again if they did it might not be called the witcher, but i’d like if their next game was set in that universe but playing anyone else i want)

        • Bradamantium says:

          See, I fundamentally disagree with this. Immersion is all about being a part of the world, and a game like The Witcher accomplishes this by actually making the player character an established piece of that world. People recognize Geralt. Meanwhile in the Elder Scrolls, I might as well be any random adventurer until the right flags are raised for the NPCs to notice me, and they’re often so dull and witless. “You’re a sneaky one, aren’t you?” says the Whiterun guard I just dashed by in heavy armor, in broad daylight, shouting into the sky. I play as no one, even when I’m playing as an archmage, leader of the Companions, the assassin who killed an emperor, etc. etc. I find the immersion of someone saying “I know who you are, White Wolf,” infinitely more satisfying than ostensibly being able to build my own character that’s the same character as anyone else as far as the world is concerned.

        • Spider Jerusalem says:

          An odd line of reasoning, that. By your measure, no novel is capable of immersion, which is obviously not the case. It seems to me you’re asking for a specific form of control, which is a different beast.

          • Sandepande says:

            One could argue that a game such as Witcher 3 isn’t really a book, since the player can influence the outcome of many events (rarely happens with books). So it’s interactive (nice word), but the character one plays is very much ready-made and suited for only a certain style of play (no stealth, for example). Of course, none of this would matter if I’d found Geralt or the world interesting, which I didn’t.

        • Deviija says:

          Indeed, nothing kills my immersion more quickly than a choice-driven RPG that has a more rigid and tangible set protagonist that I am in even less control of than standard create-your-own-protag RPG. I’m interested in creating and cooperatively narrating stories that I want to see played out in a game, and a huge part of that relies on who and what I can be and create for myself. How they look, gender, sexuality, whatever else etc. I find a set and fairly pre-formed protagonist provides me even less options for having a story and character I’d like to be in whatever fantasy/sci-fi world.

          • dashausdiefrau says:

            Arguably there is way more control over a “rigid, premade” character, because you control its life. Geralt is kind of a living creature, with past and future, unlike the avatar of the character in Skyrim, which exists only for the time the player controls it. Another example is Fable. Romancing in a game like Fable is far less meaningful than in Witcher, because in Witcher I can imagine that I can decide on the character fate, and I don’t just toy with an empty doll, that is my avatar. Yes, the writers of the game decide on the ultimate fate of the character, but while playing the game, I know that my character has a detailed past, and my actions theoritically have an affect on its future.

            Also, character interactions are way more meaningful in a game like Witcher, and small things, like in the first game, that characters avoided rain were really adding to the immersion, unlike things that where the camera is. Alas, I don’t mind if it is 1pv or 3pv the camera, though if it is 1pv, it is logical that they need the 3pv animations anyway, so why don’t they add an outer camera just to look at the character time to time anyway?

          • KenTWOu says:

            if it is 1pv, it is logical that they need the 3pv animations anyway, so why don’t they add an outer camera just to look at the character time to time anyway?

            It’s not logical. In a typical 1pv game you’re a floating camera with two hands and a weapon attached to it, so there is nothing to look at.

            There are 1pv games with so-called full body awareness, but they use specific set of animations which were made for specific field of view of 1pv camera, so they are not suitable for 3pv and will certainly look weird. E.g. google ‘Mirrors Edge in Third Person’ youtube video.

            If you’re talking about NPCs’ animations which were already made by devs, animations for the main character in a 3pv game tend to have significantly higher quality and better variety than those, because the main character is controllable by the player, so it should be responsive, able to do several things at the same time, and always look great, because he’s always on screen.

    • CriticalMammal says:

      It’s a really, really strange argument that third person games can’t be immersive. The quality of an immersive experience comes from so much more than just perspective. The visual fidelity, the audio design, diegetic UI, lack of motion sickness, etc.

      Perspective plays a role, sure. But I wouldn’t necessarily say that it makes an experience more or less immersive for everyone. It’s largely a personal preference and dependent on how well the rest of the game executes on atmospheric stuff.

      And since the example you cited for good first person immersion was Skyrim, I do want to point out that I’ve seen a number of people playing it in third person (so your sales argument is null). And Bethesda’s third person in their games tend to be crude implementations also, so it’s not exactly the best benchmark for testing which perspective is the most immersive anyway.

      Anyway, Kingdom Come does look like a very immersive experience regardless.

      • Aetylus says:

        Yup. Presumably if immersion was a requirement to engage with a form of media, and was entirely related to seeing through the eyes of the individual involved, we would not enjoy any movie, nor would we ever read books (not even ones written in the first person).

        And presumably, we would now be entirely unsatisfied with the old fashioned screens we currently play games on an refuse to touch them until they release on VR.

  4. GenialityOfEvil says:

    The only thing that makes me wary of these AI sandbox things, Skyrim advertised all of the same mechanics, and they were nowhere to be found in the final game.

  5. AshEnke says:

    “From a distance, Warhorse’s much-postponed open worlder can seem rather dour, obsessed with historical accuracy and depth of simulation to a degree that makes you wonder whether this is a game or an interactive monument to a period.”

    But, a bit higher :

    “Other fun activities in Kingdom Come include getting drunk whenever you quicksave, because the only way to quicksave is to take a swig of a particularly heady local liquor”

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    Dios says:

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  7. Bum Candy says:

    I bought into the alpha access for this a while ago and I have to say, I’ve spent a fair while tinkering about in the game and despite me not being much of an RPG player I have a strong feeling this might be one of my favourite games of next year.

  8. Michael Fogg says:

    The spirit of Gothic I&II lives on! I hope this will be good!

  9. Symarian says:

    I suppose they’ll make it a trilogy, with Kingdom Sit, and Kingdom Rollover.

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