I love Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s skill trees

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The enormous open world is attractive and enticing, but it’s Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s skill trees that made me a believer in this historical RPG. Rather than providing mild improvements to sword-handling or stamina, the things you learn are traits that change the way your character interacts with the world and the people in it. It all suggests I’ll be creating a person with knowledge and foibles as I play rather than tweaking a sheet of stats.

I played a single mission, which gave me some freedom in the way I approached objectives but also involved following instructions, and sticking to the sort of processes that I’ve become accustomed to over years of playing RPGs. Bandits have slaughtered horses and people at a stable, and as part of a group investigating the crime you end up as a sort of medieval detective, picking through the remains, questioning witnesses, and following trails of blood and ruin.

The twist, aside from the fact that this is very much a grounded historical setting rather than a game of dragons and trolls, relates to the information you’re given to guide you toward a solution. There’s no equivalent of a Witcher sense so when a stablehand tells me that he saw the perpetrators leaving the scene in a particular direction, I head off down the path he pointed at and look for signs of their passing. Rather than following a glowing red trail, I’m looking for damage to fences and gates that might have been caused by people making a quick getaway in the dark.

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At any point, I’m free to leave all of this behind, to cut ties with my NPC colleagues and set off to make my own fortune. They’d be miffed and missions will resolve in the player’s absence – it’s even possible to get left behind at the beginning of this particular job if you don’t saddle up quickly enough. Dilly-dally and the people you’re working with will get on with their work and their lives whether you’re ready or not.

Given how limited my playtime was, I can’t say how well the world would react if I decided to gallop toward the nearest forest and lose myself between the trees. The great risk in any open world game, whether RPG or otherwise, is that given the possibility of doing anything and going anywhere, players will quickly realise that wherever they go they’re going to be stabbing people or collecting craftables in the vicinity of various types of scenery.

“I created this one amazing character who found a load of berries by a river.”

“That’s nothing. My guy found so many twigs on a hill you wouldn’t believe it.”

“It’s like we both played different games!”

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Once I was done with the horse-killers (I tracked a couple down and killed them; one was already bleeding out and I stabbed him where he sat, slumped against a tree, and didn’t feel great about it) I spent some time riding my horse around fields and forests. Kingdom Come is beautiful in a very understated fashion. Trees are thick in forests, in a way that you don’t often see in simulated spaces, and weather effects change the quality of light across huge open areas in a way that is quietly spectacular. It’s gorgeous in a way that reminds me of rambling at dusk in a light drizzle, which is a far cry from the fantastical sights I expect from RPGs.

Sometimes a game’s world makes me wish I could step into the screen and see it first-hand. Kingdom Come gave me an altogether different sensation; these are places that feel just about familiar enough that I might well have experienced something similar first-hand already. It’s the thrill of recognition mixed with the different country that is the past.

Put all of that to one side for now though because I want to talk about the character-building rather than the world. There’s an entire branch of skills dedicated to drinking. You can see a sample of it below.

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Other choices lock you into a wine-tasting life, giving you a higher tolerance to grapes than hops, or give you an uncanny ability to find your way back home even when you drink to the point of senselessness . At a certain point of inebriation you’ll pass out but will always wake up in a safe place. It’s the 15th century equivalent of a beer scooter.

Then there are literacy skills, which go beyond letting you read and can extend to knowledge of certain types of literature. Learn about sacred art and visiting a church or monastery allows you to contemplate paintings and architectural qualities, giving you a sense of wellbeing that (I think) allows you to recuperate faster when resting. I say I think because clicking through the skill menus was like vanishing down a rabbit hole – there were so many paths in the warren that I can’t remember precisely what I saw while I was losing myself in it all.

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Even combat skills, which could be the most tediously traditional of the lot, provide new apparently historically accurate martial arts relating to various weapons rather than just giving you “+1 to waving a sword about”. And you can build a better relationship with your horse and wear all kinds of patchwork armour combinations, and people will react not only to your weapon being sheathed or unsheathed, but to the blood splattered on it, and on your clothes. They’ll even react to visible damage on your garments, perhaps seeing you as not all that classy, but definitely a little bit scary if your armour’s dented and battered.

I have no idea how all of that will work out in that massive open world, but as someone who spends almost as much time creating and tweaking characters as actually roleplaying with those characters, I can already see myself spending hours in among all of those skillsets and inventories. I’m hoping, and planning, to see much more of the game soon and that should give me more of an idea as to how the character and the world will relate to one another.

me, on my way to the pub

For now, I’m dreaming about saddling up my horse, whispering happy thoughts to it as we head toward the horizon and whatever inns are along the route, and then riding my beer scooter back home when the day is done.

40 Comments

  1. steves says:

    Gonna be maxing out that drinking. And in the game, etc.

    I really hope this is good. Backed it because I’m a huge sword nerd, and love the idea of a non-magic RPG.

    Whatever happened to the lost art of making screenshots clickable for a full-size version? One you could read the text on. My eyes ain’t what they used to be…

    • Someoldguy says:

      I’ve got to +1 this comment. Can’t read anything on those shrunk screens.

      I’d love it if all those skills have some genuine use in the game beyond +1 to fightiness or +5% bonus to charisma when talking to someone who shares your interests but I do have my doubts. The more skills you chuck in a game the harder it is to make most of them really matter.

      • AlishaDavey says:

        I get paid over $95 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Read more this… Click Here & Start Work

    • stryker777 says:

      Concerning the small screenshots: I used Chrome’s magnify (200%) and could read them easily.

    • Ragnar says:

      I too would love to be able to click on the screenshots to pull up the full image.

      No need for anything fancy, just take me to the .jpg and I can hit back to return to the article.

  2. piddy565 says:

    Honestly, this has been one of my most anticipated games for years. I have been cautiously watching as they’ve delayed and feared dilution of features or Early Access BS since they are a smaller studio and this is a very ambitious project. But as we’re ramping up to a full release and the game looks everything I hoped it would, I could not be more excited!

    • 7vincent7black7 says:

      I’m immensely looking forward to this. The first thing I will do is see if I can work towards playing as an assassin-like character, by mostly doing missions that look like they will get me involved with “bad guys” and stuff. I would love it if you could actually rep up with bandits, outlaws, thieves and the like, and be treated as such by the common folk, as well as royalty.

  3. Paul says:

    A perk called True Slav.
    So accurate. I love it. This game has to be great, the quest design is incredibly ambitious, IF they manage to debug it. I hope they will delay the release if it proves necessary rather than releasing when not ready.

  4. GrumpyCatFace says:

    Shut up and take my money.

  5. caff says:

    Blimey, I’ve been following this for a while yet somehow I had no idea of the scope or ambition described by Adam. I’m now genuinely excited and might even consider becoming a late backer. I wish I’d realised sooner.

  6. April March says:

    It says a lot about me that I skipped the article about combat but clicked on this one. Not intending to buy at this time, but could see myself just very gently riding my horse from church to church to stare at sculptures.

  7. Anacho says:

    I wonder if these folks still think tomatoes are poisonous because I want to skill up my Tomato Lore, farm some and then go around and stand in front of people and eat tomatoes. Then pick them up after they faint. Then go drinking…tomato juice.

    • Daedalus says:

      I’m afraid the game is set around a hundred years before tomatos were grown in europe. And it was only England that had a problem with tomatoes, and later Britain and its colonies.

      So I think a 1400s bohemian would probably just consider you possessed, with all your crazy talk of “tomatoes”.

    • sagredo1632 says:

      I believe the preferred term is “ground apples.”

      • Premium User Badge

        Schmouddle says:

        Noo, ground apples is an old german term for potatoes.(Erde+Apfel).
        As it is set into medieval Bohemia, the correct word would be twisted german “erteple” as still used in some parts of CZ.
        If it was not like two hundred years before anyone could raise a question on what Europeans put on french fries instead of ketchup…

  8. log1932 says:

    I can’t believe it. I’ve lived long enough to see a remake of The Darklands. The inventory screen looks so similar to the Microprose’s masterpiece that I’m having this warm feeling of getting back home after a long journey.
    And then it’s that skill system. I don’t care for cheap drinking jokes, but if the game makes my character feel spiritually uplifted after gaining some knowledge about sacral art and visiting a church, I’m ready to buy it right now. Incredible.

    • Scraphound says:

      You know, I saw the screenshot and it drew me in. Didn’t know why until I saw your comment. Darklands! What’s wave of nostalgia.

      Can’t wait to get drunk and fall off my horse in the middle of a chapel full of soothing sculptures.

      • log1932 says:

        Yeah, that’s what I meant by ‘cheap drinking jokes’, thank you very much :^)

        Another thing that makes me feel nostalgic is the skill system in Kingdom Come. I’m sure you remember that PCs in Darklands had some skills unusal for cRPG games in that time, like speaking common and Latin, streetwise or religion. I’ve always liked how they could be implemented in different situations and I hope the Czech studio found a way to implement it in their new game too. Too bad that the protagonist is a pre-generated character and we won’t be able to determine his family background, education and career choices, which was one of the most unique and interesting aspects of Darklands.

    • goodpoints says:

      Heh. I was just about to post about how much the char. sheet looks a lot like Darklands and gives me the warm-fuzzies.

      Love the sound of all the Darklands-esque skills like literacy, religious knowledge, etc. Anyone know if KC:D uses a “learn-by-doing” skill system similar to Darklands or JA2? I always found it disappointing that CRPGs largely stopped experimenting with these sort of systems vs. the typical free allocation on level ups.

  9. Freud says:

    As long as it has double jump, I’m in.

  10. Stevostin says:

    “You can see a sample of it below.”

    Hahah cute. No we can’t, it’s rps 2017 where you still can’t enlarge a screenshot.

    That being said, I hope the press will do a better service to it than they did to last Arkane game. You know, being shy on the “masterpiece”, “gaming landmark” tags. Assuming it’s as incredible as it reads from that preview.

  11. poliovaccine says:

    Definitely love the philosophy behind these skills – more like early Fallout perks, where they actually change how you play to some extent. I’ve always liked looking at my high-level Fallout character’s list of perks, accumulated over the course of the whole long game, and reading them off almost like a psych profile, sussing out the sum character of my, uh, character. I like that there’s pistol perks for one build and melee for another, so that over time you get that special edge (or quirky handicap) in one area or another that you just wouldn’t get with purely linear skill points.

    Incidentally, can I get some help naming other games with skills/perks like that/this? I know I’ve seen more but Fallout is the only example I can think of right now. Actually: West of Loathing. K, now I’m out of examples.

  12. rambo919 says:

    So you don’t actually NEED the increasingly annoying crutch of hocus pocus and demons etc to make a good game? Who knew…. with my luck there will still be “prayer as magic” priests and psychic witches and whatever else in there somewhere though :/

  13. megazver says:

    What does True Slav do? I need to know. Please.

  14. Tektolnes says:

    Looks like it’s the one that’s highlighted so “get drunk very fast but suffer almost no hangover”.

  15. MrLoque says:

    From a pure techical point of view I am not impressed at all by the engine. Recent videos show pretty “basic” animations and facial expressions (no lip-sync and random open-close mouth movements). Most of the cutscenes look weird for that reason in my opinion. Older games do a much better job.

    Graphics are “fine” but nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a recent game. Maybe it’s a beta, maybe it’s too early to judge but that’s what you can see in the latest official videos (1-2 months old, check on Youtube).

    I love the concept and I love that devs try to stick to “real stuff” but in my opinion the engine doesn’t do any justice to the game. Not yet, at least. This is a game where npc’s should be the foucs and yet they look and move in a very artificial/weird way.

    • Chromatose says:

      It’s running on Cryengine, which is totally capable of doing the things you speak of. It’s just that the development team are a small indie outfit creating a pretty ambitious historical RPG, so some features are going to be understandably scaled back compared to your average megabudget AAA open-world blockbuster.

    • Vandelay says:

      I’m not sure what it is like now, but I tried out the beta when I did a computer upgrade (I was about to say a “recent computer upgrade” only to realise it was actually almost a year a go!) I didn’t think it looked that great either. I was surprised, as I recall screenshots looking incredibly pretty, but, as you say, a lot of the little details like the animations were pretty shonky and made the whole thing look a bit underwhelming.

      That wouldn’t be so bad, but it also had some awful performance. I am on a 1070 and pretty much no matter what the settings were I was a good deal below 60fps and getting some unpleasant hitching every few seconds. These freezes made me rather quickly quit the game and have little interest in returning until some optimisation was done.

      Everything else about this sounds really great, so I hope they can manage to sort out the performance before release.

    • Dead In Hell says:

      The engine is plenty powerful, it’s just that all of the assets and animations are terribly wonky.

  16. wombat191 says:

    I’m hopeful but wary. The story trailer I saw was so bog standard it was scary.. “oh no some powerful guy has murdered my village and family now I vow revenge !”

  17. Bum Candy says:

    Been in the beta program for this for a while. It’s shaping up to be very impressive and graphically it’s absolutely stunning. Following a river from it’s source in a forest to where it winds through a village and past a quarry is absolutely amazing.

  18. Merry says:

    Here’s the usual [official site] link.

  19. fightknightHERO says:

    True slav eh? i should tell this game to Life of Boris
    maybe he ought to give this game a shoutout if it has true slav gameplay

  20. Dead In Hell says:

    The skills really are well-designed. Nothing puts me off a skill tree faster than every single skill being “+ 0.1 critical on dickstabs” or a new color for your generic magic ball spell. And the environments are impressive. The in-game world is full of vistas. Sadly, these seem like the only parts of the game’s design that leave a good impression.

    The combat, which has long been the game’s major hype focus, is utterly terrible. It’s awkward and jerky and unreliable (and features more shoving than swordfighting, another historically accurate gift I suppose). The “moves” they teach you in the tutorial don’t work. And even once you get over the learning curve, and understand how combat actually works instead of believing the lies the tutorial inexplicably tells you, combat is still tedious and clunky. Winning a fight carries little-to-no visceral satisfaction. You simply tap your enemy enough times with your trusty grey line to make him fall down. Yay.

    Worse, yet, is that the combat system is so geared towards their idea of “realism” that it’s hopelessly broken outside of a 1v1 battle. All combat is based on a continuous single-target lock-on system, so that your mouse movements determine the direction of your swing and not the movement of your character. Whether this works for 1v1 battles is arguable, but it certainly doesn’t work if you are fighting more than one person. There simply is no system for combat beyond a 1v1 duel. So if you find yourself fighting more than one foe at a time…you can’t. Don’t get me wrong, the game will put you in situations like this, you just can’t do anything about it. You have a generic single-swipe slash attack that you can do without lockon, but said swipe is mostly useless in combat. And you can’t really dodge or deflect a blow outside of the lockon. So if you have three enemies in front of you, you have to lock onto one of them while the others continuously stab you in the back.

    Maybe this will be a real game someday, but I doubt it. The developers are passionate, but they need more than that. And they seem to lack the basic competency required to make this thing game worth playing.

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