New game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, explores life in medieval Bohemia
Released on 13 February, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an action role-playing game set in the early fifteenth-century Holy Roman Empire that has striven for historically accurate and highly detailed content.
According to the game’s developer, Warhorse, ‘Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a story-driven open-world RPG that immerses you in an epic adventure in the Holy Roman Empire. Avenge your parents’ death as you battle invading forces, go on game-changing quests, and make influential choices. Explore majestic castles, deep forests, thriving villages and countless other realistic settings in medieval Bohemia!’ Its features include:
- Massive realistic open world: Majestic castles, vast fields, all rendered in stunning high-end graphics.
- Non-linear story: Solve quests in multiple ways, then face the consequences of your decisions.
- Challenging combat: Distance, stealth, or melee. Choose your weapons and execute dozens of unique combos in battles that are as thrilling as they are merciless.
- Character development: Choose your equipment, improve your skills, and earn new perks.
- Dynamic world: Your actions influence the reactions of the people around you. Fight, steal, seduce, threaten, persuade, or bribe. It’s all up to you.
- Historical accuracy: Meet real historical characters and experience the genuine look and feel of medieval Bohemia.
So how does the game deliver on these claims?
The game is unique for its central character, Henry, who is not the standard sword-wielding hero, but, instead, the son of a blacksmith – and not the kind with a hidden, lofty destiny awaiting him. As one reviewer put it:
‘That transition from thinking about the game as an escapist, wish-fulfillment, hack-n-slash action movie into a reality-based peasant simulator was profound. It’s not just that Henry’s not some big hero. It’s that you as the player don’t get to play as a big hero either — you get to play as Henry. And you have to remember that Henry is human. He has to eat, sleep and bathe. He has a job and a boss. Running away from fights, watching what you eat and showing up to work on time are all things a video game hero wouldn’t normally do, but they are all things Henry would (and has to) do.’
This fairly unusual method of gameplay has attracted a lot of attention. As another reviewer said: ‘There’s no heroic swordplay here, no wizards casting fireballs, no clerics raising the dead, no orcs or dragons. This is the story of an actual civil war that raged across Bohemia in the first decade of the 15th century. Your part in it is that of a nobody struggling to survive in a land full of noblemen who couldn’t care less if you lived or died, and fellow peasants who would stab you in the back for a crust of bread.’
The game’s effort to simulate accurate fighting conditions and the obstacles presented by dealing with medieval armour have also attracted attention: ‘Every battle in the game is nerve-wracking. The cold fact that you are not a majestic fantasy warrior means that you can be killed at any time. Taking on more than one opponent is incredibly risky, and engaging with three or more is simply futile. Armor adds a layer of tactical complexity, too. The game features a thorough suite of medieval armor and clothing options ranging from padded shirts to plate, but wearing it weighs you down and can block your vision (put on a full helmet and you see the world through a slit). Battling foes in armor also presents its own challenges. Take on a fully equipped enemy and you need to either target their openings with arrows, or switch to blunt weapons better at bashing metal-covered heads and shoulders than anything with an edge.’
Another review termed it a ‘dungeons-and-no-dragons role-playing game’, praising the games realism by saying, ‘Kingdom Come hasn’t tried to condense a whole world into a game, but instead focused in on a 16 square kilometre area of rural Bohemia, and the dozen or so small villages and towns found there at the time. Nothing feels made up. Everything is placed with the certainty of historical reality behind it; shops are where they are because it made sense at the time – bakers here, weaponsmiths and blacksmiths there. Inns emerge naturally as the town’s beating heart – the first port of call for a traveller who can buy lodgings for a week at a time, as I suppose you once would. Everywhere there are windows like this into the past.’
But there is also ‘a big problem. There are no people of colour in the game beyond people from the Cuman tribe, a Turkic people from the Eurasian Steppe. […] What muddies the water further is whose interpretation it overridingly is: creative director, writer and Warhorse co-founder Daniel Vavra’s. He has been a vocal supporter of GamerGate and involved in antagonistic exchanges on Twitter.’ In many ways, the game falls victim to the problem of other similar games set in a medieval environment: ‘Instead of seeing notes in the margin of a history book, we get what feels like a glossy pamphlet advertising an escape into an oddly romanticised past.’