First impressions? you ask. Why just first impressions?
Because, dear reader, the struggle of a gamer who gets first-person sickness is, in fact, real. Even during a great game like Warhorse’s Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Many of you have probably heard the term “classical conditioning.” That’s the Pavlovian dog who salivates at the smell of food, and eventually food is paired with the ringing of a bell. After many times of those two stimuli being paired, the bell will elicit the salivating response, even if the food is not there, as the bell is associated so strongly with the presence of food.
What is not as quickly recognizable is operant conditioning. This is more in line with what we think of with rewards and punishments for behavior (sort of). When we do something, we are exposed to a consequence of that action. If the consequence is favorable (either by the addition of something good or the removal of something bad), we repeat the behavior. If the consequence is unfavorable (either by the addition of something bad or the removal of something good), we eventually learn to avoid the behavior that caused the unfavorable consequence.
I found myself feeling ill at the thought of playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance, especially since I am “required” to play each Year of the RPG game for a minimum of approximately two hours per night to stay on schedule. At the start of the game, I played about 45 minutes per play session, and would usually barely survive that long before feeling nauseous, having to take a break, sip ginger ale, and, after one particularly battle-filled session, lie down until the nausea and headache faded.
Playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance was, at best, a rough experience for me and, at worst, was not particularly enjoyable…
Oh, don’t get me wrong: the story is fantastic and I really love a lot of the great things that Warhorse Studios included in the game (more on that in a bit). But while I fully intend to continue plugging my way through the game, there is no way that I will be able to finish the game in the time necessary for its slot for Year of the RPG.
I have been conditioned to recoil at the thought of playing this game, and that is not conducive to, well, playing it.
However, my difficulties aside, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is well worth your attention and time, and provides a wonderfully unique role-playing experience that I have yet to see in any other RPG that I have played before.
Beware unmarked plot spoilers below for the first third of the game.
The story is, at its core, very straightforward: a young man who has just come of age is living in a 15th century village in Bohemia, apprenticing for his father, a renowned blacksmith. As happens in the late Middle Ages, political unrest turns into a conquering army marching through the countryside, and the main character, Henry, is witness to the razing of his small village. His parents and girlfriend are killed, he escapes briefly, although in the ensuing chaos he loses the beautiful sword he had been helping his father craft for their lord, Sir Radzig. Henry thus sets out to get the sword back from the monsters who took it, to atone for his survival and mishap when trying to bury his parents.
You know, the usual.
What really stands out about this particular game, and what has been touted on other gaming sites, is the realism. This is not a fantasy RPG where you start as Random McNobody and turn into the hero of the world. This is not an RPG in which it’s your destiny to be great, or one that starts you off as a war hero and turns you into a demigod. Rather, you are a commoner, going about his commoner life, without any outstanding qualities to begin with. In fact, the character is so common that he can’t hold a sword correctly.
So when the Inciting Incident occurs, all poor Henry can do is run, and his primary goal is to Not Bleed Out Until You Reach the Next Town.
The game, overall, plays beautifully. I had some trouble with the controls, mostly because they mimicked what I consider first-person shooter controls (using the shoulder buttons to fire, etc.), which I’m not used to using. But they were responsive and the sword combat controls were, while not “intuitive,” as realistic as one can get from behind the safety of a television screen. Being able to line up strikes and feint were fantastic ideas, even though they did seem clumsy and the right analogue stick was responsible for moving the camera and half-heartedly trying to interpret the direction in which you wanted to swing your sword.
At first, I was befuddled by the leveling system, because sometimes the tutorial text shows up on the side of the screen while Henry is engaged in something else and I missed a lot of text-reading, but the leveling system is pretty simple: do things to gain experience points in that area. Do you want to be a master swordsman? Train with the local guard-captain. Do you want to be an archer? Go practice at the range. Do you want to be a bard? Well, you’d better travel to the town that has a scholar that will teach you how to read, first!
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is dedicated to making the game as historically accurate as possible, so whether you want to be a warrior, bard, thief, or some sort of hybrid, you need to be willing to put in the work, not just wait for the experience points to add up so you can just dump them into a specialization.
In regards to the utilization of first person, again the game tries to be realistic. When you get hit, the camera swings around like a head would. When you pick things up, the camera moves like a head would. When you sit down… gosh, I never realized how much a person’s head moves when they are climbing onto a bench at a table until I played this game.
As if the more “natural” leveling wasn’t enough, appearance and daily needs are also important. If Henry doesn’t sleep for a while, the camera will actually begin to tilt and waver, making poor Henry wobble about like, well, a person who had stayed up for two days might. His cognitive abilities and physical abilities are also affected by his mental and physical well-being, so be sure to sleep and eat regularly.
Oh, you thought that your really nice guard’s tabard was going to help you through the game? Well… clothing degenerates, gets dirty, and influences how people interact with you. So, to have the best influence, keep your clothing patched and new-looking, and try to keep the blood off your face after a fight by splashing some water from a trough onto you. Bonus, the NPCs do this, too, so no need to feel self-conscious about it!
Oh. And food goes bad. Remember that thing that Metal Gear Solid 3 did? Yeah, Kingdom Come: Deliverance does it, too. It’s just as cool as it was then! In all seriousness, I haven’t been in a situation where food was so rare I was concerned Henry was going to starve. It’s possible to cook meat on any fire you find, making the hardy jerky that takes a while to go bad, and any pot o’ food can be eaten from, and, given enough time, they will refill automatically. But I found that if you make it a point to eat regularly – you know, like a person – it’s fine.
There are a few time-sensitive quests that I came across, and so I found myself quite hungry maybe once, but after a few snacks and some cooked rabbit, Henry was able to go back to his bed, rest, and eat heartily, which bumped his overall well-being back up to what it had been.
The Minor Issues
I haven’t played the game all the way through, obviously, but I did come across a few minor issues, but nothing too game-breakingly bad. A few little bugs, layers snapping in and out, I had a conversation with a wall once, that sort of thing. The most annoying issue I came across was when the game quietly crashed behind an autosave point three times, and then, in an attempt to work around this, I tried to manually save, and crashed the game again.
Luckily, somehow one of these saves took, so I didn’t lose too much information, and I was eventually able to get past the save point, so in the end, it was just a minor annoyance.
From the time I spent with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, I know for certain that the game offers a unique perspective on what it means to truly role-play as another person and to step into another person’s shoes. I was intrigued by the story, and the cast of characters managed to feel like they could have been historical figures. It was oddly refreshing to play as the “everyman” who suddenly had to be more than he was, while really staying very much the same.
What stuck with me the most as the idea of “everyday heroes.” While it seems strange to compare a working mom to a young man who takes up arms and vows to find the man who stole his father’s sword after his village is razed, the point is that each one of us has a role that we fill, and paths that we walk. And, sometimes, we each are forced out of our ordinary into the extraordinary. We may not become king, or queen, or even wind up in the place we expected to go, but we learn, we change, and we build a new life in the new reality, like every hero must.
If you enjoy role-playing games, first person games, historical fiction, or are looking for a truly unique perspective into what a role-playing game can do, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is definitely for you!
Have you played Kingdom Come: Deliverance? What did you think of it? Do you prefer to role-plays to be fantastic, or ordinary, or somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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