We finally have a release date for Warhorse Studios' much anticipated medieval RPG, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and I had the opportunity to get my hands on the near-finished game as well. If what I experienced is a good indicator of the overall quality and experience of Kingdom Come, 2018 will be off to a good start.
Before I got my hands on the gameplay, I attended a 30 minute presentation, which expanded on a lot of what I was able to see in my demo of the game. There were some immediate themes in the presentation that made some of Warhorse's design decisions and philosophies very clear.
The first of those was their approach to exploration. Kingdom Come: Deliverance does feature an overview map you can view (it is wonderfully hand-drawn as well), but it shows you the basics. Any nodes, points of interest, or other markers only appear once you as the player character, Henry, go to that place and interact with a character/thing. Going out into the world, which was emphasized many times, would not be a hand holding experience. That lack of hand holding is another design philosophy present throughout much of what was discussed/shown.
Exploration is important as much is learned and much gained through venturing out and talking to many people. Choices, quests, and other experiences that could have great effects on other parts of the game could be missed. For example, not keeping up with a certain NPC could mess you up later on. There are skill checks in the game for dialogue options—things like Speech, Intimidation, etc—that the player can level up, but each NPC also has their own level in these skills. The more you interact, the more you can learn about them and their skill levels, which could be vital information in a later interaction.
The importance of exploration is directly tied to the everything has consequences mantra for the game. For example, what I saw in the demo and presentation, which happened to be the very beginning of the game, the many small choices made without much of a thought had great effects.
Your first quest in Kingdom Come: Deliverance e is to confront a man who owes your father money for some items your father made for him and then use the money to purchase some items. While confronting him, there are a variety of outcomes based on skill checks, and if they fail the man fights you. You win, he tells you he has no money but you can go through his house to take whatever you want. You lose and now you have to figure out a different way to get the money. While trying to figure that out and roaming around the village, you run into some friends who don't like another character and what to throw poop at that guy's house to completely cover it. You can join in, choose not to, or if you're still looking for money (lost the fight earlier), you can say you'll go with them as long as they help you out. That option isn't there if the character doesn't need it, so it would be easy to miss entirely. As an aside, if you choose to refuse your friends, they will continue on to do the deed themselves anyway, which you can then watch.
I also had an opportunity to check out the combat, and it was unique fun. It is slow and methodical, less twitchy and more anticipation, and offered some good variety in playstyles. Wildly swinging, blocking, and running around won't work thanks to a stamina bar—that reduces in size proportionally to your health bar—which makes the battles more intense. In combat you lock onto your enemy, staring them down in the face the entire time, which forces your attention, sucking you in to watching their every movement, position of their weapon, and the sign they may be about to attack. It's an in your face affair that felt chaotic even when fighting only one enemy. Getting hit staggers you by a great amount, violently throwing the camera about and creating confusion you desperately want to fix right away by getting your bearings. The chaos only intensifies when more enemies get involved and you participate in larger battles, armies against one another. The tension of just fighting one person gets amplified as your attention gets pulled to making sure you aren't getting surrounded or an opportunistic enemy is coming up behind you.
All in all, it was great to see, and I can't wait for it next year.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC February 13th, 2018.
If you want to know more about this and other announcements happening at E3 then be sure to check out our E3 2017 Coverage Hub.