Kingdom Come: Deliverance

A focus on history makes this an RPG like no other, but its pleasures can leave a sour taste.


Key events

Death is a given, and that's doubly true for video games. And when death comes, it tends to come in force. Who among us can claim we haven't, at some point in our gaming career, meandered through plains sprinkled with corpses, or waded through rivers of blood past bobbing human remains? If video games are to be believed, corpses are more gregarious than the living. They flock to gruesome sites of executions, torture and massacres, hang themselves from nooses, impale, flay, contort or dismember themselves into bloody bouquets for us to gawk and shudder at in passing.

Kingdom Come Deliverance on PC offers huge upgrades over console

Digital FoundryKingdom Come Deliverance on PC offers huge upgrades over console

But even high-end hardware can struggle at max settings.

Having taken a close look at all four console builds of Kingdom Come Deliverance, one thing is clear - this is a highly demanding game built on an engine that traditionally favours PC hardware. Xbox One X comes out on top with improved performance and a 1440p resolution, but frame-rate dips to the low 20fps region on all versions, with long initial loading times and abundant pop-in across the board. The good news is that the PC version solves a number of those problems, provided you have sufficiently capable hardware. Yes, perhaps not surprisingly, bearing in mind the CryEngine roots, this game can push even the most powerful kit to its limits.

It's also a great example of a game that benefits immensely from running from solid state storage. The console versions take anything from 53 seconds (Xbox One X) to almost two minutes (PS4) to complete their initial loads. On PC, the experience is transformed. Blink and you'll miss it: within one second, you're at the front-end menu. From there, it does take five seconds to actually load a save game to the opening village - but again, that's a huge saver on the 28 second wait on an Xbox One X, or 44 seconds on a base PS4. And this is from a mainstream SATA Sandisk SSD, not a cutting-edge NVMe drive.

As you may expect, solving the console's performance issues is very much down to individual settings and hardware, but the good news is that Kingdom Come Deliverance is built to scale - not just on today's technology, but tomorrow's GPUs too. In terms of CPU requirements, simulation is pushed hard here, with the title delivering an open world design similar to Homefront The Revolution, but pushed to the next level with dense forests and complex AI-driven cities.

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance review - history is a double-edged sword

Kingdom Come: Deliverance and the history it explores are inseparable. There hasn't been a medieval world this real and substantial since The Witcher 3. The sense of time and place it conjures is astonishing. You feel your feet squelching in muddy, rutted paths, and smell the manure on the fields around you. But what you see isn't a fantasy world reinforced by a culture's past: it is a culture's past - its bones are made out of it. Kingdom Come is the most believable adventure into medieval history I've ever experienced.

That's the hook: realism. This is the dungeons-and-no-dragons role-playing game sprung from Kickstarter into a full-sized multiplatform release. The RPG offering a first-person medieval simulation like an Elder Scrolls game, with a world living around you, but without the fantasy, magic and monsters. Instead, it's developer Warhorse's own Czech history brought to life from the year of 1403, and the detail with which it has been recreated is staggering.

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.

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Can Kingdom Come Deliverance's tech deliver its ambitious vision?

Digital FoundryCan Kingdom Come Deliverance's tech deliver its ambitious vision?

Every console version tested, with Xbox One X on top.

Conceptually, Kingdom Come Deliverance is an intriguing proposition. What if the Elder Scrolls formula were transplanted across to a real-world location, steeped in history? And what if Skyrim's less than state-of-the-art technological underpinnings were replaced with one of the most powerful game engines on the market?

As the debut project from Czech developer Warhorse Studios, this ambitious, crowdfunded RPG uses the CryEngine technology - as seen in the likes of Ryse, Prey and Homefront the Revolution - but with a Skyrim-style canvas of terrain to explore. From beautiful, dense woodlands to idyllic early 15th century European villages, there's a grounded, almost photorealistic look to the world in many areas. The big difference next to a game like Skyrim though, is the swapping out of fantasy elements for a more historical setting. Dragons and magic are out, and the focus here is on a brutal power struggle in the Kingdom of Bohemia.

It would be remiss of us not point out the controversy surrounding this title based on the attitudes of Daniel Vávra, the lead developer, whose views speak for themselves in both his social media and this Kotaku interview - aspects of which are reflected in the game content, and may give pause in considering it for purchase. It's a topic Eurogamer will address in its review, but the focus for this Digital Foundry piece is its technology and performance.

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Kingdom Come: Deliverance has a hefty day-one update

Medieval role-player Kingdom Come: Deliverance launches tomorrow for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with a big day-one download.

We popped the PlayStation 4 disc in and were greeted with a 28.7GB download notification - although we haven't got an Xbox One copy to hand to try the same.

On Steam, we also got a 20GB download notification - although by the time it launches publicly tomorrow you may just be able to download a single, updated version there.

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Don't be put off by Kingdom Come: Deliverance's stiff characters

There's surprising RPG depth underneath.

Historical-not-fantastical medieval role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance has long been in the headlines. Ever since we saw its next-gen mud we followed it, through a Kickstarter campaign and beyond, and now nearly four years later it's finally nearly ready, due 13th February 2018 on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. But being in the public eye for so long has taken its toll, and the sheen has dulled. Other role-playing games have been and gone in that time, such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and the goalposts have moved. What was once so impressive in Kingdom Come: Deliverance is now par for the course.

Crowdfundee Kingdom Come: Deliverance announces co-publisher Deep Silver

Crowdfundee Kingdom Come: Deliverance announces co-publisher Deep Silver

"You, our Kickstarter backer ... won't have to face any changes."

Crowdfunded medieval no-fantasy role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance will be co-published by Koch Media/Deep Silver.

Specifically, Koch Media will publish the game on PS4 and Xbox One, and its label Deep Silver will publish the physical PC version. Warhorse will publish the digital PC version worldwide.

"This is a great opportunity to bring Kingdom Come: Deliverance to more players around the world," wrote Warhorse in an emailed newsletter.

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This is what really happens when swords hit armour

It's Kingdom Come: Deliverance history lesson time.

I had this steel breastplate on and I was holding a huge pike when I learnt a cool fact about swords. This actually happened by the way. I learnt that not all the edges of a sword were sharpened for slicing. I was like... what? But in the films and stories and games they slice people up like meat in a butcher's shop. But the historian chap was like... no. The edges are blunt and the sword is heavy so that people can try and break the bones of their opponent underneath the armour, or at least severely bruise them, and immobilise them. It's just the tip that's razor sharp for the plunging stab that kills them. Oh and that groove down the middle of the sword: that's there to let the air into the wound so you can pull the sword back out.

Watch 30 minutes of the brand new Kingdom Come: Deliverance beta

VideoWatch 30 minutes of the brand new Kingdom Come: Deliverance beta

Now with added storyline, cut-scenes, new area, large battle, more weapons...

It's a milestone moment for Czech, head-turning, no-fantasy role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. In a couple of days' time (3rd March) it sheds alpha and goes beta, transforming into a fuller, more complete game in the process. And we've got 40 minutes of the beta in video below for you to enjoy.

The voices you'll hear in the video are my own (sorry) and those of Warhorse developers Martin Ziegler (technical director) and Tobias Stolz-Zwiling (PR manager). They walk me through the newly added questline and questing systems in a brand new area in the game. You won't hear the game audio from the session as something went a little bit wrong with the recording, as things tend to do when I'm in control. The music you do hear is taken from the beta version of the game we later played.

What else is new in the beta? It's the first time story has been properly implemented, which means cut-scenes (and voice acting) and proper continuous quest arcs with branching dialogues, persuasion and intimidation, that sort of thing. There's the game's first large battle and there are new weapons including shields and blunt weapons like maces. There's a gorgeously realised, and massive, forest you can apparently get well lost in.

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Kingdom Come may be held back on PC for simultaneous console release

Deliverance a bit later than the summer, perhaps.

Czech-made no-fantasy medieval role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance has been turning heads for a couple of years, ever since - and even before - it was successfully funded on Kickstarter. It's powered by CryEngine and it genuinely looks lovely - and you can watch the 40 minutes I saw of it recently in the video embedded below.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance gets a beta date

Kingdom Come: Deliverance gets a beta date

First battle/siege! Shields! All core game mechanics! Tripling in size!

There's a lot of interest around no-fantasy medieval role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. It looks great, it has one of the most realistic sword-fighting systems I've seen in a game and it's rooted in actual history.

It's been in alpha testing for a while but now it's nearly ready for the next milestone: beta - and developer Warhorse announced a proposed Q1 2016 date for that this afternoon.

Beta will introduce "all" core game mechanics, the game's overarching story, the first key battle/siege, add shields to combat and the current map will triple in size. Creative director Daniel Vavra explained and showed some of these things in a developer update video.

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FeatureKingdom Come: Deliverance a 50-hour game - at least

We catch up with the impressive no-fantasy role-playing game.

Try and shake the image of Czech no-fantasy role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance being a small indie thing. Yes it is crowdfunded, to a degree, but no it isn't small. We're talking about a handsome 3D game world powered by CryEngine 3, and about an experience at least 50 hours long, says Daniel Vavra, the man in charge. Deliverance has a 70-person team behind it. Vavra calls it "triple-A", which may be a little over the top, but the point is it's not far off.

Impressive new trailer for no-fantasy RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Czech developer Warhorse has put out a tasty trailer for medieval no-fantasy role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. And it continues to look very impressive.

The choreographed swordfight demonstrates a desire to make melee combat as real as possible, for you to feel what a fight back then would have really been like. And that historical immersion extends to everything else - across a believable world that's beautiful in its ordinariness.

A playable technical alpha has been available for a while, so the game is more than trailer trickery, but realise there is still a long way to go to put together an open-world sandbox game of this magnitude - a world of 16km2. To put that into perspective, Skyrim had a world of 37km2, and The Witcher 3 a world of around 64km2.

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VideoVideo: Let's Play Kingdom Come: Deliverance

That next-gen medieval RPG with no fantasy.

Remember Kingdom Come: Deliverance, the next-gen medieval RPG that has no fantasy? It's playable, and it's a sight to behold. More than one person has stopped to look over my shoulder, drawn in by the idyllic countryside scene.

Daniel Vavra has a magnificent beard and a DayZ T-shirt. He's squashed in a window on my screen, his image beamed direct from from his Warhorse studio in Prague. In another window is streamed a live demo of his new game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Remember that next-gen medieval role-playing game with no fantasy that so captured people's attention in December? This is it. And it's beautiful.

Care for a next-gen medieval RPG with no fantasy?

Here's one, but it's struggling to find a publisher.

UPDATE: Eurogamer Czech editor Jan Doskocil has been following the game's development more closely and reiterated the company's struggle to find a publisher and funding beyond a $3-$4 million investment by one of the richest people in the Czech Republic, Zdenek Bakala. I mentioned the possibility of funding via Kickstarter below and apparently this is an avenue Warhorse is openly interested in exploring.