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Understanding Kingdom Come: Deliverance

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A beginner’s guide to an RPG with dungeons, not dragons

Effectively everything in Kingdom Come: Deliverance flows from a single idea: It wants to be as realistic as possible. This was clear from its first days on Kickstarter, where its creators sold it as a game with dungeons, not dragons. Years later, with the finished game in our hands, that ethos is evident everywhere.

What does that mean for you? Often, something different than you’d expect from a fantasy role-playing game. Our beginner’s guide will help you understand what makes Kingdom Come: Deliverance different and align your expectations accordingly.

Henry’s just this guy, you know?

You’re not playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance as a hero out of legends. You’re playing as Henry, the son of a blacksmith. While most video games turn all the knobs up to 11 for entertainment purposes — turning you into a seven-foot tall super soldier that jumps over buildings and tosses out magic fireballs like candy — Kingdom Come: Deliverance turns them down to blacksmith’s-son-in-1403 levels. Henry can’t read, can’t sword fight and is flat broke. He’s not going to be leaping across rooftops or fending off an army single-handedly. (Hell, an early mission in the game sees Henry working an eight-hour shift on his first day at a new job.)

Warhorse Studios

Recognizing those restrictions (and Henry’s limitations) is key to understanding Kingdom Come: Deliverance. It’s more of a peasant life simulator than a hack-and-slash adventure. It will punish you (by which we mean you’ll get killed or thrown in jail) if you overreach Henry’s abilities. Remember that you’re roleplaying as a peasant, not a world-changing, larger-than-life, capital-H Hero — and that there’s appeal to both of those extremes.

Henry’s a human

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is built on history and reality, and that includes Henry. He needs to eat. He sleeps better in a bed than on the ground. He needs a bath every now and then. And people won’t react well when he shows up covered in blood.

Warhorse Studios

There are, of course, limits to the realism. You don’t have to take outhouse breaks or blow your nose. But you do need to eat and rest and just generally behave like a human being would. Keep this in mind, and it’ll be easier to grapple with the gigantic open world and the freedom you have to explore it.

(A quick side note: if you convince Henry to learn to read, he’ll read faster in certain places like by a fireplace in a quiet room. Also sitting in an outhouse. That’s the level of based-in-reality detail that Kingdom Come: Deliverance brings to you.)

Misunderstand Henry, misunderstand the game

Playing a video game without gadgets, magic powers and superhuman abilities is a little disorienting. But Kingdom Come: Deliverance challenges you in other ways, too. Everything you know from video games, movies, books and daydreams tells you that when someone puts a sword in your hand, it’s time to start swinging it to save the day.

Warhorse Studios

But Henry’s just some apprentice blacksmith, and he doesn’t know how to fight. That’s why, when Kingdom Come: Deliverance hands you a sword in your first hour, you have to handle it as Henry — not as a hero. If you decide to take that sword and stand your ground against an army, you’re going to get poked full of holes (like we did … a lot). If, instead, you react like a normal human being and run away as fast as your frustratingly human legs can carry you, you just might survive long enough for someone to actually teach you how to use that sword.

That subversion of expectations — being decidedly regular guy Henry — extends to the rest of the game, too. The apple you carry around to munch on will rot in a couple days. You can’t see in the dark without a torch. You have social betters who won’t react well if you don’t show them the respect they (feel they) deserve.

Henry’s not special, and the sooner you start playing that way, the sooner the game will stop punishing you.

Trust the game

It’s frustrating that you spend hours carrying a sword you can’t use. And we spent a lot of time blaming the game for not telling us how to use it. But you do (eventually) get a full tutorial on sword fighting. It just doesn’t happen until there is a story-driven reason for it.

That’s where trust comes into it. Hyper realism aside, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is still a game, and it will tell you how to play it — when the time is right. The trick here is realizing that you don’t get to decide when that time is.

Deduction and extrapolation, not explanation

Kingdom Come: Deliverance will come right out and tell you some things — usually in a wall of text. Much of the rest is hinted at. The game won’t hold your hand. If you have a list of four things to do, it won’t tell you which one to do first. Instead, if you stop and think through your options, you’ll be able to figure it out on your own.

Warhorse Studios

As an example, your first mission in the game requires you to buy charcoal, collect some money, bring home some cold ale and pick up a package next door. You can (try to) do these in any order you want, but only one order makes sense — pick up the package, collect the money, buy the charcoal, then get the ale (so it’s still cold by the time you get home). The game doesn’t put your tasks into an ordered list for you. Instead, it wants you to figure out the best order for performing your duties.

Read your quest log and look at the map

Early in the game, you have to make your way through an inky black city at night, lit only by sporadic torchlight. You could feel your way around the city, sure. Or you could pick up a torch.

Here’s the thing: The only way we knew there was a torch was by checking our quest log, which told us that there there was one on a table. It took only a few moments to backtrack, grab it off of the only table we’d seen and equip an item that we’ve used a lot many hours later.

Warhorse Studios

This is typical. Henry is basically keeping a (mental) diary (since he can’t read or write) that you can browse at any time. If you get stuck or confused about what to do next, read that diary — your quest log.

Similarly, you’ve got a map that you can access at any time. Your map will tell you how to get somewhere and what to do while you’re visiting. It’s a stylized, 15th century drawing, but it’s accurate enough to find roads and vendors.

Warhorse Studios

It’s surprisingly difficult to walk a straight line for any distance, and you’ll constantly find yourself getting turned around and heading the wrong direction. You’ll also use your map extensively during the various “search for” type quests to make sure you’re in the right area. Make it a habit to check your map, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and wandering.

Pay attention to saves

We don’t get to save our life progress here in the real world, but you do Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Saving isn’t super complicated, but it’s odd enough that it deserves a short explanation.

There are three ways to save:

  • Automatic saves. Every time you start a new quest or an important event (as the game defines it) happens, your game will save. You’ll see text in the middle of the screen that indicates the save.
  • Manual saves. Go to sleep in a bed or visit a bathhouse, and that’ll save your game.
  • Saviours schnapps. Use this (expensive) consumable item to save your game at will. (You can buy them from an innkeeper or brew your own using alchemy.)

Use saviours schnapps before doing something big — or even after doing something big. If you’re about to walk into a fight, that’s probably a good time to save. If you just won a fight (and the game didn’t automatically save), that’s probably a good time to save, too. Just be careful with the schnapps because it’s alcoholic (and, of course, that’s got a mechanic and stat in Kingdom Come: Deliverance).

Spending a night in a bed to save isn’t always an option, though. Sometimes you’re not near one and sometimes, you just don’t have the time because …

Time (and timing) matters

Warhorse Studios

Quests, side quests and encounters don’t just sit around waiting for you. (The world doesn’t revolve around a blacksmith’s son, it turns out.) If someone asks you to meet them at noon, you should be there by noon, or they’ll be upset (which will affect your reputation and their attitude). If you decide to take a week-long detour on your way to pick up some medicine, your patient will be dead by the time you get back.

Ride like the wind

You get a wall of text explaining how to ride a horse pretty early in the game, but it doesn’t really prepare you for the reality of it.

Warhorse Studios

Your horse has three speeds: trot, canter and gallop.

  • Push up on the left analog stick (or W on PC) to trot.
  • Hold down circle/B to canter. If you just hold down the button, your horse will follow whatever road you’re on automatically. You can add in the left thumbstick (or A and D on PC) to steer or press up for a little extra speed.
  • Galloping requires a double-click-and-hold along with the W/left stick. (The game doesn’t this part very well. We died a lot because of it. You’re welcome.)

Your actions determine the content of your character (and the missions available)

If someone asks you to do something shady (and they will), you can say yes or no. Your answer forks the game.

Warhorse Studios

When you hang out with unscrupulous characters, you learn unscrupulous things — it’s one way to learn how to pickpocket and sell stolen goods. Doing these things earn you a reputation, and people start reacting to that reputation — guards will stop and search you on the street, for example.

If you need some quick cash and don’t ask a lot of questions, these shady missions are only available after you’ve demonstrated your moral flexibility.

Your actions determine your abilities

Unlike a more traditional RPG, you don’t get to assign points to your stats in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. You earn your points through practice. Shoot a bow and arrow enough, and you’ll gain a level in archery. Swing a sword enough, and you’ll earn a level there. Drink heavily for a few weeks, and you’ll build up a tolerance (and gain a level) — but you’ll also become addicted.

This means you get to decide how Henry progresses. And you can change your mind at any time.

It’s not as overwhelming as it seems

Kingdom Come: Deliverance gives you 20 equipment slots to manage (plus three for your horse). You have to make sure Henry eats, gets enough sleep and does his laundry. A single apple has stats on everything from how many calories it contains its freshness and weight.

All of that sounds like an tedious pile of paperwork, chores and other things that you usually play video games to avoid thinking about. But when you’re playing the game, you’ll rarely notice it — both because of the ubiquitous reality in the game and because of Henry. When Henry’s hungry, he’ll say something. When he’s carrying too much weight, he can’t run. When he’s tired, the camera will go fuzzy and drift downward.

The trick, as always, is to treat Henry like a human rather than a video game hero.