Feature Article

A Next-Gen Medieval RPG Without The Magic: Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Lead us not into temptation.

Dungeons, but no dragons. Mazes, but no magic. Kingdom Come: Deliverance may remind you of open-world fantasy games of the Elder Scrolls variety, but this medieval adventure is not about wizened wizards, ancient curses, or sinister necromancy. Creative Director Dan Vávra from Warhorse Studios suggests that I think about Kingdom Come as "Braveheart the game, which means majestic castles, armored knights, large open fields, and political intrigue, set in a vast emergent world." It was clear early in the demo Vávra recently led me through that any ideas I had about arcane spellcasting and howling ghouls should give way to thoughts of a real landscape from the Holy Roman Empire.

Role-playing human history may not sound as delightful as playing a master of the magical arts when you first consider it. Is pretending to be Mel-Gibson-as-William-Wallace as fun as conjuring skeletons and zapping monsters with lightning summoned from the skies? I'm not yet sure just how fun Kingdom Come will be to play, but I don't doubt the depth Warhorse is digging out for it, or that it will give you the space to properly stretch. Expect to don period-accurate armor and clothing, learn actual combat and fencing techniques, and set course for real-world castles recreated in detail with the assistance of architects and historians. Take on a role such as warrior, bard, or thief, and direct your destiny using various skills and perks.

You even need to sleep and eat if you want to keep your strength up, and food will go bad if it sits in your inventory too long. There may be no balls of lightning to conjure, but these elements all seem like a good foundation for an expansive role-playing game. Vávra himself says, "We're trying to mix the freedom and mechanics of Skyrim, the setting of Mount & Blade, the storytelling of The Witcher, and the combat dynamics of Dark Souls in a single gorgeous package."

Even at this stage I can see Kingdom Come's 14th-century gorgeousness. As I watched the hero character make his way to a stone fortress upon a grassy hill in first-person view, I delighted in the density of the surrounding forest, and the credible way its trees of varying heights created a natural pattern. The path of stone, timber, and dirt looked well-trodden, as if thousands of men and horses had followed it. Later, when the hero interrupted a banquet in progress, I marveled at how flickering candles warmly illuminated the room's lush crimson wallpaper. And through it all, I was impressed by the expressive facial animations, which reminded me of those in Ryse: Son of Rome. As well they should: Kingdom Come: Deliverance is built upon CryEngine, the same technology that powers Crytek's Roman revenge tale.

Majestic castles, armored knights, large open fields, and political intrigue, set in a vast emergent world.

Of course, combining the best of all possible RPG worlds is no easy task, and a rather unrealistic goal at that. For instance, can Warhorse really create a lead character as fascinating as The Witcher's Geralt of Rivia? I don't know quite yet, but I can tell you a little bit about Kingdom Come's leading man. He's a young blacksmith whose village was burned to cinders by an invading army, and he was saved by a courageous young woman--the miller's daughter. Now, he has recovered from his injuries and sought out the feudal lord to repledge his service. The demo gave me no sense of this blacksmith's personality, and offered no hint of his struggles or passions. But at least he had something to do: investigate the crimes of the local bandits who had attacked the lord's stables and left both men and horses dead.

First things first, though. You can't go toe-to-toe with bandits without at least a little protection and a blade of some sort. As the hero headed to the local merchant, Vávra explained the workings of 15th-century society as interpreted by Kingdom Come. As in an Elder Scrolls game, characters all have places to live, and they go about their day-to-day lives. But that daily cycle will have a number of variations--hopefully enough that the game will avoid the rigidity of Skyrim citizens' clockwork behavior. Says Vávra, "If you try to mess up the poor people's lives, for example, if someone goes to the pub every evening and you kill the bartender, they won't be stuck or not know what to do. They will have a different routine, they will react to this event somehow, and everything should be very natural."

Vávra finished his explanation just in time for our hero to choose some armor, and for me to learn more about character customization. You can mix different types of armors in layers, using both chainmail, plate armor, and other types of material to provide protection against different types of weaponry. And of course, as the son of a blacksmith, you are adept at crafting and sharpening your own weapons, but be careful: you can actually damage your own sword if you're sloppy. Now, equipped with proper armor and armed with a newly sharpened sword, it was time to investigate the crime.

We're trying to mix the freedom and mechanics of Skyrim, the setting of Mount & Blade, the storytelling of The Witcher, and the combat dynamics of Dark Souls in a single gorgeous package.

Creative Director Dan Vávra

It stands to reason that a developer called Warhorse would feature warhorses in its flagship game, and venturing forward involved mounting a steed and trotting into the surrounding territory. You can fight your enemies on horseback and use your steed as a pack mule if you need additional inventory space, but warhorses are also competent combatants. Horses have their own AI, and Vávra compares equestrian behavior in Kingdom Come to that of Shadow of the Colossus, though at this stage, Kingdom Come's horses don't move with any of the elegance of SotC's Agro.

Getting to the stables took some time. Kingdom Come gives you a lot of space to traverse, but by the looks of it, a lot of that space is pretty but void of life. "Our goal is to not make the world as populated as in some other games, so there will not be a dungeon or a castle for 200 meters, or some fight or monster or something. We try to concentrate quests in hubs; in the city, there are several quest-givers, there are some quests around the city, and then you can move to some other location that is not so close. But on the way there, if you go from the main streets, you may find out something interesting, but it's not that easy to find. That's our goal."

I'm left wondering whether Kingdom Come will offer any notable exploration value, or if the vast landscape will go underutilized. I laud Warhorse for sticking so closely to their mission statement of authenticity, but if Vávra is right--if it isn't easy to find something of value off of the beaten path--then what's the point of crafting a vast world to begin with?

The quest did at least lead to something worth getting excited about: combat. Our hero approaches his target, and the two swordsmen fight. The first-person action is cut from the same cloth as games like Chivalry and War of the Roses. Controller prompts indicate chances to riposte, block, and punch your opponent, but the combat looks organic enough; it's certainly not a quick-time-event-driven mashfest. Oddly enough, the enemy soldier does not fall after a lunge that skewers him directly through the abdomen, and I notice that this encounter has been dragging along for some time without victory. I am not sure if this is a quirk of the build or a matter of game mechanics, though Vávra assures me that battles will involve more than one combatant, which comes as a relief. Without the otherworldly elements we typically associate with fantasy games, Kingdom Come needs other elements to convince me of its potential to be epic, and large-scale skirmishes might be the ticket.

The first-person action is cut from the same cloth as games like Chivalry and War of the Roses.

"We think that books and movies have changed," says Vávra, "and people grown up, and their heroes have evolved with them." The action heroes we know today were not the action heroes our grandparents knew, even if they went by the same names. "This is fantasy today," he continues. "I think that it doesn't need any comment, and we think the games are still in their adolescence. And we would like to change that." More lofty goals from a team that clearly believes in its ambitious project, which is due for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One sometime in 2015.

Vávra admits that Kingdom Come: Deliverance was a hard sell to publishers. After all, how big is the market for a fantasy game that isn't that fantastical? I'm willing to bet, however, that the Mount & Blade audience is ready to believe in this particularly down-to-earth fantasy. Kingdom Come may not feature any magic, but that doesn't mean it can't be magical.

Written By

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

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Discussion

366 comments
Keithy211
Keithy211

Sounds like my kind of RPG, hope it all goes according to plan

FBohler
FBohler

Third Person please!

jumalan75
jumalan75

Mount and blade was so much fun! So simple.... So funny how one of my friends didn't realize how sandbox it was at the time and spent days taking over every town on the map only to experience no ending...

curiousarman
curiousarman

sounds like it's going to be a great and cool version of mounts & blades

Mimicry
Mimicry

Does anyone else find it strange that in a medieval game striving for realism a poor blacksmith's apprentice gets almost instant access to a warhorse? I am no expert on medieval history but I do believe warhorses were worth more than entire villages.

LOXO7
LOXO7

Even if this game bombs, I still want people to make medieval games.  They're refreshing.

brok
brok

Look, I'll probably get it, but I'll say right now if it doesn't have a 3rd person option it won't stand a chance against Mount and Blade.

adunoakenshield
adunoakenshield

This looks great. I've been waiting for this kind of game every since the original Stronghold released. I really hope this won't be a let down, but judging by what I've seen it could be a really good game.

WitIsWisdom
WitIsWisdom

Header pic needs more birds... no, honestly though.  I will likely buy this and it will likely be about as good as Two Worlds... especially if they don't add more dungeons and weird random happenings... They don't need to force it like that crapfest Skyrim, but having none or VERY HARD TO FIND things could make this a little dull.  The whole MANY MISSIONS IN A CENTRAL HUB thing?  Hopefully they are meaningful quests meant for an RPG and not an MMO.  No kill 6 of this and collect 7 of that kind of things...  Without a ton of side content the missions within that HUB had better be solid.  Ready to throw my money at my monitor to find out either way :P

gamrinline
gamrinline

I thought this looked like garbage. Too clunky. Maybe they will improve on it.

jd12333
jd12333

Hope there`s a hidden cave with a Subaru wrx and machineguns in.

DefconRave
DefconRave

Backed this after watching their pitch on YT, glad to see they reached their goal so quick.


For someone who likes medieval history, this game and M&B are perfect for me.

Hjindee
Hjindee

It reached its kickstarter goal within 48 hours :)

blackrunie
blackrunie

i hope with all my heart they succeed in making this game as great as they make it sound, because it genuinely sounds like one of the most ambitious project i've heard in the last 10 years.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

 I put my share into Kickstarter, and am happy to see that it's already successfully funded only 30 or so hours into its funding.


Now as soon as the forums open up--hate it or love it--but I wanna press the issue for a lack of 3rd person view as an option. It doesn't seem right that an RPG, in which you're able to customise and don your character with various armours and clothing, and not be able to gawk at him/her without opening the character menu. 


Hopefully its not a budget issue, or just a reason to avoid more animation work. So fund it peeps! And hopefully it will be in one of their stretch goals.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

I put my share into Kickstarter, and am happy to see that it's already successfully fuunded only 30 or so hours into its funding.


Now as soon as the forums open up--hate it or love it--but I wanna press the issue for a lack of 3rd person view as an option. It doesn't seem right that an RPG, in which you're able to customise and don your character with various armours and clothing, and not be able to gawk at him/her without opening the character menu. 


Hopefully its not a budget issue, or just a reason to avoid more animation work. So fund it peeps! And hopefully it will be in one of their stretch goals.

ParanoidPaal
ParanoidPaal

Wow, this looks very interesting! Now all I need is a PC to actually run it.

vadagar1
vadagar1

this looks fucking epic, if this game makes Combat actually fun and not some stat governed slash crap fest.....


wow TES6 is gonna have some huge shoes to fill when it comes out....

PsychoChick966
PsychoChick966

Now THIS, is the kind of RPG I can get into!  Wow!  It looks great!  I'm totally looking forward to this one.  

santinegrete
santinegrete

Mmm... dark souls rock solid combat system, I'm hooked.

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

I don't know how they can ignore the mythology of 15th century England. These people believed in all sorts of monsters, witches, spirits - what have you. If their beliefs are not part of the game then it's just as phony as having dragons, etc.

matthewlee101
matthewlee101

Looks interesting. Hopefully character development and storyline is well thought out. Graphics need tightened up for being next-gen but I realize it's early yet.

riotinto876
riotinto876

This game looks really good, hope its kickstarter does well.

ERRMAHGERD
ERRMAHGERD

@jumalan75 this is like Mount & Blade and that makes me happy. Although I'm not too sure just how far this goes. I am truly excited!

RPG_Fan_I_Am
RPG_Fan_I_Am

@Mimicry the village in the image above seems to be doing quite well for itself, Why, it's even starting a space flight program.

ERRMAHGERD
ERRMAHGERD

@DefconRave oh M&B is delightful, and is the big budget version of it. Oh cry engine is just so.... 

ianaelliott78
ianaelliott78

@DefconRaveI found this on YouTube as well and immediately backed it. I hope that it ends up being a great replacement to skyrim. Its time to move on from that place now for me anyway.

ianaelliott78
ianaelliott78

@Devils-DIVISION I have backed Star Citizen and their not going to use third person as an aid in combat. Its in the game but its going to be very hard to fly a ship in 3rd person in combat with no HUD. I wondering if "

Kingdom Come" are thinkíng in the same way and saying that 3rd person is a cheat. One thing to remember is the helmets of the day had very limited visibility and this game is based on realism.

DeKuip
DeKuip

@dmdavenport No one said anything about not having any beliefs in the game. 

snakebite6x6x6
snakebite6x6x6

@dmdavenport Just because there will be no magic in the game, doesn't mean the NPCs in game do not believe in it. 


I mean, magic doesn't exist in our world....yet there are plenty of stories of it based on folklore of the people who lived in those times...and did believe in it.


...besides, it does look like they are having a witch roast in one of the screen shots...

TrialMonkey
TrialMonkey

@dmdavenport They are burning someone at the stake in one of the screenshots, so there is a chance. Even so, I don't think it would be game breaking if they didn't explore those themes in much depth.

optimuserik
optimuserik

@dmdavenport 

You do have a point, but officially nothing is known about actual magic. So they probably just focused on real combat of the period with all real swordsman 'recruited' for the game ( it says so on their kickstarter video... which apparently wasn't mentioned here ). 

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@ianaelliott78

Ah, good point. I suppose rather than an aid in combat, it could be used for aesthetic purposes only. When in combat you'd fight in 1st person (either because it's too hard in 3rd, or it automatically locks you in 1st during combat), and while venturing you could switch to 3rd person.


As long as it's there and it's optional, I think it would be great. I Just don't like the thought of never getting to see my character.

DeKuip
DeKuip

@yngsten @vadagar1  Its maybe not the best comparison but TES can sure learn a bit from this game. The forests looked amazing, the trees looked almost real. And the large battle are something that skyrim lacked. The so called siege battle's were not that special. Although TES online does have siege battles in Kingdom come the siege battles seem epic in every way.

Its always good to have competition 

ianaelliott78
ianaelliott78

@DeKuip@dmdavenport They'll be there as the church was very powerfully at the time. They should include this I think. repent your sins and all that.

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

@optimuserik@dmdavenport I guess it annoys me that Vavra is emphasizing "no magic" as if it would taint the game somehow. You can't set a story in medieval times and forget about what the people fervently believed in, so if it's "realism" he's going for, he'd better include it. Otherwise, it will just be a hack 'n slash whitewash.

yngsten
yngsten

@optimuserik @dmdavenport 

I agree, was thinking the same thing, it would be really cool if they could implement visions in the fog etc. small scary moments of illusion, illustrating the superstitious view of the time.

Skulker87
Skulker87

@Devils-DIVISION@ianaelliott78Warhorse has confirmed in a FAQ that they posted on Kickstarter that there will not be a 3rd person view, but you will see your character in cutscenes and dialogues.


"We are sorry, but we do not plan to allow you to control your character in 3rd person view (you will be able to see your character e.g. in cutscenes, dialogues or on the inventory screen, you can also see your body and hands all the time). We believe that FPV allows for better immersion in the world; we also think that we can make the FPV combat work."

dmdavenport
dmdavenport

@nl_skipper@dmdavenport@optimuserik

If the game is sophisticated enough, the belief in magic will be enough. I only object to leaving out any mention of it out in a game that purports to reflect a realistic medieval time.  

The skill nl_skipper is referring to was called Alchemy; the precursor of modern day chemistry.

ianaelliott78
ianaelliott78

@dmdavenport@optimuserikIn a game like this having magic wouldn't work, that is if you are talking about firing lightning bolts into an enemy solider. However, I think that if you were talking about new forms of science this might be considered magic by superstitious people. I think that's why people of the era where burned as wizards and witches. Now if that could be implemented into the game I think that could be cool. I'm not sure however on what sort of science could be used in the game though. Your thoughts?

nl_skipper
nl_skipper

@dmdavenport @optimuserik Wait.. so just because people believed in magic you think it should actually exist in the game...?  That's poor reasoning, especially if they are going for actual realism.  They could have people in the game who believe in magic, but no actual spells or magical effects.. because they don't actually exist!


Same with that skill where normal materials can be turned into precious metals... can't remember what it was called.. but it never actually existed despite widespread belief in the idea.  So it would be cool to have characters that believe in those things sure, but not actually FEATURE those things