It’s clear that Kingdom Come: Deliverance intends to convey a sense of realism in a medieval setting. There are no monsters or spells here, and the game’s plot involves historical figures from the Holy Roman Empire. Even the player-controlled protagonist must eat to avoid hunger. But a gaming experience will never feel real, much less truly playable, when it’s plagued with as many bugs as this game is—not least of which is its failure to at times recognize your button inputs. And Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s stabs at realism are further and comically hamstrung by characters of all backgrounds who won’t stop saying the same dismissive line of dialogue: “What the hell are you doing?” This mantra could be directed at the game itself.
The game’s story takes place in the Kingdom of Bohemia—a predecessor of the modern Czech Republic—at the dawn of the 15th century and concerns the trials and tribulations of a blacksmith’s son named Henry. In the middle of a conflict between rival kings, the young man watches his parents die and his village destroyed. Though he was born into the peasant class, Henry discovers an opportunity to advance his social position thanks to some ties his father once had with a group of nobles. And so he dons a soldier’s garb and sets out on a mission in pursuit of a sword that was stolen by bandits.
Henry’s underdog status, humility, and determination underline the strongest aspect of Kingdom Come: Deliverance: its intention to strike a unique, down-to-earth path among so many RPGs that cling to popular fantasy conventions. Unfortunately, the game is distinctly inept in its execution. Even if his stamina bar is full, Henry sometimes doesn’t swing his fist or weapon when you press the attack button, and if he does, it’s often after a noticeable delay. But this delayed responsiveness isn’t limited to combat, as perusing the game’s large inventory/quest menu quickly becomes irritating when a button press completely fails to let you navigate to a submenu. And talking to villagers feels like an even greater trial of patience. In one instance, I pressed the talk button five times while standing next to a character before dialogue initiated. If nothing else, Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s broken gameplay will allow you to appreciate titles that at least respond to controller input.
Many other technical limitations transform this game’s quest for verisimilitude into a kind of farce. As in the insufferable Valkyria Revolution, loading screens kill the game’s pace, most notably when they precede simple dialogue interactions. Visually, Kingdom Come: Deliverance screams that it’s unfinished, with textures and figures frequently popping in and out of sight when they shouldn’t. At times, the weirdest of glitches get in the way of the game’s attempts to render a believable society. In one such instance, I entered a building to find a man walking into a wall while inexplicably saying, “Watch out!” I watched him trot toward the wall for 30 seconds before he finally turned away from the wall and just stared at me.
It’s almost as if the people you encounter throughout various towns are on bad drugs. In many modern games, characters will verbalize surprise or disgust if you run into them. But in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, citizens will do this regardless of whether you’re near them or not, such as a miller who, despite the fact that I was standing not only still but a good distance away from him, exclaimed: “Jesus, look where you’re going!” Games this sloppily designed should never be released to the public, and the release of downloadable patches to fix their bugs doesn’t change that fact.