Welcome to the Kingdom of Bohemia (the bit of Europe now called the Czech Republic)! Developer Warhorse Studios takes players back to the 15th century in Kingdom Come: Deliverance to live as a peasant during the war-torn Middle Ages.
KC:D is a role-playing game that focuses on the grim’n’gritty realism of life in the Medieval period, which is, unsurprisingly, no picnic. You might benefit from a helping hand, so here are some helpful tips to avoid ending up as a poor downtrodden serf.
Stick the kettle on while it downloads
If you've not got the physical version or haven’t already installed the game, I warn you it’s a pretty big file, weighing in at around 24GB. If you're not rocking a high speed wired connection that's an overnight download that could take up to 10 hours. The game is also rolling out a meaty 23GB day one patch, so once you’ve hit the install button, go make a cup of tea and maybe get some fresh air.
Be the best Henry you can be
Unlike Skyrim or Fallout, where you create your own character, you play a defined character in KC:D – Henry, a blacksmith’s son.
While Henry’s appearance and personality are set, you develop his character through dialogue and the skills and perks you choose. Perks are passive abilities that give you an some sort of advantage. You get one perk right at the start of the game under the ‘Main level’ skill, which helps direct your characterisation of Henry.
These perks have broad effects, such as making Henry perform better at night instead of during the day. I decided my Henry is a ladies’ man, so picked ‘Manly Odour’, which means women find Henry more charming when he hasn’t washed (THIS IS NOT HOW REAL LIFE WORKS).
Talk your way out of problems
The opening dialogue of the game with Henry’s mum lets you put two points into any of the game’s four main stats. These are strength (which dictates how many items you can carry in your inventory and how hard your weapons hit), agility (your movement speed and your skill with weapons like daggers and bows), vitality (your health and stamina) and, finally, speech (can you use words good out of your mouth hole).
Depending on your answers to two questions, you can put both points into one stat or spread them around. If you tend to hoard items in RPGs, pick strength to maximise your carry weight. Agility and vitality are useful, but I recommend putting both points into speech. This will help you pass initial persuasion checks, escape from guards and avoid some fights.
A buttload of unlockable perks accompany your stats and skills. You gain access to strength perks every other level (I recommend ‘mule’ at level 4 to carry more goods), vitality perks every third level, and agility and speech perks every four levels (aim for the perk ‘empathetic’ at speech level 8, which basically allows you to know if you’ll pass skill checks during dialogues).
The game takes Skyrim’s approach to leveling: you’ll develop any skill at any time by practising it. For instance, every time you have a conversation, your speech stat starts to fill up.
The game has a huge number of skills to develop (including a ‘drinking’ skill which is just how much alcohol you can neck), but you’ll unlock new perks and level up skills naturally over the course of the game. Some skills won’t be available to begin with – for instance the crafting skills such as alchemy or herbalism – but you can spend time developing other skills early on, such as your stealth and lockpicking abilities. The quickest way to build stealth is to perform non-lethal takedowns: sneak up behind people while crouching, then knock them out with a choke hold.
Weapon skills are divided between sword, mace, axe, archery and unarmed. You learn how to fight with a sword during the game’s prologue, but don’t feel forced to stick with it. Swords are great against foes with no armour, but you’ll need to level up your axe or mace skill to deal with armoured opponents.
Jump up, jump up and get down!
You can develop Henry’s vitality stat incredibly easily by sprinting and bunny-hopping everywhere. Jumping over fences and other obstacles will also help build this pretty vital stat.
Watch Henry’s diet
The game’s realistic approach means you have to make sure Henry has a healthy meal plan. Over time, you run out of energy and need to sleep. You’ll also grow hungry and need to keep Henry’s belly full (but not too full, or he’ll be clumsy from overeating). Hunger builds over time, and if you leave the game alone playing while doing something else, Henry will literally starve to death.
Also, don’t make my mistake of hoarding all the food you find in order to feed hungry, hungry Henry: you’ll fill up your inventory with more food than you need, and food in the game has a shelf life and will go off. Eating stuff with a ‘freshness’ rating in red will give poor Henry food poisoning. You can use cooking pots and kitchens to prepare longer-lasting food, such as jerky and stews. Some food such as eggs and raw meat will also need to be cooked before Henry will ever dare to eat them.
Look after Henry, because he’s a soft little dough boy
KC:D’s approach at realism means, unlike the towering heroes of other RPGs, Henry is very squishy, so consequently you can't treat him like you would your other protagonists (even on top of eating and drinking regularly). His stamina runs out quickly. Falling further than your jump height will smash his legs up. Anything sharper than a blade of grass leaves Henry bleeding out. You can’t heal during fights, so even one-on-one duels are dangerous. Who knew life in the war-torn Middle Ages would be so risky?
At the start of the game, you’ll have few developed skills and combat will feel as if you’re flailing like a drowning fish. The opening few hours may also feel very restrictive for an RPG, but once you get to your first real hub city of Rattay, you’ll start to grow your abilities more quickly and have a greater choice of quests to pursue. By this point, you can even decide to just jack in the main quest and go exploring the Bohemian countryside instead, which isn't the worst idea.