When Art Imitating Life is Utterly Effective

Jesus Christ be praised! Kingdom Come Deliverance is the historical RPG you’ve been missing in your life.

I’ve always liked video games. When I was younger, I owned almost every game system there was. Sega, Nintendo, PS, Gameboy, Wii, etc. you name it – I had it. As I got older, however, things changed and I didn’t have as much leisure time for gaming. The last major system I purchased was a PlayStation 3 in 2010 during my senior year of high school. I know this because I found the receipt for the console recently while cleaning my room in anticipation for the New Year. I also brought a Nintendo 3DS in college to play Pokémon Sun and Animal Crossing: New Leaf but I don’t really count that as they just took the edge off while I was stressing during finals.

I’ve since not even touched that portable console.

The game I played most often was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I’d actually wanted Bioshock Infinite, but the clerk at Game Stop talked me into purchasing a bundle. So I did.

I had watched most of the game in a walkthrough by TheRadBrad and stopped at a certain point because I wanted to try myself. This was also around the time he started cheesing his fanbase by uploading 10-15 minute videos to make more money from ads, so needless to say I was a bit put off by his new methods.

I played the first mission of the game and after a while got…bored. It was strange, I thought it would be the best thing since sliced bread but I just couldn’t care for it. I popped Skyrim into the PS3 and haven’t looked back since.

I am a HUGE fan of medieval historical fantasy. Or even historical realism. I adore period dramas and anything that features castles and kingdoms. I adore the A Song of Ice and Fire book series, relish watching shows like The Last Kingdom (which recently got renewed for Season 4!) and Downton Abbey (and its lot). I was sucked into the world and silently clucked to myself “damn it, Todd Howard got me again” each time I brought a new iteration of the game or a DLC that I really didn’t need but wanted and therefore – had to have.

Things had luckily changed for me in 2018, and I had the ability to not spend every single dime I earned on transportation, bills, and groceries and could indulge in small luxuries and hobbies after years of yearning. I purchased mainly books, or attended conventions, sometimes opting to buy tasty Japanese snacks or try a new restaurant. Other times I would just visit a new location for a day or explore a park I’d never been in. It had been lovely.

With the change of the weather I couldn’t go out much anymore comfortably, and decided to focus on buying a PS4 before the holidays ended; especially with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 and multiple supporting trailers so we all collectively knew it wasn’t a fever dream onset by ten years of waiting for the ultimate greatness to come. I mean, yes the games have been still coming out but the story is so damn convoluted and no one had money to keep purchasing new systems just to play the newest installment in the series. Then there was the fact that the Final Mix games with actual content would not be released outside of Japan.

Then it was decided to release the FM games in some sort of shady attempt to grab more money from the fandom starved of any new and tangible information to the main story or its characters. I own Chain of Memories on the Gameboy Advance SP. To eat away at my feelings of inadequacy, I also purchased some of the manga for the series at Barnes and Noble and read those instead of pinning after games I knew I would never play. I did end up buying the Final Mixes when they were released for the US, but the experience felt cheapened, somehow.

Around Black Friday (which is the huge discounted sale day after Thanksgiving for those of you outside of the US) retailers and outlets began advertising the PS4 Slim for a slashed price. At first, it was just supposed to be Target, but other retailers did it early than expected and I went insane. I didn’t have another paycheck coming that soon and frantically called stores to see if they could hold the rapidly selling out product. I even kept tabs on websites and would get sad when I refreshed and seen the dreaded “out of stock” listed below the PlayStation.

Eventually, I woke up super early one morning when I did have money and ordered it on Walmart’s website. I went back to bed for a few hours and checked again after waking to see that it was sold out. On Black Friday, the system was delivered and I felt like I was back in the age of technology. I set it up and the first thing I did was open Netflix to watch season 3 of Frontier with my mom.

I missed the option to buy Assassins Creed: Odyssey on sale, so I opted to purchase The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (I know, I know – but this one had mods! Albeit not as many as Microsoft or PC because Sony enjoys sucking the fun out of everything…but mods! And dynamic lighting! Yeah!) and a medieval RPG I still wanted despite all of the questionable things I’d heard – Kingdom Come Deliverance.

Jesus Christ be praised!

Obviously, not Jesus Christ.

I fell so far into the Holy Roman Empire’s Bohemia it is not even funny. After the holiday I had a health scare and wasn’t able to do much each day. I would get up, crack open my laptop and write a few things and then shut it and go back to my room to lie down. After a week of this, I decided to play the game instead of starting another Skyrim file that would take up all of my time.

And it was amazing.

I spend from morning into the late night running around the in-game town doing errands, reading the codex and learning everything I could about this completely immersive world. Then after a few days – I realized I was still in the prologue. I stayed up one night, drinking water and eating dates, and powered through the prologue to fully experience what the open world had to offer. I was neglecting my website and other writing duties, but as I still hadn’t felt well I let myself just enjoy something for once.

I loved how realistic the game was. Meaning, I couldn’t half ass anything.

I’ll be honest, my Henry of Skalitz was an absolute loser in the beginning. I couldn’t ride a horse to run away from enemies, I couldn’t jog to a new quest without running out of stamina, holding a sword? Lol forget about it. It infuriated me when the horse would get stuck in the tiniest of streams because I couldn’t handle it well. Or that I couldn’t pick a lock or even knock out an enemy. I had no armour and the enemies that did would rightfully kick my ass. Only I couldn’t black out, because that meant losing progress because I couldn’t afford to purchase Savior Schnapps and I was nowhere near one of the games various automatic save points in the story. I couldn’t read to even brew the potion for this alcoholic drink, and since I didn’t have money for a bath I was dirty and no one wanted to talk to me.

Warhorse Studios really went there. And they went there all the way.

It made you commit to the story and turning the son of a blacksmith into someone who could at least handle a sword. Ride a horse. Afford food for breakfast so he didn’t starve. Someone who had a place to sleep at night.

Slowly, but surely, young Henry made his way through the world. He made friends, learned skills, and the story progressed in a way that felt natural. No one gives a shit about you in the beginning. There is no sympathetic character who tries to help you out of the goodness of their hearts. Well, I take that back. There is Lady Stephanie, Sir Divish’s wife but she seemed to have…a lack of heirs and…ahem…other motives for her kindness.

But everyone else wants something, and you either have to trade or compromise. Or if you’re like me, woo them with your fancy speech options and book-learning.

This game really made it for me when I kept failing this one questline over and over again for literal hours. “Getting Runt” was quickly becoming a pain and I was at my wit’s end. I couldn’t just eat blocks of cheese mid-battle or drink marigold concoction to heal my health – because that is not realistic. I couldn’t fix my armor mid-fight because at the time I attempted this I didn’t even have armor and I somehow thought that would be okay and that I wouldn’t get my skull cracked open and bleed out in a gutted old upper floor of a cathedral.

Why did I think I could best an enemy with more strength than me, a great set of armour and a nasty attitude towards life would easily go down because I was the hero?

The unremarkable hero that didn’t even have enough strength to wield a sword, didn’t possess knowledge of combos or even have two groschen to rub together and had been eating out of community pots up until this point to not faint and die.

Kingdom Come Deliverance takes your expectations of what an RPG is and turns it on its head. You would not magically possess and display the abilities you needed to survive in a life or death situation. You would simply just die. And no one would care, because you were not remarkable or well-known.

You would be mourned, but you’re not far enough into the storyline at this point to understand why. I’d just all be for nought.

After displaying clear signs of insanity, I decided to reload an earlier save before I even attempted this battle. I went to train with Sir Bernard, a man who will pumble you until you get the combos right. Until you learn the in-game battle system and its rules. Until you build up your strength, stamina, agility, warfare and general knowledge.

So I trained. I learned. I fought the bandits who jumped me for being foolish enough to travel at night and think I would be untouchable. I took their armour, selling some, fixing a lot more to wear. I purchased a sword, a Needle to stick them with the pointy end. I started saving up to buy a horse so I no longer had to travel on foot. I spoke to people, a lot of folks to improve my speech and unlocked new conversation options. I learned how to hunt, which helped Henry learn how to hold a bow. I traveled across the map, meeting new people and seeing friendships being formed.

Then I went back to that mission I was stuck on, poisoned my blade with bane and hit that big brute square in the face three good times and cued the cutscene that signaled the end of that mission. I just sat back and laughed, feeling accomplished for the first time in years while playing a video game.

I put in the work, and it paid off.

I was also now respected and taken seriously as Henry’s life began taking a turn for the better. The game truly started now, and I had a front seat to how I wanted to shape the world based on the skills I had to learn in real life. The combat system, the recipes for potions, and how to investigate a situation to end a quest without violence. Search around the actual world to find things to help the character of Henry out.

It was so rewarding. Truly.

Beating the game two days ago I just sat for a while and watched the credits roll. I completed the epilogue and then took to Reddit to find out if more story was to come, if there were DLCs or a third act planned. The newest DLC, Band of Bastards, will have the first mission streamed on WarHorse Studio’s Twitch account tomorrow on January 2nd. I’ll definitely be tuning in. Also, a well-placed Twitter photo seems to allude to more story to come concerning the cliffhanger we were left on, so I will be keeping tabs on that.

So where have I been this past December? I was stuck in Bohemia, turning a black smith’s son into a distinguished war veteran and private investigator. I was smiling like a fool, being damn proud of a bunch of 1s and zeros. All the while being thankful that there are so many different mediums available for storytelling and optimistic of what the future holds in the realm of technology.

Kingdom Come Deliverance is a good game. If you enjoy RPGs with historical context, be sure to give it a go and don’t be frustrated if at first, you do not succeed. Try, and improve your methods of approach. Only then can you attain mastery, when you keep trying at something despite failing over and over again. Hard work is what builds character, and this is what KCD has shown flawlessly.

Where to Find the Game: Steam PS4 Xbox

In Asian Spaces

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Author: In Asian Spaces

I write in my personal time and I haven't published much at all. I don't know if that qualifies me as a writer or not, but I'd like to change that. I have a deep passion for travel, cinema and (mainly) East Asian things, but I plan on writing various things to keep it spicy. Let's prosper together ~ よろしくおねがいします。

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