Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the latest invader to land on our shores, readying its blade to take Skyrim's crown. Much like The Elder Scrolls before it, this is a first person RPG of epic proportions, with a massive game world to explore, side quests aplenty, and as many systems as you have hair follicles on your head.
But it's not just a direct copy and paste of what The Elder Scrolls does best. Kingdom Come: Deliverance isn't interested in wizards, dragons, and fantasy landscapes. Instead, it wants to tell a realistic story set in 15th century Europe – and we damn well mean realistic.
From the very first moments the game just oozes research. We fully believe that this is what life would look and feel like during that period, with its shoddy wooden fences, peculiar looking shoes, and ridiculous hair cuts. There's a very real sense of your lowborn character's place in the world too, and you'll feel it extra keenly as soon as you encounter nobility.
That's an area in which Kingdom Come: Deliverance already has Skyrim well and truly beaten. Not only does your character feel far more fleshed out (though to its credit, The Elder Scrolls relies on your imagination to fill in that gap), but the world around you just feels so much more alive because it's based on historical reality.
It's not just that, though. An awful lot of effort has clearly gone into making this experience far more real and immersive than anything before it besides The Witcher trilogy, and that's thanks to the developers dogged attitude. Seriously, you get the feeling that the studio's thought of absolutely everything.
Don't sleep for days? You'll start falling asleep as you walk, and won't be as effective in combat or conversation. The same can be said for hunger, too – this affects your energy levels and if you eat too much you'll act more lethargic than usual.
You have to take care of your weapons as much as you do your relationship with literally every character in the world. If you don't sharpen your sword often it will be as blunt as your haggling ability once you've irritated a trader. When that's as easy to do as accidentally unsheathing your weapon in public or wandering around with dirt and blood on your face, you soon realise you have to be really careful and think of everything.
We realise already that this won't sound appealing to everyone, but the lengths that the developers have gone to just to draw you into the experience is admirable. It helps that the plot is as engrossing as the many systems, and the fact you're a lowborn blacksmith's son is a neat starting point, as you learn all about its complexities as he does.
Also, the plot focuses on the right areas: the people by your side. You learn about the war (that's not a spoiler, don't worry – it's revealed in the opening seconds of the game) from the people around you, as well as how they feel about their husband and what they prefer to eat for tea. Again, you might not want to hear all this stuff, but if you embrace it you'll feel a level of immersion you don't often get outside of an indie adventure game.
That brings us nicely to one of our more negative criticisms of Kingdom Come: Deliverance so far – that, like a low budget indie hit, it's a little janky at times despite its heart being in the right place. Loading times are a particular issue, and there was this laughable moment where we had to endure a 20 second one just to say no to a character who asked us a question.
Characters also don't tend to move their mouths with the dialogue, and it can end up looking like a badly dubbed '70s Hong Kong action flick. Oh, and when you pick up an item, you'll see your character grabbing it, but it kind of looks like an alien hand has burst out of your chest to steal an apple on the table in front of you. It's a bit disconcerting at times.
Combat, so far, seems like a strong point. This isn't the hack and slash of Skyrim – far from it. In fact, it borrows more heavily from Mount & Blade or multiplayer battler War of the Roses. You and your enemies can attack and block in any direction, so combat becomes a dance of blocking and retaliating. Against the best opponents, you'll have to really try and trick them to get a few hits in.
We haven't seen an awful lot of it so far, and the fights we have had have ended in our swift defeat, but it seems to have an awful lot of depth and realism. We get the feeling that by the end of the game, we'll really feel like we've mastered the art of combat, rather than levelled up and beefed our strength stat to max.
That's not to say that stuff isn't in there, it's just delivered a little differently than we've seen before. Rather than go into a menu to increase your stats by killing a few rats to level up, you increase your attributes by, well, doing stuff. Hit things with swords, forge weapons, stuff like that. The same can be said for abilities, too. Simply by talking to people, you increase your speechcraft, and fighting enemies improves your swordplay.
Modern Fallout and Elder Scrolls systems do feature, though. For example, once you've increased enough skills you gain a character level and get to choose a perk that improves your character in a variety of areas. At least that's what we think happens. We haven't actually levelled up yet, and were told that in a popup hint.
Our initial feelings towards Kingdom Come: Deliverance err more on the cautiously optimistic side than the outrageously negative. It's an incredibly admirable effort to deliver an engrossing and historically accurate open world RPG that does things a little different to your usual fantasy titles. But that level of ambition does result in occasional jankiness, like badly dubbed dialogue, alien stomach hands, and unforgivable loading times. We're hoping some of that can be patched out later.
However, at only a couple of hours of play, we're yet to experience the wonders of the open world and the depth of combat, as well as the rest of the title's intricacies, so you'll have to wait a bit for our full review. That said, our initial impressions are positive, and we're quietly optimistic about this one. Stay tuned.
Are you looking forward to Kingdom Come: Deliverance? Keep that sword sharpened in the comments section below.