Kingdom Come: Deliverance Preview

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As Frugal Gaming’s resident historical gaming expert, it’s that time again, where my Frugal Gaming overlords dust me off, pick the twigs out of my beard and wheel me in front another historical gaming epic. This time, my wizened, rheumy gaze has been cast upon KingdomCome: Deliverance, an open world chat-em-up of medieval proportions.

KingdomCome: Deliverance is aiming to be as grounded as possible in historical accuracy. Set in 15th Century Bohemia, (known as the Czech Republic these days), you will find yourself taking part in a story of intrigue and revenge while trudging through the mud-caked streets of villages and castles, chatting to the locals or skewering them with long-swords. As with all early access, this comes with the requisite suite of bugs and glitches and it’s also not representative of the whole game, as the beta provides a chunk of the middle-game to play through. It’s plenty to test the ambitions of the game as well as the systems and characters intended to populate the sprawling map.

Thankfully not all the details of medieval life are present. I’m yet to die of the Plague, my teeth look remarkably Californian and, in a bold statement of going against the trend, there isn’t a button that I can press to defecate. As it is now most of the voice acting and dialogue is temporary, but you get the gist. Most of your time will be spent cajoling scraps of information from NPCs by completing quests. Most quests can be completed in a variety of ways and will dynamically update depending on your actions and while you can use aggression to force information, it’s best to explore the dialogue options as much as possible to level up your conversation ability.

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On the occasion that you have to let your steel do the talking, the combat system built for Kingdom Come: Deliverance is unlike any other sword-fighting system I’ve seen in a game. Warhorse have put a lot of effort into doing it ‘right’, particularly for a game that has a first-person perspective. By using a simple dial in the HUD you can select different stances, parry incoming attacks or attempt feints to get past your opponent’s defence. It’s a little clunky at first but once you get a feel for the rhythm of a sword fight it’s deeply satisfying. To be clear: there’s no way to blindly hack and slash your way out of a fight – you’ll just exhaust the protagonist, you have to be patient but decisive, plus landing the odd punch when you get in close is as funny as it sounds. Incidentally, this system translates well while using a controller, but more on that later.

Built with the Cryengine, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is graphically demanding, so a decent PC is useful to enjoy all the graphical bells and whistles, but I can assure you it looks great on medium settings and of course the game will be optimised prior to release. In terms of environmental design, this game takes trees and forests to another level, the flora a fauna of this game is totally stunning. There are layers of detail in almost all the environments and the towns and villages, making them feel lived in rather than designed. And for all you equestrian fans out there I can officially reveal that the horses in Kingdom Come: Deliverance rank among the best that video gaming has to offer. Resolute, proud beasts, they provide you with dependable transportation, companionship and should you have the time (you will) you’ll find yourself gazing at them while they stare back with deep, soulful eyes.

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I have to applaud the current crop of actors that appear in the game. The dialogue and script are entirely placeholders at the moment. But they reveal a snapshot of the game in development. I spent plenty of time talking to the locals and although it can sometimes feel like you’ve stumbled into the village am-dram Shakespeare rehearsals, I became rather fond of their shonky dialogue delivery. The protagonists voice is the one you’ll hear the most and I grew to love his wooden, stoic exchanges with NPCs, making his utterances of surprise or anger all the more (unintentionally) hilarious. I had to mention this as I’m almost sad that these performances won’t make it into the final game. I appreciate the developers are aiming for AAA values for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but there is a certain so-bad-it’s-good quality which I hope some hint of will remain in the final build.

My biggest concern with this game is the fact it’s launching on both consoles at. Due to its focus on historical accuracy and faithful recreation of past locations and events, I do wonder if console owners will be drawn to a medieval game that doesn’t feature dragons, spells, or competitive multiplayer. This game is by no means an action-packed hack and slash-a-thon, it is a thoughtful, almost lovingly created slice of historical reconstruction set in a delightful environment with quirky personalities, and even though I approached this game with all the cynical caution my wearied eyes have witnessed in early access games over the years, Kingdom Come: Deliverance won me over with its charm and simplicity.

Pros:

Historical accuracy – you might learn something!

Sword fighting system – it’s like fighting with a real sword!

Voice acting – nutters, jilted wives, drunk soldiers = lol

Cons:

Historical accuracy – can’t see the COD community jumping on this

It ain’t finished – can’t wait to see the finished article

Naval Action Preview (The Naval MMO).

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Naval Action is an early access title with grand ambitions for the MMO scene. In some ways Naval Action is aiming to be the age of sail game to beat, featuring a huge historically re-created map of the Caribbean, authentic ships and realistic naval combat. Upon booting up the game you’ll be asked to choose a Nation to represent (Great Britain in my case) and you’ll be given a starter ship (a basic Cutter). The nation you choose determines where on the enormous map you begin and then you’re pretty much left to your own devices. As is often the case with Early Access there is no tutorial, and by design Naval Action features very little hand-holding, but more on that later.

Eager to find out what the open-world sandbox nature of the game was like, I hit the ‘sail’ button as soon as I’d located it on the entirely placeholder but functional menu system. I took a moment to admire my little boat bobbing on the water then set sail and sped off in search of a battle. After sailing around for a while I engaged in combat with a random NPC and after much hammering of keys and baffled grunts of frustration I got my tiny little stern handed to me. I returned to port with my tail between my legs. It was clear I would need to do some research. With the help of some informative YouTubers, I returned to the game with some understanding of how I might succeed as an 18th Century naval captain. Although not an absolute sim, Naval Action does opt for the realistic approach: cannon ballistics, the pitching and rolling of the sea, and most importantly wind are all important factors to consider when sparring with other ships.

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Fortunately, Naval Action goes some way to helping you avoid fights you can’t possibly win, but when you do get into battle you are transported to a separate instance where you and up to 50 others can duke it out across the waves. From my experience, these instances are entirely clear of obstacles and land (even if you start a fight near the coast) so there’s no danger of running yourself or your opponent aground. You can also escape from a fight if you have the speed to pull away from your attacker, it will be interesting to see how these mechanics will translate to a drawn out chase or when hunting in groups. In most cases, however, battles are a tense balance of ammunition, crew and sail management, all while trying to manoeuvre to keep the wind in your sails and your target within reach. This is also where I suspect Naval Action will divide the crowd: battles are long. You should expect most 1 Vs 1 battles to last up to half an hour or more. Just as it was in days of yore, cannons are notoriously inaccurate, stick a dozen or more on a boat on the ocean and they become even more inaccurate. Thankfully there are plenty of firing options, it takes some practice, but you’ll soon be skipping iron balls across the water and into the exposed side of the bad guys.

Clearly, the most amount of polish has gone into these moments of combat; the sails and pennants flutter in the wind, while movement feels weighty and cannon fire leaves a dense cloud of smoke wafting across the deck. As you circle your prey, you can chip away at their hull armour to encourage leaks or employ grapeshot in an attempt to reduce their crew numbers, or use chain shot to shred their sails to reduce their speed. You can set your crew to prioritise sailing or gunning or set them to plug leaks and repair damage. You can even perform boarding actions if you can get close enough although, weirdly, boarding is played out by selecting actions in a turn-based mini game.

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Naval Action is an MMO, meaning lots of people can play it at once, and I sincerely hope they eventually do because it can feel a little sparsely populated at times. Of course, the main goal is to form large fleets and go on the rampage. You can also take control of ports, smuggle contraband, craft items, build ships or simply trade goods between ports. I’ve read, in a few places, that Naval Action is comparable to Eve Online. There is some truth to this comparison but the biggest caveat that sets Eve apart from other multiplayer games is its single server structure. Naval Action currently requires you to choose from four servers and any progress you make does not carry over. If however, this game does eventually migrate onto a single server, then it will open up a myriad of possibilities. Players would be able to form power blocs of controlled and contested territory, a player-driven economy would develop as a result thus making crafting and trade much more meaningful.

As an early access game, there are a few quibbles, navigation is all but left up to you, this is by design but it’s a design decision that doesn’t produce any gameplay, and getting lost isn’t much fun. The lack of any land mass appearing in battle instances is a minor disappointment; I think it would provide even more tactical options. And Naval Action is no slouch in the resources department, you’ll need a fairly beefy PC to pump the water up to max settings – pun not intended. None of these quibbles are deal breakers, if you’re playing Naval Action it’s because you like ship porn. And Naval Action is like the holy grail of ship porn. It’s deliriously beautiful to look at. Each screen is like Patrick O’Brian book cover (look it up, kids). It’s a real pleasure to look at. It’s a good job too, because you’ll need to commit a lot of time to advance to the next ship with more guns, sails and crew. And while it’s still early days for the game there are plenty of mechanics to learn and skills to master, it’s not a game that’s intended to pass a few hours on a rainy weekend if this is your niche you’ll be here for months, if not years to come. Better batten down the hatches, a storm’s a-coming.

Pros:

-Realistic 18th Century naval combat

-Beautiful environment

-Ships!

Cons:

-Challenging mechanics

-Resource intensive

-Needs more players!