Warhorse Studios may not be an entirely familiar name to most gamers, but this is a team not just full of fine heritage, but the bold ambition to sculpt their debut RPG out of real life events, to abscond the typical fantasy fare of magic and dragons in favour of intricate and intelligent swordplay, full scale battles and a visually stunning depiction of 15th century Europe. Kingdom Come may very well be the most intriguing new IP in gaming for some considerable time, and along with its creators, Low Fat Gaming would like to take this opportunity to welcome you to the real world…
Started in 2011 by Dan Vávra (the mastermind behind the brilliant Mafia and Mafia 2) and Martin Klíma (familiar to PC gamers through the UFO series), Warhorse Studios have brought together a team of industry veterans to create thoughtful and compelling gaming experiences, and so far, their commitment to this illustrious cause has seemingly ignited the imaginations of video gamers across the globe. Setting out to achieve a target of £300,000 of funding through the crowdsourcing website, Kickstarter, Warhorse Studios managed to raise a quite staggering final total of more than £1.1 million, from 35,384 different backers. Truly, that is an overwhelming show of confidence and support for a project that was initially ignored by the industry’s major publishers, who were concerned that the game’s more unique design and approach to the genre would hamper its commercial potential. Thankfully, as it would turn out, they appear to have been proven wrong.
A simple reason for this, could easily be attributed to the jaw dropping visuals that the team have managed to achieve, utilising Crytek’s magnificent CryEngine to wondrous effect, Warhorse’s Jiří Rýdl explained to us why it was such a perfect fit for the team.
“The story takes place in the middle of Europe in the 15th century and we knew we wanted to create an open world. We tried a lot of different engines which would support large maps including villages, forests, rivers and a lot of NPCs, in the end CryEngine was the best choice. Of course we had to develop some new tools and enhancements, specific for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and that was the reason why we step into cooperation with Roberts Space Industries”.
This, however, isn’t the only collaboration that makes Kingdom Come so special, partnering with the Charles University lab of computer science, the development team are implementing an astounding level of AI for the NPC characters that populate the world. Much like its contemporary, Skyrim, the populace will have daily routines that they abide by, but unlike its rivals, the AI in Kingdom Come is adaptive, which will see characters adjust their plans in reaction to the changing world around them, further adding to the realism that the team are striving to achieve. A sense of realism that is also extended into the game’s complex combat system.
“You are able to take any weapon and attack six different parts of the opponent’s body,” Mr Rýdl explains, “it means you can choose between a hit on the head or slash to the foot, when the opponent is not defending properly, you can even pin his stomach. The fights are part of the game, but they should be the last option of how to solve a problem, not inevitable situations. Of course, there are situations like bandit attacks, when you have to draw your sword and fight”.
Of course, there are numerous fighting styles and weapons, each of which will have its own unique strengths and weaknesses to make the combat more strategic, to create something that feels as authentic as it plays, but without sacrificing the fun in the process. Warhorse Studios have developed their combat system using input from experts of 15th century fighting techniques and weapons, along with a strong emphasis on physics, particularly inverse kinematics. This is not an uncommon technique in video game animation, it allows the creators, with the use of an animated skeletal figure with fully mapped out joint locations, to not only test the relationship between those joints and the figure’s various potential poses, but it can also allow them to examine how that character can move in restricted spaces, with parameters set by the team. What this means to the gameplay, is that a character will be unable to properly swing their sword in an enclosed space, potentially seeing it scrape upon a surface before meeting the opponent, thereby reducing the amount of damage that the attack will inflict. In addition, objects will react to collisions accordingly, as will the character, placing a particular emphasis on well-timed strikes as opposed to the unsatisfying, button mashing combat of the game’s rivals. Of course, there’s more to Kingdom Come than even this, and it is not just the player that will affect the outcome of battle, as Rýdl tells us.
“Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an RPG with a strong focus on both unique story and the player’s experience. You should feel like a real person in the 15th century, like someone who is part of the bigger world. And as in our lives, we are able to make a limited number of choices and our influence to big events is limited. For instance, when we had a Velvet revolution in Czech Republic, who from those people on Venceslav square was aware they were becoming part of history? And who was really pushing things forward? Back to our game – if you are part of the large scale battles, you just try to survive. The result of the battle depends on thousands of soldiers not just on your side, but also on the side of your enemy”.
In terms of its story, Kingdom Come: Deliverance will see players enter into a country on the brink of civil war, its new king abducted. Assuming the role of a young blacksmith whose own family was murdered by an invading army, players will have to help the hero overcome the guilt of his failure to protect the people that he loved by saving the country’s ruler and restoring order to the land. Exactly who that hero is, is a decision left to the player, as the game offers substantial customisation options, a reputation system that responds accordingly to the decisions that players make and no character classes to restrict either the progression or the actions of the character.
The large sandbox world will also offer players a vast array of ways through which to spend their time outside of the main quest.
“The world is pretty large”, Rýdl says, “Act I is built upon a real world map of 9 square kilometres, and it is full of quests. You should take at least two days of vacation if you want to finish the game – we are talking about 30 hours of gameplay”.
Though outside of questing, there are also numerous mini-games including blacksmithing, fishing, alchemy, cooking and mining, each invaluable for keeping the protagonist alive, and each also further proof of Warhorse’s desire to create a realistic experience. Grindstones must be used to sharpen weapons, while swords, daggers and such like can be created using a combination of a forge and hammer, much like the real process of weapon making. Similarly detailed and authentic mechanics will be found in each of the crafting mini-games, further extending the longevity of a game that will surely enthral players as much with its visual splendour as with its mechanics.
Traversing the sumptuous rolling hills, gorgeous forests, dimly lit caves, quaint villages and a sprawling city, the world of Kingdom Come: Deliverance is truly a treat for the eyes. Created using the combined might of satellite photography and a sterling, next-generation graphics engine, Warhorse Studios have successfully created one of the most complex and mesmerising world’s ever witnessed in a video game, and one that gamers will surely want to share with one another through some form of multiplayer component, whether competitive or co-operative. When asked about the possibility of the experience extending beyond a single player one, Rýdl’s answer was suitably short.
“No, definitely not in Act I”.
Of course, that doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of a multiplayer component making its way into the series at some point across the three titles that the team have planned thus far, but regardless, Kingdom Come: Deliverance looks set to be an incredible next-generation RPG experience, and one that stands apart from the crowd with its gritty realism and supremely well balanced combat system. It is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated titles currently in development, though disappointingly, it will not see a release until late 2015 for PC owners, with next-gen console versions following in early 2016. Unfortunately then, it’s going to be a very long wait indeed for the many gamers clamouring to get their hands on this highly anticipated title.
To find out more about the game and see it running in all of its glory, head over to the Kingdom Come: Deliverance Kickstarter page.
-James Paton @theblackpage81