Eat, sleep, die, don’t repeat
Games tend to deal with the “what ifs,” we have; what if Nazis won World War Two, what if Columbia seceded from America and decided to rebuild the city as a theocracy in the clouds, what if an Italian assassin invented the latte? It’s rare that a game goes to answer the question “What was,” but here’s Kingdom Come Deliverance, looking to inject a big, fat syringe of concentrated Medieval Realism into our gaming nerves. The natural question is, are historically accurate games fun?
Now, I’d better get this out the way at the start; when I say “historically accurate,” I don’t mean the faithful recreations of ancient cities in Assassin’s Creed, mostly because I don’t think any city has that many stacks of hay just lying around all willy-nilly – or that Jack the Ripper actually had a scream ability that scared lower level enemies. What I’m referring to are games that try to emulate a specific period of time, whether that be through combat, or simply just living. So, whilst games like Valiant Hearts, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty certainly borrow from the past, I’m barring them from this one-way conversation.
When I began thinking of games that are as historically accurate as could be, only two things popped into my head: the majority of strategy games – and The Oregon Trail. Yep, that Oregon Trail, originally designed as an educational game to teach children about the hardships of the American colonialists, it proved to be more of a death simulator rather than anything else, with the simple act of crossing a river causing death – an important lesson, sure, but fun? Maybe at first but it got tiresome quickly – even as a child.
The same can be said of the strategy games like Total War or even the Romance of the Three Kingdoms titles. RTS games tiptoe the line between work and play; hugely enjoyable if you’re inclined to the budget allocation and interior designing for combat. Though, these games – that attempt to shed some light on what life was like in ye olden days – the problem is that, understandably, they can’t emulate the random events of real life. They’re bound to a fairly strict algorithm, only able to follow a certain number of paths.
For many who enjoy these kinds of games, that’s not really an issue, though it does take away much of the simulation aspect of a game; instead, it becomes a game of routine where you follow a formula that’s worked in the past, safe in the knowledge that it will work again.
So, this – in my humble opinion, is what lies at the heart of the issue with historically accurate games: they’re bound so strictly to specific rules that they seem to always run the risk of slipping into monotonous routine. But will Kingdom Come Deliverance be any different?
Well, the answer to that question can only be partially answered. What we’ve seen of the game so far would suggest that it’s trying to break that routine symptom of historical games. Players won’t be bound to a singular “class,” of player, you’re given – much like in real life – a fluidity to your play style. The gameplay we’ve seen also suggests that, whilst the combat will follow some core rules that you’ll want to use if you don’t plan on dying immediately, relying on the same methods each and every time won’t get you very far either. These aspects of the game help in moving Kingdom Come’s historical accuracy away from the routine issue of some RTS games – but what’s that? Oh, it’s the Oregon Trail rearing its ugly head once more.
Like the Colonial Death Simulator, Kingdom Come seems intent on showing off the day to day struggles of medieval life. Don’t get enough sleep? Ya dead. Don’t sharpen your sword? Your sword bounces off opponents, and guess what? Ya dead. The homage to realism is one that’s drawn a lot of positive attention on the game – why? Possibly because of the heap of Bethesda games that let you chomp on carrots, cabbage, and cooked rodents midway through a fight, people yearn for something different. And much like how Hellblade’s rumours of a permanent file delete helped in whipping up some attention for it, the ultra-realism of Kingdom Come seems to have had the same effect. And whilst the daily struggles of staying alive will certainly be a welcome novelty for players initially, I can’t help but feel that it will also be the game’s downfall.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m excited for the game and part of me wants to be wrong. Kingdom Come should be applauded for trying to break the mold somewhat when it comes to games – and it’s certainly doing that for its genre. But, it’s also a game that – from what we’ve seen – that will only be truly accessible to a relatively small number of players. I can see the game becoming an incredibly popular game to watch being played, but much like how tripping over a twig in The Oregon Trail got you killed, I just can’t see the majority of players getting over the cruel reality of life and still enjoying the game.
What do you think: is Kingdom Come Deliverance going to be a cult hit or is John just avoiding having to git gud? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @GGSgamer