Realism in games can be a very difficult theme to handle, both narratively and mechanically. However, Warhorse Studios implemented it perfectly in Kingdom Come: Deliverance — to such an extent that it’s called by many the most realistic medieval-life simulator game the world has ever seen.

Even though many players complained about the difficulty of the combat and other mechanics, KCD was a success. But how did realism empower this game? Well, this article will explain why video games need to learn from KCD so that the gaming industry can improve.

(This article will contain spoilers for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.)

Earning Rewards in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Kingdom Come: Deliverance soldiers fighting with swords

At the start of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, we play as Henry, a regular peasant without any combat experience; and the gameplay shows as much. We can’t counterattack, nor do we know any special moves, and using a bow is nearly impossible. We can barely take on the village drunk in a fight.

But by the end of the game, we can use a sword with the same finesse as Geralt of Rivia. We can fight three opponents at once, though we’d have to have luck and skill to do so. And we’ve become less terrible at archery. Compared to many power fantasy games, the rewards might seem like nothing; on top of which, KCD gave them out quite begrudgingly.

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But the game was realistic — in its setup, and in how players had to work to earn ‘rewards’ like greater combat skills. Getting rewards for doing almost nothing in video games is becoming stale as the audience matures. Video games need to be giving fewer rewards (and not just with the cosmetic ones); and they need to make sure that the rewards feel earned by making the player feel like they’re dealing with a real life, not an escapist fantasy with a bunch of unrealistic circumstances.

Simulating Life in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Riding a horse toward a castle in the background in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

We have to eat and sleep; and we can overeat, which causes us to lose health. Speaking of, health and stamina are nearly one and the same: the more health you have, the more stamina you can replenish; but the less health you have, the less stamina you have under your control. As with the reward system, Kingdom Come: Deliverance gives the player realistic decisions with realistic consequences. It’s a genius system; when you’ve lost most of your health, you really do feel cornered.

And the realism of the setup again makes itself known. For example, just like in Skyrim, we can read books to upgrade our skills — but we’re playing as a peasant, and he can’t read. My only issue with this mechanic is that once we do learn to read, all we get is a brief cutscene telling us that Henry can now read.

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"Objective Complete: Read a book"

However, the system doesn’t fall short in the aftermath of this. Some words are difficult to read, and we have to piece the words together to learn the true spelling of each. Reading also has its own skill tree, which is very useful because when Henry reads a book to increase his skills, he gets tired pretty quickly if his reading skill is low.

There are also multiple layers for clothing, which does result in clipping issues; and the developers might have gone a bit overboard. But the difficulty and realism of implementing such a system is much appreciated. Article and character appearances aren’t enough to immerse a player in a game where the protagonist can just slaughter entire armies in one quest. By making the struggles, actions, and life of our protagonist more familiar to us and relevant to the gameplay, games like KCD encourage a stronger attachment and emotional investment from players.


Village in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

A sequel, Kingdom Come: Deliverance II, will likely be released later this year. Do you think that video games need to adopt realism, or do you think it’s not needed or preferable? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Strangely Awesome Games Staff

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