Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a unique game. This history RPG is filled with oodles of ambition and eye-raising design decisions, like its controversial save system. You can check back later for our review to find out what works (and what doesn’t work) for Warhorse Studios’ debut release, but I wanted to put down some words about what I find to be the game’s most captivating quality: its protagonist. Minor spoilers ahead but only for the opening hours.
What’s there to say about Henry? Well, um, he’s …. oh geez …. he’s kind of dumb, isn’t he? Maybe that’s not fair. Sure, he can’t read or write and has the persuasive abilities of a rock, but Henry isn’t dumber than anyone else in his social standing during the medieval ages. And he’s a sweet, well-meaning dude who just wants to settle down and avenge his loved ones’ death. This combination of ignorance but genuine nobility makes him one of them most fascinating protagonists I’ve played in a few years.
Even heroes in games who are considered to be more realistic or even have antihero leanings like The Last Of Us’ morally complicated Joel and grumpy fantasy Terminix man Geralt of Rivia are still violent power fantasies. Geralt can slash both men and monsters into pieces with a single slice of his sword and Joel can beat a man to death with a brick. Henry, on the other hand, gets his ass handed to him by drunkards and bandits multiple times within the first two hours of Kingdom Come. He’s not a knight in shining armor or a gruff antihero.
Instead, he’s a kid. A naive village boy who’s had his whole world violently ripped away from him, someone who’s going to have to learn the ways of a harsh, unforgiving world to survive. This journey from a helpless blacksmith’s son to an assured journeyman is ultimately what Kingdom Come is about, and while the game does have its quirks and issues, I find the natural development of Henry as a character engaging.
During my 25 hours with the game, I’ve learned how to pickpocket, pry open locks, hold an arrow steadier, and swing a sword with a deft hand. Kingdom Come’s systems treat these qualities as more than the stat categories of other RPGs, with you having to learn trades and skills (like reading, for example) by pursuing sidequests throughout the world. By treating these abilities as skills, Warhorse not only deepened my appreciation for basic survival actions that are often gifted to you in other games but also makes Henry’s progression feel earned. The more I played, the more I felt like Henry was becoming educated, as he learned abilities and tried new identities.
Early on I was no better than a bandit. I snuck into a home and sliced a man’s throat just so I could use his home as a base of operations, a place I could retreat to to save. On a lonely road, I once shot an arrow through a traveler’s eye. He had food and money. I had neither. It was a sensible option at the time. However, the more I learned, the more I tried to make Henry a better man, one who performed noble quests to redeem his earlier misdeeds and develop his role as a justice seeker.
It’s also refreshing that the game’s main story (thus far) doesn’t go out of its way to make Henry a savior, thus sidestepping the problem that Connor in Assassin’s Creed III had, where he somehow played a pivotal role in every single moment of consequence in The American Revolution. Kingdom Come’s major power struggle plays out and Henry does play a role, but it’s tiny, often as a messenger or a grunt.
To say that playing Kingdom Come: Deliverance is like living out a realistic, historically accurate simulation of a peasant’s life would be a bit much. However, what Kingdom Come does excellently is present an engaging protagonist that comes from nowhere who has to fight for his place in the world and has systems that make that journey fascinating. Henry might be a bit of a doof, sure, but I’d kill for more games that present their heroes in such unromantic, uniquely humble ways.
For more on Kingdom Come: Deliverance, check out our tips and tricks for the game here.