Kingdom stay put.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a 2018 action adventure RPG set in a mostly realistic medieval world (alchemy is real, you can craft potions). You are the son of a blacksmith. Bad things happen, and you are driven on a blood-soaked quest to exact revenge on the mysterious foreign army that murdered your parents, find a sword, and prove yourself to your new feudal lord…

…if you want to. You can also just faff about, gather herbs, romance maidens, dig up graves, and learn any number of skills that you wish.

I want to be clear—Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Royal Edition is a big game, offering you options in terms of how you want to play it. A lot of options. Too many options. At the same time, it is absolutely stiflying in terms of the itty-bitty things you have to keep track of in order to play the game successfully. But the game tells you, explicitly, none of this.

For example, an early quest puts you on a hunting quest with a minor noble. He challenges you to hunt more rabbits than he can before a deadline. You are not directed to any particular location to find these rabbits, and if you are wearing the armor that you gained in a previous mission the clanking sound of the armor will cause the rabbits to avoid you.

This is a hard game. You are expected to wash yourself, repair your armor and weapons, and keep track of the wear-and-tear on your clothing because it affects how other people judge you. At one point I woke up in a quest telling me to head to the upper keep tower and had to consult a walkthrough to tell me I needed to pick up a torch so that I could find my way through a realistic depiction of how the damn things were constructed.

Combat isn’t great. There are tutorials that will attempt to guide you on how, in melee fights, to judge your opponents’ movements so you can counter them, but I found the Switch’s sticks to be a poor match. Using a bow is an absolute nightmare of figuring out where an arrow would actually go compared to where it was aimed. This is compounded by early-game mechanics where the story wants you to lose so it can advance in the way it’s meant to go, with you barely surviving to fuel your quest for revenge™.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance expects you to do a lot of work. It expects that you want to do a lot of work. It wants you to keep track of the time of day, the food you have to eat and the idea that the food you carry with you will decay over time. It lets you wander about in unclear quests. It allows you to discover quests that you’re not ready to tackle at your current level because you’ve wandered off the beaten path.

It is the video game equivalent of The Deep End. And sometimes, in The Deep End, you drown.

I can see the story of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, but I honestly don’t know what’s the point of this style of gameplay. Are they trying to make it realistic? Do people want a realistic depiction of life in the middle ages? I mean a really realistic depiction where you have to wander around trying to find a basin to wash yourself in? Where you have to learn and memorize where every business in a town is so that you can get there at a specific time? Where you have only the vaguest idea of what you need to do, or, if you have such a description from a quest list, you have no idea if your level is high enough to accomplish it?

I’ll give you another early example that sets the tone throughout. After you’re almost killed, you meet a miller. What the game doesn’t tell you is that millers are the criminal underworld of this game. He took care of you while you were almost dead, and if you offer (in a spirit of human empathy) to pay him back for this, he asks you to go to the compound of the local hangman, dig up a corpse, and rob the grave of jewelry.

This struck me as a “sudden left turn.”

Now, to the game’s credit, there are several ways to approach this problem. What it does not tell you is that this is not a quest you should approach at this point, and that even if you are fortunate enough to stumble upon an alternate solution to the problem you may not be able to use one of these alternate solutions later in the game when you’ve built your levels and/or skills to do so.

I did not like this game. Those who love to fiddle with the minutiae may, but they’d be better served playing it on a system where it looks better and plays smoothly. A better Switch port, however, wouldn’t change my opinion that Kingdom Come: Deliverance – Royal Edition is so dedicated to the idea of giving you every option that it lacks a point. There are open-world games with ambiguous narratives that I’ve loved, but this one is so in love with the idea that you can do anything that it loses sight of directing the player, guiding them so that they understand what the limitations of the game are.

It’s too big. Too big, and too empty.