Kingdom Come: Deliverance is doing some pretty wild stuff with armor
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is basically “historical accuracy porn.”
The entire game takes place within the scope of a series of actual historical events that took place in Bohemia— now the Czech Republic— in 1403. You will play an imaginary soldier in the service of real people who fought real wars; your decisions won’t be able to change anything that really happened. You will fight using a combat system based on historical texts about medieval combat. You will enter buildings based on actual constructions from the time period. You will visit painstakingly-recreated landmarks which still exist in the real world in those precise places. There is a monastery in the game which is under construction in the game because, in the real world, it was actually under construction in 1403. Nobody was going to call KC:D on this kind of inaccuracy— but they want to depict Bohemia in exactly the way it was at that exact point in time, and they’re trying really damn hard to do it.
It’s not just the setting and the core combat that’s exhaustively realistic, either. At my E3 meeting with Warhorse, the developers went over an almost overwhelming number of in-game systems that the player will have to navigate in the name of accuracy. Your weapons will get dull; to sharpen them, you will play a whetstone mini-game which uses trigger-pulls and analog-stick movements to mimic the actual physical operation of a medieval whetstone. The armor system is complex enough that your underwear takes up a slot in your equipment inventory. Unlike most RPGs, you will not be able to just ask questions of anyone you want; monks, for example, will (realistically) not allow you into their monastery at all unless you become an actual monk. And so long as you remain a monk, you must do monk shit— that is, follow the daily schedule of a monk, performing prayers and chores inside a working monastery full of AI monks who monk it up all day long.
I studied medieval and early modern Europe in college and I am exactly the kind of person who is interested in this kind of nonsense. Even if the life of a realistic medieval soldier ends up being an exhausting (or even bad) experience, I still appreciate the effort that goes into just trying this hard. (This is probably one of the reasons why I backed this game at the lowest get-the-game level on Kickstarter in the years before the Jobs Witch cast her spell on me and transformed me into a games journalist.) I didn’t see the word “sim” used in any of the press materials, and I never heard it mentioned in the meeting I attended, but KC:D seems a lot like a medieval soldier-sim.
Take, for example, the equipment system— the main thing that Warhorse came to E3 to promote this year. When dressing up their character for battle, a player will layer armor and different kinds of fabrics over one another to create a loadout that protects against various kinds of weapons. For example, wearing a plate metal hat will protect against bladed weapons— but layering a second padded-cloth hat under your main hat will add additional protection against heavy, blunt weapons. “Everything has a different ability or a different defense number against a different type of weapon,” Warhorse told me.
The real cool bit is that KC:D realistically and pretty seamlessly layers these different clothes over one another to reflect however you have chosen to slap them on your body. I was treated to a lot of time-lapse footage of a medieval man sticking lots of different armor on his body, and yep— it’s pretty neat! A armor system this deeply focused on layering individual elements is pretty uncommon, and KC:D’s system definitely looks interesting.
Besides the layering focus, KC:D also has a limb-by-limb approach to armor. Every bit of armor protects only the part of your body it’s on— wearing several good layers of pants has no effect on attacks that hit you in the torso. Combat is a six-direction attack system which allows you to stab from the front and do swinging attacks from five different angles, to hit enemies on the parts of his body where they less protected. You will also take more damage where you’re not protected.
At one point during this part of the E3 demo, the player-character began to layer on a bunch of different armors in preparation for a tournament duel in a local castle. The developers opened the inventory to show how each part of the body was differently-protected by the armor the character was wearing. “And all of these parts are saving your life on this particular area,” they announced, pointing to the pants-zone in the character profile. And that’s when I noticed: there was underwear in one of those slots. The scope of this sim seems to currently include underwear. Nice. Niiiiice.
Your armor can also affect what faction NPCs believe you’re a member of. This isn’t new in RPGs, so KC:D takes it a step further: the state of your armor also affects NPC perception. Battle will splatter your armor with blood; if you show up in town soaked with blood, people are going to be scared of you. (I am now genuinely curious to how they would react if I showed up in blood-splattered faction-specific underwear. Can I do that? I hope I can. I hope it with my whole heart.)
In the mission they demonstrated to us at E3, we got to see the player explore several stages of a monastery-infiltration quest. Of course, they had to surrender their gear and don an appropriate monk outfit. The monastery they entered is the half-constructed one I mentioned at the top of this piece— a real place only about 50km south of Warhorse’s studio. Of course, with accuracy such a primary concern, they did extensive research alongside universities and museums to figure out what it looked like in precisely 1403. “But there is also a full time historian on our team,” they told me, “so she is double and triple checking” everything like this in the game. They showed us a comparison photograph, half in-game and half photograph-of-the-real-thing. They have gone so far as to copy the pattern of bricks on the walls of the building.
Underwear. Brick-patterns. Multiple hats performing specific, realistic duties. Real historical events which, by the way, were pretty dang wild when they did happen in real life. (There’s a king involved in this story who was actually kidnapped by his own younger brother.) Even if KC:D doesn’t end up being the realism-messiah of sim-ish RPGs, I still have to respect the sheer amount of detail and effort they’re pouring into it. (And I’m dead serious about my earlier underwear comments. I hope to high heaven I get some elaborate underwear strategy in this game.)
Laura backed KC:D as a Kickstarter backer in the days of yore, before she got this job. She backed it at the lowest possible level to get the game, which is in keeping with Zam’s Kickstarter policy.