“Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”
Kingdom: Come Deliverance released to near critical acclaim in Q1 of this year, being praised heavily for its hyper-realistic interpretation of medieval society in 15th Century Bohemia (Czech Republic). After numerous patches and additions to the game since launch, the first premium DLC titled: From the Ashes launched on July 5th for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows and sees newly crowned bailiff: Henry of Skalitz work towards making the hamlet of Pribyslavitz a thriving community following the battle that took place there. Priced at £7.99 on the PlayStation store, I’m going to be giving a somewhat in-depth analysis of my time spent with the DLC, going over the pros and cons, as well as how the DLC fits into the game thus far (including all of its recent updates).
Much like a high-end escort with genital warts, Kingdom Come: Deliverance is an enthralling experience that presents itself beautifully, only for you to realise later down the line that you may have taken on more than you bargained for (I mean bugs, the game doesn’t actually come with genital warts). At the time of my review, I gave the game a near-perfect score (95%) which could have been interpreted as being ‘overly generous’ given the state of the game at launch. Soon after I finished my initial review, I was hit with a game-breaking bug with one of the game’s NPCs which forced me to abandon a pretty interesting side quest, which killed my interest in playing the game further at the time (curse you Olena!). However, personal interest aside (and a point I made in my original review) open-world RPG’s usually accompany a less than stellar launch being laden with bugs aplenty, with more prolific titles of the genre being no different (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was in a far worse state at launch than Kingdom Come: Deliverance was). Regardless of its somewhat rocky beginning however, the game has endured, and I stand by my original scoring based on the premise that it’s still one of the most immersive RPG’s I’ve ever played. Further to the state of the game, Warhorse Studios have been dedicated to making it a much smoother experience in terms of bug patching and general performance through numerous patches and free updates since launch, while also adding in additional quality of life fixes and content at the same time (the save on quit feature is an absolute godsend).
In May of this year, Warhorse Studios unveiled their content roadmap for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which detailed a number of free content updates as well as their 4 premium DLC drops which are due to release over the course of 2018 and 2019. The first two content drops: ‘Hardcore Mode’ and ‘From the Ashes’ released in June and July respectively, both of which added additional content that I’ll be covering in this review. First and foremost is ‘Hardcore Mode’ which is a new difficulty setting aimed at “maximum immersion”, taking the terrestrial experience found within Kingdom Come: Deliverance and amplifying the difficulty level tenfold on numerous fronts. For starters, you have to start the game by dying a set number of times with different text descriptions detailing your demise (scarlet fever anyone?) this is continued a number of times until you ‘survive’ and are met with a screen that makes you choose at least two (of a possible nine) ‘negative perks’ which give you a number of status ailments, with the intention of making the experience closer to the harsh realities of medieval life (there’s a trophy if you finish the game with all nine). In the end I opted for tapeworms and nightmares, meaning I had to eat more often and my skills were lowered for a short period after waking up from a full night’s sleep (a small price to pay compared to the other options).
You Survived: Hardcore Mode’s new detrimental perk system increases the lethality of the world in Kingdom Come: Deliverance; just be sure to stay fed often!
The big noticeable changes that you’ll encounter when you boot up hardcore mode for the first time is the complete lack of a HUD, coupled with a more ‘fine-tuned’ combat system (that is heavily in favour of your opponents) which has disabled the direction wheel, meaning your hand-eye coordination needs to be on point if you want to get anywhere. Bring these initial pointers together and your first couple of hours of hardcore mode are going to somewhat painful, and will definitely accompany many cuts and bruises. My first foray into hardcore was brutal to say the least, as I initially tried to claw back a debt from the town drunk with my fists, only for him to turn from incoherent pisshead to Mike Tyson within an eighth of a millisecond, subsequently knocking me on my arse, forcing me to run back to my mother to get patched up (it mirrors my usual Saturday night at least). Soon after, the town was ransacked and pillaged by Sigismund and his lads on tour brigade, forcing me to flee, only for me to get a sword through the gullet for trying to stop a woman from getting raped. While bleeding out on the floor, it was at this point where I realised that auto-saving was disabled and had learnt my first, hard lesson while playing hardcore mode: playing like a coward is definitely how to survive, making skills such as stealth and speech all the more applicable this time around. In addition to the combat changes are navigation, with the map no longer displaying your location, forcing you to learn the landscape, and navigate using landmarks and the position of the sun. The economy of the game has also had a well-needed scrubbing with merchants paying less for items you’re looking to sell, mission rewards being lessened, and armor and weapon repairs being substantially more expensive, making the maintenance skill a necessity if you’re looking to keep your hands on your hard earned Groschen. The number of changes presented here work together perfectly, increasing the difficulty while making the game all the more realistic for those looking for a greater challenge that’s grounded even more in reality than the base version.
In addition to hardcore mode, is the first piece of premium content for Kingdom Come: Deliverance titled: From the Ashes, which initially released on July 5th for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. From the Ashes takes place mid-way through the campaign, directly after the ‘Baptism by Fire’ main quest and sees Henry get appointed to the office of Bailiff of Pribyslavitz, charged with the reconstruction of the town, restoring it to its former (non-bandit camp) glory. The questline begins with a mission from Sir Divish of Talmberg, requesting you find his master locater (the medieval equivalent of a quantity surveyor) called: Marius Bilek, who was sent to the ruins of Pribyslavitz to inspect the area. Upon arrival at the settlement, you’re welcomed by a group of heavily armed bandits that have captured Marius and have no intention of leaving (you can convince them to do one if your strength is high enough). Once the bandits are dealt with, is where the ‘bulk’ (notice the apostrophes either side) of the DLC comes into play, and also effectively comes to a halt (depending on your financial situation). From the Ashes is effectively a management sim questline, requiring you to source building materials, labourers as well as dropping a hefty amount of coin into the refurbishment of the hamlet, which could be a problem if you’re playing on hardcore mode or playing on a save where you’re already sitting on a small fortune, as either situation is going to result in a miserable/brief experience.
From wreck to ruin: From the Ashes takes place in the dilapidated hamlet of Pribyslavitz, and sees newly commissioned bailiff Henry charged with the settlement’s reconstruction.
While it seems quite in-depth on the surface, From the Ashes makes it seem like it does the most of what it brings to the table while offering very little in terms of brand-new content. The bulk of the DLC’s content revolves around visiting Marius, stating you want to build a particular building and depositing money in the coffer. There is very little in terms of customization where there quite easily could have been, with the DLC instead opting for pre-defined buildings in pre-defined locations giving the player very little say in what gets built and where. About the only engaging part of the DLC is when a situation arises where Henry has to pass judgement, such as villagers shitting too close to the village. The options themselves vary greatly to some degree and will have a positive/negative impact on the income of the village depending on your choices; however, the overall ‘judgements’ are once again quite short-lived and could have far more weight in terms of the decisions made. In addition to judgements, you can also recruit a number of the games original NPC’s that have had their own questline(s) completed (Matthew and Fritz for example) which can increase your daily Groschen earned provided you recruit the right people (Kunesh as a woodcutter for example). While the income of the village is important, the overall morale is a factor too. If at any point the villagers become dissatisfied for whatever reason (such as Henry not paying their wages) they can complain to Sir Divish who will instantly dismiss you from the office of Bailiff, effectively locking you out of the DLC for the current playthrough (backup saves are a must). To get the most out of the DLC, it’s definitely recommended that you start a new save on normal mode (Hardcore Mode lives up to its namesake when it comes to making money) as most of the fun to be had within the DLC takes place in doing the games original missions/activities in order to make money to invest into Pribyslavitz (primarily to reap the monetary rewards).
Overall From the Ashes is a pretty hard sell, but that’s not to say that there isn’t some form of enjoyment to be had in any form from the content on offer (management sims are a marmite sort of thing). While hardcore mode offers some legitimately interesting changes that shakes up the core mechanics of the gameplay, From the Ashes adds very little content and is in no way worth what you pay for. Negatives aside, this doesn’t mark the end of content for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, as the next piece of paid content: The Amorous Adventures of Bold Sir Hans Capon, as well as the free content drop featuring a combat tournament in Rattay, are due to release at some point in the closing months of 2018; watch this space!
A review code for ‘From the Ashes’ was provided by Deep Silver.