Kingdom Come: Deliverance - The importance of immersion
Warhorse Studios on how they made their medieval RPG unique
Immersive video games draw us in with captivating worlds, unique characters and an all-round entertaining experience that’s hard to forget.
With the vast roster of games available today for both PC and console players, ruling the roost in any specific genre is a difficult task - some have tried and failed while others have thrived by bringing fresh ideas to the table.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance was one of those games that rode into battle with popular, sought-after RPGs and arose victorious. The game transports players to Bohemia, a medieval world with almost endless possibilities and many an adventure as you follow the journey of Henry, a young blacksmith whose destiny lies far beyond his humble village.
Dangerous paths and many enemies await as Henry, alongside the resistance under Lord Radzig Kobyla’s control, seek to bring the evil Sigismund (The Red Fox) and his mercenary soldiers to justice.
In an exclusive interview with Fanatical, Warhorse Studios' Tobias Stolz-Zwilling spoke about how player immersion was at the core of Kingdom Come: Deliverance - a "true RPG in its finest form".
"With Kingdom Come: Deliverance, we tried to give the player an immersive experience in which your decisions matter, you have consequences, and you decide the faith of your character," says Tobias. “Stripping away most of the established RPG healing wheels was a ‘radical way’ to allow the player to identify even more with the main character.
"Progressing in the game with its various mechanics almost feels like the player learned something, rather than just the person on screen. Needless to say, the story we are telling from 1403 Bohemia is fresh and untouched in the video game world.
"The fact that many buildings, villages, NPCs and story parts are actually historical elements is the cherry on the cake."
RPG is a hugely popular genre, one with a long-list of Hall of Fame franchises. We asked Tobias if he, or any members of the dev team, had personal favourites or any influential games that laid the foundations for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
"The good thing in today's gaming market is that there is a huge variety to choose from, even within specific genres," say Tobias. "Of course, games like The Witcher, Oblivion or even Red Dead Redemption are franchises that scored big in the gaming world.
"Getting inspired from what you like, and adding your personal spice can possibly create completely new experiences, such as Kingdom Come: Deliverance."
The RPG genre is a hugely popular one with a long-list of 'Hall of Fame' franchises. We asked Tobias if he and the KCD team had personal favourites from the RPG genre, and that may have influenced the direction and creation of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
"The good thing in today's gaming market is that there is a huge variety to choose from, even within specific genres," Tobias says. "Of course, games like The Witcher, Oblivion or even Red Dead Redemption are franchises that scored big in the gaming world.
"Getting inspired from what you like, and adding your personal spice can possibly create completely new experiences, such as Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is played from a first-person perspective, instead of the third-person or top-down view favored by other popular RPGs. We asked what the benefits of first-person are for a game liked KCD, and whether this perspective was always their intention.
"Immersion was one of the big goals we had when working on Kingdom Come: Deliverance," says Tobias. "The world should look real, people should behave realistically, and the player should deal with challenges the same as he would in real life (except pulling your sword, of course).
"The player sees everything through Henry’s eyes, which should support the immersion, and lets the player identify even more with the main character."
Immersion is clearly an important factor for KCD, but realism also plays a huge part in is success and attractiveness to gamers. Warhorse Studios introduced one of the most robust and advanced combat systems seen in modern gaming.
With around 30 hit zones across a character's body, four layers of armor and five directional options of attack, the developers knew that this aspect of an already vast game would make gamers and critics sit up and listen (and play).
"Realism is next to the immersion, which is the second pillar of Kingdom Come: Deliverance," says Tobias. "Since we already try to make the world and the people feel realistic, it makes total sense to also make the mechanics of the game feel as life-like as possible.
"The combat system was no exception. We invited real sword fighters to the studio to discuss moves, tactics, and technical difficulties and come up with a system that is probably the closest you can get to 15th century sword fighting.
"We released a short introduction video of how we did i and a very interesting 60-minute documentation with our combat consultants and sword masters."
Another interesting approach that Warhorse Studios took with KCD is giving players the opportunity to not only roam freely across Bohemia, but also solve quests and explore the narrative in multiple ways thanks to the game's non-linear story. We asked Tobias how would it affect the game experience if KCD were more linear like other RPGs.
"It would simply be less immersive if an invisible hand drags you through the level," states Tobias. "These kinds of games already exist, and they have their own charm, but Kingdom Come: Deliverance wants to be different.
"Giving the player more choices but less guidance probably makes Kingdom Come: Deliverance one of the most immersive games on the current market."
Kingdom Come: Deliverance has come a long way since its Kickstarter days, backed by over 35,000 people with a massive £1.1m raised towards building the game. So, did Tobias and the dev team expect such a huge following so soon?
“To be honest, yes, of course we did our research before we pitched the game on Kickstarter,” says Tobias. “But we were confident that this is the type of game that people wanted. Nevertheless, this was the reason why we went on Kickstarter in the first place.
“People voting ‘with their money’ was supposed to be the business case that convinced publishers and investors to finally believe in this project. However, reaching our goal within 36 hours was a big surprise. We ended up getting four times the amount we asked for, and even more!”
Fans will be excited to hear that the next DLC installment 'A Woman’s Lot' is arriving later this year. We asked (nicely) if Tobias could tell us more about the upcoming DLC and what new content, features or characters it will introduce.
"The A Woman’s Lot DLC will be the biggest Kingdom Come: Deliverance DLC ever," says Tobias. "It contains 15 hours of new quests, which will also include a game changing new feature – a dog companion. The Dog will be a useful new friend that not only fights bravely on the players side, but also helps while questing or looking for chests and points of interest.
"In those 15 hours of new quests the player will get the chance to play parts as Theresa, a strong independent woman that had to flee from the sacking of Silver Skalitz. However, she not only saves herself and the people of Skalitz, but even Henry, the main protagonist.
"The player will be able to complete the last missing story bits of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Later in the game, Henry will also get a new quest line in which he meets Joan, a nurse that treats the sick and wounded.
"One day she starts to have visions of the Virgin Mary visiting her. Starting to preach about her vision, hope and a good feeling among the people is spread, however… the church is less amused.
"The player will go through a thrilling and dramatic quest line in which their decisions will again have a huge impact on an either happy – or dramatic end of DLC 4."
Given the incredible success of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, is a sequel on the cards - or perhaps a similar style of game set in a new era?
"We of course want to first finish Kingdom Come: Deliverance with all its additions," says Tobias. "Therefore, we are releasing a new 'Royal Edition' by the end of May that offers a complete pack of all Kingdom Come: Deliverance pieces – there might even be a new collector’s edition to celebrate the success we had over the lifespan of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
"What follows after is in the stars."
Explore the visually stunning world of Bohemia for yourself with Kingdom Come: Deliverance - available now.