[Review] Kingdom Come Deliverance

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The moment I heard about “Kingdom Come Deliverance” my excitement honestly knew no bounds. As a gamer, I love epic fantasy tales that involve swordplay and lots of gore but what I’ve wanted for what feels like forever is a video game that involves history. And accurate history at that – or as accurate as you can get in a video game. Despite hearing about the insane amount of bugs in the early versions of the game, I picked it up on release day. After downloading the crazy huge first patch…I was not disappointed (and actually, didn’t really come across many bugs in my playthrough. Hurrah!)

Kingdom Come Deliverance is set in Bohemia, 1403, slap bang in the middle of not only the Great Western Schism but also in what can only be considered as a bitter family feud. Bohemia at the time was ruled by King Wenceslaus IV who was actually a pretty rubbish King. Sigismund, Wenceslaus’ half brother, was King of Hungary. However Wenceslaus’ poor ruling brought him into conflict with a whole bunch of nobles and, when he refused to show up to a meeting to answer charges of failing to keep the public peace or helping to resolve the Schism, he was dethroned and captured by Sigismund. Now I don’t know all that much of the history of this time period, however this game has made me want to know more. And it will make you guys want to know more too!

The story starts in Skalitz (Stříbrná Skalice) with a young blacksmith named Henry. He’s a bit of a nobody really, just the son of a blacksmith who enjoys spending time with his friends and wooing the ladies. His father, the village blacksmith proper, has been employed by Sir Radzig Kobyla (Racek Kobyla – a real nobleman who lived in Skalice) however when a Cuman army appear before the village and attack, everything goes to hell. Literally. Now I don’t want to spoil anything but let me tell you – this introduction has to be one of the most intense beginnings to a video game that I have ever seen. Interestingly enough, in 1403, a Cuman army did indeed attack Skalice – they murdered everyone in the village who didn’t manage to flee. But dear old Sir Radzig and those who had holed up within the castle managed to sneak away during the night, in the middle of a massive thunderstorm.

That is just one example of the historically accurate events that happen throughout the game. Add onto that the sheer effort that has gone into building the area around Skalitz – the team at Warhorse employed full time historians to work on this game, mapping out the historical landscape to such a degree that you can compare the game map to a modern map of the area and see just how it matches up.

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The amount of research that was put into the social interaction as well was just brilliant. Every decision that you make as Henry affects how people will treat you in your day to day dealings with them – commit crime in a town? People aren’t going to want to deal with you. Show up after days and days of not washing? They’ll make a comment on just how much you stink. Show up covered in blood…well, you get the gist. But if you do good deeds, pay for your crimes in the form of a prison sentence etc, it will all go a long way to giving you one hell of a good reputation. And in towns where you have a good reputation the people will greet you like a long lost hero. It’s bloody brilliant!

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The combat in the game is clunky. But it’s so be expected – you’re wearing heavy armour and swinging a sword. So it doesn’t take much to have you get seriously hurt. You get hurt to the point where you’re bleeding, if you don’t bandage it up then you’ll bleed out and die. And you can fight those who are better swordsmen than you – and they will kick your arse if you try it on with them. But as you progress through the game you do get better – you learn skills, your strength levels up as does your swordplay. But that’s not to say that the combat gets easier. Dodging and parrying is hugely important. And honestly I have no idea how I even completed it given as how my mantra was ‘just poke the guy with my sword until he dies’….it meant there was a lot of rage moments and rage quitting, let me tell you!

But it’s not all about the fighting. Oh no! You have to be diplomatic at times as well – so your speech skill is just as important as your strength. Many quests involve you talking your way out of trouble. I lost count of the amount of times I couldn’t progress in a quest as my speech skill wasn’t high enough, so I’d have to head away and talk to literally everyone in the area.

Throughout the game you will come into contact with people and places who, although not historically important in the grand scheme of things are important in their own way. The little people, as it were, were just as important. But you also come into contact with names such as Jan Hus, Sigismund, Wenceslaus…it doesn’t stop. And at times it can be seriously overwhelming. It’s not a simple game at all. But it’s one that will pull you in. And you will waste hours and hours talking to people. You will waste hours wandering forests, discovering hidden treasures and listening to the birdsong. More importantly you will fall in love with the characters as they wind their way through 1403 Bohemia, trying desperately to survive in one of the most torrid periods of Czech history.

This game is truly a masterpiece and one for both fans of RPGs as well as those interested in history. I highly recommend it.

[Review] The Colour Of Poison – Toni Mount

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The narrow, stinking streets of medieval London can sometimes be a dark place. Burglary, arson, kidnapping and murder are every-day events. The streets even echo with rumours of the mysterious art of alchemy being used to make gold for the King.

Join Seb, a talented but crippled artist, as he is drawn into a web of lies to save his handsome brother from the hangman’s rope. Will he find an inner strength in these, the darkest of times, or will events outside his control overwhelm him?

Only one thing is certain – if Seb can’t save his brother, nobody can.

You’ll all already be aware that I usually shy away from historical fiction as much as is humanly possible. For the most part, I’ve had bad experiences with it – badly researched and poorly written stories really don’t make for good reading. But every so often there’s a diamond hidden in the rough. That’s what Toni Mount’s “The Colour Of Poison” was – from the moment I picked the book up I just couldn’t put it down!

It’s a story full of murder and intrigue set within Medieval London. And Mount’s descriptions of the dirty streets of Medieval London almost made me feel like I was there with the characters, trudging through the mud and hearing the jeers of the citizens towards the main character, Seb Foxley. As for the characterisation, each and every character had so much depth it was unreal. I found myself absolutely despising  many of them (I won’t give away spoilers, but there’s one lady in the story who I couldn’t stand from the moment I realised Seb’s brother was sleeping with her) and fell in love with others. Seb, in particular, grew to be a bit of a crush. And I’m not even sorry to admit it. Seb Foxley – talented and kind despite his disability, all I wanted to do was hug the poor love and tell him everything was going to be okay.

The only thing I found a bit odd when I started to read this novel was the way in which Mount kept switching between first and third person narrative. Chapters from the point of view of anyone other than Seb were written in the third person, whilst Seb’s was all in the first. It took me a while to get used to it, but I soon came to the realisation that it was actually a very clever tool used by Mount as a way of separating the story up so that readers can be clearer over who’s telling that part of the story. It’s not something that I feel everyone will like, however.

I really cannot fault this book at all. From start to finish I loved it and could not put it down. I honestly cannot wait for the next instalment of Seb Foxley’s story, and urge everyone to pick up a copy of this book.