Archery Popshots | Kingdom Come: Deliverance
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Archery Popshots | Kingdom Come: Deliverance

August 11, 2019


Kingdom Come Deliverance was billed to become
a cult favourite. Emphasising and featuring what is perhaps the most realistic medieval
setting, combined with a highly technical combat system and numerous facets of living
life in the Middle Ages, Kingdom Come launched to the fanfare of dedicated fans amidst an
immense number of bugs, ranging from minor inconveniences to game-breaking quests. Much
of this was exacerbated by the rigid save system. Though subsequent patches within the
last month have addressed numerous issues, the game has a long way to go before it is
polished or, to some, playable. The game depicts the harsh learning curve
of archery quite accurately – perhaps too accurately. One of the biggest complaints
from players is that archery is ridiculously difficult, to the point where some players
completely bypass it in favour of the deeper swordplay. And in fairness, archery isn’t
important to the game overall. Apart from hunting quests, everything else can be solved
by poking someone with a sword. However, while archery can feel clunky and
frustrating, I believe that Kingdom Come Deliverance has the most realistic archery I’ve seen
in a video game, and the things that make archery extraordinarily difficult fall in
line with the developer’s intention of creating an immersive game. The player steps into the boots of Henry,
a blacksmith’s apprentice. True to history, a commoner like Henry would not have received
weapons training. His desire to go on adventures leads him to learn the basics of swordfighting
– and frankly, he is terrible at it until a couple of hours into the game when he finally
learns to use the long pointy thing in his hands to guard and attack. And alongside that,
he is introduced to archery. He’s pretty bad at that too. That said, his struggles with using the stick
and string have a grounding in real life. Archery was not a widespread skill that everyone
knew how to do. It was a specialised skill, used by soldiers or huntsmen, and where possible,
by poachers. A skilled bowman from the peasant stock might be looked at with suspicion, but
people who live or die by the meat they harvest make fine marksmen. This is also the path
that Henry must follow if he is to improve his archery skills quickly. As much as we might want to play as a dashing
rogue, we have to remember that Henry’s background isn’t likely to produce a military
archer in the time span of the game. With patience and practice, the player can make
Henry a competent shot, but we shouldn’t get our hopes too high. The first thing players find difficult is
the lack of a crosshair. Crosshairs are a must in first-person games, as it is extremely
difficult to orientate your view on a flat screen. While there is a hidden crosshair,
removing the crosshair forces the player to shoot instinctively – a skill that real
life archers would also have had to practice and master only after years of practice. The strange angle of the bow and arrow is
explained by the historic shooting technique. While modern shooters will anchor more in
line with the face and eye, medieval archers would have anchored at the ear, with the arrow
pointing left due to the archer’s paradox. It’s a bizarre look compared to other games,
but it’s very close to what a traditional archer actually sees. Interestingly, many players make the same
mistake as real-life novice archers: they typically aim too high because of this parallax.
I find that aiming lower than you think you need to, and further right, will give you
a good sense of where your shot will land. You could download a crosshair mod, but we’re
only interested in playing the game the way it was intended, right? There’s no reason
why you can’t hit a rabbit or an eyeball, and it feels rewarding when you do. The awkward shot rhythm might feel slow and
rigid to a gamer. However, the bows used in this time would have been much stronger than
the bows we use today for recreation. Such bows were designed to bring down deer and
man alike, and the heavy war bows required the archer to put their entire body into the
draw, a process substantially different and slower to what we’re used to. This is also
realistically used by Henry and his opponents, leading to some clumsy archery duels. If there’s
a fault in this aspect, it’s that every bow is shot the same way, with no distinction
between heavy and light bows, or how having high strength should make drawing faster and
easier, but doesn’t. Sure, archery is sluggish, but it is intentional,
designed to slow the player down and present the most authentic archery technique. If you
don’t want to bother with it, you’re not missing out on much. Behind every RPG is a stat system – the
way in which games portray the growth of a character. Kingdom Come make use of a few
key stats: Strength, Agility, Vitality and Speech, along with separate progression for
each skill and weapon. The more you use the skill, the more the relevant stats go up.
This makes a lot of sense. As far as archery is concerned, you actually have to be a very
well-rounded character to be competent – as was the case in real life. We’re not talking
about dancing elves or mystical wraiths. Firstly, bows require strength to use. The
game allows Henry to equip weapons that he isn’t strong enough to use, but with severe
penalties. With a bow, Henry can’t pull the bow back to full draw, and releases it
prematurely. You can still hit a target with it, but with zero control over the shot, it’s
a liability. And again, this is entirely realistic – and from an instructor’s point of a
view, a huge problem with beginning archers in real life. Fortunately, repeated use of
bows and other strength-based weapons will increase strength. Agility, in this case, is realistically used
to improve accuracy. Holding a bow steady requires coordination. With poor stamina and
low agility, Henry’s aim is absurdly shaky. Remembering that he has zero training, this
is what you should expect. For players who persist with archery to the end game, you
will find that he is a steady shot with the stamina to hold for longer, making it significantly
easier. Improve the Bow skill, and you do more damage. As an extra nod to realism, the game portrays
the much-hated string slap. Henry doesn’t actually know how to hold a bow until he reaches
Level 5 in Bow skill, and as such he flays his arm with the bowstring. Unless he is wearing
a bracer, he will actually sustain arm injuries that reduce his overall health and stamina.
Once he goes past this novice phase, he no longer needs to wear one. Again, true to life.
Beginner bows can turn an arm black and blue and cause lesions, and we still wear arm guards
for modern archery. Medieval war bows would have carved up skin. To further praise the game, the progression
is subtle. There’s never a point where you feel like you suddenly turn into an expert
marksman. Every stat boost gives you a marginal improvement, but looking at end-game archery,
it looks so smooth and natural compared to Henry’s first shots, and you as the player
become more confident in taking shot are more difficult targets, growing with the character
in the game. There’s another reason why people find archery
to be unfulfilling. Generally, arrows don’t do much damage. This might be OK when using
hunting arrows against bandits wearing padded armour, but once you start facing plate armour,
you see sparks fly and very little harm done. A shot may literally do nothing. The same
applies to you. Wearing a full plate harness with mail and gambeson makes you nearly impervious
to damage. As we’ve consistently seen, this is very realistic, and avoids the trope of
armour being made of paper. This can be defeated, nonetheless. The game
offers a variety of arrow types, from wounding broadheads to long-range piercing arrows and
bodkin points for punching through armour, all realistically modelled. As most foes in
the game are armoured, piercing damage is the key. With the right arrow and a high Bow
skill, you get that satisfaction of bringing down a bandit with a lung shot, or pelting
an armoured swordsman until he drops. Or you can shoot them in the face. That works. Technically, you can fight on horseback in
the game, both with melee weapons and bows. There is even a perk that gives bonus damage.
However, there are no sections in the game that make use of this mechanic, and many players
forget that it even exists. You can shoot from horseback, with a realistic amount of
flexibility. That said, your character is unable to bring the bow to full draw, so it
is loosed with much less power and accuracy. The European armies in this time did not much
use of mounted archery as a military application, unlike the Eastern armies, and shooting from
horseback would have only been done for hunting. Even so, hunting is much easier on foot. As much as I have praised archery in Kingdom
Come, there’s one element of reality that pulls that rug from underneath you: archery
doesn’t really have a place in the game world. This isn’t a large-scale battle with
hundreds of archers lined up to shoot volley upon volley. You’re dealing with handfuls
of bandits and raiders using light bows. Even when you’re involved in sieges, you’re
flinging arrows against armoured foes. All of these fights are much easier with a sword,
and the game was designed around that. As in real life, most of your accurate shooting
is going to be done in very close distances. If there’s a benefit of using a bow in pitched
battles, it bypasses the clumsy auto-target mechanic that makes fighting against multiple
enemies frustrating. Even as an archer, I don’t find archery in these battles to be
fun, and you kind of do feel like a dirty, dishonourable whoreson. Which is also realistic.
Knights and soldiers really hated archers. I can’t fault the game for marginalising
archery. As much as we want to expand and experience more of this authentic art in a
realistic setting, we have to remember where we are. Henry is a blacksmith, not an archer.
He’s involved in a small-scale regional conflict, with only a hundred men-at-arms
at most. Archers did not make up the body of medieval armies, especially outside of
England. You seldom face archers, and your own assaults don’t make use of them. I still
would have liked to see more sections where a creative player who has invested in archery
can take advantage, but I’ve literally only seen one such moment, and in that instance
the battle mostly fights itself without your intervention. Truly, Kingdom Come Deliverance has the most
realistic archery I have seen in a video game. It doesn’t even try to make it easier for
the player. While most games make the player-character a weapon master who can always shoot perfect
shots, Henry is so bad that it literally makes players drop their bows. We have been spoiled with archery in video
games, with fire arrows and speed shooting shenanigans. I will admit that as a real-life
archer, my time spent in agonisingly progressing archery as Henry has actually helped reinforce
my rhythm and instinctive shooting in real life. It might seem slow and awkward in the
game, but this is really how it is. The developers have modelled the archery in the game as close
to reality as possible, even at the cost of fun. Even the split between players who use the
crosshair mod and shooting instinctively is a replica of what happens in the archery community
in real life – because using sights is cheating. The hidden gem is none other than your trainer,
Sir Bernard. A grizzled veteran, everything he says is absolutely true. His harsh words
on the archery range might be background noise in your head, but what he says is exactly
what I say when I am teaching new archers on the shooting line. Feeling the shot, letting
the string slide off the fingers. He even looks down on archery as any soldier would,
but praises it for its utility, and hints at its role in warfare – and the game. Drop
the bandit with an arrow, then pull out your sword. Until next time, shoot straight and aim for
your best.

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  1. A thing to note though, that apparently, Bohemians in this time period weren't actually archers… they were *crossbowmen*. Crossbows were a big thing with them.

  2. Looks like an awesome game. I might get it once they fix the bugs but I hope they don't change the combat because fighting Medieval style looks awesome. No crosshairs, no sights, no nothing.

  3. I find the complaint of "archery is useless in this game" extremely ridiculous. It is actually crazy overpowered. In the final part of the game, there is a big bandit camp of about 12 soldiers with serious armor and you are supposed to attack with other troops from Ratay. I soloed it semi-easily just with a bow. But combine it with a horse and its even more ridiculous, there is nothing the oponents can do, apart from using their own archers, which are also inacurate and lag behind the group, so on horseback, they have almost no chance to hit you. You can wear no armor at all and defeat basically any group of enemies just using horse archery.

  4. Looks to me like they did a great job! The perspective looks fairly real and some of the challenge of archery is conveyed to the player. But then I do like realism in games, films and so on.

  5. Based on what you say England was clearly very different as archery was a thing for ordinary peasants who were expected to practise archery. In fact early forms of football were banned so it didn’t distract people from archery practise. The power of these archers was then demonstrated against the French.

  6. I don't think shooting without crosshairs sounds very difficult, because I've already done so in Skyrim. There I have an archer character who shoots in third person, without the use of crosshairs(I use the Immersive HUD mod to turn them off). I used to shoot at butterflies for practice.

  7. I agree that the shaky hands, premature loosing and poor sense of aim is exactly what I see from beginner archers. One of the main complaints from the game (as you do mention) seems to be players who want their level 1 Henry to be a master marksman and don't understand why he isn't instantly Robin Hood – also very common amongst beginning archers.
    As a fan of the English warbow I love how you seem to enjoy point-blanking people in the face.
    I also agree with how good Bernard is, I love HEMA only marginally less than archery and again his words and guidance during the training scenes are perfect.
    Others have commented on the swordfighting, lack of crossbows etc. so I won't re-hash these but I would love to see a similar game set in the 100 years war period – as an Englishman it is obviously much more familiar to me than the Holy Roman Empire, though I did enjoy the history lessons embedded in the game.

  8. Thank you for explaining. Glad to hear, that game is realistic and not "bad". The true is that in Bohemia in that times like no bows were used in real battle. Just crossbows or guns (howitzers, "hooks" and "whistles") as seen here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMVGUm-J1zQ&t=65s

  9. You can aim well if you put the target to the top left of your bow holding hand when the bow sways to the right.

  10. Save a cumin bow for horseback archery. It’s a recurve and you get full draw out of it. It’s less max damage than a longbow but it fires faster and you actually get the max damage out of it.

  11. I still feel like the AI should be trying to charge the archers and cut them down as fast as possible. Oh, well, and crossbows… ashamed there are no crossbows, even though being so prevalent in these godforgotten lands.

  12. Great Video ! One suggestion for a future video if youre interested : Can you make a video about your top 10 videogames with the most satisfying/most realistic archery gameplay (like you did here with KC:D) ? I would really look forward to watch it !

  13. I don't think archery has a very good place in most video games as it's largely the same sort of arrangement of actors in every single one.

    Archery would likely best be used either to stalk your target or when you are being stalked by your target. Video games always have your enemy right in your face charging at you and they have to bend a lot of rules to make it work.

  14. Good to know that the perspective angle on shooting is based deliberately around medieval shooting techniques. I had criticized them before for making us "shoot from the hip" so to speak, but if that's how it was done then so be it.

  15. Shame that archery didn't get perks.They could've done some interesting things, perhaps with horse archery, something like a Parthian shot? My one complaint is perhaps arrow flight, it could be a faster, seeing as these bows are much heavier than what we deal with now. Also, the sights are cheating thing is pretty funny to hear from someone else than a trad. archer for once haha

  16. finally! somebody else actually appreciates the difficulty of archery in KCD. I love archery in this game and considering how devastating archery can be against opponents I do think the difficulty is justified

  17. Using the Cuman Recurve bow on horseback can really break the difficulty of the open world part of the combat in this game. After a few main quests, you can seek out bandit camps, and, with horseback archery, you can kinda "cheese" the fight by out running and ranging the massive hordes of bandits.

  18. Also, when you're on horseback you can only turn to your left to shoot your bow (you can also turn to the right but not as far) which also adds to the realism

  19. I'm just guessing here (sorry for that!), but I'd assume a blacksmith's apprentice would already have reasonably high strength from his regular work. My understanding of this early history is poor though, as history only begins around these times in Finland.

  20. Honestly, the game needs crossbows though, because crossbows were used often in 15th century central europe (more than longbows anyway).

    And high bow skill should mean being able to pull the string faster (unless it's a heavier drawn bow). And there's no way an archer of even highest skill would be able to fight up close (AI is dumb).

    Archery could have been improved in a few ways:
    – More sniper opportunities. Say, during a siege, you have to get rid of enemy archers, because your friends can't get to them. However, crossbows were better in sieges than regular bows, because they could be loaded while in cover and shooting just involved pointing and pulling the trigger. This game doesn't have crossbows though.
    – A skill that enables more freedom, such as walking while pulling the string, or while aiming. If you're stronger, you should be able to draw light bows faster.

  21. Archers fought in units generally, accompanying groups of men-at-arms/infantry on their flanks. Although they were very skilled and practiced shooting at tall narrow sticks as well as at thr archery butts Longbowmen were most effective in large groups.

  22. you are actually wrong henry would of been a military archer from the start because men were required the shoot for 2 hours after church each week on sundays by law in england back then he would of been a professional by then

  23. I'm an instinctive archer and I used a crosshair mod, it's not instinctive in a flat screen as you can't feel your body, the distance, the wind and anything else that might affect the arrow in the game. Also the arrows in the game drop after less than 5 meters which even toy bows shoot for a bit longer than that, it's just unbearable

  24. I had an semi simple time with archery you just make a visual of the center of you playing screen, that is were the arrow will land,don't bother try to line up your hand bow sites towards the left, just find the center of your screen and shoot, hope this helps some of you out there

  25. Nah, for end-game, there is nothing as overpowered as hit & run archery on horseback. And for melee, warhammers are by far the best choice since so many enemies wear plate armor by then. And those who don't wear plate are equally destroyed by the hammer anyway. It's actually the sword that I don't really find a place for in the later stages of the game.

  26. Hey NU! Great vids and I have been in to archery for more than a month now. May I suggest making Popshots on games like Skyrim and on a new game like Morhau? Thanks!

  27. Game should have had crossbows though. Crossbows were more popular on the european continent than longbows.

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