The first time I met Theresa, I found her entirely forgettable. She was nice but plain—not nearly as memorable as Bianca, the flirtatious bar maiden. I never could have imagined that, days from now, our two lives would become inextricably bound together.
Note: This post contains some spoilers for Kingdom Come: Deliverance's first few hours.
Moments after I complete my daily chores, a swell of panic sweeps through the small town of Skalitz. On the horizon, villagers spot a mounted army of Cuman barbarians. Sigismund of Luxembourg, King Wenceslas' brother, had brought them into Bohemia to stir up chaos while he attempts to take the throne for himself. In the span of minutes, they charge into the town and begin slaughtering everyone.
Instead of going to the castle, I try to save my parents who were trapped in the village square. I watch helplessly as both are murdered. With the castle gate now closed and an army of Cumans chasing me, I have only one choice. I flee.
Fortunately, a secret path takes me out into the farmland beyond the town. Here, the Cuman forces aren't nearly as dense, but as I glance over my shoulder, I see one chasing me. I have my father's sword, but I was barely able to beat up the town drunk for the money he owed me—I'm not eager to take my chances on a trained soldier. I keep running.
As I near the road that runs along the mill, I see an unattended horse waiting. How fortunate, I think. Then I hear the screams. Just beyond the horse, three Cumans are huddled around something, struggling. With a sickening twist in my gut (and thanks to some inner monologue from Henry), I realize the three soldiers have pinned Theresa against the wall. They're trying to rape her.
I freeze, unsure of what to do. Looking behind me, I see black pillars of smoke rising from Skalitz—everyone is dying or already dead. The Cuman chasing me from the castle is still on my heels and only seconds behind, sword in hand. I look back to Theresa who can't see me through the three Cumans pressing her up against the wall, pinning her arms back so she can't move. She continues to scream for help. I mount the horse and ride away. In addition to the one chasing me, there's four of them and all I have is a sword I can barely use.
How could I possibly hope to save her life?
It's a decision that, a week later, continues to haunt me. As we've already wrote, Kingdom Come does an incredible job of putting you in the shoes of a lovably oafish nobody. I'm no hero—and I'm definitely no soldier. And with the entire town burning, with everyone dying, can I really be held responsible for choosing to save my own life instead of another's?
After fleeing Skalitz, I arrive in Talmberg and learn that those who had fled to Skalitz's castle, including my lord, Sir Radzig Kobyla, were able to escape the Cuman siege and are riding south for Rattay. In time, I would join them, but first I want to return to Skalitz to bury my parents.
After defying the Lord of Talmberg's orders, I sneak out of the castle and make for the ruins of my hometown. Sheets of midday rain pelt roads covered in the bodies of slain villagers. A few looters and bandits pick through the remains but scatter when I threaten them. I find my parents in the town square right where they had been butchered. I get a shovel and dig their graves.
At this vulnerable moment, a gang of bandits emerges from the woods to rob me. I am outnumbered almost six to one, but their leader decides to take me on by himself. Against his massive club and without formal combat experience, I'm not able to put up much of a fight. He beats the shit out of me and then, using my father's sword, prepares to finish me off.
"Hey, goatfuckers!" The bandits turn, momentarily distracted, to see Theresa standing behind them defiantly. "The games are over," she says as Talmberg knights come charging through the gate to drive the bandits away. At this point I have suffered such grievous wounds that I am barely conscious. I wake up days later in Rattay, with Theresa watching over me. She'd saved my life.
The survivors of the Skalitz massacre are now refugees living in a ghetto built around Rattay's Pirkstein castle. Theresa, however, is fortunate to have an uncle who owns a mill outside of town and offered to let both of us stay there. Being one of the few characters I already know, I want to spend more time with her. Before long, it's clear that she has a romantic interest in me and I fancy her too. We take a walk along the river and talk in semi-playable cutscenes and scripted dialogues, and on another date I take her to the inn where we dance and drink. It's kind of nice to have a break from all the murdering and political upheaval in Kingdom Come's main quests.
I decide to finally ask Theresa how she survived Skalitz. She seems hesitant, but the dialogue tree gives me a rather long list of questions, so I begin clicking them one by one—asking about Sir Radzig and the townsfolk, getting her perspective on the raid. And then, without even thinking, I ask how she escaped the Cumans.
"I thought I was finished, but I grabbed a dagger from one of them and—wait, how did you know what happened to me?" She asks suddenly. I freeze. Without even thinking about what I was saying, I accidentally revealed the truth that I was there, watching her assault and doing nothing to stop it. I panic for a moment, but am then given the awful choice to lie.
Like most RPGs, Kingdom Come has conversational skill checks that open up new dialogue options. Often this means threatening or schmoozing someone, but this time the option is to lie—to make Theresa think that I had simply misspoken. I hastily tell her that I was speaking generally and didn't know what she was talking about and, because my speech skill was high, she believes me.
In the heat of the moment, I respond with a knee-jerk white lie to avoid revealing my cowardice, but then the truth of what I had done begins to sink in. As if it wasn't bad enough that I had watched the person I am now dating get assaulted and did nothing, I had just lied about it to her face. I feel like absolute trash.
My cowardice in Kingdom Come haunts me in a way no decision in an RPG ever has. I blew up Megaton in Fallout 3, became a Sith Lord in Knights of the Old Republic 2, and killed every Little Sister in BioShock without batting an eye. But entering into a relationship with someone while actively concealing that I had left her to be raped and murdered is a new level of fucked up. But what's upsetting me is that I am not intentionally roleplaying some evil version of Henry. His decisions are my decisions.
When the roles were reversed, Theresa risked everything to save my life. After first arriving in Rattay, she confesses that when she distracted the bandits, she didn't know that the Talmberg knights were already on their way. She risked her life to save mine, but doesn't even know that I refused to do the same.
Like a lot of aspects of Kingdom Come, its ambitions are often let down by its execution. I realize this when I finally work up the courage to tell Theresa the truth. I expect that she'll be viciously angry or, at the very least, upset that I had kept it a secret for so long. I know it will be the end of our relationship, but if I can't undo my decisions I can at least atone for them.
Only I don't have to. When I tell her, she brushes it off like it was nothing and immediately forgives me. The limits of Kingdom Come's storytelling become immediately clear. Days later we go on another date and this time we sleep together and that is it. Her questline is over and she never brings up what I had done to her. It is obvious that developer Warhorse Studios had no real intention of exploring that trajectory any further. While a part of me is relieved that I'm off the hook for my disturbing lapse of character, a bigger part is frustrated that such a well-constructed moral conflict is spoiled and unaddressed in service of a sex scene.
Even if Theresa and my story lacks a satisfying conclusion, it's still deserves recognition for how deeply it affects me. Without it needing to be obscene or overly graphic, Theresa's assault disturbs me to the point where I'm struggling to continue playing—not because of what happened, but because of how disappointed I am in my response to it. My version of Henry is supposed to be a kind of rags-to-riches hero, but instead he's a giant asshole and an even bigger coward. And maybe what disappoints me is that this says more about me than I'd care to admit.