Just had sex in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, no big deal. Got down to it in m'lady's chambers between a few buckskin blankets. I'm guessing it was very nice because I've been rewarded with this Alpha Male buff, a +2 to Charisma. All that barking paid off. It's only temporary though, so I'll have to re-up soon. It sure is nice having a medieval-era penis.
OK, so I have a confession to make: I did not mean to have sex with the digital woman. This is actually the second time I didn't mean to have sex in this game but ended up having sex anyway. In Kingdom Come: Deliverance, sex happens whether you want it to or not, a bizarre concession for a game steeped in player choice. But before I get too upset about all this sex I’ve been having, let's recount how it went down. Maybe I'm to blame.
Spoiler alert: We're about to get down and dirty and discuss some early game quests in detail.
In the opening hours of Kingdom Come, the player-protagonist Henry runs off to Talmberg in order to warn the local lord of an incoming Cuman army. They'd just laid waste to Ratzig, murdering Henry's parents and burning the place to the ground. Rough stuff. So when Lady Stephanie, the noblewoman married to Talmberg's Sir Davish, paid close attention and offered care to a grieving, injured Henry, I interpreted it as goodwill—and it was! She was kind to me in a time of need, stepping down from her highborn status to comfort a poor stinking peasant (still me). That's what all nobles should aspire to.
An early sidequest, 'At Your Service, My Lady', takes you to Talmberg to assist Lady Stephanie with preparations for a friend's wedding. Throughout the quest you learn about her husband's long imprisonment, who left a spritely middle-aged knight and returned years later as a weary, frail old man. Her elder by decades, Davish's return also marked the early departure of Lady Stephanie's youth.
So I brushed off her light flirtations. I assumed she was just happy to have a hot guy do her chores and talk to her. It must be a lonely life as a noble in a small village and Henry represented something unexpected and vital. I thought we were just friends. And friends buy each other gifts, right? For finishing friendship quests? Normal, yeah? But when she gifted me an expensive shirt, things started to get weird. She told me to put it on in front of her. Listen, I'm not a Christian man, but my Henry wouldn't risk it. He wants to keep his head attached to his body.
Even so, I was intrigued by the potential of a relationship questline based around hiding an affair from the neighboring lord that saved my ass. Given the option to change in her room (while she looked away, of course) I said OK, expecting nothing more than some bad flirting and a thank you or four. I figured it was one step in a series of clandestine quests in which we tested each other's boundaries and eventually did the deed (or I ended up dead). I didn't want to piss her off, so I figured listening was the best way to avoid a spell in the stocks.
Lady Stephanie and Henry went from chatting about how nice the shirt was to suddenly crying and hugging and kissing and falling over onto the bed. This was unanticipated. Though not present for the sex itself, I'm pretty sure they didn't just leave things at some over-the-corset fumbling after the cutscene faded to black.
My Henry had sex with a woman he didn’t mean to—a significant character choice made for me off the back of some mild flirtation and poor signposting. Why even have an option and achievement for completing the game as a virgin if it's going to be wrestled away from us pure, chaste Henrys? It played out as a weird and stilted sequence that assumes a lot about the player behind the wheel. Maybe I'm not the horny boy Warhorse Studios envisioned at the receiving end of Lady Stephanie's steamy shirt gift. 'Sex-haver' is not an interesting character trait. I'm sure every highwayman and beggar got some back when—I'm just disappointed the quest wasn't used as an interesting storytelling opportunity. An affair with the wife of the lord that saved me? Dangerous. That's some pulpy romance novel shit.
Instead, the quest, and the relationship with Lady Stephanie, just fizzles out. There's no further insight into her character, like how she's dealt with being alone for so long, what it means to be a noblewoman in a chaste Christian society, or even what sexual foibles the elite dabbled in at the time. Butt stuff, armor fetishes—who knows?
For me, it harmed the process of curating my own Henry. Here’s a character defined by his doofy naivete and what you choose to imprint on him during his rapid transition from serf to knight. Now that I know Kingdom Come is going to make significant choices on behalf of character—and being a newly-made page in medieval Bohemia who just banged a blue blood feels like a big deal—then it feels like maybe my own choices won’t matter so much in the long run. I was willing to chalk it off as an oversight.
Then I met Father Godwin, a traveling knight turned preacher who doesn't really practice according to the good book. You're given the opportunity to go drinking with the guy, a night that spins out of control through a series of cutscenes and short interactive vignettes. After getting kicked out of the bar and climbing the church bell tower, a scene plays out in a barn in which Godwin has sex with a local, unnamed woman. Another woman approaches Henry, saying, "The priest has mounted up. What do you say, Henry—shall we take a little ride of our own?" I expected a short dialogue interlude where I could say yes or no, but the scene carries on and Henry bumps uglies again.
Damn, my Henry literally can’t stop getting laid. And again, what if I wasn’t into it? These sequences muddy how much control you have over his characterization in service of what the designers assume the player wants. I'm not mad Henry can have sex, I'm just mad the decision was made for me when I said I'd have a beer with a priest.
If I can play as a conniving thief or honorable knight or choose to save a friend in danger or leave them behind, then why can't I have a meaningful degree of control over roleplaying my character's principles? Without setting up clear expectations for how much we can steer our Henrys, the more often characterization is wrestled away for flourishes constructed to titillate the player, the more I'm going to dread every dialogue choice. A promise to deliver some apples might end with Henry waking up in a field with his ass in the air. A chat with a merchant could very well end with Henry renouncing his religion and sprinting into the woods to build a house. I'm having fun with Kingdom Come, but I don't trust it with my boy anymore.