Warhorse Studios’ award-winning action role-playing game Kingdom Come: Deliverance (2018) has—perhaps somewhat unkindly—been described as a “peasant simulator.” Nonetheless, “simulation” is a good description of the way in which its gameplay is conceived and framed, with a stated focus on historical accuracy and realism. This verisimilitude has been cited as having a noticeable cost in terms of accessibility for new players, with something of a steep learning curve required to master the game, but has also frequently been cited in positive reviews. The level of realism is indeed impressive. It extends not only to the need to eat, drink, and sleep, but also to the need to learn how to read (vernacular and Latin separately) if the player wishes to glean any information from written texts. But a focus on realism always brings with it challenges. The highly effective musical score of this game, written by Jan Valta and Adam Sporka, features an interactive and adaptive score, making use of a new engine developed specifically for the game called the Sequence Music Engine. There is already a neat tension here between the stated aim of historical fidelity and the modern expectation of an adaptive score; no preexistent “authentic” music can be used in this manner. As with all games, and indeed all screen media, composers and studios must work hard to balance authenticity to the medium and the genre with authenticity to the period. We expect fairly ubiquitous non-diegetic music in screen media—and its absence carries very particular semantics—but fifteenth-century Bohemia was conspicuous in its absence of invisible, itinerant symphony orchestras roaming its landscape.

This article focuses on the interplay between fantasy and “authenticity,” especially considering the ways in which the composers work creatively to give an immersive and coherent soundworld, within the limits of what I term an “aesthetic of authenticity.” It explores the creative interplay between the “real” historical environment and that which is understood to be real in the popular consciousness, as well as the interconnected web of demands set by the medium, the interactive and narrative genres, and the historical setting.

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