I’ve managed to parry the first few strikes and I think I’m starting to get a handle on how he thinks. He likes to use a strong sweeping attack and then follow it up with a quick overhead to try to catch his opponent off guard. We’ve both ‘scored’ body blows and the next hit will undoubtedly decide it.
I know time is of the essence as I can see his reinforcements charging into the fray behind, but I bide my time. Wait for the opening and….
… well damn, someone just walked up behind him and took his head off.
Jump to the cut to see how the rest of my time with Chivalry 2 went.
Let’s get one thing clear out of the gate: this is a violent game. A bloody violent game- the floor, walls and ceiling often end up soaked in the stuff. And bodies. Lot’s of bodies. And limbs. And…. well, you get the point.
Torn Banner Studios’ Chivalry 2 follows up the previous Chivalry title, itself a decent but flawed game. You play as medieval combatant in a fictional war between the Agatha and Mason armies in a fictitious medieval land. Fictionally.
You can jump into either 40 or 64 player-based team death map across a relatively limited number of maps, each with its own story and setting. Some will see you listen to a rousing speech by a commander before you charge into the onrushing army, others will see you storming a castle to kill a Duke and one…well, one just starts with you slaughtering civilians. There’s also a hilarious free-for-all mode and an offline practice mode, though that’s of no real consequence in a game like this. The maps aren’t particularly well balanced, which in itself isn’t an issue – you will come across levels and know if you’re going to win simply by which side you started on. On the whole though they’re very impressive multi-stage affairs and you’ll have great fun charging around them.
For a game that relies so heavily on combat, Chivalry 2 does a great job. There’s just enough complexity to add a heady level of skill to the proceedings, but not enough that it’s overwhelming. A skilled player can genuinely hold their own against multiple opponents – for a time at least – and it’s just enough to make it feel like you have some control over what’s happening. The excellent, though awfully narrated-tutorial does a good job of introducing all the combat options such that everything seems to click immediately into place. The system just works. You can choose an array of different swings, stabs, kicks, and melee attacks, modifying them by moving as you do so or pressing for longer to add extra power. Everything stacks, and then you add the blocking and Riposte system and you always have an option in a fight.
Things get more complicated when you take into account the other players on the battlefield as well. It’s all well and good deftly sparring with a single opponent – looking for the right opening to part their head from their shoulders, but doing so in what can only be described as an armoured scrum makes it all the more challenging. In a good way, though. You soon learn to drag your swings to try to hit multiple opponents at once – and you’ll often run to the aid of a team mate by murdering their opponent(s) from behind. Flanking is hugely important here, and as everyone is doing it things can get very hard to keep track of. Luckily though it’s never frustrating and if anything, just reinforces how chaotic these types of battles would have have actually been. You’ll soon start to appreciate the meta-game; hanging back when appropriate and using precise, surgical strikes to aid your teammates and you learn appreciate when a player kills you in a smart way (there’s even a ‘congratulate opponent’ option on death, which is nice).
Around this there is a frankly ridiculous emote system, too. One where you have a host of options to communicate with your team or enemies as you wish. Frankly, though, you’ll be using the ‘Yer mum’ and ‘Laugh’ commands more than anything else. Yes, you read that right: some classes have a ‘Yer mum’ option. One literally made me spit my drink out. The Roaring Cheer/Charge emote is probably the best as it adds an incredible feeling to the game. At the start of a round, or after you respawn post death, you are thrown back into battle with a number of your comrades and, as you’ll often find, most people choose to use their cheer command there. Running alongside a host of other players screaming and roaring their way into battle never gets old. I Love it.
On the ground you can play as an Archer, Vanguard (axes and poles), Footman (swords/axes and shields) or Knight (BIG swords). I lean towards the Footman or Knight, having a love for big, heavy weaponry. But the feel and style of each of the classes is distinct enough to allow a large degree of customisation.
As you’d expect with an online team-based game there is a large degree of customisation for each of your characters. This means your characters’ look, clothes, armour and weaponry are all up for tweaking. More options are available as you level up, adding to a sense of progression (though you also have the option to purchase these, be it by in-game coins or by using ‘real world’ currency) and overall it feels like a nice system.
The game itself has an incredible feel. It’s gritty, grimy and feels like you’re in the thick of things. It’s an absolute hoot to play too. I haven’t laughed so much playing a game in years. Seeing someone’s arm fly off (to the ‘it’s just a flesh wound’ shout); kicking ’em off a parapet; sending them cartwheeling with a blow from a double-handed hammer – all bring a huge grin to your face. There’s a pleasing attention to detail in these systems too – helmets fly off, shields get dented/fractured. Limbs, well, limbs end up everywhere. Every little bit of feedback works to allow greater understanding of what’s going on around you at any one time. It’s subtle, but boy does it work.
Which makes the fact that the interface is god-awful all the more jarring.
Interfaces are one of those funny things. When they work you barely notice them at all, but when they don’t, yikes do they stick out. Unfortunately for Chivalry 2 this is a case of the latter. I honestly can’t remember an interface I’ve had more issues navigating in a long time. It’s quite a difficult thing to actually pin down the why for this though; there’s nothing obviously wrong with it but everything is in a slightly different place to where you’d expect and the basic navigation just doesn’t work.
Take the customisation options, for example. The way you cycle though items is simply confusing. Why are those locked off? Why can I only select these? Granted you can click on each to see the cost/level required, but the progression path for each class is opaque to say the least. Not to mention the fact I really struggle to marry-up the options available here to what I can actually use in the game. They never quite seem to be the same and I’m never clear if I’m selecting something for the next battle or just unlocking it. I’m still not. I feel like I’m missing an additional equip screen to then select the weapons I want for each class.
The issues extend to the game-side too. You don’t select your class going into the game, it just sort of picks one for you. It literally took me 15 minutes to figure out I had to ‘Escape-Key’ out of a round to then select my character of choice. Ok fair enough, but why isn’t this a pre-round option? That’s pretty standard no? That’s how you change weapon set-ups as well. Okay, it’s nice to be able to swap your weapons out between rounds (despite the fact you can literally pick up any weapon you find in the game – be it on display or on the body of a fallen enemy/comrade) but why can’t I do all this before the game starts? A simple ‘equip/inventory’ screen with a character select would solve all of this. It’s baffling why it wasn’t included (as the current version is awful).
Torn Banner are lucky that the game-side of Chivalry 2 is so good, such that you can largely ignore the interface and set-up confusion. But it can’t be a good thing that I’ve literally given up trying to customise my characters now – I just jump straight into battle each time.
Awful interface aside, Chivalry 2 is an epic, riotous, and chaotic gem. The battles are kinetic, fluid and intense, and you’ll be grinning like a maniac as you (hopefully) carve swathes through your opponents and secure the objectives. I absolutely love playing this game, and it’s a refreshing change to more ‘ballistic’ type deathmatches that are dominating at the moment. If you like online team-based deathmatch, kinetic gameplay and frankly hilarious combat then I recommend you give it a go.
My only concern is for the game’s longevity; maps and new mission types will need to be added to ensure the community sticks around. But for now it’s well worth your time. Just try to have patience with the interface.
Chivalry 2 is now available on the Epic Store and Xbox/PlayStation networks.
Verdict: On Target
Platforms Available – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Platform Reviewed – PC
Review based on a review copy provided by developer. Please read this post for more on our scoring policy