Ever since the original Chivalry: Medieval Warfare in 2012, we’ve entered into a sort of renaissance of brutal precision-based competitive melee combat games. From big-budget outings such as For Honor to big indie projects like Mount & Blade: Bannerlord and Mordhau, it’s a game genre that has certainly found its footing. Now, Torn Banner Studios is back with a sequel that’s bigger, better, and bloodier than ever.
Earlier this month I got the chance to check out Chivalry 2 for a few hours and came away with my adrenaline pumping and heart racing, eagerly waiting for more.
Big Bloody Battles
The best parts about the previous game are carried over and improved here. This is still a game about brutally competitive PvP combat that hinges on quick reflexes and precise strikes. You can be an archer too if you want, but that’s always felt like a second-thought that was more situational than just picking up an axe or sword.
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There are still a mixture of game modes from the more straight-forward Team Deathmatch to the grand and cinematic Team Objective modes. And most importantly, there is that perfect balance of Monty Python-style humor mixed with weighty and visceral medieval battles. Mashing the ‘yell’ button while running down a hillside with my allies really gets you in the mood immediately.
In Chivalry, everyone has three basic attacks with their melee weapons: horizontal slash, vertical slash, and a stab. Of course you can get more complex if you’d like by feinting, comboing attacks together, and turning your body into swings to try and land the start of the attack sooner on your enemies. I played with mouse & keyboard mostly in first-person (you can switch to third-person now, if you want) and after a couple of games the muscle memory started to kick in.
Combat in Chivalry is one of the best examples in a game ever of “easy to learn, difficult to master” as the concept of swinging and aiming your sword is dead simple. But when you’re on the receiving end is where the real skill comes out. Blocking attacks is a careful exchange because you essentially have to line up your weapon with the tip of theirs at just the right moment. If you block perfectly enough, it’ll stagger them back a bit and give you an opening to counter and—better yet—if you can anticipate their exact strike and replicate it back after a perfect parry then it’s an almost always guaranteed hit.
Dueling another skilled combatant in Chivalry 2 feels like an aggressive, highly-competitive dance. I can’t think of many games that can cause my adrenaline to spike so rapidly as when I’m in the middle of a tense 1v1 fight to the death in Chivalry. It’s absolutely exhilarating to block a slash to your side, flick the mouse up and swing down at their head as you clang off their sword, side-step away from their stab, and crouch down to swipe at their waist, kick their guard, and finish them off with a stab to the heart. Just be careful—friendly fire is a very real concern in this game and you have to always be aware of where your weapon is swinging.
Those intricate moments of back-and-forth between two warriors are sacred and special, rivaling even the best duels from Game of Thrones. And my goodness is it pretty.
Chivalry 2 doesn’t shy away from blood and gore either. Limbs get lopped off left and right and seeing heads roll is as common as a stray arrow on the battlefield. Speaking of which—you can pick up and use pretty much anything you see. I’ve tossed lumber at enemies, used decapitated heads as rocks to toss at opponents, and at one point even chucked a Blacksmith’s anvil. It’s truly a “by any means necessary” ordeal here. You can even keep fighting with a missing limb or get back on your feet after getting knocked down if you beat to death your opponent with your bare hands before they finish the job.
Perhaps the most exciting part about Chivalry 2 is the massive 64-player battlefield size. Now, we’re fighting it out with 32 warriors fighting for the blue and white, aka Agatha Knights, against 32 warriors on the red and black, aka Mason Order. That new battle size is immediately put to good use because at the start of each match, a “commander” NPC on each side is giving a speech to get the troops riled up and the bloodbath begins with a classic medieval charge towards the middle where steel meets steel.
When I used to play the original Chivalry pretty much daily, I mostly did so as a duelist. Early on there weren’t even official ‘Duel’ game modes, so instead players would host servers with custom “honor system” rules that you’d respect two people dueling and wait your turn off to the side. You’d initiate a duel by flicking the mouse and down and crouching to simulate a bow and then fight it out. It was the type of mutual, agreed upon sportsmanship that you rarely find online these days.
But the real heart and soul of Chivalry is undoubtedly the Team Objective mode. These fights play out like actual cinematic battles you’d see in a Lord of the Rings film and are split into multiple phases.
For example, the Objective battle we got to try tasked one team with breaking into a castle and storming the keep to kill the king. First, the attackers must escort ladder towers up to the walls by moving them across the field like an Overwatch payload. Then, after storming the walls, they must capture the courtyard, followed by burning the peasant huts, and then escorting more ladder towers up to the keep.
Once inside the keep, the top defending player is assigned as the king and gets buffs to health, damage, etc. The attackers win if they can take down the king. Each phase of the battle is timed and if the defenders can prevent the attackers from reaching the next phase before the time runs out, they win.
As much as I loved the Team Objective mode, which is just insanely polished and full of amazing details, I think I most enjoyed my time on the Tournament Grounds map. This area is laid out as if a jousting match has just concluded and you storm the grounds to fight it out. It’s all so silly to see the light-hearted tournament décor juxtaposed with blood, guts, and corpses.
It’s a tough, brutal, and immensely satisfying game that rewards teamwork and real skill. The changes made to the physics of combat and extra maneuvers they’ve added seem to be enough to combat the exploits that experts found in the original, which should help this one earn a strong and steady following.
Chivalry 2 thankfully doesn’t seem to be trying to reinvent the wheel when it releases on PC and Xbox One, Series X|S, PS4, and PS5 this June 8. On PC it will debut on the Epic Games Store and come to Steam and other storefronts after one year.
David Jagneaux loves games of all kinds, but especially VR games. Chat with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.
Source: IGN Video Games All