Chivalry 2: A Bloody Good Time
If you are going to kill a man using a chicken, make sure he’s not on your team. I learned this lesson the hard way, as my ally and I battled an enemy knight in Chivalry 2.
I had thrown my sword earlier in the battle, and the chicken was the first thing I could find to defend myself with. My attempt to hurl the bird into the enemy was poorly timed, and I struck the final blow into the back of my teammate's skull. Left unarmed after my fowl betrayal, all I could do was stand and laugh, as my foe crushed me with his massive war hammer.
It was moments like this, more than the wins or losses in the first-person Medieval multiplayer sequel, that stuck with me following my hands-on preview of Torn Banner Studios' upcoming Chivalry 2.
The game kept me alternating between sweaty determination and tear-filled laughter, and it might just be the game we all need right now.
Inelegant Weapons for a Less Civilized Age
Chivalry 2 puts players in the boots of soldiers in massive medieval armies. Up to 64 players control one of several archetypes, from Swordsmen to Archers to the above-mentioned hammer-wielding Vanguard and more. Player-controlled armies then clash, facing off in team deathmatch, capture the flag, and various other game types.
The preview began with the Siege of Rudhelm, an objective-based game type where the invading Agathian Knights assault a city held by the opposing Mason Order. My knight joined his comrades-in-arms pushing massive siege towers towards the city walls and fighting off player-controlled foot soldiers sent to stop us.
The action is, by design, somewhat clumsy and brutal. Weapons swing in wide arcs, striking friend and foe alike. It doesn’t take much damage to kill or be killed, but a mercifully short respawn timer gets you right back into the action.
My comrades and I found ourselves off to a fast start. Mixing blocks, feints, and attacks from different angles, I had decent success felling the enemy. Hiding around the corner of the siege tower and ambushing enemies unseen piled up my body count, and eventually, we took the main gate.
The melee was so much fun I honestly don’t remember who won, nor do I particularly care. Severing heads never got old, and anytime I died it was followed by a laugh, and a desperation to return to the fray.
Embrace the Chaos
The well-designed tutorial walks you through Chivalry 2's surprisingly deep combat, with an over-the-top instructor barking orders with equal parts Drill Seargeant-esque authority and cartoonish comedy. Controls are simple to learn but require timing and strategy to execute in battle. There is support for gamepad or keyboard and mouse, and I found both to work equally well.
Torn Banner has made a game with a dirty medieval style, and they embrace it wholeheartedly. The world is brutal but with a sense of humor that successfully makes the violence a part of the joke, rather than something darker. The presentation works symbiotically with the gameplay to realize a world that exists for players to take part in. It almost reminds me of Rare and Sea of Thieves, just with less water and more severed limbs.
This is most evident in the weapons you can find on the battlefield. The arenas are littered with everyday objects to use as weapons. One second, I was fighting side by side with a man holding pitchfork, the next my head was being caved in with the bell from a nearby church (which I’m not convinced is what the clergy had in mind).
I threw books, smashed people with barrels, even attempted to slay a man with another man's skull. It became a metagame that both armies leaned into and resulted in immediate post-game conversations about who killed or was killed in what hilarious way.
Make Your Soldier Your Own
Next, we all engaged in some good old-fashioned team deathmatch, played on foot in a jousting arena. The two armies sprinted to each other, and the resulting scrum was an excellent facsimile of something out of Bravehart.
Finding opportunities to flank enemies and/or bullying them with superior numbers became key. It’s hard to overstate the joy of bating an enemy to attack you, only to watch your teammate cut them down while you use the in-game emote system to hurl insults at your fallen foe. A quick click of a button and your character can emote, battle cry, beg for mercy, and more, all fully voiced. There are multiple voice types, with masculine and feminine options to suit your taste.
The battlefields have environmental hazards as well. I sent people through trap doors onto spikes, was killed instantly by a scorpion (a sort of giant siege crossbow), was crushed under stone on a rope. Every battle revealed a new wrinkle to explore.
Customization wasn’t available for the preview, but come launch day, Chivarly 2 will feature player customization across each class. Both an earnable in-game currency and premium currency will provide options to purchase cosmetic upgrades. There is also an in-game progression system, allowing players to earn experience points to unlock additional weapons and clothing options.
Chivalry 2 is shaping up to be a grand experience. It's coming to PC via the Epic Game Store, PlayStation 4 and PS5, and the Xbox One and Series X|S with full crossplay support on June 8, 2021. Xbox One and PS4 editions can be freely upgraded to next-gen.
Based on our preview play, this has the potential to be the most fun video games of the year. Prepare for battle!