As a veteran of the first game, I had already set my sights on the release of the second, and in anticipation I played the first some more just to get myself ready to remember the controls. Thankfully, I didn’t die in the first 15 seconds of play, just the 23rd second after a hit in the face from a sneaky archer. For anyone that hasn’t had the pleasure of playing Chivalry before, it is a first-person slasher game, like a first-person shooter but 95% melee focused and arguably more fun.(There was no video games, maiming was all they had back then!)
The first of its kind, Chivalry pits players against each other in multiple modes ranging from the traditional Team Deathmatches and Free-For-Alls to the likes of Last Team Standing and Team Objective. The player can choose to play as one of four class archetypes: the heavily armoured Knight, the destructive Vanguard, the agile Man-at-arms and the dickhead archer. Each class has their own set of primary and secondary weapons, with a throwing weapon, and can be customised to an extent with unlocked/bought cosmetics.
Combat is both simple and difficult, with no lock-on mechanics but instead relying on a freeform style that has your weapon swing path be a combination of horizontal slashes, vertical chops, stabs and kicks. Players can choose to combo these different attacks, can alternate their directions, feint to trick enemies and block attacks by timing their parries by using the crosshair to follow the tip of the enemy’s blade. This means it’s up to the player to try and land their hits, whilst also avoiding counter attacks, as parrying and then immediately attacking takes away the wind-up time from initiating an attack, meaning you swing your weapon more quickly.
(“Tis but a scratch.”)
The first game was riddled with hit detection issues, some lag, and a frustratingly large amount of abuse from the mechanics. Many players would stay low to attack, almost guaranteeing theirs would land first, turn up mouse sensitivity so high that players would spin supernaturally fast and land awkward looking attacks that were almost impossible to detect. These kinds of players popped up everywhere and made things much less enjoyable, the equivalent to 360 degree no-scoping from the good ol’ Xbox 360 days.(Remember when this was the worst thing in video games?)
Despite this, the first game was a hidden gem and had so much to enjoy, and the second one has vastly improved so many things over the first. With a much bigger team, bigger budget and plenty of inspirations from famous battle scenes in movies and TVs (particularly the Battle of the Bastards on Game of Thrones), Torn Banner have built upon the foundation of the first. Many new features have been promised to really spruce up the battlefield, and a lot of things that worked before have remained, just more polished and some extra refinement.
(“Pew pew, I got you”)
What I first noticed, included in the Beta, was some expansion to the lore, which was very brief beforehand but has now been better explained with some interesting visuals and more background information on some key characters. From the first game, we learned of two opposing factions, the good guy Agathian Knights, and the bad guy Mason Order. They fought each other in a civil war after a failed crusade in foreign lands left the Agathian Kingdom broken from the loss of their King and many soldiers. The Masons, led by General Malric, were an elite force that gathered the peasantry and revolted against their elitist nobles.
Chivalry 2 takes place 20 years later, with the Agathians having been soundly defeated but now revitalised after a new heir to the kingdom steps forth and they try to fight back. Plenty of key details can be read upon within the main game menu, with more likely to be added. Just like the first game, you can start with a tutorial that very quickly goes through the controls and then asks you to pick a side so that you can experience a small battle with AI friends and enemies. It can be skipped but is highly recommended because there is quite a bit to remember.
(“No, your mother was a hamster!”)
I could select one of three options to join an available server, between 60 player modes, 40 player modes and a Free-For-All, but in my eagerness to join a large battle I picked the 60 player mix and immediately found a spot on a server that just started up. I stood there amongst my comrades, a Knight with a longsword in two hands, listening to a scripted speech as we stared across the map to our foes as they done the same. Once the speech was over we started to charge, and after a couple of seconds I gained full control of my poor Knight and started my in-game battle cry, which was also the start of my three day bender in not turning this game off.
(Just one more game…)
With a much higher player count there is always some action going on, a skirmish here and there, some lines of archers firing volleys of arrows, and those two guys that decide to wander off and just duel each other until someone comes out of nowhere and decapitates one of them. Picking your team beforehand also changes the aesthetic, as both factions have the same classes, and newly included subclasses, but their armour and voice lines are different. Having played for the Agatha Knights in the past I decided to change my colours and joined the badass Mason Order, preferring their fashion and brutal insults. The customisation, although limited for the beta, was surprisingly decent. Playing as a class and levelling them up by getting kills and completing objectives unlocks more armour sets, helmets and options to change your character’s face. Each unlock can be bought with in-game gold, rewarded at the end of a game upon success or failure, but always based on your individual performance.
Weapons are also unlocked, and there are different skin choices for them too, at a fee as well of course, and subclasses will have access to variations to each other, further showing their differences. The combat has expanded greatly, with now a stronger improvement to defence and new techniques. Previously only classes with shields could sustain a block, only a Man-at-arms could dodge and only a Vanguard could sprint attack.(“Curses! If only I was permitted to use this shield!”)
Now, after 20 in-game years, these soldiers have learned to do all this too. All players can quickly dodge sideways or backwards, everyone can block (which quickly drains stamina) and each of them have different sprint attacks. Every class also has access to a special attack that takes longer to initiate, drains a chunk of stamina, but does a lot of damage to both health and stamina. There are many other changes too, but they allow players to really get in the thick of it, and whether you’re comfortable in a 1v1, 1v 3 or large group fights, there are a lot of tactics that can be used. Attacks land nice and heavy, with real impact, and the back and forth between two people fighting looks and sounds amazing, as good to stand and watch as it is to get involved.
(What all dickhead archers deserve…)
In terms of graphics I’m surprised how much things have really improved, with plenty of detail, from the smallest splashes of blood on a sword, to wounds on a corpse and the gleam of a nice set of armour. Character models are smoothed out, and move more fluidly than before, they carry a lot more weight to them and the weapons look more deadly. It’s a surprise mostly because it’s cross-platform, between PC, Xbox and PlayStation, online and with 64 players in total, there is a lot going but still manages to retain its detailed grittiness.(Now everyone can enjoy the carnage!)
There is a strange contrast between the violent gore of chopping off a limb, picking up the enemy’s weapon and then throwing it into the face of a dickhead archer that’s crawling along the ground begging to be revived, and the campiness of the strange humour from the varied voice recordings. It all sounds like something from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, but there are a lot of options between tactical callouts, such as announcing when enemies approach, standard lines like thanking someone for their help, and busting out a dance for the sheer fun of it. Despite the clashes between the serious fighters on the tops of the leader board, there are just as many shouting the most hilarious insults as they throw chickens at each other on either side of a small wall, because they can. There were four maps in total, and your role changes based on the faction you selected, whether you are the team that must defend from a siege, or the team that does the besieging.
This was some of the most fun I’ve had this year so far, probably in the last decade. I’m still active on the first game so I can see the changes first-hand, and despite this being a beta I would probably pick it over the first if I had to choose one. Thanks to the larger team working on this they have provided a game with so much potential that the beta itself would be worth the full price of the entire game, at least to me it is. I am really looking forward to buying this, and normally I don’t look forward to anything that removes money from my bank account. It also makes great use of current gen consoles, and thanks to the cross play there will be an abundance of jolly co-operation and people to slaughter.