“I was standing on the castle battlements, overlooking the fields ahead of me. It was a hot day. The sun had been beating down on me and my men and fatigue had begun to set in. It was only midday and yet I felt that I had been awake for days. My armour was heavy and stifling. The sword at my hand felt as heavy as a tree trunk. But yet, I could not show weakness. Not to my brethren. Not today. The castle gave a perfect viewpoint of any approaching force from miles away but the enemy did not care. They stood there. In formation, in plain sight. The commoners knew that they outnumbered us and the stench of their fear was rancid in my nostrils. Hold fast. Let them be afraid, as I will not falter. I will not falter. I will not…“
…A hand on my shoulder from my mother snapped me out of it. “Want some Ice cream?” How could I say no? I love ice cream.
Say what you will but growing up in a country full of castles was brilliant for a 10-year-old with a vivid imagination and a love for medieval warfare. Who would have known that a couple of decades later, I would be able to relive that feeling once again? But this time, I am the one hacking off limbs and striking terror into the heart of my foes. I am the one charging head-first into death and glory. I am the one who decides who dies first. Prepare yourself for battle m’lord, Chivalry II has arrived.
Chivalry II is the second instalment in the Chivalry series from Torn Banner Studios. Their first medieval combat slasher was a massive hit (and a personal favourite of mine). This new outing comes with 8 maps (5 objective and 3 team-deathmatch/free-for-all) all of which support 64 player game modes. The objective maps have you setting up sieges and storming castles whilst the enemy desperately tries to repel your advances. The graphics are a notable step up from the 2012 instalment. The game boasts a 4k UHD feature on PS5 with the Unreal Engine 4 driving the chaos. You can see that the developers have put a lot of work into making the game look as cinematic as possible and the game looks fantastic. I will say that there are some areas that are rough around the edges: NPCs during cutscenes look awkward and clunky and the peasants cheering you on during the tutorial are copy-and-paste but it is all excusable. This game is a perfect example of making things count where they are most important, and the graphics are stunning when it matters. I want to see the fear in my enemies’ eyes when they realise they are about to take a mace to the face.
Speaking of maces to faces, it is worth solidifying what this game is about: medieval combat. The gameplay focuses on large-scale online battles where you can choose one of two factions: The brutal Mason Order or the loyal Agatha Knights (or to simplify it: Red vs Blue). You can then choose one of four classes: Knight, Footman, Vanguard, and Archer. These classes also have sub-class options which allow players to tweak their playstyle. Fancy being a Knight with a shield? Be a Guardian class. A dual-wielding Vanguard? Hello Devastator. This level of customisation sits perfectly with me. Four classes are enough to keep things simple but having the ability to customise each class allows players to go deeper. There is no overwhelming feeling of needing to learn too many classes to even have a chance at surviving. In my first game, I picked the Vanguard and sat pretty on 55 kills by the end of the game. 55 glorious kills for the Mason Order.
The controls are also a huge part of the game’s allure but can also be the one thing that puts people off. The game is a hack-and-slash slaughterfest but you are the one in control of the hacking and slashing. You have a block, downward swing, side swing, and stab. You can chain these into combos (or use feints to fake attacks), and blocking certain attacks with different timings can trigger parries and ripostes. You can also use the controller to turn your body into your attacks. I mean, how else can you ensure a good blade to flesh ratio has been maintained? All of this is explained in the tutorial but I can see how a lot of people would find the combat to be difficult to pick up. Especially if they were not used to this style of action gameplay. Still, I loved the original Chivalry and the combat system was a big selling point for me. Chivalry II has built on that system and improved it.
The big question to be asked is: Well, is it fun? Yes, yes, and YES. This game is pure carnage on an epic scale and I love it. The 64 player maps are chaotic without being overwhelmingly large and the game modes do well to guide you along to where the next battle will be taking place. I didn’t find myself getting lost for 5 minutes trying to find people, only to get sniped and having to do it all again. When you die, you respawn with your weapon in hand, already charging back towards the action. It is little things like this that keep the blood pumping and the intensity up. Another huge plus-point on the fun factor is the hardiness of your character and the ability to hold your own against multiple foes. This may be a medieval combat simulator but you do not go down easy. With careful blocking, parrying, and riposting, you can defend yourself when outnumbered and if you’re lucky, even turn the tide. I audibly cheered when I found myself outnumbered 3-1, blocked the first hit, straight into a sword-sweep which decapitated two of my foes and allowed me to follow-up with a stab in the face to the third. It may not happen often but when it does, it is beyond satisfying. Oh and I forgot to say, you can pick up anything and use it as a weapon…even someone else’s limbs! I’ve yet to kill someone with a severed arm or a flaming chicken but when I do it, it will be glorious*
*Nb. I did it whilst writing this review. It was better than I ever could have expected.
Chivalry II is a gaming experience that can be summed up in one word: fun. I admit that I have been falling out of love with online gaming recently. The pressure felt during high-speed, meta-dominated matches eventually end up taking the fun out of it for me. Mistakes are usually punished heavily and you feel a sense of disconnection from your teammates when you end up inadvertently costing people precious ranking spots. I did not feel this with Chivalry. Quite the opposite. It may take a while to get into the combat system but the pure joy you get from swinging a broadsword around a battlefield is unparalleled. Levels of individual skill also become blurred when 64 people are swinging swords, axes, and chickens into each-others bodies. Everything from the graphics to the stellar sound design is there to take you into this world and push you right into the mud and blood. It may not be as polished as other AAA titles and the voice lines can be annoyingly repetitive but when it is this much fun, does it really matter? I certainly think not. So, don your armour, sharpen your sword, and fight…for the Order!
Yes, I play Mason Order. Don’t like it? Come and find me on the battlefield. I’ll be waiting.
I give this 9 bloodied polearms out of 10