June of this year heralds the 2 year anniversary of Chivalry 2 – an online multiplayer first or third person game centered around medieval warfare. Massive 64 player or smaller scale 40 player games are available, in a variety of team based game modes. Players attack (or defend) massive castles complete with catapults in objective conquests, or stage pitched battles in classic team deathmatches. The limited time archers-only Volley darkens the sky with arrows if you want a break from melee, and the introduction of Arenas allows players to prove their mastery as a duelist. But what about armored cavalry crashing through enemy lines? Mounted combat was introduced along with a brand new faction last year, and the most recent content update allows cavalry on even more maps!
As expected, the game has held up extraordinarily well and fully delivers in terms of a fun, chaotic experience. Some of the original critiques of the game have been addressed, and Torn Banner is continuously working to improve the experience as evidenced by the content updates. Frustrations with the game are still present however, and despite massive improvements character customization still feels lackluster.
Chivalry 2 is available for $39.99 on PS4/PS5 and X Box One/Series X|S, or currently on sale for PC at $19.99.
A World at War
Despite the lack of a single player campaign, Chivalry 2 has a complex story to tell. As a bit of backstory, the game takes place after the events of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. The King of Agatha had led his men on a disastrous crusade in southern Tenosia, resulting in his death. In the madness that followed, an elite group known as the Mason Order seized the throne and began ruling with strength above all. Clad in red and black, the fearsome Masons now intend on eliminating any opposition to their rule. Conversely, the former knights of Agatha seek to reunite the lands under the blue and gold of the true heir and rightful king. Finally, emerging from the deserts in the south are the Tenosians. They seek revenge for the destruction wrought on them from the crusade.
Having an online multiplayer-only game does pose some challenges for storytelling, but each map is a unique battle between the factions and drives the story. For example, missions include storming a prison to rescue an Agathian war hero, or besieging a castle to kill the heir to the Mason throne. While ultimately unimportant for core gameplay, the story exists as a motivation for each side to be fighting each other and to clearly mark the “other team.”
Starting off, the tutorial does an excellent job of making sure you understand the combat system, which can seem intimidating at a glance. It walks you through the ins and outs of slashing, stabbing, blocking, before teaching more advanced maneuvers like parries and ripostes. After that, there is a quick staged battle with bots to put everything together. The system allows advanced players to really stand out, while beginners can still have fun.
Newcomers to Chivalry 2 may find the learning curve online to be a little steep initially – death comes early and often. True to form, players may find themselves immediately being hit by a catapult, or being “sniped” right before a massive charge. Despite some early setbacks, the game really shines up close and personal.
There are different classes to jump into the fray with, each fulfilling their own role. Massive, heavily armored knights are good for defending chokepoints, or smashing through enemy lines. Wily archers are more useful on the fringes, picking off stragglers and enemies in the melee. Vanguards are lightly armored, but can deal devastating damage. Lastly, footmen excel in close quarters, and are a healthy mix of agility and strength. Further subclasses allow for an even more diverse battlefield with dozens of weapon choices for each class.
The combat itself is engaging and keeps you on your toes, the variety of swords, spears, and maces thrown at you is staggering. Outside of strictly weapons, most objects in the game can be interacted with. This means candelabras, chairs, essentially anything in the environment can become a weapon. Successful blows feel even more satisfying with controller feedback and excellent sound design (especially when a swing takes off a limb). Blood and gore are as abundant as you would expect from a medieval battlefield, leading to some pretty outstanding gameplay moments. Players will find themselves dueling opponents in the middle of the battlefield to squaring off 5v1 encounters and everything in between. The real draw of the game is that no two matches are ever the same. This is especially true with the addition of fast moving, game changing cavalry charges.
Some of the original critiques of Chivalry 2 revolved around character customization, and Torn Banner has absolutely responded. While most characters look more like ugly medieval peasants than knights, there are many new options for hair, voice, attitude, and the option to change your gender. The hundreds of weapon skins and armor choices also add to the depth of character creation, though it may take a while to unlock all the options. There is the option to outright purchase customization skins for those so inclined. All in all, the system allows for the creation of characters that are distinctly yours from the trim of their armor to their attitude in voice emotes.
Despite the amount of polishing Torn Banner has done, there are still a few areas of improvement. While customization has made leaps and bounds, creating a character can feel more like building a monster. The menu navigation isn’t as smooth as it could be, and the occasional glitch or freeze-up makes it impossible. In the heat of battle, friends and enemies alike jostle your character, and can prevent forward movement. This is especially frustrating if there is an objective in a narrow area and one person blocks the path. Controls with thrown objects also feel somewhat finicky on the PS5, an aggravating experience as a javelin-thrower if the javelin cannot be thrown when desired. However, with each new update this list of grievances grows shorter while the developers work to make this game the best it can be.
Laughter in the Middle Ages
What really makes Chivalry 2 special is the humor that has been injected into the game. Character voice lines can be equal parts hilarious and ridiculous, and the combat is no different. Since just about everything on the map can be weaponized, including the livestock, there is no shortage of zany deaths. Anvils plummet from castle walls, severed limbs can be picked up and thrown back at opponents, and even chickens can be used to bludgeon your foes to death.
Graphics & Sound Design
Running off of Unreal Engine 4, Chivalry 2’s graphics are top notch. Stunning, in fact. Large battles really do feel like set pieces from high budget movies! Sunlight glints off armor and even the terrain looks and feels real. Excellent sound design really puts you right there in the heat of battle. Strong hits evoke a powerful sound, and the tremendous amount of gore adds a level of realism and satisfaction.
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 5.