If you’ve ever wanted to be on the front-lines of an epic medieval battle then this game might be for you. Chivalry 2 is a multiplayer first and third-person slasher inspired by medieval movie battles. Every staple of the genre is here including knights in shining armour, siege weapons, and immense castles. Players can utilise a wide range of weapons in huge 64 or 40-player battles in Team Objective, Team Deathmatch and Free-For-All (FFA) modes.
In terms of the fun factor, the developer Torn Banner Studios absolutely delivers; the combat, settings and characters will ensure you’ll always have a smile on your face. However, the absence of certain features and a limited set of maps and modes holds it back from achieving its full potential.
Story – FOR AGATHA!
Being a multiplayer-only game, there isn’t a huge emphasis on the story. It works to set up the conflict by establishing the two factions and why they’re fighting; it also helps to provide some context to the Team Objective maps. Essentially on one side, you’ve got the Mason Order in red and black who believe in control through strength and are currently in possession of the throne after the events of the first Chivalry. Rebelling against them are the Agatha Knights in blue and gold who believe in justice and the rightful lineage. Neither side is as righteous as they seem anyway and you don’t have to pick a side despite what the game tells you at the start.
Ultimately it’s your typical red versus blue conflict and therefore it’s clear who you’re supposed to be stabbing in battle. There’s a handy lore page where you can read more information about key characters and the world if you want to be more invested but it isn’t necessary to enjoy the game.
It’s nice that the story isn’t a shallow afterthought as with other multiplayer-only titles but something that gives the fighting meaning so it’s not just senseless violence. Yes, it would be even better if there was a fully-fledged single-player story mode considering the effort that has gone into the world-building, but that’s not what Chivalry is about. The focus is on player-on-player swordplay and the game benefits from this.
While you do not play as any named characters there are various voices that you can customise for each of your four classes, each with its own distinct personalities. For example, you can be the scared and nervous squire boy or the righteous knight at the other end of the spectrum.
All of these options have some hilarious voice lines that you can activate while in a match. The emote wheel can be used by holding ‘square’ and can be switch with ‘L1’ and ‘R1’ for different types of lines. There has clearly been a lot of effort put into the voice acting and writing for these roles as each character feel unique and most of the lines are comedic gold. There is just a pure level of enjoyment to be hard from charging into battle while screaming at the top of your lungs and the fact that you can insult your opponent’s mother at the touch of a button is fantastic. With the promise of more character voices to come in a future content update, it should only get better.
Gameplay – ‘Tis But a Scratch
On the simplest level, melee combat comes down to slashing, stabbing and overhead attacks, and defensively you can block, riposte and counter. The swordplay is very accessible and easy to pick up but there is also a lot of depth which allows the best players to stand out. For example, you can mix things up with kick, jabs, and feints in order to get the upper hand. For archers, it’s as simple and aim and shoot but you must learn how to lead your target and account for gravity which takes time to master.
The game provides a very useful and thorough tutorial that they encourage you to play when you first start. It doesn’t take too long but it runs you through all you need to know. It’s important that this is included as many players will be new to this style of combat and you don’t want to go straight into a match against players with hours of experience.
Generally, the moment-to-moment fighting is great fun, you’ll soon be able to hold your own against multiple opponents and master the intricacies of the mechanics. This results in a very satisfying gameplay loop. Each hit feels meaty and realistically damaging plus the speed and flow of the fighting feels just right to be intense but not too unrealistic or difficult to follow.
There is also a satisfying level of gore when dealing and taking damage and soon enough the battlefield is soaked in blood. Even when you die you can freely fly around while waiting to respawn to scope out where your team is struggling, find enemy archer positions or simply take a closer look at the map design and environment. It’s a really useful feature and something which should be in all multiplayer games.
The game also makes good use of the PS5’s DualSense abilities. The triggers will become harder to pull as you run out of stamina, then will suddenly loosen when you run out. Blocks can be felt as your swords clash as well as hits from the back and sides. All this adds a lot to the immersion and also serves to inform the player of the gameplay situation. However, if you don’t like the feel of these features you will be annoyed as there no option to turn them off besides from the PS5 menu.
Classes and Weapons
There are four classes to choose from: Knight (high health, but slow), Footman (melee with good range), Vanguard (high damage offence), and Archer (range). Each has varying levels of health and stamina, plus each has access to specific weapon types and abilities. Within each role, there are several sub-classes with different weapon and equipment options. All of this provides a lot of choices for whatever role you want to play; do you want to sit back a whittle down the enemy from afar? Then be an annoying archer. Or do you want to run into the heat of battle while soaked in the blood of your enemies? Then maybe being a vanguard is for you.
In terms of the weapons, you can use almost anything you can think of that fits the medieval theme. For example, there are various lengths of swords, axes, pole-hammers, spears, maces, clubs, shields, and bows. You can even pick up a lot of random stuff from the environment such as bread, horse dung, candlesticks and even the severed limbs and heads of your friends and enemies. Torn Banner describes it as everything and the kitchen sink and I wouldn’t be surprised if you could literally throw a sink at an enemy.
However, there are a few small details that could be better and features that need to be added. One example is that you often get stuck when running between teammates. Likely this is so that you can’t run straight past a large group of people fighting and slip behind without the enemy noticing but when spawning in you can get shoved to the side and your sprint can be interrupted which can be frustrating.
Also, while you must rely on identifying enemies by their clear blue/red colour, this can be obscured when players take damage or are burned. This is especially a problem for the blue Agatha players as the blood that gathers can cover up the blue uniform and make it seem like they’re a part of the Mason Order resulting in team killing and confusion. A little work is needed to help identify friendlies other than the small green dot that is currently present, but of course, maintaining immersion is still important.
Team Objective Mode
The Team Objective mode is the main attraction for Chivalry 2; it’s where the fantasy of being a part of an epic medieval movie is fulfilled. One side must defend while the other attempts to complete objectives such as escorting a convoy, breaking open the gates of a castle or stealing gold. The game does a good job and making it clear what you need to do with HUD elements and voice lines. It all comes together to create an action-packed experience with arrows flying, armies charging and soldiers screaming.
It may sound like a cliché at this point but it really does feel like a movie. Sometimes you’ll be that one random dude that gets taken out by a stray arrow right at the start of the battle and other times you’ll be the heroic knight that slays hordes of enemies without batting an eye.
Another fun addition to the maps is the ability to use siege weapons such as catapults and ballistas. This makes the areas feel really dynamic and continues to build on the medieval simulation. Plus they’re great fun to use as a well-aimed shot can take out a whole group in one shot, but leave you exposed to archers and you risk being flanked.
Team Deathmatch and Free-For-All are also on offer, which are more self-explanatory. The problem with these modes is that empty slots are filled with bots that are much easier to kill, therefore it’s easy to win if you target them. Overall FFA is the worst on offer because it comes down to whoever can kill the most bots and steal other people’s kills. You can spend ages in a 1v1 situation only for some other player to run over and take your kill in one hit leaving you with low health with nothing to show for it. Thankfully the FFA playlist is separate from the other playlists so you can choose not to play it. In a recent State of the Game, the devs have addressed the issues with bots.
Likewise, you can practice solo in a lobby filled with bots but there’s no difficulty option and they’re ridiculously easy to take out to the point where there’s little value in the practice. However, it can be fun to slaughter them as a form of stress relief or to test out new weapons.
Crossplay between consoles and PC is included in Chivalry 2 which is great because it means you should always find a game regardless of mode or platform. The only issue is that crossplay parties with your friends are currently a little difficult but it is expected that this will be fixed soon.
Currently, there are five Team Objective maps and three Team Deathmatch/FFA maps. I feel like this is not quite enough, while the objective maps are diverse in terms of visuals and gameplay once you’ve played both sides a couple of times they begin to feel repetitive. The Deathmatch maps are also just as varied especially the Fighting Pit with its traps and obstacles. However, three isn’t a lot and the Wardenglade area is pretty much just an open field.
The lack of more maps and modes can be excused to some extent because Chivalry 2 is close to half the price of most new games. So this must be taken into account as clearly the publishers, Tripwire Interactive and Deep Silver, understand what type of videogame it is and priced it accordingly.
One mode that the game is crying out for is smaller-team competitive duels. Anything from 1v1 up to around 5v5 would be really good. This would take away the chaos and randomness of Team Objective and will bring the focus to your intricate sword skills without being stabbed in the back or sides. Usually, anytime you find yourself in a competitive 1v1 (that you might find in a film like Troy) it is often ruined by the next spawn wave or someone trying to get an easy kill. Chivalry might not be dead but honour certainly is. Luckily “lower player count & Competitive game modes” are listed in the content sneak peek on the Trello page, so this should be a reality sometime soon.
There are various options to change the appearance of your classes to your liking. You can customise your armour, helmet, weapons and your character’s face. There is also the choice to change your gender which is a nice addition should you want it. Unfortunately, there are just three or four different armour types per class with various levels of quality and the same goes for the weapons. This makes it seem very samey and in the heat of battle, you’re not really going to notice the difference for most of them.
It’s also worth noting that there are microtransactions. You can buy a premium currency to unlock items without having to use the free currency that is earned simply by playing. Even though this has become a much-hated feature of modern games they don’t have much of a negative impact in Chivalry 2. They can largely be ignored and they are only used for items that give no competitive advantage. There is even a disclaimer from Torn Banner when you go to buy the premium currency stating how it exists as another way to show appreciation for the developers but isn’t a necessary purchase. This level of transparency is a breath of fresh air.
Options and Settings
There are several options that at lacking for Chivalry 2 that arguably should be a given for modern multiplayer games. Firstly, there is no stats/ progression menu. This would be useful to see how well you play with certain classes, your best weapons and where you need to improve. While this isn’t a completely necessary feature it can greatly improve the player’s experience and engagement with the product. There’s not even any way to track the progress you’ve made in levelling up your classes and what you’ll next unlock other than in a match.
A way to improve the cosmetics system to be to include in-game challenges to unlock them. Getting a certain number of kills in a certain way could unlock a related armour set, however, this would require a huge overhaul of the customization system. Nevertheless, challenges could just reward XP and provide something to work towards so that you can feel like you win something even when you lose the match.
There is also no way to rebind the controls on consoles and the game is severely lacking any accessibility option besides colour blind support. These features are a necessity to ensure that everyone is able to play unimpeded, and with many basic setting missing it’s only going to deter a proportion of the potential fanbase.
There are other things that are confirmed to be upcoming but didn’t make it at launch. A Console server browser and PS4 to PS5 party support should be coming very soon, plus an increase of the size limit on parties, horses, arrow cam and various improvements are also planned. The future success of the game will be dependant on how well they deliver on this roadmap and continue to support the community.
Audio and Graphics – The Sights and Sounds of Battle
Graphically, the game looks very good. It runs at solid 4K, 60 frames-per-second without any noticeable dips. The environments are detailed and are diverse with dark night-time areas lit by atmospheric moonlight and bright coastal areas with stunning sunlight. The photorealistic art style supports the immersion and again continues the idea of an epic movie battle. Character models look good in the action with dirt and blood gathering over time but close-up in the customization menu faces look a bit weird. The skin texture is rather waxy in appearance and there a lack of detail but you never get that close most of the time.
There are a few settings related to video quality that are useful, such as the option to prioritise resolution or framerate. However, there are certain settings that are unusually absent. For example, you can’t change the brightness or adjust HDR meaning you may be forced to adjust the configuration of your screen itself if it looks too dark or bright. There’s literally just one option in the ‘video’ tab; to toggle motion blur on or off.
It’s the accumulation of many small nit-picks which makes it frustrating especially when some of these features are available on other platforms. In recent years we’ve begun to see the trend away from PC-only features that don’t exist on consoles for whatever reason, with in-game text chat being another example. Removing mundane aspects like this in order to simplify console ports is pointless and adds nothing.
To reinforce the impact of your sword, axe or hammer, the action is met with audio that is just as satisfying. The clang of steel on steel and the bloody thump when you hit your target makes it clear how much damage you’re doing. This is all partnered with great ambient sound to fill in the battlefield with the sounds of war. Enemy footstep audio is just good enough to be useful. Especially in first-person you need to listen out for enemies coming behind you, this is possible at times but when there are other sounds going off or when on certain surfaces you can be surprised even with a good surround sound headset.
The quality and balance of the dialogue could be a little better, however. Your voice is much louder than other players, which is almost inaudible unless you’re close, and there’s generally too much base to it. This highlights the lack of any substantial audio settings. All you can adjust is the volume levels of each aspect and there are no preset settings for TVs or headsets.
Chivalry 2 was reviewed on PlayStation 5, with the key provided by ONE PR Studio.