Chivalry: Medieval Warfare Review

One thing you can always count on in the summer is Valve’s week long summer deals.  This summer I picked up a little something I had heard mixed reaction to, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would.

That game, is Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. A play on the famous Call of Duty 4 subtitle,  Chivalry takes things back to an era where Monarchies were the norm, and wars were settled with swords.  Started as a Half-Life 2 mod,  Chivalry is one of a small number of games of it’s type. It takes the concept of DICE’s long running Battlefield series, objective based team warfare, and putting it in a Medieval setting. Unlike Battlefield it isn’t set on any actual historical conflict though. So the setting, and weapons scream “Realistic” but the battles themselves are fictional.  Chivalry also merges some of the FPS genres other trends into it’s fold.

PROS: Melee system. Atmosphere. First or third person perspective options. Fatalities!

CONS: Dated graphics in some areas. Texture load times.

WAIT WHAT?: You can get drunk on mead.

As in a lot of other team focused games in addition to Battlefield like Team Fortress 2, or Call of Duty’s multiplayer the game has several classes. Each with it’s own strengths, weaknesses, and different purposes in modes of play.  Archers have the ability to use  projectile attacks with various bows, crossbows, and even a slingshot. They are light on their feet, and can provide cover for their teammates who move toward objectives or enemy lines. Vanguards, are big, powerful brutes who can use two handed weapons to break through defenses. Man-At-Arms can use firebombs, to dispel or burn clusters of enemies. They can dodge in a similar fashion to the characters of  Unreal Tournament. Handy for charging enemies or projectiles. Knights have thick armor, can take punishment with their big shields, and slay enemies with powerful swords.

 

But these classes all have their downsides too.  So choosing the right class for the right mission is crucial.

Modes are actually pretty well varied. Objective mode is the one most similar to Battlefield insofar as it’s closest to it’s Rush game mode. In Objective mode the game will give the attacking team certain tasks like destroying a structure, and the defending team has to stop them from doing so. Some of the things you do in this mode can get pretty nefarious if you are on the attacking team. For instance one mission has you burning down wheat fields so that the citizens of the opposing side’s kingdom will starve. Another mission has you dropping corpses into the opposing side’s water supply to poison them.

Of course the game also has your classic game types too. Free For All is the standard Deathmatch.  Team Deathmatch is also here as a variant.  There are also Last Man Standing modes that give every player one life, and literally the one player left, or team who has  survivors wins. But one mode that is here has rarely been seen since Raven’s Jedi Academy, and that’s Duel mode. Duel mode sets up a tournament on the server where two players face off against each other, and the winner advances. This mode will please anyone who loves one on one competition. Battles in all modes get very gristly. Limbs, heads, and more go flying after many critical hits causing gibs, and blood fountains to flow.

 

Chivalry also takes a page from modern shooters, and institutes a progression system. Every class starts out with stock level weaponry, and as they improve, better weapons unlock. Fortunately the  bar to do so is fairly low, so even if you’re as bad as I am at the game you will be able to still get that sword, axe, hammer or bow you long for. The game has a fair number of maps to go along with the action. There may not be as many as in other games, but the ones that are here are well designed, and fun to play on.

Many of the maps have interactive objects that can be used during battle. Catapults, Battering Rams, Boiling pots of oil are just a few of the things you will find yourself using. Visually the game looks a little dated, but considering it’s history it’s understandable. Models aren’t the same grade as the ones found in newer AAA shooters, and textures aren’t as detailed as the ones you’ll find in most releases. But it does use the Unreal 3 engine’s lighting effects fairly well, and is such an engaging game, that like Counter-Strike: GO it  is still fun to look at. It’s also easy to forget about these nitpicks when you experience the game’s dismemberments, as limbs, and body parts lie strewn about.

 

The score is also fairly impressive, fitting the theme of it’s world, and leaving the impression you’re watching a really old castle siege movie.  Sound effects are well done, from the screams of the crowd in a coliseum, to the war cries of the soldiers, to weapons clashing. All go a long way into making it feel like a legitimate re-enactment of a battle taking place in the middle ages.

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare’s melee system is a step above the handful of other games of it’s ilk, and is what will make you want to keep playing it. All classes will have it at the forefront of their arsenal, except for the archers. But even archers will need to master it, as once combatants get within range they won’t be able to shoot them in time. Chivalry features three main melee attacks. An overhead swing, a side swing, and a stab attack. these are done by scrolling the mouse wheel down, clicking the left mouse button, and scrolling the wheel up. Players can duck by pressing the left CTRL button, can feign an attack by pressing Q, at just the right time, and combo swings by getting timing down. Players  can use the right mouse button to block.

 

The game not only gives players a health bar, but a stamina bar they have to manage. Every swing, block or other attack will drain it. Some more than others. If it empties players are essentially defenseless until it starts to refill. This keeps people from simply mashing their mouse buttons, and instead forces players to master aiming their melee weapons properly, blocking when needed, and planning on their feet.  For those who think “Oh I’ll just play an archer, and shoot people to win!” Don’t think you’ll have it easy either. Archers are the weakest of the classes, and have to have impeccable leading skills. Chivalry is not a hitscan shooter. Like Battlefield, one has to be able to shoot where one is going, not where they are. Moreover, one has to account for distance, and the drop speed of the projectile. “Bang bang! I killed you!” This is not.

 

Torn Banner studios really outdid themselves with their first commercial product. For such a small company to be able to make a full game based upon a mod in a different engine, AND have it be able to hang with AAA contemporaries is a pretty amazing feat. It may not be perfect, nor blow you away with Hollywood visuals. But it will be one of the best multiplayer games you’ll experience this generation. ONWARD BROTHERS, TO GLORY!

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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