Over the past few years, there’s been a noticeable shift in the primary function of video games. Ten years ago the main feature of a game was its campaign mode, especially for console games. Now, though, the most widely-played video games have extensive multiplayer modes. Many people will buy a Call of Duty game, log 100+ hours in it, and will have never played a single story-mode mission. Games with multiplayer focuses may as well be a genre of their own.
And they more or less are, in a sense. There are plenty of games out nowadays that are multiplayer only. Team Fortress 2, Planetside 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Warframe, and even triple-A titles like Titanfall all fall under the multiplayer-only genre.
Of course, all of those games that I just mentioned all happen to be in a similar vein of gameplay. You know what multiplayer-only game isn’t like these? I’ll tell you.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
If you’ve never experienced Chivalry in any capacity (which would be surprising as it’s been around for nearly two years), then you should check out some gameplay videos on the Youtubes. It’s truly something spectacular to behold.
Chivalry is a First/Third person medieval combat simulator. You can play as one of four classes: the agile Man-at-Arms, who uses single-handed melee weapons to quickly whittle down his opponents; the long-reaching Vanguard, who uses polearms and dastardly bastard swords to cleave and impale his enemies with a terrifying lunging attack; the impenetrable Knight, who wields sword, shield, battle-axes and heavy warhammers while soaking blows with his shining armor; and the absolutely annoying Archer, who shoots arrows and shit to make your life a living hell. Each class has a different function or ability that makes them all uniquely suited to a number of battlefield roles.
The game features a variety of team based game modes including Capture the Flag, Deathmatch, and Team Objective. Team Objective is a mode that sets up an attacking team and a defending team. The attacking team is given a series of objectives to complete to advance the attack across quite a large map. The defending team does just that: defend. A time limit determines how long the attackers have to complete an objective. If the objective is completed within that time, additional time is added. Attackers win if they complete all objectives, and defenders win if they run out the clock. The size and scale of the battles is what makes this game mode so fun. Server sizes go up to 64 players, which means you’ve got yourself some pretty grand medieval battles going on. Players can also choose to join Duel servers which allow 1v1 battles.
One of the most gratifying features of this game is dismemberment. It’s not grotesquely excessive, but there is enough to give an inclination to the real horrors of medieval warfare (get it?). When you bring a flail crashing against an enemy’s cranium, you can be sure it will be sent flying from the rest of the body. Bringing a scimitar across the arm of a nearly-dead combatant will surely sever it. Friendly fire is always on, so if you go swinging a giant maul wildly into a mixture of friends and foes, expect to get some team kills.
Combat is a mixture of attacking and blocking. Your left mouse click will swing your weapon horizontally in a wide arc. Up on the scroll wheel is a longer-reaching jab attack, and tilting down on the scroll wheel brings your weapon down in a devastating overhead attack. Right click is the block button. Blocking serves one of two functions in Chivalry. If you’re wielding a weapon and no shield, a block will actually parry an incoming attack; if you’re wielding a sword and shield, blocking will be a sustained action that absorbs damage. You should treat combat like a dance in this game. It requires a touch of elegance to be truly good at it.
Or you could take the more forward, brutish tactic and spam horizontal attack and hope you kill the other guys. Either way works, really.
That said, it should be noted that the combat does have quite a learning curve. At first, it’ll feel pretty foreign and difficult. You’ll get frustrated when you cross blades with a seasoned player who cuts you down with ease. BUT. But but but. The game should not be taken too seriously, no matter how enraged the players around you may seem to be. The best description of the game I’ve ever heard was this: “It’s the game you play when you want to take a break from playing games”. It’s such a singularly unique experience and it’s so focused that it doesn’t bother trying to be overly complex and versatile. It’s a niche game.
Another very fun aspect of the game is how the developers have embraced mods for the game. There are servers dedicated to certain mods, such as a mod that turns all the classes into different wizard and mage classes. There are also servers which reduce gravity and game speed, allowing for some slow-motion, high-flying battles a-la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The game does have its share of bugs, though. It’s definitely improved since its early days, and it is in much better condition than a year ago. More recently, connectivity issues seem to be the largest problem.
The game also has a fun add-on called Deadliest Warrior which features favorites from the TV show of the same name such as the Viking, the Samurai, the Spartan, the Ninja, and the Pirate. The DLC functions separately from the main game and features multi-team gameplay between the different factions.
Now: why have I reviewed a nearly 2-year-old game? Because it was just announced that the game will be released for PS3 and Xbox 360! So you console guys can get your hands on it soon, too!
Chivalry isn’t a perfect game. Combat feels wonky and difficult to new players. There are bugs. But it is an enormously fun game, and one that is close to my heart. And it’s cheap. That’s the other thing. It usually runs for about $25, but it routinely gets put on Steam sales and Humble Bundle sales. In fact, it might be on sale for Humble Bundle right now. It’s definitely a game that’s worth picking up, if only to bask in the absurdity of a low-gravity sword battle with an enemy who is belching out a thunderous battlecry while he threateningly waves a cheese knife around the air.
Overall, I give this game a solid B+