Review – Chivalry 2
Nine years ago Torn Banner Studios released Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. What started off as a free mod from one of Valve’s engines became a huge cult hit. Torn Banner had created its own genre in a multiplayer space which mainly focused on guns. Being able to go into a multiplayer war as a Knights with swords, spears, and bows while goring your opponents felt fresh. Chivalry’s popularity spawned some copycats that looked to enhance the genre, like Mordhau which I really enjoyed. However, Torn Banner is looking to take back the genre they started and provide an experience like no other. Have Torn Banner reclaimed the crown or is Chivalry 2 but a flesh wound to its competition?
Chivalry 2 is a multiplayer first-person slasher with up to two thirty-two player teams clashing. Choose your warrior class from Archers, Footman, Knights, and Vanguards, and lay waste to your enemies. It has a focus on large movie styled wars; castle sieges feel intense as you either storm or protect the gates. Will you be protecting the Agatha King or be on the side of the Masons looking to dethrone and take over? Chivalry 2 features five large scale, objective based maps that feature different clashes between the Agathians and the Masons. There are also three maps featured for deathmatch fights, lower player count skirmishes, or 1v1.
Gameplay is king in Chivalry and the sequel provides plenty of improvements in overall feel. For the most part, Chivalry 2 does not venture too far off of the frantic hack ‘n slash gameplay from the first. In fact, it really only took what was there and polished it up. What was there wasn’t broken, but I was a bit let down that there wasn’t new combat methods for veterans to master. Mordhau took the combat from the first Chivalry and added additional depth to it. It felt familiar, yet offered a layer of mastery that was rewarding. Chivalry 2 tightens up its own combat nicely and adds some more map interactivity, but offers nothing deeper for returning warriors. Even horse mounted combat didn’t make it into the base game. Torn Banner has said they are adding it post launch.
Despite my feelings of disappointment that the combat systems didn’t see any evolution, it’s hard to deny its frantic fun. For newbies there is a tutorial that will take you through all of the combat mechanics: attacking, blocking, parrying, countering, feinting, breaking guard, kicking, accelerating and decelerating attacks, and more. This all sounds familiar to returning fans, so the question now is: “how does it feel?”.
There is a noticeable difference in how the combat feels in Chivalry 2 compared to the first. First thing is that the weapons feel like they have weight. The previous game felt a bit light when you would connect with an enemy, but luckily that has received some attention. Landing attacks, even with slashing weapons, has a noticeable connection with the enemy. This helps it feel even more visceral in battles and makes the decapitations and maiming more satisfying. The rag doll physics are still present, adding in some humor to certain deaths. Smacking an enemy upside the head and watching them rag doll off the side of a castle wall is fantastic.
Classes have changed a bit this time around. There are still the main four classes, but each now has a special as well as sub-classes. Just like the first game, each class has their own positives, negatives, health pool, stamina pool, starting weapons, and items. However, as you level up specific classes you will unlock additional sub-classes. For example, the Knight’s first sub-class is The Guardian. The Guardian starts with a shield and its special is a banner that will heal nearby allies. The third sub-class is The Crusader, basically a tank with a special of a Oil Pot to make him even deadlier.
Torn Banner has done a nice job with the feeling of progression. Not only with unlocking sub-classes by leveling up, but by offering a ton of cosmetics as well. As you level up your class and your main level, you can unlock additional skins and cosmetics for just about everything. Completing matches earns you coins which you can spend in the store to unlock. There are unfortunately some top tier skins that are borderline expensive enough to encourage a microtransaction purchase. It needs to be said that nothing is locked behind the MTs, but some items will require grinding some coins.
Outside of progression, another great way that Chivalry 2 keeps you coming back is the excellent level design. As I mentioned above, there are five large scale war maps and these are greatly detailed. The objectives and locations all vary enough to feel different from each other as a whole. Even inside the matches, each battle can feel different depending on which side of the war you’re on. Play as the Masons and try to bring explosives to the main gate to blow it up. While on the Agatha side, you can be on the wall throwing boulders down at approaching enemies. Each fight and objective feels different each time. However, the amount of maps is a bit small, so burnout will depend on the player.
Visually, I’m impressed at the level of detail overall. The maps are heavily detailed and look either war-torn or lived in. Textures are high quality, from the concrete bricks in the castles to the muddy puddles of the farm areas. Character models are well rendered, offering cloth physics where possible and high quality models for the weapons. The lighting is also well done, offering some nice contrast in inside and outside areas. The overall aesthetic feels gritty, which is what you want in a war game. If there is one area that still doesn’t match the overall level of quality as the rest of the game, it’s the faces. There is still something about the character model faces that look off.
Sound design is minimal, but effective. Everything about the battle sounds are spot on. As the two sides of the war are rushing at each other, the sounds of boots splashing in the mud and battle cries from the warriors pushing forward deliver a level of realism. As do the non-stop clash of swords and screams of death. Music is used minimally, which is a shame because a more prominent rising of music would help during objective pushes. Battle cries and yells are a ton of fun as you’re running in with a group, until you get partnered with that one player who picked the voice that sounds like Screech.
Chivalry 2 is a great time and the controls are intuitive enough to be able to jump in and chop down some enemies. While content is a bit light at launch and there isn’t any evolution to the mechanics for veterans, I can’t deny the frantic fun. The new content might be light, but the quality of life improvements, additions to the class system, and the focus on cinematic battles are fantastic. Be careful with the store front though as some cosmetic items are priced high to encourage MT purchases.
The gritty aesthetic fits the gruesome war nicely. Blood, dismemberment, and dirt effects are nicely done and add a lot to the battles. Overall character models are rendered well, but faces still have a funky look to them.
Classic Chivalry combat returns with only a couple small additions and enhancements. Unfortunately, there was no innovation here to grow the combat system. Even meaningful additions like horse combat didn’t make launch. However, it is polished up, performs well, and is still fun to get into brawls.
Sound design is well done and when both sides clash there is a symphony of steel meeting steel and cries of death. I would’ve liked some more intense music to go with large siege objectives.
Chivalry 2 is simply more of the same. That can mean different things to some people, but either side shouldn’t expect major changes. There are also some obvious microtransaction tactics with the cosmetics. Launch content is also a bit light.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Chivalry 2 is available now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Chivalry 2 was provided by the publisher.