When I first saw Chivalry 2, I knew I had to play it. The promise of a dedicated, polished medieval battlefield experience, like playing an episode of Vikings or Game of Thrones, let my imagination go wild on what this game could be. However, there was one thing holding me back: it was a multiplayer-only game.
I can’t remember when I stopped enjoying modern multiplayer games. I know that in my childhood I played Halo 3 and numerous other FPS titles without a problem, but now that I’m older I might be less competitive, and probably a good deal more sensitive. A more recent multiplayer game I got addicted to was Rocket League – the concept of playing football with cars in a walled arena was so unique and offered hours of fun, but even after scoring a goal a member of my team would inevitably post in the text chat that I wasn’t playing good enough. That my goal was a fluke. That I was awful.
I can take this kind of heat from the enemy team, but it seemed so unreasonable from my own. Similarly, when playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection, I usually stick to the Action Sack playlist because the game modes are more social, for fun. But, again, after a game of Hammer Hill (a game of King of the Hill with gravity hammers, a notoriously difficult, unpredictable weapon) where we didn’t win, I’d get the familiar private voice message from someone on my team. You know the one.
So, going into Chivalry 2, I was ready to enjoy it, but acutely prepared for the wave of abuse that was about to drown me … but I was wrong.
The Silent Army
The first thing to notice when you get into a game of Chivalry 2 is you can’t hear anyone. That’s because, while the game allows party chat, it actually restricts players from talking to each other within the game either by voice or text. This might sound disappointing to players who rely on that player-versus-player interaction, but what Torn Banner Studios has put in its place is ingenious.
First of all, Chivalry 2 gives each player a huge emote wheel. You have your emotes split into three different categories – Tactical, Personal, and Emote. The breadth of possible reactions/interactions you’re able to have on the field of battle is honestly astounding. There’s so much Monty Python-esque humour and role-play available in these emotes that it feels perfect for role-players, re-enactors, and general fans of the medieval era.
Each line of dialogue is delivered by the voice actor for your character – and you can buy different voices for each of your classes with gold that you earn from matches. This means that you can truly create your own character who lives in the world of the game, with your customised appearance and chosen voice. No one in Chivalry 2 is shouting abuse at other players for playing on a different console, and no one is shamed for being bad. In 40 player or 64 player matches, there’s no real opportunity to single out the bad players. It is as hectic, messy, and chaotic as a true medieval battlefield.
Torn Banner Studios has forced players to inhabit the game. Everyone is killing, running around, and dying in character. Every interaction you have with other players takes place within the world of the Middle Ages. It’s an experience you don’t often get to have in video games.
As you can see above, I played around with all the different emotes, and some are even unique to special situations, such as being downed or having lost a limb. I could wave, cheer, and point as the action went on around me. When you are downed, you can even ask for mercy! Just don’t expect to receive it.
Respect from the Grave
When I play Halo, I’m the sniper. I grab the long-range weapon and become death from afar. Similarly, my time in Chivalry 2 was spent mostly as an archer. It almost feels like cheating to be able to pick enemies off with arrows to the head from a safe distance, and the bow is exactly as deadly as you’d expect it to be. The one nuance to using it is aiming above an attacker’s silhouette over great distances and pre-empting their movement to get a good shot on them. If you’re able to pull this off, it feels fantastic. The game rewards you with points for a long shot and tells you the distance in metres.
As you can see below, one of my favourite spots was firing arrows over a flaming brazier from a castle wall as my team defended against the invading army. You’ll also see that a member of the enemy team has commended my longshot of 28 metres. This ability to commend players who kill you is so disarming in its sincerity. I often had players I had slain commend my kills, and similarly, I often commended players who I couldn’t get a hit on because their defence was so good. It was genuinely a pleasure to feel like the whole game was in friendly competition, and opposing teams were patting each other on the back in good sport.
For the advantage I had over the battlefield with my bow and arrow, though, I paid a heavy price. I ascended the ranks of priority in the minds of my opponents so that, as they ran onto the battlefield, they noticed quickly where my arrows were coming from. Many times I would be happily firing arrows into a mass of enemies wearing red tabards only to see one of them start charging towards me with their longsword.
My bow being useless close range, the only option I had was to pull out my dagger or hatchet (and you better hope you have a good side weapon attached to your Archer class) and try to defend myself. Early on, when I had but a dagger, this was futile. However, since earning the hatchet, many times I have surprised a confident player by pulling out my axe and cleaving them after blocking a few slow swings of their sword.
Not many players commend this type of play from an archer – it feels dirty. However, the combat in Chivalry 2 does have just enough nuance to distribute the skill level in an extremely varied way amongst its players. Some will just swing their sword and hope for the best, but those who know what they’re doing will make short work of them.
There are enough attacks at your disposal, such as a swing, overhead, and thrust attack, a block which you can parry or melee with, and a kick to punt people back. However, the best advice for swordfighters in Chivalry 2 is to move your camera with the swing of your sword. Not only does this get the sword to reach your opponent faster, but you can drag your swings out to hit multiple targets. Therefore, when it’s you against 3 other players, and you know how to get your sword into all three of them before they can get a hit on you, you’re going to get a lot of commendations. Not only does it feel hugely rewarding, you know that it’s all in good fun and good sport. There was never a time in the game where I didn’t respect a better player getting the drop on me. Well, okay, apart from that one guy with the crossbow that one time.
A Humane Loyalty
One of the most surprising features in Chivalry 2 is the ability to switch teams at any point during a match. Essentially, if your team is losing badly at an objective match, such as defending the Duke against the invaders, or if you just prefer attacking to defending, you have the choice to change team. By the game not punishing or caring whether you help your team to succeed, or abandon the cause to join the enemy, it never feels like there’s pressure on you from the people on your team to do well.
That’s not saying there isn’t that urgency of objective in the game – there is, but I always felt the pressure to perform well came from myself, which is how it should be in my opinion. I didn’t ever find myself switching teams halfway through a match – only at the beginning, in case I preferred to defend the castle – because I got too invested in the work I had put into the match already. It was always tempting, but it really wouldn’t have benefitted me to change sides.
Furthermore, the spaces in each match not filled with players are taken up by bots. Hence you never feel let down by teammates, and in 20v20, or 32v32 matches, it’s just the chaotic mess of medieval warfare. The prevailing message of Chivalry 2‘s multiplayer is ‘do your best’ but do it amongst a hellish cascade of blood and steel.
To conclude, Chivalry 2 has become my multiplayer game which I can turn on and chill out with. Sword combat is always satisfying, and the ideology of having a glorious death in battle is replicated in the way that players commend you. It feels like joining a battlefield of role-players, all of us wanting to have fun and to enjoy rolling in the murky mud of battle. So far, it has been a joy and a breath of fresh air, and I hope that many multiplayer games that follow it learn from its innovations.
Chivalry 2 is available on PC via the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4 and 5, and Xbox consoles. The standard edition retails at $39.99 / €39.99 / £34.99. If this article has piqued your interest in Chivalry 2, check out the game’s Launch Trailer. For those who have already been enjoying Chivalry 2, you can check out the Post-Launch Dev Diary from Torn Banner Studios on what content they have planned to bring to the game!
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Played on: Xbox Series X
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Publisher: Tripwire Presents