Chivalry: Medieval Warfare Review – Beautiful Brutality

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a competitive online multiplayer medieval-style combat game. There aren’t really a whole lot of games like Chivalry on the market. The game doesn’t have a single player mode outside of the tutorial and the ability to do bot-based matches; multiplayer is where the focus is at in this game. Matches consist of a variety of game modes including Team Deathmatch, Free-fo-All, Capture the Flag, King of the Hill and Team Objective modes.

Team Objective is the most unique mode in the game, as each map essentially contains its very own storyline for each side: the Mason Order and the Knights of Agatha. For example, one of the maps has one side attacking a village and is tasked with killing the villagers and burning their houses. If that team is able to cause enough destruction within the timeframe for that round, they move to the next round that tasks them with moving the battering ram to the castle door. If they can get the ram there and break the door down, they move inside the castle and try to kill the king. The Team Objective mode is full of matches like this that constantly evolve as you play and change your objective, making each game pretty unique.

Now it’s time for a bit of a history lesson. Torn Banner Studios originated by making a mod for Half-Life 2 called Age of Chivalry. It follows the same basic principles as this game, but was only a mod for an existing game. Now, they have branched off and made their very own game in the Unreal engine. Combat happens from either a first or third person point of view, but the game is clearly designed with first person in mind and many servers prevent players from even using third person. Official servers are hosted by Torn Banner, but players can purchase their own servers to host as well.

By either clicking the left mouse button or scrolling the mouse wheel in different directions causes a horizontal slash, vertical slash, or stab. Clicking the right mouse button allows you to attempt a block/parry with a weapon or shield. You must aim your block at the tip of your enemy’s weapon. For example, if your opponent is vertically slashing their sword at you, you will need to both time the block (it’s temporary, you can’t hold it) and aim it up. For a stab, aim down, etc. Players can also kick other players or shield bash if they’re using a shield.

All of this, combined with the fact that you’re fighting other real players and that combat is not slow at all makes combat a highly addictive and intense experience. There are four classes to choose from – Archer, Man-at-Arms, Vanguard and Knight. Each has not only its own repertoire of weapons with stats for damage, reach and speed, but its own special characteristics.

Each class chooses a primary weapon, secondary weapon and special item. The archer is the primarily ranged class of the game, the man-at-arms is the quick infantry unit with sidestepping dodge ability, the vanguard is the next level of weight with a charging ability and the knight is the heaviest and slowest, but also deals the most damage and has the most health. As you accumulate kills with weapon types you unlock new (and usually better) weapons within that tier. There is no global stat tracking or anything like that right now, it is an indie game and it did just come out. Speaking of which, there are quite a few issues that will turn off gamers with little patience.

For example, hit detection is overall pretty nice, but if there is any detected hit at all, the game calculates the damage as if it were a perfect strike; there are no “glancing blows” of any kid. The font and in-game menus are very ugly in contrast to the wonderful art design of the levels themselves, so it’s a little jarring to see a giant progress bar on your screen letting you know how close the door is to being knocked down.  When using a two-handed weapon, your arms appear to be floating as they didn’t really do a good job of finishing those textures for first-person view.

Speaking of the textures and level designs – they’re pretty great. The Unreal engine is extremely versatile of course, but they did a great job in this game with the lighting especially. The brutality of medieval-themed combat really comes through in this game. If you’re not careful, one or two attacks can easily kill you, which makes it that much more rewarding to rack up kills in a single match. By aiming your blows at the head you can decapitate enemies, dismember them, and even make their body parts flat out explode.

The designers chose to not have any music playing during matches until the very end, which is a little disappointing because the music that is in the game is actually very good. Without any music, matches are filled with blood-curdling screams of agony, blades clashing together and other sounds of warfare – which is perfectly fitting for this game. I dare you to not cringe the first time you hear an enemy gargle blood in his throat after you’ve driven your sword through his gut.

You really only have two other medieval combat games out there to choose from. First is War of the Roses with its mixture of tactics and customization and then the older Mount & Blade series that’s been around for years with hundreds of player-made mods and its hybrid strategy/action gameplay. And then there’s Chivalry: Medieval Warfare with its visceral in your face brutality. All of its minor issues and relatively limited scope aside, Chivalry may very well have the best first-person melee combat system I have ever seen in a game, period.

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is available now for PC from their website, Steam, Gamersgate and GameStop for ~$24.99. Let us know what you thought of this review and the game in the comments below!

This review was based on a retail download copy of the game for the PC provided by Torn Banner Studios.

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