Most media would have you believe that medieval combat is an elegant, regal affair, with plenty of fancy sword techniques and flashy fights. On the surface, Chivalry 2 goes in the other direction, offering rugged, dirty melees more reminiscent of a drunken brawl outside of the local pub. It’s even got that one guy who’s found a barrel to lob at the others, but dig beneath the surface and you’ll find an intricate and rewarding combat system more akin to a first-person fighting game.
It’s also still incredibly chaotic, and I can’t stop playing it.
For the most part, Chivalry 2 feels largely the same as the original game, which arguably deserved its own place on our list of underrated multiplayer games. Teams of players compete against each other in various game modes, the twist being that everyone looks like they’ve just walked off of filming the Battle of the Bastards. For a while, Chivalry was a go-to multiplayer game for me and my friends, but after playing Chivalry 2’s beta for a few hours, it already feels like a massive improvement.
Part of the reason for this is the fact that the game already feels a lot smoother than the first entry. The original Chivalry was often plagued with lag and other minor glitches that could sometimes undermine the game’s value, but pretty much none of that is on show even in the beta. Aside from one minor glitch where a critical health heartbeat kept playing for no apparent reason, Chivalry 2 felt like a finished game. The only real indicator that it was a beta was the watermark on the side of the screen that said “beta”.
Mainly though, Chivalry feels like an improvement because it’s a much more ambitious game. The original’s servers would usually only accommodate 24 players, but Chivalry 2 introduces 64 player lobbies, which naturally leads to more chaotic and dramatic battles as a result. The maps are usually quite small in terms of play area too, meaning you’re never too far away from the next big skirmish.
The combat has been improved too, with players given four different kinds of attack, aside from the archer class which offers its own ranged attacks. You have a horizontal slash, a vertical overhead and a stab attack, and each can be used to better navigate your way around enemy defenses. In tight corridors, stabs and overheads will work better than big round slashes, while the wide slices can help fend off multiple adversaries during fights. There’s also a special move that allows you to attack in a more unique way, potentially throwing the enemy off-guard.
Defensively, there’s more for you to do now, especially in situations where you’re outnumbered. Don’t get me wrong, if two dudes are running at you swinging their swords, chances are your head will be separated from your shoulders before too long, but now you have more options than just holding block and waiting for the inevitable. Parries and ripostes allow players to defend against matching attacks by attacking, letting you mount a counteroffensive while the enemy is off balance. There’s also tackles and kicks, designed to break your opponent’s guard for a quick attack.
Chivalry 2 even features an in-depth tutorial that goes into detail about how players can use dodges, parries, feints and the different attack types to dominate the battlefield. It’s all important information that can give you a sense of how you can fight against multiple enemies, or strategies to mind game your opponents, but that mostly goes out of the window when the fights actually start.
There’s a certain military quote that’s been attributed and rearranged to many sources over the years, but the message is basically “no battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. Chivalry 2 perfectly embodies that mantra, as all the preparation and training gets thrown out of the window as soon as you’re surrounded by 63 other players, each swinging weapons like the dickhead in the mosh pit flailing their arms around. It’s utter chaos, but that adds to the game’s charm.
The chaos of the game means that death is never too far away, so being killed or losing matches doesn’t feel too bad. I’m notoriously prone to getting angry at multiplayer games when things go wrong, but Chivalry 2 only managed to elicit giddy joy throughout its beta. Better still, it makes those moments of absolute triumph even more rewarding, like the above clip where I managed to survive a 3 on 1 encounter. Of course, what the clip doesn’t show you is the guy who came round the corner with a crossbow and deleted me in no time at all. War (and Chivalry) never changes.
Torn Banner knows how ridiculous the game can be though, and gives you the tools to really amp it up too, with Agatha Knights charging into battle screaming “FOR THAT GUY WE LIKE!” or the Mason Order dishing out your mum jokes in between kills. The emotes and voice lines alone are enough to push Chivalry 2 more towards Monty Python than Braveheart (including the reference to the Black Knight and “it’s just a flesh wound!” when someone loses an arm), which honestly just makes the game more endearing.
One of the other contributing factors to the level of chaos that the game musters is how much you can interact with the environment around you, to the point that you can pick up objects in the environment and hurl them at your opponents, which really helps to sell that pub brawl vibe. A guilty pleasure of mine has been to pick up barrels and throw them like Donkey Kong. Shockingly, it’s led to more kills than my brief time trying the archer class, so clearly the barrel is meta and is going to be nerfed by launch.
The maps themselves play a huge role in the chaos too. In the Siege maps, which are huge objective based game types, players can work together on the outskirts of the battle to manually load catapults with rock ammunition, though you can also stack a group of players onto the catapult and fire them headfirst into the frontline, which is a spectacle that does not get old.
Even the deathmatch maps have their own quirks and environmental options, especially the Tournament Grounds map. Dotted around the corners of the map are spinning mechanisms that players can hit, which will whack any players caught in the crossfire, leading to some easy follow-up kills. My hope is that the full game is filled with more maps that have these unique interactions, as they help to keep the game fun, fresh and filled with engaging interactions.
That’s really the only main concern exiting the beta: that it’ll keep the attention of players going forward. After a couple of the days with the closed beta, I’m really excited to play the full game when it launches in June, but it’s on Torn Banner Studios and Tripwire to ensure there’s enough to keep me and other players coming back in the week and months afterwards. Either way, June 8th is looking like it’ll be a great day.
A chaotic day, but a great one.
A code for the Chivalry 2 beta on Xbox Series X was provided by PR.
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