There was a time, if you can believe it, when warfare wasn’t as clean as it was today. While it’s always a tragedy for somebody to die in battle, there’s no argument that war today is an entirely different beast than it was even fifty years ago. Go back a couple of hundred years and things become more bloody still, and the further back you go, the more primitive becomes our mode of killing one another. Chivalry: Medieval Combat takes the basic Call of Duty model – arcade action, quick respawns, focus on kill/death ratio – and takes away the guns. It places you in a world where instant death in battle was an unlikely mercy, where the average person was much stronger than they are today, and in which skill with a weapon means more than simply aiming and pressing a button…
Chivalry is a first person game focussed on multiplayer mêlée combat. If you’ve ever played Skyrim, you should have some vague idea of battle will go down. In a perfect world, it’d play out like some fatal game of rock, paper, scissors; two soldiers, fighting it out in a deadly display of skill. Unfortunately, it rarely happens like that; more common scenarios are a rather embarrassing mistake on one player’s behalf followed by a quick death, or multiple soldiers overpowering one other. It’s not the sort of game where you can run and hide either, although some people try it anyway. If any of this sounds negative towards the game itself, it’s not; it’s human error that makes the game less exciting than it could be, even though it’s as exciting as watching a boxing match when it’s at its very best. That could improve on the game’s full release.
That’s perhaps the only fault of the game: that it’s a little too hands-on. Offering a bevy of strike types and weaponry, it can be a little bit confusing to a new player, and going through everything on offer will take quite a long time and an awful lot of deaths. There are so many buttons – and depending on class or weapon chosen, they sometimes change – that it can be an uphill struggle to learn. I can’t say with any certainty, but it seems most people seem to go for a certain class and weapon type, so it might just be that things are unbalanced, but you can certainly have fun with each and every type of characters. From the heavy knight to the archer, each class has advantages and disadvantages in battle and you’ll have to find the best for your play-style. I personally prefer the knight, a massive killer with high health but slow speed.
Visually, Chivalry is better than decent. There’s a rich variety of colours, successfully recreating the rural setting of some mediaeval castles. Although the game is set in a fictional history (and fictional country), there’s still something very familiar if you know anything about mediaeval warfare. It’s in its sound design that Chivalry truly shines, though; the sounds of sword-on-sword battle haven’t been this blood-curdling since the fifteenth century. Both teams scream as they run at one another, banging their swords and shields together to intimidate their enemies. Swords clang as they block attacks and the war axes sound like they’d stick to shields as they hammer home.
The winner isn’t simply judged on which team has killed the most – there are objectives to complete as well. These are typical mediaeval objectives, whether your goal is to lay siege to an enemy castle or protect your dead on their way back home. It all boils down to having a slight distraction from the constant battle, but that’s not a bad thing. Attacking or defending makes each match more focussed, although you’ll still find yourself trying to take on two or three people at once, even with everybody supposedly vying for the same objective. It comes down to finding a balance between defending yourself and gaining ground, and juggling both is executed well enough that it’s worth mentioning here. Some multiplayer games add objectives just for the sake of adding them, but Chivalry does it quite well.
In fact, Chivalry does a lot of things quite well The combat is more complicated than I imagine most people will be used to (and from what I’ve seen, many players basically spam the standard attack button when they’re in a bind anyway), but that represents the relative difficulty of having to actually use a sword. The graphics are good enough that they fully represent the world the developers are presenting but not so amazing that you need a high-end computer to run it. All in all, Chivalry is worth trying, especially if you’re bored of all of the current trends in multiplayer gaming. You could be disappointed, but you’re much more likely to be impressed. I can safely say I am.