Knights and vanguards clashing swords around me. Arrows whistling millimetres away from my head. A catapult-launched rock smashes the earth in front of me, creating a cacophony of destruction, throwing ally and foe alike into the air. Spears stab into shields. An oil grenade sets alight to my side. Through the chaos I face my encroaching foe. He storms towards me, screaming his battle cry. As I prepare my battle axe for his approach, my awareness is drawn to his weapon. A cabbage. The fearsome soldier launches himself, flinging the cabbage into my face. He only has one arm. I swing my battle axe and cleave his head clean off. I laugh, furiously. I imagine my mortal cabbage-wielding enemy was too laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
Chivalry 2 is a game idea condensed into its purest form. A celebration of medieval combat that endeavours to not only recreate olden age warfare, but to make it genuinely fun to play. If you’re looking for a pure realistic medieval sim, you may be disappointed. However, as my friend explained as we launched each other from the catapult onto our opponents castle walls – Chivalry 2 is the epitome of an epic video game LARP experience. It may have some rough edges and be relatively light on content at present, but I simply found it impossible not to enjoy myself and get lost in the hilarity of the moments I experienced while playing it.
Chivalry 2 is a multiplayer focused medieval combat game which can be played either in 1st or 3rd person. While it does offer an offline bot mode, the AI “challenge” presented is negligible and they can be slaughtered without any bother. Indeed, online is where Chivalry 2 shines and was designed to be played.
There are 3 main game modes – 64 or 40 player team modes, or free-for-all. Both 64 and 40 player modes offer a mix of objective progression matches with team deathmatches. Akin to Battlefield’s conquest mode, one side will be allocated defensive roles, with the attackers tasked with overrunning their positions. Each objective the attacking side completes will move the match to the next objective, culminating in an epic final stand. The defenders simply have to outlast the timer and hold their assailants at bay long enough to survive.
The objectives themselves are nothing particularly special or revolutionary. Push/prevent the siege towers/ramps/rams moving forward. Attack/hold this gatehouse/square/position. Kill/defend this prisoner/heir/important whoever. Destroy/defend this gate etc etc. The game is unapologetically simple in its approach, but its execution is very well handled. The overarching task you’re given is merely an excuse to mash two opposing massive forces against each other and provide a backdrop to the carnage that ensues.
The maps are generally well designed and structured, with particular highlights being castle sieges which include battles across bottle-necked bridges and multiple defensive barricades. Unfortunately, a couple suffer some imbalanced tasks either in favour of the attacking or defensive side. One map culminates with one player being designated the heir and the attackers having to cut him down. The defenders however, would regularly – and easily – hoard themselves into one corner of the hall, making it nigh-on impossible for the assaulting force to feasibly reach, nevermind damage, the heathen bastard.
Another map has the final objective effectively be the attacking team genociding the defensive side who are denied any further respawns. The battle leading up to it is epic as all Hell and in a sense it is a worthy payoff for a successful siege, but that doesn’t necessarily make it fair for the poor, valiant knights being cut down without mercy.
Chivalry 2 certainly does have its balance issues which hopefully will be tweaked over time, but there’s no denying the fun in actually engaging with these large-scale battles. As either the honourable Agatha knights or the brutal and bloodthirsty Mason order, you’ll have the choice of 4 classes to select from. Knights specialise in smaller-arms combat and have supportive abilities for allies. The Vanguard are bruisers who hit hard and deal damage, your medieval tanks, effectively. Footman soldiers have longer reach weapons for distance fights and act as the healing class. In the rear-guard, are the Archers. Pretty self-explanatory – they shoot from distance, picking off targets and covering the advance of the other classes.
Each class has their own strengths and weaknesses, coupled with their own deployable or perishable items. For instance, archers can throw down braziers to light their arrows, setting any unsuspecting fool ablaze for damage-over-time. Each role also has 3 sub-roles, complete with different weapons, loadouts and buffs or debuffs. A crossbowman may be slower at reloading but can deal double to triple the damage of a longbow archer. In reality, the sheer chaos and madness of the battles means the melee classes feel very similar and each can be used without too much nuance for success. The exception being archers, who can sit back and snipe from distance but will be worthless in a close-quarters fight.
To that end, the combat is visceral and has a real heft to it. Swinging an axe or a greatsword takes a significant wind-up time. Smashing into a shield or guarding against a ferocious strike feels heavy and impactful. It’s not as deep as something like For Honor, but it certainly has its own complexity and skill ceiling.
Attacks are split into three main types, with swipes (horizontal, sweeping attacks), jabs (stabbing straight ahead) and overhead smashes. All three have light and heavy versions, achieved by holding their corresponding button for longer. Balancing whether to wind up a massive attack for huge damage or whether to quickly hit-and-run is taxing and exhilarating all at once in the heat of battle. With multiple combatants all stabbing, swinging, smashing and shooting simultaneously. It can become exceptionally clustered, which accurately depicts the madness of what medieval battles would have been just like.
You have options to defend with blocking, evading (a minor quick step away), countering a strike (swinging in advance of their attack) or riposting. Riposting is the common defensive technique you’ll come across, with 1-on-1 duels regularly descending into a pattern of block, strike, get blocked, defend attack etc etc. In fact, this is one area where Chivalry 2’s combat does come unstuck – it’s far too easy to simply riposte over and over in small number encounters, with both sides simply waiting for reinforcements who’ll then surround and thoroughly batter the poor sod who had slower teammates.
There are a number of interactable weapons and items around each map for savvy soldiers to take advantage of too. Ballistae on castle walls can mangle anyone in one shot. Catapults require cooperation but can be devastating if aimed at groups of players. Commodities like bread, cabbage, skulls, candlesticks, logs, barrels can all be picked up and flung at those who dare laugh at your questionable choice of weapon. Probably my favourite moment was losing a duel with a knight, throwing my sword at him in desperation, picking up a random skull on the floor and bashing his head in with it.
And that’s where the magic of Chivalry 2 is. Watching a player pick up a candlestick and hold off 4 enemies miraculously at a bottle-necked gateway. Having your arm dismembered and while your death timer runs out throwing a knife into a dude’s eye. Incredibly scything down 4 armoured meatheads and then getting blasted with a ballista to the groin as I ran up a ramp. The game perfectly captures that organic pleasure that comes from the unpredictability of giving real people all the tools to decimate each other in creative and hilarious ways.
Speaking of individual people, there’s a huge amount of customisation options available. All 4 classes can be decked out in different armour sets, helmets, weapon cosmetics and clothing patterns. There’s an insane number of weapons to select from, whether it be greatswords, axes, maces, falchions, bows, crossbows, knives, warhammers. If you’ve ever dreamed of smashing someone’s head in with a tankard, Chivalry 2 has you covered. Most cosmetics can be earned through in-game currency acquired from playing and gaining XP. There is the option for spending real money for a separate currency to purchase them too, but in my experience it wasn’t necessary and the rate of gold earnings was rapid enough that I was purchasing the cosmetics I wanted relatively fast.
As you play you’ll also level up your class, sub-class, weapon and global level, which then unlocks more cosmetic options you can purchase. It’s a decent system, if a little complicated to get to grips with at first. But, importantly it offers a lot of incentive to keep plugging away and slaughtering people, which is what it’s all about really.
Sadly, like an arrow to the eye for old Harrold at Hastings, some things are just sharply unfortunate. I ran into issues with matchmaking simply not working in my first few play sessions. Once I was into a lobby it was fine as matches would keep rolling, but it was off-putting having to quit out and load back in multiple times just to get the game to work.
Chivalry 2 is also pretty light on content at the moment. With a handful of objective based maps and a smaller handful of team deathmatch and free-for-all maps. There’s enough here that repeated play sessions don’t become too stale, but in the long-term the repetition could become relatively boring for some, especially if you aren’t particularly enthused by Chivalry 2’s combat. You’ll likely have seen or experienced each map a couple of times within about 5 hours of gameplay (with most matches being 20-30 minutes long in team objective).
I’d be remiss not to mention that the game has released at a lower price point of £34.99 which I do think is actually very fair of the content currently on offer. Had it been a full-priced release I would have been much more reluctant to recommend it and likely would have felt quite short-changed with no real single player offering to speak of outside of the very limited bot mode.
Presentation wise, Chivalry 2 is an authentic and good looking game, particularly on the PS5. I experienced no issues with framerate during my playtime, with only occasional connection problems in the actual matches. Graphically, there’s nothing spectacular here, but as mentioned before, some of the castles and design of the maps will have you appreciating the spectacle given the size of the battles and number of warring players all going berserk at once. There are a couple of graphical hitches like arrows firing from behind/to the left of the archer firing them or when teammates spawn in with a rather clunky entrance. Overall though, a very good looking game. Shout out to the gore and dismemberment too, never get tired of seeing my greatsword carve an enemies arm off as blood gushes out and they try to hit me with their remaining functioning arm. Good times.
Chivalry 2 is an immersive, chaotic, gory, hilarious, carnage spilling thrill ride of a game which will have you storming castles like a true knight of old one moment, before bewildering you with someone beating you down with a loaf of bread. It’s a fantastically enjoyable experience which is unfortunately held back by a light content offering and some technical as well as balance issues. While this knight may have taken an arrow to the knee, it battles on to launch a cabbage at you another day.
Chivalry 2 is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 5 (review platform), Xbox Series X | S and PC.
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive / Deep Silver
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.