In 2012, Torn Banner Studios more or less invented the first-person melee multiplayer genre with Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, which featured skill-based melee combat on fantastical battlefields. The game was a massive hit that enjoyed a massive playerbase for many years, but the game wasn't without problems. Some of the animations were pretty wonky, and there were quite a lot of bugs.
Nine years later, Torn Banner Studios has returned, and it has brought Chivalry 2, a sequel that aims to expand on what made the original game great while also fixing its issues.
After playing Chivalry 2 extensively during its opening launch week, I can say with confidence that the sequel is excellent. While there are some issues that take away from the fun here and there, the gameplay experience overall is an absolute blast that I can't recommend enough to folks.
Bottom line: Chivalry 2 is perfect for folks who want to have a chaotic good time and enjoy the fantasy of fighting in romanticized medieval battlefields. There are a couple of downsides, but it's still an amazing game that we can't recommend enough.
- Awesome skill-based combat
- Well-balanced classes
- Massive 64-player battles
- Superb presentation and performance
- Customization is lacking
- Some animations are hard to read
Chivalry 2: What you'll like
|Torn Banner Studios
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 or AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2 GB)
|Multiplayer; up to 64 per match
The big selling point for Chivalry 2 is its deep and complex melee system, and it's been marketed that way for a reason: it's very good. In Chivalry 2, players can perform a wide variety of moves, including slashes, thrusts, and overhead swings that each have different speeds and damage values based on the weapon being used. Players can also use their weapon to parry attacks, which is crucial for defense. Blocks can be held, but the downside to this is that you lose stamina for doing so, encouraging you to time your blocks carefully and avoid turtling.
There are also mechanics such as feints, kicks, attack morphs, drags, and more that you can use to throw off your opponent's defensive timing or blow through blocks, but these moves will be countered by a direct attack since they're slower to perform. This means combat between two players is a strategic mind game of reading your opponent and trying to figure out what they're going to do so you can respond accordingly.
It sounds complicated on paper, but once you get the hang of it, it's actually a simple system that's easy to learn, but difficult to master — something that I think every skill-based game should strive for. The system also works very well in both duels and massive 64-player objective battles, though the latter situations are much more chaotic (in a good way). You have to worry and think about what multiple enemies and allies are doing at once in the game's larger modes, resulting in exciting teamwork situations where you and an ally can work together to take down an opponent's defenses or hero moments where you expertly parry multiple blows at once and then successfully chop down several foes like a skilled knight. These large-scale battles are where Chivalry 2's mechanics shine brightest, and they're where I've had the most fun living out my medieval combat fantasies.
Players can choose to play four different classes, with each class having three subclasses and several different weapons to choose from, so players have the freedom to customize their loadout to suit their playstyles. For example, the Footman is a medium-armored soldier with slow, long-range melee weapons like halberds; the Vanguard is a medium-armored close range brawler that uses heavy weapons like axes and maces; the Knight is a heavily-armored tank that dishes out decent damage with swords and can take a lot of punishment; and the Archer is a ranged support class with light armor, a weak backup dagger for melee, and a longbow that can be used to support the front line with arrow fire. Each class is very well balanced with strengths and weaknesses that players need to adapt to, and Chivalry 2 has class limits in place to ensure that the battlefield remains diverse.
Chivalry 2's presentation and performance is also great. The game's semi-stylized look is a great fit for the chaotic melee action, and the superb blood and gore effects paired with excellent sound design really sell the violence and brutality of the experience. This quality presentation is largely why I'm able to relax and have fun revelling in Chivalry 2's carnage even when I'm not playing that well.
Also, Chivalry 2 runs very well, which is great since the original game's performance was rather spotty and there were a fair amount of bugs. There are a few small framerate dips when everyone in the match is fighting in one place at once, but overall, the game achieves a stable, rock-solid 60 FPS (30 FPS on Xbox One/PS4).
Chivalry 2: What you won't like
While I love Chivalry 2 overall, there are two things about it that I wish were better. The first is the customization system, which is lacking. Compared to Chivalry 2's closest competitor Mordhau, which had tons of different armor sets to choose from at launch, Chivalry 2 only offers a handful (there are plenty of options for customizing your character's face, at least). This was a bummer for me since I'm a huge nerd about medieval armor, but it's not a dealbreaker as the game itself is still a blast. Hopefully Torn Banner is able to add plenty of new armors in the future.
Secondly, some of the combat animations can be tough to read, which can make combat feel a bit awkward on occasion. Thrust animations with non-sword weapons in particular tend to look a little wonky, although there are a few slashing animations that seem a bit off too. These animations are still leagues ahead of the original Chivalry, but they could be better. It's not a huge deal overall, especially once you get used to the animations, but it's worth noting nevertheless.
Chivalry 2: Should you play it?
While the lacking customization system and some awkward animations do take away from the experience a bit, Chivalry 2 is still ultimately a blast to play for hours on end thanks to its incredibly fun melee combat and superb presentation. It's one of the best Xbox games of 2021, and while it's not a perfect by any means, I'm going to enjoy playing it for many months — and perhaps even years — to come, especially in its giant 64-person mode. If you've ever wanted to feel like a chaotic knight on a bloody battlefield, this is the game for you.