Review: Torn Banner Studio’s CHIVALRY: MEDIEVAL WARFARE challenges you to chop off some heads and siege some castles, but is it a knight in shining armour or one for the chopping block?
In Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, every knight must know his weapon as if it were permanently attached to his limbs, and in this case you must get to know spears, axes, daggers, swords, shields, siege weapons, thrown weapons, crossbows and bows. Each weapon feels unique, to the point where it benefits you greatly to know just how far you can pierce people with your spear or just how quickly you can swing that overly-heavy two-handed sword.
If you ignore all of that, you’ll find more knowledgeable players take advantage of your weapon’s weaknesses and leave you a bloodied mess on the battlefield. But take time your time to learn and you’ll find a nuanced combat system that rewards you for patience, solid tactics and skill.
Strangely, though, unlike almost every other game of its type, you cannot view your character or customize him in anyway outside of the weapons you unlock in-game. In a sense, it feels like you’ve booted up an old-school multiplayer game or a mod when it comes to stats and customisation, and the few options that do exist aren’t explained entirely well.
Nevertheless, its strengths clearly lie with its combat. I’m not normally a fan of free for all or team deathmatch, instead gravitating towards objective-based modes, but Chivalry is the first game in years to make those modes fun again for me. Getting locked into a brutal bout with a single opponent feels so intense that I don’t even mind the chaotic and pointless nature of a free for all match, especially when you can run into a group of players with a sweeping charge that cleaves limbs and heads off those not expecting your arrival. Team deathmatch, while less chaotic, tends to get tiring without objectives, but once again combat can be so satisfying that it overrides the aimlessness of it all.
Chivalry’s objective mode only consists of a few maps, but each are splendid. The objectives are dark, just like the brutal melee system that has you chopping off the limbs or heads of your enemies, ensuring each one feels appropriately medieval. You can be an archer on one map, firing down at enemy soldiers trying to light a great brazier to signal the advancement of their invading fleet, or man the walls of a castle with ballistas and burning oil at your disposal as a horde brings a battering ram to the gates below, or you can maliciously cut down the king’s family as the other team struggles to save them.
All of the objective maps are gritty and brutal. Most importantly, they force your team to work together, for just one knight cannot batter down a castle gate or storm a throne room, nor can one footman stop a flow of enemies from pushing a cart of plagued bodies into the water supply. You must act like an army in order to achieve your goals or carve your way through a dug-in group of defenders.
With a final push from funds received through Kickstarter, Torn Banner have used their resources very well in order to make a budget multiplayer medieval combat game with an engaging and deep melee system, large and beautiful battlefields and a uniquely dark objective mode that few other games have done well. The customization system is lacking, and everything perhaps isn’t as smooth as one might like, but despite this they’ve created something unique here, and no other game has ever made me feel like I was part of small, medieval army quite like this before.
Chivalry Medieval Warfare, by Torn Banner Studios, is available now for PC.