Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is an interesting slant on online multiplayer. It utilises its medieval setting to create a unique experience that is thoroughly enjoyable. From its deep combat system to the plethora of maps and game modes, Chivalry doesn’t fail to deliver on its promise to take combat from the 21st century and plunge it back into the medieval era. The game manages to deliver all this in a delightfully gory way, however it does have a few major pitfalls which stops its sword wielding combat from being the homage to such films as Gladiator that I hoped it would be.
Unlike many games released in recent years, Chivalry transports you back to medieval battles with its main focus being on melee combat. It accomplishes this by replacing modern weaponry with medieval armour, maces, swords, pikes and axes. All the weapons have unique traits which make choosing the right one to fit your play style very important. The pikes, for example, are extremely useful for the more defensive players who like to keep their distance while in battle, while the swords provide a closer range, heavier hitting option. There are also a couple of ranged options; the bow and the crossbow. These are fun to use but are rarely useful in a game where it pays to get up close and personal.
As well as the various number of weapons, there is also a variety of attacks that you can initiate. These all have a use within combat and if used right, can lead to devastating victories over your opponents.
However, I do feel that where the game suffers most is with its control scheme. Due to it being originally a PC title, Chivalry seems to be designed with more buttons in mind than the Xbox controller can offer. This means that there are a vast number of moves I rarely used purely because it is just faster and less complicated to do the regular slashing motion. This is something I feel should have have been addressed when porting the game over to Xbox One, as I believe that with just a few minor adjustments the game could have been made far more accessible to a wider audience.
Despite this, I cannot ignore the fact that Medieval Warfare does provide the player with an interesting and informative training mode. This mode allows the player to try both beginner and advanced combat with the four main classes; Archer, Man at Arms, Vanguard, and Knight. These classes, like the weapons that they wield, provide the player with different experiences and ways to play the game. Each class has two weapons plus a ‘special’ ability unique to the character. These specials include; Oil pots, daggers, placeable shields, and smoke pots. They are, in my opinion, what makes each class unique and worth investing in.
There are a variety of game modes that will pit two teams against each other, however, none of the team based ones bring anything different to the table where online multiplayer games are concerned. The main game modes are; Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Last Team Standing, Free For All, and King of the Hill. Although these games modes have different objectives, it seems to me that most of the time the objectives would be left untouched in favour of killing as many enemies as you can, meaning that every game mode ends up feeling the same as the others. There’s no strategy at play, just the individual skill of each player.
There was one game mode however that, in my opinion, really stood out and kept me coming back.
Duel mode pits two people together in a head to head battle to the death. Accompanied with the use of battlecries to intimidate your opponents, it really manages to capture the spirit of a medieval duel while also emphasising the deep strategic combat that the game has to offer. Each duel is different from the last and allows both players to really put their skills to the test in an intense showdown.
If you want a break from the gruelling onslaught of the online multiplayer then there is a new horde mode for you and up to 3 other friends. Similar to other horde modes you may be familiar with, this pits you against a barrage of AI bots that get gradually more difficult to defeat as you progress through the rounds. You start the game with a simple broadsword which is effective for the first few rounds, but you will want to upgrade as soon as possible. This is done by spending gold; which is acquired by killing the enemies, allowing you to acquire such weapons as longbows, spears, maces, and Great swords. This mechanic gave me the incentive to want to progress through the sometimes repetitive format of the rounds. One problem I had with the mode was its set time limit of twenty minutes. While I understand the intention to create urgency while progressing through the rounds, I feel an adjustable or even infinite time limit would have served the horde mode better.
Like most of the other game modes within Chivalry, I would suggest that you play this with a group of people you know. I found that having your friends with you to share the experiences you go through made every swing of your sword that little bit cooler. Saying that, I think the mode provides the game with a much needed cooperative experience that seems to be lacking in the other online multiplayer modes.
One of the other areas I felt the game let itself down was with the map. Don’t get me wrong, I think each one that has been created manages to capture the medieval setting of the game fairly well. But I found that there was very little incentive to use the environments. In every game of Chivalry I’ve played the game has played out the same way – both teams meet in one specific part of the map (be that an objective or in the middle of a battlefield) and they duke it out for the rest of the match. It fails to make the maps interesting enough for you to want to explore and utilise all of it. There is little incentive to use the environments for a strategic benefit and this is where I believe games like Call of Duty and Halo really have the upper hand on Chivalry.
The graphics certainly are not the best that are on offer either. Visually it’s hard to believe that Chivalry has been optimised or improved for the current consoles as everything about it looks dated. Characters float on the ground, the textures lack detail and dimension, and the environments and levels are simplistic. The Xbox One port of Chivalry runs at an inexplicable (given the low quality graphics) 30fps and framerate issues are constant, taking much of the fluidity from combat and movement. Despite all this, it would be wrong of me to say that there weren’t moments which impressed me while playing, with the lighting probably being one of the more impressive graphical components. The way the light would reflect off surfaces and provide a contrast to the otherwise bleak scenery of the game is fantastic at times.
Overall, Chivalry is an exciting game to play by yourself or with a group of friends. It’s a game which tries not to take itself too seriously, allowing you to charge into battles with your sword over your head, never knowing if you’re going to come out the victor or be chopped into several pieces. In many respects it puts the fun back into the competitive online genre, which has been sorely lacking in today’s games. However the overly complex control system coupled with its lacklustre level design, makes it a less attractive offer to people looking for a game that will keep them entertained for more than just a few days.