Swing your sword back and forth.
UAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH! My battle cry resonates with my Agatha brethren as we sprint towards our enemy – those despicable Masons – on a collision course with certain death. With my towering great sword firmly clasped with both hands I leap into the fray, my timed slash decapitating the the helmeted vanguard in front of me. We picked each other from about 50 paces back, both screaming in honour of our houses. The skirmish continues as archers snipe from afar, armoured knights strike with powerful blows, vanguards skewer from a safe distance and men-at-arms duck and weave through the maelstrom. Several of my brethren fall and instantly, the sea of red Mason tunics descend upon me. In my last throw of defeat I cleave the arm off one of my attackers, the sprouting blood from his shoulder a satisfying sight as my body is eviscerated by my remaining foes.
Respawning in 3, 2, 1…
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a multiplayer deathmatch game set on the bloody battlefields of a fictional realm. I would love to say more about the kingdom, it’s king and how a rift managed to form within its army to start a bloody civil war, but none of that seems important. From the title screen you can choose to jump straight into the online servers (most likely to your frequent death) or play through a short tutorial giving you the rundown of basic combat, advanced combat, class specialty and siege weaponry. Curious to learn about this game’s unique combat mechanics I launched the tutorial, straight into the shoes of a rookie Agathian soldier staring into the beautiful scenery of the countryside.
“Stop daydreaming recruit!” yells the whiny voice of Captain Neckhole, your trainer-cum-drill-sergeant. His condescending tone continues as he explains the basic manoeuvres and taunts me to try to club him with the different attacks. I oblige, and despite his bleeding face he tells me I’ve done a good job. The class specialty training was the highlight of the training module, with several veterans standing around taking the piss out of each others and chuckling at my attempts to subdue the silent Lord Drum, who was designated to be my sparring partner.
The class specialty training was the highlight of the training module, with several veterans standing around taking the piss out of each others and chuckling at my attempts to subdue the silent Lord Drum, who was designated to be my sparring partner.
While no light was really shed on who or what I was supposed to be fighting for, the charm of the game revealed itself through these characters. Choice of which blade, bow or blunt used to decimate my foes felt great, but what I found most fun was that each class of each faction has its own distinct voice, accent and best of all, battle cries. Nothing gets me more in the mood for some medieval mayhem than a Braveheart style charge with everyone bellowing at the top of their lungs.
Chivalry is the first commercial release from Torn Banner Studios, their first work came out in 2007 as a Half Life 2 mod titled Age of Chivalry. The new release is powered by the Unreal engine and has a completely revamped melee combat system which is the heart of the Chivalry battlefield experience. Three different attacks are possible with each weapon; a horizontal slash (fastest), overhead strike (most powerful) and thrust (most range). These three attacks are designated to left click, mouse wheel- down and mouse wheel-up respectively. This took a bit of getting used to as we are all so familar to the mouse wheel being used for selecting weapons in FPS games, but the Chivalry configuration makes sense and combos come naturally. The right click will parry an incoming attack, but only if it’s timed appropriately and you keep your view centred on the pointy end of the incoming weapon. Same goes for wielding a shield, though you can hold your defence up for longer, very handy when dealing with those pesky archers.
Where the accuracy comes into play is with the speed of the weapon and the class. For example, knights, the formidable metal tanks that they are, strike heavily but are extremely slow. Moving the mouse lets you adjust your strike mid-swing, hopefully lopping off a limb, leg or head of your opponent. This also allows you to dump your devastating attack into the air if you’re about to hit one of your own team. Accidents happen of course, so don’t be surprised if a “WTF?” appears in your team chat after you decapitate a teammate. You can switch to a third person view to survey the threats around you but this comes at a cost of reduced accuracy for blocks and attacks.
There are just six maps available as this point,but more should on the way in the form of free DLC in the future. The all-out arena deathmatches are short and sweet and are excellent training grounds for honing combat skills. You can fill the map with bots to begin with, but you’ll soon be thirsting for the blood of real players. But where the ultimate battlefield experience lies with this game is with the siege maps.
Rather than employing boring capture the flag or king of the hill objectives, you are tasked with slaying a village of peasants, pushing battering ram forward to the gate and once you have broken through, storming the keep and killing the king. With 32 players running around on death sprees, archers raining arrows from the battlements and boiling oil being poured on those below, it really starts to feel like you’re a part of genuine medieval battle. Unfortunately the maps are not used to their full potential, as few online players are willing to coordinate a strategic attack by holding any kind of line or formation. But it’s still hella-fun and you’ll occasionally respawn alongside several others so you can charge at the enemy together.
In the spirit of staying as true to medieval battle as possible, blood flows freely and heads literally roll. Your fallen enemy lies at your feet, where you can honour them with a battle cry or continue poking them with your blade in disrespect. But the disturbing images don’t really come from what you see (we’re already desensitized to violence thanks to the movies, and games of course), they come from the sounds. When you receive a spear to the gut, you’ll hear the gurgling sounds as your lungs and mouth fill with blood., You’ll hear your own quivering and whimpering after being disemboweled. It’s medieval alright, but maybe a tad too much for the young’uns to stomach, so parents beware.
A review code of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare was provided courtesy of Torn Banner Studios.
Live By The Sword, Die By The Sword
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare does its job of immersing the player in a rich, gory and completely uncensored medieval battlefield. It simplifies certain aspects of units (there are no mounted units for example) and there is no avatar-building. Regardless, the overall impression is a boyhood dream of charging into battle like William Wallace, with the stark reality of the bloodshed that ensues.