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Chivalry II

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Release Date: June 8, 2021

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PC Review - 'Chivalry II'

by Andreas Salmen on July 15, 2021 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Chivalry II is a multiplayer first-person slasher inspired by epic medieval movie battles where players experience the thrill of combat in massive 64-player battlefields.

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Chivalry may be dead, but Chivalry II is here to pick up the slack. We have seen several medieval slasher titles in recent years on many different forms, from the online spectacle Mordhau to the story-driven, single-player game, Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Chivalry feels like the first significant title that went big with the concept over eight years ago, and its sequel furthers this legacy in a few exciting ways: great combat mechanics, glorious battles, and gritty visuals.

It's almost tradition nowadays that online multiplayer titles need a few weeks to find their footing, and Chivalry II was no exception. It was held back by a few annoying technical difficulties, bugs, and a noticeable lack of content at launch. It had several server issues that have been mostly solved, but other annoyances remain a month after Chivalry II's official release on consoles and the Epic Games store for PC. We reviewed the game on the PC, but it's also available on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S with cross-play across all platforms.

Chivalry II is a pure online multiplayer game that's focused on 64-player matches on objective-driven maps, with one team defending against the other's attack; the blue team is Agatha, and the red team is Masons. It's an online-only game, so there's no significant single-player content or story to experience, but that doesn't matter much, since Chivalry II is at its best when it lets you bash other players' skulls to a pulp. The combat finds a sweet spot between challenging and easy to learn, and the skill ceiling leaves room for players to become blade experts on the battlefield. You can play in the first-person perspective, which is immersive and great for archery, or the third-person view, which is best for swinging your blade while maintaining a reasonable overview. If you die, it'll likely be from a sneaky backstab that you didn't see coming.

Chivalry II is fun because it's easy to pick up and play for some brutal fun, but you can invest hours on becoming a god-damn legend. Several game mechanics and physics interact in entertaining ways, so anything that you can pick up (e.g., fish, loaf of bread, severed head, stone, etc.) can be thrown at your enemies. Why not fling yourself across the screen with a catapult while you're at it? It's unadulterated chaos that isn't afraid to get a little wacky in the service of a fun match of disemboweling medieval tin-heads.

On a surface level, most close-range weapons have three types of attacks — normal slash, stab and overhead — and all can be transformed into a charged attack with a long mouse press. Since Chivalry II has friendly fire, choosing the correct attack can overwhelm an enemy and keep collateral damage to a minimum. It's nice to behead an enemy, but not at the cost of beheading all teammates around you in the same swipe.

Chivalry II has a few aces up its sleeve to make the combat immensely addicting, fun and satisfying. All strikes can be parried. You can keep pressing the "block" button, but your counters won't be as powerful, and it'll exhaust your stamina. Use kicks to break an opponent's block, morph one attack into another to throw them off, or feint an attack altogether. Duck under a sword blow to throw off an enemy and break the line of sight. Physically move your mouse in mid-swing so you hit an enemy sooner in your swing motion and beat them to the punch. The combat system is decently deep, and most moves have an advantage, such as a riposte after a successful block granting a few frames of immunity. The combat is exhilarating, especially in game modes with all 64 players present. It's fun to jump into a crowd of blade-swinging berzerkers as you take names (and limbs) — and possibly lose your head in the process.

Chivalry II offers a choice of four character classes, and each class is divided into four subclasses, bringing the roster to 16. There are footmen, knights and vanguards for close combat, and there are archers for ranged combat. Each has a predetermined loadout that limits build choices, but each class had a good selection of weapons. In addition to three weapons — main, secondary, and special weapon — each class also has a special ability. Special abilities charge up and offer powerful abilities for your team, so it's a great way to get some points and assist your teammates.

There are a few balance issues with weapon loadouts. Most weapons are reasonably balanced against each another, but there are a few standout weapons that are used a lot because some are slightly better than the rest, like the massive Messer sword, which inflicts massive damage and is unreasonably quick for a weapon of that size. Other weapons, like the spear, are not as damaging but are so quick that they can easily overwhelm a player due to not sufficiently signposting attacks via animations. It's not a massive issue and will likely be fixed in upcoming updates, but recent updates have been postponed, making this especially frustrating.

A big part of the fun in Chivalry II can be attributed to the map selection. There are three deathmatch stages, like a tournament rink or fighting pit, but the stars of the show are the team objective maps. Five of them can be found in this early version of the game, and each features several team objectives. Most of the maps are highly entertaining, sometimes playing out a siege from the moment the attackers leave their ships to the fall of the defending duke. Objectives vary in difficulty and are different enough to make each map distinct: defending (or stopping) a convoy, pushing and erecting siege tools such as ladders or towers, plundering gold, or slaying the duke. They feel like proper sieges, with waves of bloodied bodies breaking against solid stone walls. It's also well-paced, alternating narrow corridors with wide-open areas that demand different approaches to succeed. It also helps that Chivalry II never spawns you on your own but in waves, so you and a few comrades can sprint toward your inevitable demise.

While the number of maps and objectives is a bit thin for a full release, they mostly do a good job and are fun to play with some minor exceptions that come down to balancing. "The Slaughter of Coxwell" sticks out because it's a map that feels heavily stacked in favor of the attackers, with some simple objectives that are tough to defend against. I have rarely seen a true defending victory on this map, and when I did, it was usually due to an exploit. The last objective on the map is to kill a certain number of defending players, but since players can camp outside of the designated map area, effectively hiding and forcing a win for the defending team (without repercussions for now), the map feels unbalanced and broken. Most maps play well, but if one out of five maps sticks out like this, it isn't necessarily a good sign.

Given the issues with balance and variety, I would not consider Chivalry II's content to be "good enough" for a full release. Torn Banner has announced content updates that may "double the content" in size, but how that will look is still anyone's guess, and it'll probably take a few months to get there. I have fallen madly in love with the gameplay, but that will only take you so far if there isn't enough content to go with it.

Another area where I feel that Chivalry II has dropped the ball is in character visuals. You can customize the armor of all your classes, but that's about it. The different cosmetics are similar to each other, and none offer deep customization features. As a result, I found this part of the experience to be unrewarding. No matter how much equipment I acquired, everyone seemed to fall back on the same few skins, making the customization options rather pointless. There isn't any facial customization, so players can only choose from a few pre-made heads. Future updates may make this feature more robust, but as of now, it's severely lacking. Also, there is an in-game currency that can be earned (at a reasonable rate) and an extra currency that can be acquired via microtransactions to unlock customized skins. Make of that what you wish.

From a technical point of view, Chivalry II is doing OK. On the one hand, the PC version ran very smoothly and looked quite impressive. There were almost no crashes, and I didn't encounter any breaking issues with the game. There are minor issues, such as running animations not loading, so your character frantically hovers into battle, or not grabbing the weapon correctly so it hovers over your hands. The auto-balancing was atrocious at times. Once, when I was the point leader on my (losing) team, I was moved over to the winning team, which proceeded to sweep the match. This wasn't an isolated incident and happened far too often. I'm not a fan of filling lobbies with bots, which frequently happens to reach the player count, since bots in Chivalry II are as basic as they come and won't be great teammates. At the end of the day, Chivalry II still has to find its balance. Combined with the low amount of content, you're likely better off at this stage to wait out a few of the promised updates before jumping in.

Chivalry II is a lot of fun. It's visceral, easy to learn but difficult to master, and it's simply a bloody good time. The balancing issues, lackluster customization options, and a general lack of maps take the wind out of its sails far too quickly. That means that a couple of updates could turn this little gem into a must-play title. I'm hopeful that Torn Banner can build on the solid foundation that it has poured for Chivalry II.

Score: 8.3/10

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