We clash with our enemies like a wave breaks against the cliffside, smashing into one another with sword, shield, and axe. The war cries are buried under the sound of steel meeting steel, a symphony of might and sheer willpower, and within a few moments, that orchestra of war is accompanied by a choir of pain. The cries as trampled men attempt to crawl for help, blades slicing through leather to feel the soft flesh beneath, and hammers crushing bones to fragments. The war cries of strong men have turned into high-pitched squeals of agony and this once-serene countryside is now a pit of hell, filled with harpy-like screeches of fear. And then… silence. At which point I realise that it appears I may have spent a little too long spectating the battle and given an Agathian knight ample opportunity to lop off my head, the cheeky git.
That really does sum up Chivalry 2, offering up a simulation of medieval warfare that refuses to give the brutality of war any Hollywood treatment. There are no special powers that allow you to annihilate twenty men without being hit, no miraculous recovery abilities, and most certainly no special treatment for anyone that hasn’t put in the work to become skilled with the game’s mechanics. But, even the most fresh-faced of players will feel a rush of excitement as they swing a battle axe around like a crazed lunatic, bolstered even further if it connects and takes off another players arm — friend or foe. Swordplay is the bread and butter of Chivalry 2 — including bows, siege weapons, fists, limbs, chickens, and more — so learning how to use your weapon is paramount. You can slash, stab, swing overhead, and use a special combo that deals a bit more damage but leaves you exposed. You need to use these tools correctly when in combat to successfully land a hit, but if you’re struggling, a solid kick or a punch in the mouth usually convinces them to drop their guard. One of the greatest features of the game is the ability to completely change the direction of your swing, or even switch to a different move mid-swing altogether in an attempt to outsmart your victim. It’s fantastic and gives you a complete sense of control over the situation, allowing you to develop your skills when playing. That’s what I love most about Chivalry 2: your skill at the game is completely dependent on your ability to learn the manoeuvres and plan your attacks accordingly. If your opponent tries to run away from you, just throw your weapon at them — even if you miss, you’ll probably feel better, and it’s better than throwing your controller.
Remember that I said fresh-faced players could have a good time? Yeah, those single encounters are for you to seek out. The other option is to charge into groups of players and just get swinging. There’s no shortage of mob fighting in the game, especially in the 64-player modes that I spent my time in, and you’ll always find substantial amounts of people just swinging like they’re at the driving range. Honestly, in these situations, it’s hard not to hit everything and anything that comes too close to your weapon — including allies. Friendly fire is turned on, and it’s not a rare occurrence to see two knights on the same team battling it out because one has had enough of being smacked on the buttocks repeatedly. It’s not just weapons, either. Everything you can do to hurt an enemy is also able to hurt your allies. I’ve had quite a few scraps with (un)friendlies because a beautifully launched rock from my catapult has pulverised enemy players and hit a few allies in the process. Apparently, it’s all fun and games until someone has Zeus’ kidney stone thrown at them. I’d then get my butt whooped by a friendly assassin from behind and spawn back in, chuckling to myself as I thought about the look on their face when they saw that boulder flying towards them — the decision to leave the catapult alone for the rest of the game and focusing instead to use the trusty weapon in my hand was probably a smart one.
Chivalry 2 has a host of weaponry that is usable depending on the class you are playing: Archer, Vanguard, Footman, and Knight, with each branching into three sub-classes to select as you level up and offering a ‘special’ ability like oil pots and bandage kits to heal allies. Aside from the Archer that uses ranged weaponry like bows and crossbows, each class is melee-focused, using all kinds of weapons such as swords, greatswords, war clubs, glaives, spears, polehammers, and many, many more. There’s a full arsenal at your disposal, and if you happen to lose your weapon during a battle, you can always find one around to pick up. It doesn’t even have to be a weapon; it could be almost anything. I made it a point to find out what I could and couldn’t hit people with. There are the usual random objects like logs and rocks to use, but who wants a log when you could instead use someone’s severed arm, or a fish? I charged into battle holding a chicken once, and we bonded over the slaughter and revelled in the excitement of battle. Unfortunately, we parted ways after I was prematurely cut down and I’ve wondered many times about the fate of my feathery friend. I hope she survived and lives happily in the knowledge that it was her courage that helped me through my final moments.
The game really can get that crazy, but I guess in these kinds of situations, you’d use anything you could find to take down a would-be assailant. That’s the point of Chivalry 2 and the underlying message that it sends. Medieval warfare was a vicious ordeal where men would kill men by any means necessary, no holds barred and no Geneva Convention to subdue the atrocities that could be committed. It all rings true within the game’s modes like Free-for-All and Team Deathmatch, but even more so on the game’s objective-based maps. You’ll be tasked with burning villages to the ground, rescuing soldiers from what can only be described as a torture camp, stealing the enemy team’s gold, slaughtering the kingdom’s heir, and more. Every game felt different due to the in-your-face nature of the gameplay, and I loved it.
It’s all brought to life by a fantastic soundtrack of epic instrumental and orchestral music, amplifying the intense warfare and subtly filling you with a can-do attitude. It blends perfectly with the combat, playing just loud enough for you to hear over the sounds of battle without overpowering it. I couldn’t pass over the discussion of audio without mentioning the nonsense you’ll hear from the soldiers… phrases like “for the guy that we all like” and “for the blue team,” as if they’ve all taken a hammer to the helmet one too many times and now cannot remember names. Again, this is another nod to the game’s simulation nature. Common folk in medieval England weren’t the most educated — or in this case, intelligent — of beings. You’ll of course also get plenty of aggressive shouting, obscene comments about killing the other team, and motivational phrases that empower you with the confidence to shout “Raaaaaaarrr” from your living room sofa as you virtually rush into the throws of combat.
The achievement list complements Chivalry 2’s gameplay nicely, though it’s mostly made up of cumulative challenges such as winning a certain number of games on each map and killing thousands of enemies, so this won’t be a quick completion by any means. I’m only 80% through the 500-kill achievement at the time of writing, although that could have more to do with my battlefield prowess than anything else. There are some fun ones to be had on the list, especially ‘Baker’s Dozen’ which tasks you with killing 13 enemies with bread. No, that’s not a nickname for a weapon. They literally mean bread, and it’s just as difficult as you might expect.
Of course, the game has its flaws, but nothing overly game-breaking — server issues during the game’s first few hours seem to have since been rectified. One of the biggest in-game problems I’ve faced so far is inconsistent freezing during the odd game which inevitably led to me being chopped up halfway through a fight. Other than that, it’s a few smaller gripes such as the scoreboard not being aligned properly, leading to your deaths being shown under your kills which makes it a little difficult to have a quick glance at the scoreboard during the heat of battle. There are currently a few issues with achievement tracking which doesn’t allow kills to count during some games, I’m not sure what causes it, but I know that I went through some games without my progress bar moving. It’s definitely the most annoying issue, especially as I’m an achievement hunter like many of you fine people on the site. These are issues I’m sure will be fixed soon and don’t impact the game too heavily.
Chivalry 2 is a game that thrusts you into the brutality of medieval warfare without remorse and allows you to fully experience the reality that soldiers faced in those bloody times. The rewards come from extended gameplay and mastering your class and weapon choices, ultimately learning how to effectively defend yourself and go on the offensive. This is a must-have for anyone that enjoys melee combat within video games and wants to put their skills to the test. Aside from a few minor issues, the game feels polished throughout, and I look forward to playing it for many, many more hours.