Chivalry: Medieval Warfare – The War Comes To You
The skies are ablaze, and the scent of blood is in the air. You and your compatriots have ransacked the village on the outskirts of this castle, putting the peasants to the sword as you deftly parry aside the blows of the castle’s defenders and drive them back into the dirt. You dig your feet into the muck and mire, and move your battering ram along the path to the gate. You cheer, your victory all but certain, when a great thrum beats out in the wind and a soldier to your side goes rocketing backwards, impaled by the bolt fired from a ballista.
This is Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
Developed by Torn Banner Studios and released on October 16th, Chivalry is the Kickstarter-funded release of the developer’s earlier Source mod, Age of Chivalry - a skill-based, multiplayer-focused, melee FPS. With the successful funding from Kickstarter, the game has switched from the Source engine to the Unreal Engine, and come to Steam for all to enjoy.
With the slow trickle of quiet medieval war-games that have appeared in the last few years, it might be understandable to initially miss Chivalry. Mount & Blade: Warband, released in 2010, has been acting as the genre staple for many since 2010, and Fatshark’s War of the Roses (released Oct. 2nd) has been impressing fans of the Mount & Blade series. So, why pay attention to Chivalry?
Because it has a lot of guts.
Developed as an improvement of their Source mod, Chivalry has been fighting, tooth and nail, for a while now. It gained a lot of support on Kickstarter, bringing in $35k more than their initial goal. Some studios would’ve been happy for the extra injection of funds, but Torn Banner Studios took that a little bit further and established incentives, rewarding the community as a whole for bringing in the money. Vowing to add in further customizable content for the effort, Torn Banner Studios has earned the loyalty of many fans for seeming to be extremely dedicated to their community. However, rewards cannot make a bad game much better, so it was up to them to create a solid title, first and foremost. And as with what one would expect from a game with this title, the combat shines through.
Melee combat is the workhorse of this game. No matter what it class you pick or role you play, a situation will come that requires you to take a sword (or hammer, or axe) in hand, and go toe-to-toe with the enemy. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare touts its active, skill-based FPS combat. Every swing of your weapon is dictated by you, and every block and parry is by your own hand. Attacking is done through a manner of three different attacks – a horizontal swing by clicking the mouse button, an overhead smash by pulling the mouse-wheel backward, and a forward thrust by rolling the mouse-wheel forward. These attacks, along with your chosen primary weapon (ranging from halberds and spears, to maces and longswords and bearded axes, to the sleekest of daggers) affects the range of your attack. By the deftly-timed pressing of the right mouse-button, one can parry an attack with their weapon, or make a well-timed block with an equipped shield. Besides health, the only depletable resource is Stamina, which you need to move swiftly, attack, block or parry. Without it, you’re unable to do much of anything, save die.
Chivalry establishes some excellent basics for combat.
Don’t want to get killed? Learn to parry, block, and dodge attacks.
Want to kill your enemy? Learn when to hit, how to hit, and where to hit.
But the true strength of this game is in taking the basic tenets it teaches, and applying them in useful and creative manners. Making a large and brutish overhand swing, feinting out of it with the Q-button, and stabbing around your enemy’s parry. Blocking your enemy’s thrust, and overreaching your swing to get around his shield and into his ribs. Jumping right before your attack, to get above his shield and into his vulnerable face. The mechanics reward intelligence and finesse as much as sheer brutish determination on the field of battle.
What kept me coming back in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare was the atmosphere. The din of battle, with the war-cries in the distance, and the clamor of suits of armor charging. The gentle twang of an arrow released from a longbow, the percussion of a maul slamming against a shield – everything felt immersive, and compelled me to move forward. For their first commercially-released title, Torn Banner has taken relatively simple sounds and used them in such a way that immerses you in the fight and keeps you there. And the devil is in the details. In the open air of the King’s throne-room chamber, attacks echo off the stonework and back into your speakers. Trebuchets creak as they move, wood scraping against wood. Oil bubbles and spits as it is poured upon the attacking forces. All of the sound-work makes for a beautifully brutal backdrop to an already visceral game experience.
The only weaknesses that the game presents are outside the realm of its superb gameplay. The lore that Chivalry: Medieval Warfare presents is thin, and boils down a simple means to justify a RED-versus-BLUE conflict. The tutorial, though it adequately teaches the basics of combat and provides some insight into some of the more advanced techniques, is voiced in a way that is both overdone and campy. If there were heartfelt attempts at reproducing an English accent, then they failed, and failed with gusto.
However, I believe the thin justification for combat, and Torn Banner’s upbringing in the mod community, can eventually act as a boon for the title. If they provide the proper mod support, the basic gameplay elements can be transposed onto any number of combat situations. For example, as Paradox can attest in regards to Crusader Kings II, a Game of Thrones-style mod can help boost and maintain sales and community interest. I look forward to seeing where the game can go with its excellently built combat system, and hope to see many different suits of armor on it in time.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is currently a PC-only title, sold via Steam. However, Torn Banner Studios has noted that a console version of the title could go into works if interest was high enough.