Chivalry 2 Review
Samuel Hollins | Lancaster University
Review Platform: Xbox Series X
Chivalry 2, whilst not necessarily the most historically accurate medieval warfare simulator, does allow players to live out battles to rival some of Hollywood’s most bombastic offerings. From chaotic clashes within castle walls to forest trail ambushes, Chivalry 2 provides players with an experience that captures much of what makes medieval warfare so enthralling within popular culture. Rather than belabouring on drawn-out conflicts, we are thrown headfirst into melees with naught to do but raise our swords, spears, and axes and charge at our enemies. Lacking the constraints of focusing on one reference period or region in history, this game makes no pretensions about historical emulation, playing loose with the medieval period that inspired it. In providing this stripped-back medieval-esque experience, this game truly shines.
Chivalry 2 is the long-awaited sequel to 2012’s Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Developed by Torn Banner Studios, a small Canadian developer, Chivalry 2 does not stray too far from the original. A multiplayer-only hack and slash action game set in a fictional medieval land with influences from across Christendom, the game does not try too hard to establish itself as anything other than a game about combat. The game captures much of the pop culture surrounding the medieval period, rather than accurately replicating any particular period or region. This then explains the entirely fictional setting and factions within the game, and the mix and match nature of available weapons and armours which would have never been seen together on the battlefield. As with its predecessor, there are two factions duking it out, the Mason Order (the red team) and the Agathian forces (the blue team). There is a vague premise contextualising the action, providing a loose frame to your heroic and often hilariously violent deeds, but it is so skeletal that it is essentially irrelevant. In short, two people want to be king, (original I know) and you are the fodder for their ambitions. The brevity of the storytelling benefits the game, facilitating very short periods between actual gameplay. It never feels like you are waiting for fun. Too much exposition here would muddy the purity of the experience.
The meat of this game is obviously the combat. After being given a brief, and fairly effective tutorial, the player knows how to swing, stab, dodge, throw, shoot, and parry. These controls are consistent across the melee weapons available, with only slight variance in how you use each weapon. If you know how to use one weapon, you know how to use them all. Advanced players will undoubtedly learn how to maximise the reach of poleaxes or the speed of falchions, but for the average player, you can have plenty of fun with any weapon. This is one of Chivalry’s greatest strengths. As someone who played the first Chivalry, and the recent and comparable Mordhau (2019), the reviewer is competent at these kinds of games. However, unlike Mordhau, the amount of skill needed to pick up Chivalry 2’s combat is fairly low. The game is not overly intimidating, and whilst seasoned, skilled players will always pull off impressive kill streaks and be able to skilfully handle multiple enemies alone, new players, or those who are simply not very good, can contribute to their teams and score kills in the midst of chaotic melees. Mordhau is often criticised for the stark learning curve of its combat, but this is not the case with Chivalry 2. It strikes a great balance between accessibility and skill, which is sure to help with the longevity of the game’s player-base.
Battles can be fought with up to 64 players, leading to some rather spectacular clashes of steel. Most of the maps are played out in a series of stages. The attacking team pushes across the map by completing sequential objectives, whilst the defenders try desperately to hold the line long enough to break the assault. This really plays into the medieval movie warfare fantasy, giving the players a real sense of fighting an actual battle where heroic last stands by a handful of players can win the day. Some maps end in freeing a captured war hero and escorting him to an escape ship docked at the harbour, whilst others see the attackers' head-hunting the only surviving heir of the enemy faction’s dynasty. The maps all seem fairly well balanced, and even if your team gets royally trounced, it is always an enjoyably chaotic spectacle. Few games manage to be fun for the losers, but Chivalry 2 certainly does.
In total, there are seven maps, a large arsenal of varied weapons, and an acceptable amount of cosmetic customisation. The apparel customisation is rather limited when compared to Chivalry’s main competitor, Mordhau, but there is still enough to justify the £35 asking price. Weapons litter every battlefield, and not just randomly placed arming swords. Rocks can be thrown from battlements to crush the skulls of enemies below, pitchforks can be pried from the hands of a recently murdered peasant, and fish can be grabbed from wells to be hurled at armour-clad knights. There is undoubtedly an element of pure silliness to Chivalry 2. It’s a welcome tone and leads to genuine moments of hilarity. You really can’t be mad at a player for beating you to death with a limp fish despite being bedecked in full plate and wielding a zweihander.
This game was played and reviewed exclusively on an Xbox Series X console. Whilst the reviewer cannot comment on the game’s technical performance on other systems, what can be said is that this game runs smoothly and looks gorgeous while doing it. The maps, weapons, and armour all have a realistic material quality to them, and the overall image presentation is sharp. Without directly testing the framerate, the game seems solidly locked to 60 fps. If there are framerate drops or frame time inconsistencies, you would be hard-pressed to notice them on an Xbox Series X. The maps are particularly visually pleasing, and there is enough aesthetic variance in the seven maps to keep players from tiring of the visual presentation. The only visual misstep in Chivalry 2 is undoubtedly the faces. Whilst armour looks awesome, faces look like deformed playdough. Thankfully, most players keep their helmets on and the only time you are likely to see a bare face is in the few moments before your mace caves it in. Overall, it looks excellent on the Series X and seems to take advantage of the console’s significant horsepower. On the server side, the reviewer has not experienced any major issues with latency or connectivity, and access to games is snappy. You really don’t have to wait long to be back on the frontlines hacking arms off of your enemies.
Chivalry 2 revels in epic spectacle, visceral combat, and genuine hilarity. The game never takes itself too seriously but provides Hollywood-worthy moments in every match. It is a technically polished game, with impressive visuals, and well-crafted mechanics of triple-A quality. It has less content than your usual triple-A release, but it is only £35 at launch. If you are looking for a hyper-realistic medieval warfare simulator, this is not the game for you. Sadly, that game will never be made. I can’t imagine camping outside your enemy’s walls for 6 months until they run out of food would be quite as fun as beating an archer to death with a lute. In what has been a rather dry year for gaming, Chivalry 2 stands out as a welcome moment of levity and pure unapologetic fun.
Sam is currently undertaking a PhD in History at Lancaster University, where he is exploring the political, economic and strategic rationale of Britain during the Cold War. Sam’s research focuses primarily on the development of the Panavia Tornado Multi-role Combat Aircraft as an example of early European defence procurement collaboration. Sam also serves as the Military History Editor and Social Media Manager for EPOCH.