If you have read any of my other reviews you may have noticed that I am pretty easily suckered in by a game which retools a well known concept and turns it into something new and unique. Chivalry: medieval Warfare does just that. At its most basic level; Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is Counter Strike with swords. I loved this idea, and was really excited to get my hands on it and review it. However, some pretty big, frustrating issues turned the game into a letdown for me.
At its core, the gameplay mechanics of Chivalry aren’t bad. Combat is executed similarly to Skyrim, or any other first person melee system, using one button to attack and one to block or parry. The game also includes three different kinds of attacks: a swing, stab, or overhead, each with its own benefits in certain specific situations. For instance a stab has a longer reach but is less likely to hit than a broad swing. Parrys must be done at the moment an enemy swings his/her sword at you, and this system of choosing when to block or attack requires some lightning-quick reflexes and a lot of concentration. Killing someone in this game can take quite a while in some cases, as it becomes an intricate dance of death when both players attack and parry in tandem, matching each other's moves. The results of the combat are satisfying and brutal, limbs fly off and blood splatters everywhere in an almost beautiful celebration of medieval violence. On more than one occasion I saw heads fly off and roll along the map, while the victim made some form of hideous gurgling sound as they died. The few kills I got were very entertaining.
How I spent most of my time in Chivalry
This combat system on its own is very interesting, and pretty fun, but the big problem is that in any server you enter there won’t be just one other person for you to fight one-on-one, and this is where the whole game starts to fall apart and become frustrating. Because these fights can take so long (compared to a first person shooter) and require so much concentration, it is very easy to get caught up in an intense duel, and have some random jerk-off charge up behind you, and kill you both. Thus, the best strategy in this game is to sit back and wait for other people to start fighting, then swoop in like some kind of vulture and take their kills. Alternatively you can just play an archer and take out people who are doing more interesting stuff from afar. And trying to fight off multiple enemies at once? Forget about it. Some servers try to counter this imbalance by instituting a “duels only” rule, but if players need to create their own rules to fix the game, it seems like the game has failed on some level.
Chivalry is a class-based game which includes four different characters with different styles of play. The Man at Arms is a quick, lightly armored class who have the ability to do a hopping dodge move; The Vanguard is a medium armored class who uses mostly 2-handed weapons like spears; The knight is a heavy armored, heavy hitting class which can use a 2 handed weapon with one hand; and the Archer is, the class that everyone says needs to be nerfed. Players can also unlock new weapons in a style very similar to the new Call of Duty Games. If you use a weapon enough to get a certain number of kills, you unlock an upgraded version of it. There are also secondary and tertiary weapons for players to use and equip. For instance a Knights layout may consist of a Bastard sword, a mace, and a shield as his primary secondary and tertiary equipment.
The Class Select Screen
The game includes several game modes which range from team objectives, to free-for-all arena style matches. Teams are broken up into the classic red (Mason Order) and blue (Agatha Knights) archetype. However, with the abundance of grey in the characters’ armors, it can be difficult to easily identify friend from foe at a distance. Judging by the server browsers; it looks like people prefer free-for-all, and I would agree that it’s the most fun. This game really excels at creating intense, hectic, action, and the free-for-all mode really achieves that. Objective gameplay modes get really creative with the objectives themselves, having you do all kinds of things like murdering a set number of peasants, burning down farms, and even killing the opposing team’s King. These are just some of the really cool objectives which really make the game feel like its titular “medieval warfare”.
Graphics and Environments
The game is all made in UDK, because what the hell isn’t these days, so it looks pretty good. With all the graphics settings cranked up, and all the fancy effects enabled I would even say it looks pretty damn good. However, the default settings are all set as “low” so when I first opened it up I was shocked at just how terrible it looked. The character models all look good, but some of the attack animations are a little clunky, and there is a common graphical glitch in which your character’s hands will clip through your weapons. I really liked the character models because of they did a really good job of not crossing the line between historically accurate, and boring when it came to the modeling of the weapons and armor.
The worst thing I can say about the graphics is that they are pretty poorly optimized. I would like to think i have a pretty decent gaming rig, but the framerate slowed down considerably when the graphics were turned up to “medium” settings, and even got a little choppy on “low”. I did a little bit of research and found out that fixing this issue required some tinkering with one of the games .ini files. After I did this fix though, the framerate was fine, but having to go into the game’s files to fix the framerate is not something I should have to do, just to make it playable. Chivalry’s developers are promising a patch which will fix some of these issues soon.
Hands down the best map in the game
The best word to describe the environments and the way I feel about them in this game would probably be “lukewarm”. There was one map I really liked the look of, and if you have done any research on Chivalry, you know the one I am talking about because they show it off quite a bit, and for good reason. However, many other environments don’t have as much visual flare to them, and all too often consist of a big open space, usually with two floors, so that archers have a nice little spot to murder everyone, and not a whole lot else. The map I liked the least consisted of a big, flat grass field with some wooden blockades strewn around the landscape. Technically an accurate depiction of an actual feudal-era battlefield, but pretty lame visually.
I feel like a took a wrong turn into someone's back yard
The UI is probably my biggest gripe when it comes to the visuals of Chivalry. The design of the UI is just plain ugly, and makes an otherwise polished game look amateurish and outdated. The chat panel, weapon select screen, and server browser all look like they were made in 2002.
Not the Prettiest UI
I may sound like I’m being really harsh in this review, but let me say this: I get it. I understand why people would like this game, and that there are a lot of really fun mechanics in place, but there were just too many personal “pet peeve” issues that really soured the whole experience for me. But what about you? Maybe you’re a twitch gamer who loves the adrenaline rush of besting an opponent, and loves to test their reflexes in a unique and exciting way, this is a great game for that kind of player, but you are going to have to ignore some very annoying issues in the process. Personally I found Chivalry frustrating, but maybe I’m just not good at video games.