Thursday, 22 November 2012

Review: Chivalry Mediveval Warfare (PC)


Chivalry is another recent entry into the multiplayer slash 'em up genre set during the medieval period in a similar vein to that of Fatsharks War of the roses.

Unlike War of the roses, Chivalry has several major differences that set it apart from it's commercial rival.  For a start Chivalry is not based on any real conflict of the period instead being set in a fictional world involving the kingdom of Agatha.  There has been something of a schism between the Mason order led by the wholly trustworthy sounding Malrik and the loyal good guys in blue Agathian knights who seek to quell this rebellion.

When you are facing three opponents, just run or die
I have made the story sound far better than it actually is since you never see or hear Malrik as he is only referred to in the game's fluff prior to picking your team and the odd taunt from the Mason order's soldiers.  Basically it is enough fluff to have the excuse for a dust up between a bunch of heavily armoured knights, with the good guys being blue and the bad guys in red which reminds of Team fortress 2 for some reason.

I have to say the presentation is very cheesy almost like a cheap made for TV American attempt at Richard III, all the actors forgo trying English accents and stick to their native accents giving the production a laughable air.  Still you don't play Chivalry for the dynamite voice acting, you play it for the brutal hand to hand combat and here is where the game is most appealing.

Combat is quick, bloody and unrelenting.  Teams consist of up to 16 players aside picking from 4 different classes, each with their own weapon sets and special abilities.  Archers are pretty self explanatory being the ranged death dealers who get cheap kills.  Men at arms are your rank and file foot troops wielding one hand weapons and shields.  Vanguards deal in polearm weaponry being able to keep a foe at range and finally the knight who wears the heaviest armour and hits the hardest with large 2 handed weapons.

The classes do again become more specialised based on equipment taken and weapon.  Archers break down into three sub variants of ranged combat with your standard bow user who is good at extreme ranges and able to do the most damage of the class.  Crossbows are more accurate but only at shorter ranges, but they can deploy a shield to act as mobile cover from counter fire.  Finally the archer can opt to take a javelin into combat, which can be used as a spear in a pinch.
Decapitations are hilariously movie like, heads pop like melons

Men at arms are nimble enough to be able to dodge attacks by double tapping a direction key, but their flexibility is limited compared to the archers.  Men at arms weapon choice is more personal preference than tactical choice as most of their weapons feel like they do the same damage, but have a different texture or model.

Vanguards are capable of damaging charging attacks and like the man at arms has little flexibility tactically.  They are tough to fight due to their reach advantage wielding polearms which vary from Halberds to poleaxes but again it's more visual distinction than damage potential.

The knight can also make a devastating charge attack and has the ability to wield two handed weapons in one hand allowing them the use of a shield.  Unsurprisingly this makes them the most played class as they can quickly switch from a more aggressive attacking stance to a defensive one quickly and with no penalty.

Weapon attacks in melee are made using the left mouse button, while thrusts and overhead chops are made using the mouse wheel.  It takes some getting used to after playing games like Mount and Blade which always felt right using the movement of the mouse as your swing modifier.  You can make a backswing by pressing or scrolling twice to catch opponents off guard or even feint them with a press of Q prior to swinging, although feints are rarely used in the chaos of combat.
The game really comes to life when several players get involved

You cannot swing forever though as you will eventually run out stamina meaning you become an easy target incapable of defending yourself properly and unable to sprint away from combat.  Parrying which is a crucial skill to master in games like Mount and blade and War of the roses is reduced to a timing mechanic where you press the right mouse button before an attacks connects.  I really dislike this even though it levels the playing field in terms of balance, it makes combat more about spamming the block button instead of reading your opponents movement and wind up animations.

Damage is also something which works very differently here in Chivalry.  Hitting any part of your opponent does flat damage regardless of how heavily armoured you might happen to be.  Hit a knight in the leg and it is the same as hitting the head, the only difference being that you may chop off the leg instead of the head.  This again keeps things balanced between all classes when melee is the last resort for the archer.  This system does reduced the combat to a spamfest as players swing as quickly as possible to hit before their opponents to break their attack animation, on more than one occasion I have been forced to either run or let myself die because my opponent could attack quicker and blocking only works for so long.

The maps are varied enough though ranging from quiet hamlets, castle walls, courtyards the usual selection of medieval Hollywood combat locales.  Chivalry has several modes of play some of which are great fun, others though are teeth grindingly annoying.  The good are modes such as Objective which is absolutely standout and should be implemented in Mount and Blade 2 and War of the roses.  An example of objective would see the Mason team being tasked with burning down a village and killing the peasants before moving a battering ram to a castle wall which eventually culminates in an attempt on the kings life.  The Agathian knights of course play defensively throughout but other missions put the Masons the defensive also.
The maps look nice and open and work very well in objective mode

Team deathmatch is the usual fare but is still fun with 32 players all trying to beat each others brains in.  Sadly free for all is a mode which can sod off as far as I am concerned.  Taking a purely team based game and putting players in tight free for all matches with easily camped spawn areas is dull and very cheap.  Many players who win are the ones who are first to camp spawn points which usually result in players being insta-killed the moment they appear.

Graphically Chivalry is good, of course it isn't AAA standard but for the lower price this is to be expected.  The maps have some nice touches here and there with regards to lighting and shading effects but up close show up as a little plain texturally.  Characters animate well with some amusing death animations such as the Monty Python inspired one leg hopping animation.  Character detail is decent enough although it would have been nice to have a means to alter your characters appearance a little.

The audio is a mixed bag really.  Combat sounds are what you would expect with all the clangs, crunches and squelches of weapons and flesh popping but the voices are pretty awful with terrible attempts at "Medieval English" accents.  I suppose they at least tried.  The musical score is largely forgettable but if you are playing this for an epic soundtrack you wasted your money.

Overall Chivalry is a marmite game.  Either you love it because of it's fast easy to pickup combat or you will hate it for those same reasons.  It's a shame that both Chivalry and War of the roses have to share a similar release window because it will hurt both developers as players will generally only buy one or the other.  I would say that if you are a war of the roses or Mount and blade fan you will probably dislike Chivalry.  If on the other hand you picked this up first you will love it and dislike the other titles.

SCORE: 6.8/10


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