(Warning: this review contains images of a gory nature)
There was a time when honor and courage were something more. Traits of a hero destined for greatness, claiming the spoils of victory. From the respect of a fair maiden to the heat of battle, medieval warfare forged legends. Or your head was squashed like a watermelon.
The latter is more likely in Chivalry 2. Following up the 2012 hit Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Torn Banner Studios have been hard at work for the last eight years to ensure the notion of a sequel was worthy. With questionable results yielded from their previous console foray, there is a sense of caution going into this next-gen iteration. Thankfully, Chivalry 2 is an exceptional transition to consoles this time round.
Chivalry 2 is simple really: hack and slash your foes into a red mist of limbs. The how of making this possible, is where the complexity of combat comes into place. Defeating your enemies is comprised of three attack types, complimented by blocking and feinting. Through the hilarious opening tutorial, players will immediately begin to see the easy-to-learn-hard-to-master approach presented. It can be initially frustrating to finesse the correct dragging and positioning of your blade, but once this hurdle is overcome, a whole world of gore-tastic possibilities are available.
After a few hours of dueling, reading your opponents moves and trying to outplay them becomes an outstandingly satisfying cat-and-mouse game to emerge the victor. Pulling off a well timed feint into an annihilating overhead swing is backed up by impeccable sound design. Each slash, splatter and stab is welcomed by fantastically gross squelches and rips that one hundred percent sell the decimating effects of your actions. It doesn’t matter whether it is hour one or hour twenty, this just does not get old.
Every fight is also set against the superb score from J.D Spears. New themes cascade over the excitement, whilst old classics from Medieval Warfare return much to my delight. The main menu music alone is enough to end up on repeat.
The bread and butter of multiplayer is fleshed out over large forty to sixty four player conquest orientated modes. Orchestrated with “team objectives” in mind, the massive scale modes drop players into gorgeous, richly detailed maps split into progressively accessible sectors. Depending on whether you’re an Agatha or Mason player, you’ll be cast into a defending or attacking position.
Most maps involve the overtaking of a castle or village area, with various sub-objectives delegated within. The thrill of raiding the heir’s throne room (should your team get this far), adds to the feeling of wielding sheer strength. Managing multi-person fights in a bid to show your dexterity and might is incredible. Equally, losing these fights never feels like it was unfair and highlights just how balanced combat currently is.
Even in Free-For-All, there is never really a sense that dying is achieved by exploiting the games principals. This is how Chivalry 2 remains fun for hours on end with such a simple yet effective gameplay loop. Adding an extra layer of fun filled immersion is the return of “battlecry”. Double tap square to be greeted by the comically brilliant emote options.
Without fail, each spawn into the map will always see your teammates scream to the high heavens. The loose, essentially parody vision of medieval times ties this wonderful world together. Had the Chivalry franchise taken a more serious approach, the results might not be as rewarding. Speaking of rewards, character customization is back with more depth.
As there are no pay-to-win scenarios within Chivalry 2, customization is all about the aesthetic qualities of your chosen class. From engraved long-swords to valiant armor designs, the choices available can achieved naturally via leveling up and saving your in-game currency. Alternatively, “Crowns” can be purchased with real money through the PSN store to acquire specific items earlier.
It should be noted that when given the option to purchase this currency, it is indicated that this option is primarily available as a sign of support for the studio. It may be an obvious statement, but given the good willed nature of Torn Banner Studios and their plan to implement free post launch content, it is nice to have somewhat of a back-and-forth with the developers.
This same concept of conversation has been prevalent throughout the closed/open beta phase of release too. Unfortunately, cross-play is not yet functioning as intended. If you’re looking to join your friends on PS4 from your Xbox / PC / PS5, you’ll need to be playing on the same platform as them. Digital purchases from PSN include both the PS4 / PS5 versions, which individually total at around 12gb each. However, not everyone has the convenience of installing two versions which is sure to cause frustration for a lot of squads.
Playing on the PS4 version with my brother did highlight just how much work has gone into making Chivalry 2 work across all generations. Capped at 30FPS on PS4, it may lack the visual sheen and frame-rate boosts from the PS4, yet it still manages to truck along with next to no issues.
Chivalry 2 is extraordinarily blood soaked fun, that can be enjoyed solo or with your merry band of knights. Featuring some of the most addictive combat in any game from the last few years, hours of gameplay are guaranteed to be granted upon entry to these vastly enormous maps. Pick up your sword and fight.
[A review code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.]