The genre of medieval warfare has seen a recent revival with the “Mount & Blade” series and the new release of “War of the Roses.” Torn Banner Studios joins the fray with their first title: “Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.”
At first glance, “Chivalry” looks and feels like a clunky and unpolished game. The menu is rendered in plain text and the in-game weapon selection menu looks ugly. The user interface is clearly one of the worst aspects of the game, and will likely be off-putting to many players in their first few moments with the game.
Getting past the clunky exterior, “Chivalry” is actually a fulfilling class-based combat game. Melee fighting is handled wonderfully with a weapon system that works great.
Melee weapons can be used in three different ways: horizontal swings, stabs and overhead strikes. Each of these attacks affects a specific area of the body; an enemy blocking with their shield is only vulnerable to well-placed overhead swings, whereas an enemy blocking with a sword can still be hit with proper aim.
The melee combat revolves entirely around timing. Weapons cannot be primed for attack and swings are started and completed immediately. A missed or blocked attack leaves a player open to counterattack. Timing blocks is also important since blocking with a sword is only effective for a short period of time.
“Chivalry” does a great job of creating a combat system with depth. Skilled players will have an advantage since they can time their attacks perfectly to avoid a blocking sword. With the inclusion of detailed weapon stats such as speed, reach and damage, combat feels realistic and various weapons actually work in different ways. Overall, combat both looks and feels natural.
Ranged combat is an entirely different story. Aiming with a bow or crossbow is made nearly impossible by the giant crosshair. Arrows travel slowly and have significant drop over any sort of distance. These problems are more apparent because arrows have very little effect on enemies; even the weakest soldiers require multiple hits from a standard bow for a kill. What is worse is enemies can shrug off arrow hits and continue sprinting toward their targets regardless of any damage taken.
The game itself is gritty and brutal. Limbs can be removed and enemies can be decapitated during combat and after, the bodies litter the ground. Despite the dated graphics, the game still looks good in motion. Character animations are great and work well with the fluidity of the combat.
“Chivalry” is worth playing if only to experience a melee combat system that is genuinely satisfying and does not devolve into a button-mashing contest. Although the archery is a letdown, the variety of game modes and maps helps to keep the game fresh and exciting, even after unlocking all of the weapons available to each class. Fighting one-on-one feels amazing and the back and forth nature of “Chivalry” is something you will not find in many games.
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