Who needs Modern warfare? Back in the old days, soldiers didn’t need robot drones and night-vision sniper rifles to kill each other. A good broadsword and a throwin’ ax was all it took to gib some noobs. Online shooters are all well ‘n’ good, but nothing satisfies the bloodlust like lopping off a foe’s head with a two-handed sword. Capturing the finesse and subtlety of sword-fighting is hard to do in a game, and many designers have tried it with mediocre results, but the new indie game Chivary: Medieval Warfare by Torn Banner Studios definitely has fun stormin’ the castle.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a player versus player multiplayer-only game set in the middle ages. It uses many of the design concepts from competitive shooters but there are no guns. Gamers pick a loadout of historical weapons, then head out into a variety of maps to play game modes such a team deathmatch, free for all, or strategic missions that involve sacking castles and plundering villages.
There is a class system, but it’s a historical setting, not fantasy Swords & Sorcery. There are no wizards or elves here, just variations on burly men with swords. Swords, axes, hammers, maces and shields can be equipped, and there’s a Rogue class that has access to bows and crossbows. Each of the other classes, Knight, Man at Arms and Vanguard have special features and unique equipment too.
There is a balancing system where the heavily-armored classes move slower than their vulnerable-yet-swift counterparts. Individual weapons also have statistics like Speed, Range and Damage. A Maul, for instance, might have a long reach and do massive damage, but this will be counter balanced by a slow speed. A short sword would be quick and do a lot of damage but it would have a shorter range.
There isn’t a clear “Rock Paper Scissors” balance system to the classes and weapons. Rather these variables give players the chance to create a load-out that suits their personal style of play. Each player can carry three weapons at a time, and switch between them at will, so that they can be prepared for different situations and tactics.
The fighting system lets players make horizontal sweeps, vertical slashes and nimble thrusts. Each of which has its own advantages. There are also parries, shield blocks, kicks and a tricky feint system that can be used to make foes block needlessly.
This can lead to intense duels between combatants as they square off. Players will switch weapons based on what their enemy wields, and circle for position, then jab and nip at each other until a fatal blow is struck.
Fights can still end brutally quick with a couple of good slashes from a heavy weapon, though. Because it’s a multiplayer game, there are usually a handful of combatants slashing away at each other all at once, and fights often end with someone getting stabbed in the back.
Friendly fire is rampant. Sometimes this is from griefers, but it can also happen when friends attack the same foe and end up clobbering each other. Two-handed battle axes aren’t known for their precision…
The various maps support up to 64 players. These big battles capture the feel of storming a castle and pit one team as invaders who need to perform objectives like pillaging a town and slaughtering peasants while the other team defends. There are levels where teams must push siege weapons into place while the defenders rain arrows down upon them or fire back with castle armaments like catapults. There are also smaller arena levels where smaller groups can duke it out in deathmatches or last man standing fights.
Chivalry Medieval Warfare has a persistent leveling system where players can unlock new weapons that stay with them in subsequent battles. This is based on a simple system: Kill a bunch of people with a particular weapon and more weapons like that will unlock.
It takes a hundred kills with each type of weapon to max out the unlockables for that kind of weapon. So with four classes, each having three primary weapons and three secondary weapons plus an assortment of support items, it will keep players killing for a long time before everything is unlocked.
Chivalry Medieval Warfare is one of those indie games that seems the result of a group designers who made the game they want to play. It has some warts and flaws; there aren’t many maps, there’s no single-player campaign, and it’s repetitive. However, it does offer a fun, addictive, blood-soaked slashfest with a very deep sword-fighting system that is unlike anything else on the market. It is out now for PC.