There are two unforgivable clichés in game reviewing, and Pythonesque medieval multiplayer murderfest Chivalry 2 is both so fun and so visceral that I don’t even feel bad for just having used both of them. Go on, here’s another one: Chivalry 2 really makes you feel like a metal-plated murder machine.
You’ll lose limbs, and you’ll keep on fighting long enough to kill your assailant with a thrown loaf of bread as you bleed out. You’ll charge triumphantly into the fray, honour bound and proud, and then get flattened by a coward with a catapult on the other side of the map. And you’ll laugh.
You’ll laugh because Chivalry 2 feels almost godly in its success at making failure fun. There exists, theoretically, the platonic ideal of a Chivalry duel: one that implements all the complex feints, parries, kicks, and blocks that this robust combat system offers. Mastery is well-rewarded, but it’s far from essential. You’ll find just as much success running up behind two opponents engaged in swordplay and lopping one of their heads off with an axe. To wit: Chivalry 2 offers an astounding time investment to pure enjoyment ratio. It is pure, unbridled, uncomplicated catharsis from the moment you learn the controls.
Team playlists, solo free-for-alls, and dedicated duel servers mean carnage of all types is catered for. The best of the team maps play out as huge battles between defenders and attacks, with trebuchets, siege towers, rocks to pulp heads from parapets, and projectile chickens.
There are four classes divided into 16 subclasses, each with a variety of main, sub, and special weapons. Pikemen with maces and medkits. Shielded knights with short-swords and oil grenades. Commanders with great axes and healing trumpets. Each weapon class feels carefully considered and balanced. An axe wielder might knock the sword out of your hands, forcing you to draw a dagger, but if you get inside that axe’s range, your speed means that you’re still in with a fighting chance.
“Try to hit your opponent with your weapon, not with your eyes”, the tutorial teaches you, and this approach serves Chivalry well. While you can lurk back with a crossbow and click to score detached kills on whatever wanders into your crosshairs, the real game starts when you’re up close. Here, Chivalry feels authentic without getting bogged down by fastidious simulation, and immediately gratifying without feeling weightless.
There are drawbacks to the dense chaos: you’ll see every map and scenario after an evening or two of play, and it can still be intensely frustrating to skilfully best multiple assailants in virtuosic swordplay, only to eat dirt seconds later from a single arrow to the eye. Netcode, while stable, isn’t flawless either, although I’ve never had to wait more than half a minute for a game. These aside: Chivalry 2 takes the crown as the go-to medieval power fantasy. It’s the most fun I’ve had gaming this year. Visceral, too.
For all the glorious steel-on-steel clashes, it’s hard to top the feeling of sprinting into the fray, surrounded by your team, screaming hoarse war cries at the smoke-filled sky. Or punctuating someone else’s glory with a ballista bolt to the chest.
Limited maps and a few (hundred) cheap deaths aside, Chivalry 2 is a gory, comical, cathartic multiplayer masterpiece. Joyous video game violence as an artform.
Format: PC (tested) / PS5 / XB X/S / PS4 / XBO
Developer: Torn Banner Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver, Tripwire Interactive
Release: Out now