You would think that a game based on a bunch of guys hacking away at each other with swords, axes, maces and spears would have a feel of energy to it. I certainly thought that Chivalry: Medieval Warfare would bring back flashes of shows like Spartacus – “What is beneath your feet?” or movies like Gladiator “At my signal, unleash hell.” I mean, I would have even accepted a “This. Is. SPARTA”. After many games of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, enough that they have blurred together into a sickening montage, I had none of these moments. No epic battles, no honourable opponents and certainly no heroic last stands.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a multiplayer focused melee combat game. There are a variety of game modes that will pit two teams against each other, we have the simple Team Deathmatch, Last Team Standing; where respawns are disabled and Team Objective. Team Objective is the only mode that offers anything close to engaging gameplay, but even then it is a lukewarm offering at best. One team will be charged with an objective: pillaging a town, burning tents etc. and the other team have to stop them. These games will evolve if the attacking team achieve their objective but there is very little in the way of tactical gameplay in here. This game is a brawler, plain and simple.
I’m going to come clean and say: I really didn’t enjoy any of the game modes, even the cooperative Horde mode was a let-down. The problems in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare are legion. I know the game has had many positive responses on Steam but on the Xbox One (the version that I played) it was shambolic. There really is no other way to describe the clumsy, repetitive and borderline broken gameplay.
For most of the game, you will find yourself swinging a hunk of metal at your opponent. The combat is so flawed that after a half dozen games I was already at breaking point. There are four character classes to choose from. The Archer is probably the least useful unit in the game, being useless in close combat and at range it can be damn near impossible to connect any of your arrows with the opposing team. The time it takes to nock an arrow and fire seems like an eternity, while it is around three seconds in real life, the game moves so quickly that if you take aim at someone running towards you and miss, then you are probably dead. The other three unit types boil down to fast and fragile, average all-rounder and Slow but powerful. It isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel but for a team based multiplayer experience it does fit into what we have come to expect. Each character has a choice of weapons to start with while others need to be unlocked through levelling up. The three aspects of each weapon are: Damage, Speed and Reach. Most of the weapons are similar enough that a new player won’t be instantly outclassed by a veteran, which is nice, but it in my experience a fast weapon will win over a more powerful but slower one nine times out of ten.
The combat in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is some of the worst I have ever seen. The controls are wildly inaccurate: I got so sick of swinging my sword at an enemy multiple times (often from behind because that’s the kinda guy I am), only for them to take no damage at all, turn round and kill me in one hit. It is the most frustrating experience I have had in a long time and one that I would gladly never experience again. When set upon by an enemy, the game allows us a “block” action, however this is, funnily enough, hit or miss. In order to successfully block an attack, facing the enemy isn’t enough, you have to actually aim at the tip of their weapon as they swing. This is no easy task given the speed of some of the gameplay. I had hoped for skilled sword play, for what would seem to be an honourable duel, or gritty, brutal brawls but instead, I was often killed by my own team in the melee brawl because there is an almost unforgivable lack of control. Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is an incredibly basic game that tries to hold itself upon the brutal executions, and the severing of heads and limbs, but the controls system, hit detection and overall control of the player just isn’t up to the task. In the end it turns into a messy sprint with half of your team chopping wildly, just hoping an enemy comes within reach.
The disappointing combat is accompanied by a bland aesthetic. The level design is so uninspired, it’s like the developers Googled “old looking castle” and just worked from the screenshot. The texture quality on the Xbox One (which does seem to be significantly lower than the PC version) looked like it would be more at home in a game released in 2003. Bland ground textures are paired with incredibly low resolution tuffs of “grass” that do absolutely nothing to pull the player into the world. The collision detection is a thorn in my side too, I often lost the element of surprise due to hitting what I assume is a small invisible wall around trees and buildings. I really wanted to love Chivalry: Medieval Warfare as it seems like a really fun idea, but almost everything in the game was a disappointment.
Fitting in with the rest of the game, the sound design is fairly bland too. In Chivalry: Medieval Warfare’s defence, there are meaty chops as you sever an enemy’s head and if you are unlucky enough to be hit by an arrow then there is a satisfying “thud” however the voice acting sounds like it was done by “Keith from the mailroom” for the most part and there are no stand out moments of a grand score to accompany an assault on an enemy Throne Room. It really is a shame but it feels to me like Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is in its alpha test phase and is still a year away from release. It is only fair to add that the PC version does seem much more polished and more like a finished game than the console offering.
Chivalry: Medieval Warfare might suit a certain type of gamer for a while, it certainly won’t hold them for long with dull and repetitive gameplay, poor graphics, an awful control system and more issues with combat than I would have thought possible. It may hold people for a day or so but they will tire of it. Considering the price for this game is almost £20, it just isn’t worth the cost. If you absolutely have to buy this game, do yourself a favour and get it on Steam.