A lot has changed since I last reviewed a game, I have matured (no really) - I have a daughter (she is 7 now), I have suffered loss and discovered love. I have lost a job and gained a better one. Like everyone else I have experienced the most bizarre and surreal last year or so. I'm no longer someone who can lay in bed with a controller and console and a bunch of films to watch between gaming binges. Gaming these days tends to be done in bite-sized chunks. I guess I am the very definition of a mature, casual gamer.
If I don’t get instant gratification from a game I tend to drop it quickly. I no longer have time for a 4-hour tutorial. Over lockdown I discovered Black Ops Cold War. To be honest I only purchased it as I had grabbed a Series X on day one and wanted something “new” to play. The campaign was as one would expect - the gaming equivalent of a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer movie.
After the credits rolled I thought I would try the online offering, something I have rarely enjoyed and never been good at. I really enjoyed it. For the first time ever in a COD game I prestiged (multiple times in fact) and found myself often at the top of the leaderboards and getting some high kill streaks (again, something unheard of in the past!)
So why am I telling you this? Well I may be old and slow, but I don’t dislike online multiplayer games… Until now.
Chivalry 2 is not a game I can say I had heard of and the same can be said for the first game. So having said yes when asked if I would review it (it's an honour to get the chance) I took to YouTube and watched a number of videos. I was intrigued and very much looking forward to something different. It seems it was a title with a cult following and many fans… Sadly, after around 15 hours playing I am not one of them.
Everything I need my online games to be, this is not. No immediacy, almost no instant gratification and very little fun.
It didn’t start well. It took 20 (yes TWENTY) minutes to find my first game. The game would repeatedly give me messages that connection to the server was lost and I had to keep trying, and this happened a lot. At times I had to resort to quitting to the dashboard, quitting the game and starting again. Sometimes it helped, often it didn’t.
Once in a game I felt like I was playing something from the late '90s. It reminded me very much of Thief to start with, as if someone had produced a high def graphics pack for that. It was glitchy and buggy. A number of times I would get stuck on a rock or a tree or run into the back of a team mate who, seconds before, was not there.
Graphics as a rule don’t bother me, but the glitches, the pop up etc. – especially when I am playing on a Series X – did annoy me.
I persevered however. I'd played the tutorial, I'd “mastered” the moves shown to me, and I could block, parry and deflect with the best of them. I looked forward to taking my skills online. I charged forward, prepared my swing and BOOM - Dead! - An arrow took me out.
So, 15 seconds to respawn followed by another 10 to 15 seconds of charging back onto the battlefield. Guess what? Yep - Dead again - this time from fire that had appeared from somewhere or other (turns out it's from archers with seemingly unlimited fire arrows.) Another 30 seconds to get back to “combat”… This happened 4 more times before I got to actually fight.
I know online games reward skill and one can’t be expected to be good from the get-go, but before I even made contact with my sword on an enemy I had died 6 times and spent around 3 to 4 minutes waiting to spawn and then trudging back to where the battle was.
Once you actually get into combat things do improve. One-on-one battles really give that feeling of a precise duel. Blocking and timing your next strike feels like one would expect of such combat, and pulling off a heavy attack and seeing your opponent's head fly off is extremely rewarding! Even when slightly outnumbered, the combat works well. When you are up against 2 or 3 enemies you never feel at a complete disadvantage, and if you time your blocks and spread your attacks then you can win. Multiple times I managed to come out the victor by thinking and being more tactical with my swings.
The problems with combat however tended to be that you soon got swamped, and not always by enemies! I found team mates proved more of a hindrance than anything. Swarming your opponent whilst you hold your own, you soon find it becomes more of a scrum where you cause more team damage than anything else. The game feels way too busy. Even in the 40-player modes there are just too many players grouped together. As such the close combat just resembles the WWE's Royal Rumble and I spent considerable time trying to push myself out of the melee to regroup and pick off a straggler.
As is the norm for an online game Chivalry 2 features a handful of Classes:
- The Knight - Strong but slow with a longsword and a trumpet that provides healing for allies in your line of sight
- The Archer - Fast ranged character that’s pretty much done for should they get into close combat. Can use special ability to shoot fire arrows
- The Vanguard - Very powerful weapons which when used well can kill in one hit however they have very low base health
- The Footman - Equips longer range melee weapons (halberds, spears etc.) and has ability to throw bandages to heal nearby allies. Probably the “easiest” character to start with due to a happy medium of stats, and that little extra bonus that being able to strike from a distance provides
Each of these characters then have various weapons and sub-classes that can be unlocked as you progress, but I never really felt like I was progressing.
Just as I felt like I was getting “good” I would be outnumbered countless times and go back to that familiar loop of having to spend 30-plus seconds just to get back to the battle. It just was not fun. Yes I smiled when someone's head flew off, but it always felt more by luck than judgment and I think I spent most of my time with Chivalry 2 either trying to get a game or running back into the fight. It just was not fun enough and that’s what I want from my games these days.
It's a shame as there is no denying that with more time and more polish this could have been something that bit different, and a welcome alternative to the normal FPS games of choice. Maybe in time with the proposed work and updates that are said to be coming I can be enticed back onto the medieval battlefield, but for now, my crusade is over.
Special thanks to Mark Allen PR for the review code.