When starting up Chivalry Medieval Warfare on Xbox One for the first time, it’s easy to feel a little underwhelmed and hard to lose the nagging feeling that the game might not be the greatest value for money.
Or, as some teammates tend to do, you could swing wildly to endanger friend and foe alike.
Team damage is something we came across often and hardly a match will go by where someone doesn’t accidentally gut an ally. Spawn time penalties punish those that regularly offend, while the worst team killers can be voted out of matches altogether.
Out of the six game modes on offer, we spent most of our time in Team Deathmatch's large, well designed maps and found the simple objective made for the best Medieval Warfare experience.
Frigid is a highlight of these maps, a frozen valley featuring log traps to crush the unwary and boulders to be sent tumbling down the snow covered slopes, felling those unfortunate enough to be standing in their path.
Team Objective offers challenges such as burning enemy villages and escorting allied wagons, but essentially still boils down to beating the other team senseless with your array of melee weapons. Free-for-all is a lesson in situational awareness whilst attacked from all corners constantly (switching to a third-person perspective is very helpful to counter this), whilst Last Team Standing’s one life system adds another level of tactical play to the game and Duel mode sees you going head-to-head with another player in more intimate surroundings.
...If you’re looking for something a little different in the multiplayer market, then Chivalry is most certainly that
The token Horde mode also makes its console debut, having previously been a PC exclusive mode. Two maps are available at time of writing: Crypt, a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers, and Horde Town, a fittingly named castle courtyard.
Horde makes for an interesting alternative Chivalry experience with monsters, ghouls, skeletons and over-sized Knights adding a touch of fantasy to proceedings. Players match the constant incline in difficulty the longer they survive by upgrading their weapons and armour with gold earned through kills. But be prepared to wait a while if joining a game in progress, as the higher waves can last for quite some time.
Back on the competitive side of things, knowing weapon and class limitations is important if you hope to emerge victorious. Archers are lightly armoured but have access to a number of ranged weapons such as throwing spears, longbows, crossbows and even slings. Playing as an Archer means that you pretty much have to stick to the side-lines of battle, the lack of any meaningful armour (a shield is the only defence available for this class) and melee weapons leaving them very vulnerable to attack, fail to do so and you'll be priority target for an easy kill.
The Man-at-Arms class is all about speed and can utilise a shield for added protection - this comes in handy as, like the Archer, Men-at-Arms are lightly armoured. This class is best suited to a hit and run playstyle, as going head-to-head with any of the heavily armed and armoured enemies isn't going to end well. Instead, their fleet-footedness makes them perfect for running circles around cumbersome Knights whilst attacking them on the fly (or griefing them with poke damage - MOBA playing Ed.) - they even have a quick-dodge ability that can be useful for jumping out of a heavy swing's flight path.
Vanguards are the middle ground, offering a balance between speed and armour, and can utilise longer weapons such as spears, pikes and halberds. This extra reach is handy when avoiding heavier attacks from hammers and axes, as well as dominating a room or walkway by keeping enemies at bay with their longer arc.
Knights are the toughest of all the classes; they're covered head to toe in steel, wield heavy damage weapons (hammers, axes, great swords) and will most likely be bearing a large shield. Realising that one of these armoured brutes has spotted you, isolated on the battlefield, can be an unsettling moment to say the least.
This is where Chivalry shines like the polished steel plate of the very Knight standing before you. While a pitched battle may be raging around you, your world briefly narrows to house only you, your foe and the ground between you, making for some epic duels among the deluge of chaos.
Surviving such a fight only to be struck down almost instantly is hardly frustrating, in fact it’s part of what makes Chivalry great. Picking out the weakest targets and hunting them down can be a thrilling gamble - it might leave you surrounded by enemies and spark a legendary battle whereby you dismember five armoured fiends, or, just as likely, a comical retreat with a steel brandishing host hot on your heels. It’s the right mix of gore-laden combat and dark humour that make for some memorable moments.
Torn Banner Studios have also struck a good balance between being a tactical, competitive multiplayer title and a casual, fun experience. There's depth to the game for those interested in a genuine alternative to the plethora of future-set shooters on the market at the moment, while the ability to utilise the many in-game voice functions to laugh, taunt and cry for help add a touch of hilarity to the game. The voice acting - purposefully over-the-top as it is - is very much in-keeping with the game’s whole not taking itself too seriously theme.
If you’re looking for something a little different in the multiplayer market, then Chivalry is most certainly that. While it may lack its AAA rival’s slick visuals and frame rates, there’s nothing quite like the experience of leading a screaming charge towards an enemy host or battling with sword and shield atop castle walls.
If you're willing to forgive the game’s simplistic visuals and get past the initial uncertainty of the first hour or so, you’ll find that Chivalry Medieval Warfare is a hugely entertaining multiplayer experience that's well worth your time.