In writing a review of Chivalry: Modern Warfare I have a few issues to deal with. It raises the question of what makes a game good versus what makes it enjoyable. Surely they’re the same thing, some may say. Well okay, ‘good’ is a subjective word so maybe they’re right, but in terms of quality they don’t necessarily sit hand in hand, and this is especially true. When it comes to the games 5punkers like this is even more true. Allow me to explain.
Chivalry is a fairly simple first person, round-based, multiplayer combat game. That’s nothing unusual, and it follows in the footsteps of many greats like Team Fortress 2 with various game modes and no particular overall metagame. Of course there are many not-so-greats in this somewhat oversubscribed genre too.
So why am I reviewing Chivalry and not one of the many others? To begin with, it narrows down its field of competitors by being all about melee combat. There is a ranged class, but combat is centred around swinging heavy and often sharp pieces of metal at your opponent. There aren’t too many multiplayer games around for that, and before I fall into the trap of trying to make comparisons I’ll admit that I’ve not played any of the others. Something I have noticed about the odd single player game I’ve played which tries to handle this subject though is that the controls are usually akin to jousting with fork-lifts.
The rounds come as the usual fare: free-for-all, team deathmatch, capture the flag. There’s also a popular objective mode based on medieval sieges, which is quite good. It doesn’t add up to a huge amount of game though. The variety of classes and weapons, along with even more class-specific weapons via unlocks, is good, and each weapon has a slightly different feel, but it all pretty much boils down to hitting the other guy with something.
The actual act of doing that is a pretty tactile experience. This is in part from the very intuitive controls which map both mouse buttons and scroll wheel to different ways of swinging the weapon. They vary in the specifics, but always come down to a compromise of speed, range and power.It might not sound a lot but it really makes if feel like you’re handling a weapon rather than just clicking to poke a stick.
On top of that, parrying will slow your opponent’s next attack and leave you with a slight speed advantage, so every combat is a little tactical exchange of blows, and every blow counts when it only takes two or three for a kill. Visually too, the combat will jar your view and disorientate you. Your weapon will connect satisfyingly with the enemy, and if you get a kill there’s a fair chance the limb you hit could come off or shatter in a spray of gore and bone.
The combination of a creative game mode and a fun combat system isn’t quite enough to make a great game. This is where the 5punky review deviates from what I would write were it a straight review for Joe Average Gamer. There are extra little touches added to Chivalry which bump it from a brief distraction to a 5punky classic.
The brutal combat and slightly silly physics is satisfying but also very amusing. You can’t fail to grin and the goofy flopping corpse of your opponent when you get a kill. There’s also a key bound to scream a war-cry, which adds another layer of ridiculous to the whole thing as knights charge and clash to the constant backdrop of “YEEEEEAAAAAAARGH!”
The real deal breaker for us though is the discovery of low gravity servers. I don’t know if it’s a mod or a mutator, but either way it is howlingly funny. The game automatically plays a terrified scream if you fall a certain distance, but in low gravity this happens every time you jump. The effect is that you find yourself in the middle of an acrobatic ballet of screaming, flailing knights. Limbs arc away trailing bloody sprays and people jab desperately at each others’ crotches. It turns the ridiculous into the sublime, and for that it won 5punk’s Game of the Year 2013.
It might not be a game that gets played every week, and when it does we might not play it for more than an hour or so, but Chivalry is so side-splittingly funny to play that it will be a 5punky classic for years to come, up there in the hall of fame along with Call of Duty: United Offensive and Burnout Paradise.