Chivalty: Medieval Warfare, I was perched atop a nearby cliff face watching as the Mason army poured in through the gate we had failed to defend, their armour as red as the blood that soaked their blades. We knew from the moment we saw them pushing that wagon full of bodies that they’d go for the water supply, but we never thought they’d make it into the valley.
I crept out from the small nook in the cliff to get a better view. TWANG. A spear ricocheted off the rock, inches from my head. I stared down at my attacker; he smashed his sword against his shield and screamed up at me; a blood-curdling warcry, hate and terror fused into one. But this was no time for fear. The royal family had taken refuge in these hills, and I’d be damned if I was going to let them be slaughtered on my watch.
I tightened the grip on my longbow, taking note of the squeak the powdered leather made as it rubbed against the wood of the bow. It reminded me of my years in training, helping me to focus. Slowly, I edged myself around the cliff face to take another look. TWANG. A second spear landed, the wood splintering as it collided with the rock – this was my chance. In a flash, I knocked an arrow and leant outward, took aim at a gap in his chainmail just below the shoulder, and let it loose.
The sound had always been a comfort, the twizzle the arrow made as it fought against the heavy breeze, narrowing in on my enemy; years of training allowed me to follow along its trajectory, as though the arrow and I were one. It missed his armpit, but hit his throat. I crept out further along the cliff face as my enemy fell to his knees, blood pouring out from the open wound in his neck and spilling onto the earth beneath. Behind him, another group emerged from the gate wearing full plate, screaming rage at the sight of their fallen brother, raising their great swords and lances in the air, the sound of death and blood and steel echoing across the valley.
One down, I thought. About a hundred to go.
I’ve got a notepad beside me that I use when I’m writing about games. I make notes here and there about the things I want to remember later, and I usually fill up about a page or two. I have 8 pages for Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, an upcoming medieval combat simulation from Torn Banner Studios. Circled in red, I’ve capitalised the word ‘IMMERSION’ several times. It’s the core element that I wanted to get across in this preview, and it’s why I started with the short story above.
That’s a true story, by the way. It happened at about 3AM this morning during an objective game; one of several game modes offered in C:MW – and by far my favourite. Similar to the ‘rush’ concept in many recent shooters, the idea is that two armies are pitted against each other on a map with unique goals. Attackers might be asked to burn a village, break open a castle’s gates and kill the King, or, as outlined above, they may need to transport a wagon across the field of battle to poison the water supply. There’re a bunch of these maps, and unlike the other games modes, they capture your sense of immersion like never before.
Perhaps it’s the first-person perspective that does it, getting you up-close-and-personal with the medieval engagements, blocking and parrying blows, waiting for the opportune moment to stab, slash or swing your weapon. Or perhaps it’s the visual impact offered when that swing takes off your opponents head, and you watch it tumble down the hill. Hell, maybe it’s just the idea that there are actual goals that need to be followed, actual people that need to be protected, actual players that need to be decapitated – whatever it is, there’s a sense of immersion in C:MW like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It makes you feel like you’re a part of a different world, and it’s captivating as hell.
Outside the immersive experience, there’s a fairly typical game to be played. Chivalry has actually been around for years – it was originally a mod for Half Life 2 called Age of Chivalry, but has since grown into a standalone build. Which is great – the Unreal 3 engine offers a visual experience that can’t be rivaled, and though the game concept has been done before (War of the Roses comes to mind, which released just last week with an identical concept, but very different execution), C:MW brings enough new to the experience to keep it feeling fresh and entertaining.
That said, game after game, you’ll always be doing the same. There’s no level progression per se, though weapons can be unlocked after using them to kill people for long enough. You have access to a set of weapons in the beginning that are well balanced; the later unlocks are generally very specific. As an archer, I had access to a Longbow, Shortbow and Warbow almost immediately, giving me a great sense of variety without having to ‘grind out my gear’.
Elsewise, it’s a very straightforward experience; one that revolves solely around player skill. I’ve watched 1v1 matches on the Arena map break out several times, and many of them have lasted minutes. Similarly, an unexperienced swordsman will fall to an experienced one in seconds, usually to a single blow.
To offer some comparison between this and WotR – it attempts to provide a more realistic experience. You can’t run away and bandage, and if you don’t dodge, parry or block an attack, it’s probably going to kill you immediately. C:MW also offers a more ‘active’ combat system – you can sprint using shift, and many weapons offer leap and lunge attacks to create a more fast-paced combat experience. I haven’t decided if I like it more than the mechanics offered in WotR, but that’s largely due to the archer mechanics, which don’t feel right just yet.
The archer is given a crosshair, which narrows when crouched, and a slight zoom mechanic. In WotR, you have a ‘drawstring’ bar – the longer you hold back, the harder the shot – but in place of a crosshair, you have a single dot. Meaning, arrows will always go where they’re supposed to, and not randomly select a point within the crosshair. I haven’t had the chance to experiment long enough, but it seems that no matter where I shoot in C:MW, my arrow reaches its destination, regardless of the crosshair – and it’s still incredibly difficult to land a shot. Seemingly, it’s redundant, and I prefer the system in WotR a lot more; not simply because I can kill another player much more easily in WotR, but because Archery just doesn’t t feel as polished in C:MW. Yet.
That said, I’m always more immersed in a game of Chivalry than I am a game of WotR. Maybe it’s the better visuals, or the objectives, or the environments – I haven’t quite figure it out – but this is only the beta. I’ve got plenty of time to learn before release.
Related: Action, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Fantasy, Preview