Hands-on with Chivalry II

Back in 2018, developer Tripwire Interactive announced that they would be entering the world of publishing. With their label “Tripwire Presents,” the studio is making moves to help smaller developers in bringing their games to the masses. One such studio working with this new label is Torn Banner Studios, who is planning to release their upcoming successor to 2012’s Chivalry: Medieval Warfare through Tripwire later this year.

Simply entitled Chivalry II, studio president Steve Piggott was present at an event hosted by Tripwire last week in San Francisco to show off the game’s latest build.

Piggott spoke of some of the changes and updates they have made in this sequel to a now nearly-decade-old game. For one, they have massively increased the scale of the game; whilst the original Chivalry was built for 24 players, Chivalry II is being built to support up to 64, as well as offering up larger maps to support this many players.

Whilst the game is pegged as a full medieval warfare experience with multiple aspects to gameplay, the demo I had a chance to go hands-on with was completely focused on ground combat and swordfighting. I got to participate in a couple six-vs-six battles, with four different character classes available to switch between.

A particular point Piggott mentioned multiple times was the work Torn Banner has put into updating character models and animations for this sequel. He mentioned the greatest criticism the studio received from the original Chivalry was how “floaty” and “weightless” the actions of other players appeared in game, making them difficult to read. For a game built around reading an opponent and knowing when to strike, this was something the studio knew had to be fixed.

As such, much work was put into making character animations more “natural” and easier to read. A specific example Piggott mentioned was in swinging a heavy sword. In the original game, a character’s whole body would simply turn weightlessly with the attack. In Chivalry II, however, you’ll actually see the momentum of the swing work its way through a model’s body, watching the body move from its torso and ripple down through the legs and feet, to give the attack a more weighty and realistic feel.

Whether this was implemented in the demo or not I can’t say, as I hardly had time to watch my opponents’ moves in the first place. The fights I took part in were extremely fast-paced, with time from engagement to the loser’s death often being mere seconds.

Melee combat in Chivalry II, as mentioned earlier, is all about reading your opponent, blocking and parrying their attacks, and finding an opportunity to strike. Despite only having a couple of weapons available for each class in the demo, the attack options for them were surprisingly vast. I could do a basic sword swing, hold down the attack button for a charged up swing, and move my mouse/camera into the swing to power it up even more. There were options for short jabs, sprinting leaping attacks, quick punches, and even just straight-up throwing your sword at an opponent’s face.

In a match where it appeared that most players had little-to-no experience with the original Chivalry (myself included), though, fights often devolved into three or four members of one team piling onto single fighters on another, moving around as an unbeatable huddle of swords. The team I was on didn’t seem to believe in teamwork, leaving us to lose both matches.

The overall experience was a bit rough, but this was to be expected from the demo being an early build. I found myself getting stuck in walls and having to suicide to respawn a few times. One of the maps we played on was obviously made for much more than twelve players, leaving it feeling very empty.

As I wrapped up my hands-on time with Chivalry II (about an hour or so), I was left feeling that such a short amount of time wasn’t enough to really get a feel for the game. As Piggott said earlier, this game is built for mass amounts of people, and the battle system seems to have a lot of little complexities to it that will require practice to improve with. This just wasn’t the ideal environment to truly experience what Torn Banner is aiming for with this game.

What I can say is that I’m looking forward to trying this game out again once it’s closer to its final version, and I can put the time into really digging into the game’s systems to see what Torn Banner’s full vision is.

Chivalry II will be entering Closed Alpha release in March on PC, and the studio is aiming for full release sometime in 2020.

Screenshots courtesy of Torn Banner Studios.