Inverse Game Reviews

Chivalry II is rowdy, ridiculous, and impossible to put down

Inverse Score: 9/10

No game captures the primal terror of grisly medieval warfare quite like Chivalry II.

Your pulse thunders as you rush towards certain death. Arrows whistle by your ears. You and a dozen of your brothers scream a guttural cry, raising weapons aloft as you charge. You feel the panic, the valor, the glory, and of course, the chivalry.

But then a knight named “Farts_in_a_jar” slices your head clean off your shoulders with a greatsword. Blood sprays everywhere. Ragdoll physics take hold as your body bounces to the ground. Farts_in_a_jar then teabags your dismembered corpse, picks up your head, and throws it at one of your comrades. He even dabs.

Ouch.

Somehow, this irreverent hilarity and overwhelming brutality is a match made in heaven. Medieval warfare is terrifying, but it’s also inherently absurd. Bring us more of it.

Every charge is a terrifying experience.Tripwire Interactive

“Ride to ruin and the world's ending!”

Developer Torn Banner Studios bills Chivalry II as “a multiplayer first-person slasher inspired by epic medieval movie battles.” Despite sounding like an over-promise, that’s exactly what it delivers. If you’ve ever wished for a game that simulates the Battle of Helm’s Deep from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, this is it. I only wish it could incorporate more fantasy races, classes, or even magic. Even if it remains rooted in satirical history, however, that will be enough.

2012’s Chivalry told the story of Malric Terrowin’s Mason uprising against the Agatha Knights. Chivalry II is a continuation of that story told purely through large-scale battles. After an intimidating tutorial that overviews the easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master combat mechanics, you’re thrust into big battles: 32 players join the blue-clad and gallant Agatha Knights, and another 32 join the rebellious Mason Order in red.

It’s functionally similar to Overwatch in some ways, just on a much grander scale. There are straightforward combat scenarios where it’s all just killing, but most matches lean heavily on the push-pull of controlling objectives. All of the rich lore is implied through details in the multiplayer gameplay.

Or, you could just watch this lore trailer.

Maybe you’re rescuing prisoners. Maybe you’re raiding a stronghold to murder a duke. Or maybe you’re just fighting in a colosseum full of traps. In every case, it is overwhelming in the best way possible. Direct combat is hugely important, but there’s a lot of strategy to gathering troops on an objective. I just wish it were easier to communicate with your team.

The August 2021 House Galencourt update added “The Desecration of Galencourt” map to the mix, set in the titular seat of the Agatha church. This epic and layered confrontation is a real highlight: Members of the Mason Order must seize the outer walls of the city, bomb two ships in the harbor, break down two major gates, destroy some relics, infiltrate a church, and “desecrate” a tomb by smashing it to bits. If the Agatha Knights can defend against the attack for long enough, they win. It’s a glorious promise of future maps to come, of increased complexity and dynamic objectives.

Chivalry II was first released on June 8, 2021. If it got this much better within two months, I can only imagine what this game might be like in two years.

“I fart in your general direction!”

These poor, poor peasants.Tripwire Interactive

Despite the gruesome gravity of medieval war and death, Chivalry II leans into the absurd, channeling the tone of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you lose an arm in battle, the screen will flash “It’s just a flesh wound!” as you bumble your way through combat one-handed. A general will scream-narrate your objectives at the start of every match, usually calling you “maggots.” A different voice-over narrates each transition between objectives. He sounds like an absolute boob of a bumbling king in an utter panic. With the press of a button, any character can let loose a blood-curdling scream. A dozen players doing this in unison is just part of the unhinged culture.

Either Chivalry II attracts the type of silly and obscene people that love The Holy Grail or playing the game brings it out in them somehow. Playing on PC, I encountered some of the most ridiculous gamertags in existence. Yes, Farts_in_a_jar is a very real person who killed me, and so are JoseCuervo69, Lilbuttnug, TheGanjaGinja, and Thiccasabrik. And those weren’t even the spiciest names I stumbled upon.

Without fail, every time we reach the tomb at Galencourt, someone in the chat will make a joke about pooping on the tomb. Desecration, however, is not defecation. Nothing irritates the enemy more than when, after they complain about missing an attack, you say, “THINE AIM MUSTN’T BE TRUE.” That person then made it a point to target me as much as possible. Truly, role-play is the only way to play Chivalry II.

“It's just a flesh wound!”

I don’t think this Agatha Knight is going to win this battle.Tripwire Interactive

Even the best warriors die a lot. A well-placed arrow to the front of the head or a warhammer to the back of it can mean instant death. Oftentimes, you’re totally blindsided, another aspect of the simulation that feels remarkably realistic. (It’s a good thing respawn times are 15 seconds at their absolute worst, but most commonly around five seconds.)

The core of the experience is this brutal and methodical combat that feels like the marriage of Skyrim and Dark Souls. The default first-person perspective is a stroke of brilliance. The feeling of anxious claustrophobia as an enemy rotates out of your field of vision is intense. Parrying, dodging, and blocking each has a vital use. There are slashing attacks that alternate direction, stabs, and overhead strikes. Each of these can be executed as a heavy attack. You can even change the direction or attack type on the fly. Surprising your enemies by mixing things up is crucial. Spamming the attack button will get you kills, but it will only get you so far.

Also keep in mind that the four core classes — Knight, Archer, Vanguard, and Footman — can each equip a variety of weapons across three distinct subclasses. Unique abilities like the Oil Pot grenade or the healing Trumpet make things even more dynamic.

“WE MUST PROTECT THE DUKE!!!”Tripwire Interactive

At times, the hitbox feels too narrow. It’s easy to miss an attack if you aren’t ultra-precise. Some of the heavier weapons can be quite unforgiving, which itself feels like a realistic feature rather than a flaw. (If you haphazardly swung a greataxe around in real life, you would die very quickly.) The best warriors are precise, efficient, and confident. Chivalry II requires that you channel an unsettling primal rage flow state, like anxious fear mixed with bloodrage.

The only thing more exhilarating than coming up against three knights by yourself is the satisfaction of somehow defeating them all. It is borderline impossible, but there’s no greater thrill in gaming right now. The one time I pulled it off will remain a cherished gaming memory for years to come.

As it stands now, Chivalry II is a thrilling and addictive experience that’s hard to put down once you’ve acclimated to the sheer terror of battle, and it’s only getting better over time. The public roadmap promises new game modes and weapon types before the end of the year. And sometime next year, there will be new maps and even horses added to the mix.

Chivalry II could be the hallmark of medieval warfare for years to come.

9/10

Chivalry II is available now for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Epic Games. Inverse played the PC version for this review.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)
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