Chivalry 2 is positioned to take back the multiplayer first-person slasher crown

Chivalry helped pioneer the multiplayer first-person slasher in 2012. Its brutal combat gave you an incredible amount of control over your blade and resulted in a totally unique experience that went on to sell more than 5 million copies. But many games have moved in the years since, as evidenced by Mordau and the gluttony of VR experiences that put the sword in your hands. Instead of falling behind, Chivalry 2 is not only back to prove that it exists, but also to reclaim the throne on the trend it helped birth.

ALSO: Chivalry 2 creative director on balancing its Game of Thrones inspirations with Monty Python

But that’s not to say it’s completely different from the first game. There’s still the core of running around as a medieval knight and engaging with your opponents in a deadly melee brawls (or ranged brawls if you’re a coward). Chivalry 2 just looks a whole hell of better and smoother and makes the first game seem like a flimsy fan game in comparison. It played well, but didn’t look the part.

Chivalry 2 Preview | Limbering up

Chivalry 2 is positioned to take back the multiplayer first-person slasher crown

Stiff animations have been updated and better balance the previous gulf between how the swords felt to swing and what they looked like while swinging. The characters no longer look like elbowless children bashing each other with toy lightsabers, but something closer to real humans hacking away at one another with real swords. This also helps with readability as you can more easily discern what attack is what. Cleaner animations, along with the dramatically improved lighting and visuals, are more immersive and do wonders for the presentation. It doesn’t look or move like a modest Kickstarter game anymore.

Improving the animations was something Creative Director Steve Piggott saw as one of the key areas where the first game needed improving. He said the team was on a “revenge mission” to realize that potential and create their dream game.

Increasing the scope was also part of successfully completing their revenge mission. Chivalry 2 supports 64 players, which is up from the first game’s 24. Maps are drastically bigger to hold those extra 40 people and further facilitate that Battlefield-like atmosphere. Awe-striking battles like Game of Thrones’ Battle of the Bastards and Lord of the Rings’ Battle For Minas Tirith are partially fantastic because of their scale and having more people helps bring out those epic qualities.

“Since the years have gone by, we’ve seen other games capture that medieval feel which is where we really discovered the heart of Chivalry 2 is: making it feel like a real battlefield experience,” said Brand Director Alex Hayter. “That scale is super important and having that awesome control over what you’re doing in combat and being able to control the chaos around you in those huge battles is super key to that as well.”

Chivalry 2 Preview | An array of new moves

Chivalry 2 is positioned to take back the multiplayer first-person slasher crown

Scale doesn’t mean that the minutiae has been forgotten. Torn Banner has added a plethora of new moves to further deepen the combat. Players can now quickly jab their opponent after getting hit, which acts like a short-range poke in a fighting game that doesn’t do much damage but can interrupt a full attack.

Although that’s just one new move. Piggott said the team had doubled the amount of combat abilities all in an effort to give the player more creativity because the more creativity, the more fun it is.

“We took the dance of combat in the first game and looked at it and how it had the same back and forth too much,” he said. “So we thought of new ways to add different timing advantages and disadvantages to you and your opponent. If you got hit in the first game, you could only block. Now you have so many more options.”

And the game feels fantastic to play because of those options as the satisfaction comes from quickly choosing what to do and how you can outwit your opponent. This core philosophy is what makes fighting games so engaging as they both contain an incredible amount of microdecisions. Each move is also satisfying because of how they strike the balance between heft and responsiveness. Combined with the clanging sound effects and strategic yet frantic pace, combat excels because of how all of those disparate elements come together.

Chivalry 2 Preview | Becoming a knight

Chivalry 2 is positioned to take back the multiplayer first-person slasher crown

However, it’s still a lot to take in. The controller is packed with an array of different functions and moves as is the keyboard and just jumping in is incredibly intimidating, especially against seasoned knights. Such is the nature with games brimming with depth.

Torn Banner knows this and is planning to give better tutorials throughout the game. While the actual tutorial wasn’t in the preview build, the UI is more detailed at telling players what they’ve done. The crosshair will tell you if you’ve parried or countered the incoming attack, which thankfully gives instant feedback so you can improve.

It’s incredibly helpful when flailing in the early hours and hopefully it’ll encourage more players to stick around. Piggott admitted the first Chivalry didn’t do a good job the last time around as many seemed to have bounced before they could really understand the game’s deep mechanics.

According to him, those that stuck around likely did so for a few reasons: the combat as well as the silly nature. Chivalry 2 is incredibly bloody and heads roll around more than tumbleweeds in an Western movie, but there’s a touch of Monty Python that mixes with the Game of Thrones atmosphere.

You can attack your enemies with severed heads and chickens in a way that Piggott equated to an improvisational bar fight. Limbs can get hacked off, Monty Python-style, and you can still continue to attack in your hobbled state, which is quite hilarious. And, of course, there’s just the general player-driven hilarity that comes from hucking an axe across a field into someone’s face or taking one yourself.

Happiness is just one emotion, but this was just part of a bigger puzzle Piggott said Chivalry extracted out of players. Torn Banner initially wanted to just make a game with big movie-like fights yet it ended up turning into an aggression outlet that players loved to engage with. That feeling is something the studio wants to double down on. It’s evident in the new more fluid animations and dramatically improved visuals that open the door for a more immersive experience where the game can finally have the presentation that matches the breadth of its tactical gameplay systems. Though the market is different now, Chivalry 2 seems to have the right mindset and improvements it needs to retake the crown of the first-person slasher genre that it forged all those years ago.