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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Chivalry 2 makes me feel unstoppable

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In Chivalry 2, everyone sees me coming from a mile away. I’m the screaming, flailing, occasionally jumping guy who’s about to die gruesomely. Usually I’m in good company, as this is not an uncommon approach to the newly-launched sequel’s combat. We don’t tend to last for very long. I’m unfazed by my many deaths, however, because when I’m flailing away in the moment, I feel unstoppable. 

Chivalry seems like a game for the skilled. In the tutorial, it teaches you a bunch of tricks that are intuitive, common sense things that, nonetheless, are easier said than done. You need precision, timing, and a tactical awareness that’s hard to muster after a couple of drinks, or indeed entirely sober. I grew into a fairly competent warrior in the original game, and after a few more cuts and bruises I hope the same will happen here, but in the meantime I’m having lots of fun being an idiot. 

In Tyler’s most recent impressions, he notes that “the better you get, the more fun it is”, but it’s still a blast when you’re utterly clueless—and not as punishing as you might think. See, while you will absolutely get decapitated plenty of times, you’re never that far from the action. There’s a brilliant momentum that means, aside from the few seconds of waiting for the respawn timer to finish, you’re always either in a fight or charging towards one. It encourages recklessness, but being reckless is a hoot. 

When you respawn or start a match, you begin mid-charge, usually surrounded by other people getting very excited about running fast and screaming. It gets the blood pumping, making you feel like a tank about to smash into a horde of surprised enemies. Then you unleash the opening salvo, maybe even getting a kill straight away. That momentum also makes you a heavy hitter. It’s likely, of course, that they’ll be waiting for you, and then you’ll be the one spraying buckets of blood everywhere. But it’s fine, because in a few seconds you’ll be in the middle of a charge again. 

And while death does often come quickly, you’ll also be surprised by how long you can keep going. I remember the first time I bumped into someone who was using their chopped-off arm as a crude weapon, and I immediately disengaged and let them enjoy themselves. I respected the dedication. Losing certain body parts will spell death, but you can get away with some really nasty wounds and still keep trucking. Losing an arm is NBD. Just ask the Black Knight. 

Similarly, you may find yourself knocked down but not dead, and if you can crawl to safety you might manage to pick yourself back up, or find a friend to help you, letting you get a taste of revenge. In every battle I’ve fought, I’ve been blessed with second chances, and it’s given me more confidence. It doesn’t always work out, but I know that, even if I fuck up, I can still salvage the fight. 

The chaos of the battlefield is another boon. It’s surprising how often I’ll see a lone warrior successfully fending off three or four enemies, but it’s that close proximity to so many bodies that gives them an advantage. Even with my clumsiness, I’ve been able to survive and sometimes win these brawls where I’m massively outnumbered, because as a lone warrior you get some handy advantages. Your enemies only have one target, but that’s much harder to hit when their axe will also chop up their mates. They have to be more precise and watch out where they are swinging, while you can merrily slice away. The messy, bloody scrum creates unlikely heroes and rewards the underdogs. 

Throwing stuff is, I think, the purest expression of this welcome chaos. Anvils, chickens, body parts, farming tools—if you can grab it, you can throw it. And this includes your previous primary weapon. It’s reckless and risky, but damn do you look like a badass when you toss your sword right into a foe’s chest, or even better, their back. Sometimes I do it out of desperation, but most of the time it’s because I want my fellow medieval murderers to think I’m cool. And just as importantly, it’s another tool that can save my life or net me a kill that might have otherwise slipped through my fingers. 

Whenever I survive a fight I feel empowered—something just clicks, and I start to become one with the rhythm of the battle. Sure, I might lose it again, but for a wee while at least I get to be a deadly dervish carving up anyone unfortunate enough to walk into my path. Or sometimes I’ll just give them a swift kick, because it makes me laugh. Especially if they end up falling into a fire. 

On the subject of infernos, the environment also helps me feel like an unkillable warrior. It’s a great ally, except when it’s being a foul enemy. The high ground, choke points, cover and hazards like fire are brilliant tools when you’ve not quite got the timing of your swings and blocks down, and still helpful and important even when you’re a master sword-swinger. I especially love fighting on walls, as there are few things as satisfying as kicking an opponent off them, particularly if they had the upper hand. 

When I die in, say, Overwatch, I feel a bit deflated. Nobody cares about your KD ratio in Overwatch, but it does feel like a speedbump. In Chivalry, I barely even register it. Dying isn’t a failure, it’s another opportunity to charge into battle with a bunch of roaring, resurrected pals. I return just as enthusiastically swinging my sword and shouting as I did right at the start, when I had yet to taste defeat. Racing into the fray with a goofy grin on my face, the last thing I’m thinking about is dying.  

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