Can a game be technically horrible but still enjoyable? Well, yes and no I suppose. While a game like Deadly Premonition still delivered a highly entertaining experience thanks to its otherworldly, Twin Peaks-esque tone, the much straighter, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare struggles to paper over the cracks in the same way.
The strong fundamentals might make this game worth a look, and despite its many, many issues, the melee inspired combat really is strangely addictive, but even with such a solid set of core mechanics, everything else in this game is so shoddy, so rough around the edges, that many will be unable to enjoy what might be one of the finest attempts at bringing melee combat to competitive multiplayer gaming yet.
Don’t get me wrong, the core combat mechanics could still do with plenty of polish (they certainly lack refinement at times), but the basics are here for a solid, tactically nuanced multiplayer brawler. The game already has a relatively large following on PC, and while control and porting issues keep the 360 version from attaining the same level of success, you can still see how this game has managed to amass a relatively solid following on PC despite its myriad of technical issues.
The mechanics themselves are simple with 3 different attacks, a block/parry move and the ability to cancel an attack in an attempt to draw an opponent in to making an early move. There are combos, but they are extraordinarily simplistic with the combat itself all about timing and placement rather than actual combinations. Still, while the hit detection is very iffy and the action a tad unruly, there is unquestionably something to the timing-based battles that makes Chivalry oddly compellig.
The attack cancels don’t work quite as well as they could, but they do play their part in a battle system that can get extremely tactical and very cagey. Some games can inevitably end in a collection of wild, largely aimless swings, but with likeminded players in tow, battles can be won and lost on the back of careful preparation and the set-up of mismatches and two on ones.
Again, none of this works quite as well as it should due to the technical issues inherent to the game, but when it comes together, there is something about Chivalry: Medieval Warfare that feels right in a way that so few melee-based competitive action games do. The four separate classes help too with classes ranging from the heavily armed but ultimately slow Knights to the fast but vulnerable archers. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but in the context of this type of game, does lend the experience a surprising degree of tactical nuance.
With the combat as potentially enjoyable as it is, it’s a real shame that the rest of the game is as poor as it is. While the competetive modes are all fine and understandably based around the standard team-deathmatch template, as soon as other items are involved, things tend to fall apart. Sieges and objective based game modes are a great idea on paper (especially for a game of this ilk), but when picking up an item or interacting with your surroundings are as awkward and inconsistent as they are here, things quickly become unduly frustrating.
There is a single player mode (well, sort off), in which you can practice firing ballistas and manning battering rams etc, but this is little more than a poorly conceived and horribly awkward training mode. There are a few enemies to take on, but for the most part, it’s a poorly implemented and generally off-putting introduction to the game. Honestly, if that’s your first taste of the game (which it inevitably will for many), you might be put off the game completely before you even get to the meat of the competitive online modes. It looks terrible and sounds even worse. It is, for lack of a better term, a complete shocker.
In terms of its moment to moment combat, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a true diamond in the rough, but in terms of the rest of the experience, well, it’s just rough. There is certainly fun to be had here, but you have to be willing to overlook some truly horrible visuals, consistently terrible audio and some pretty major technical shortcoming. It’s testament to the quality of the combat that this game can still be enjoyable despite these issues, but as it stands, Chivalry has far too many problems to warrant a genuine recommendation.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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