But beneath all the Monty Python absurdity lurks a surprisingly complex first-person slasher. Melee players have three basic attack types – horizontal slashes, overhead strikes, and thrusts – to switch between, and you can hold down the left mouse button to turn any of them into a heavy attack, which is handy for messing with your enemy’s timing and dealing some extra damage.
After 15 hours with Chivalry 2 I’ve managed to secure kills by throwing flaming chickens, anvils, lances, the heads of other players, boulders, sticks, ballista bolts, shields, broken bits of ladder, and pitchforks. I’ve kicked enemies off cliffs, 300-style; loaded myself into a catapult and soared behind enemy lines to slay archers; won a duel after losing an arm to the same enemy; and ducked into an outhouse to hide from a marauding horde. If you can dream it, then you can probably do it in Chivalry 2’s medieval battle sandboxes – which you can buy here, coincidentally.
You can combo by chaining any of those three attack types together, but you can also interrupt a combo by hitting the ‘R’ key to throw a quick jab. Kicking with ‘F’ is great for breaking an opponent’s block or pushing them back, sometimes into spike traps or down wells. ‘Q’ will unleash a special attack that’s nearly fatal and stuns a blocking enemy, and if you’re feeling confident you can throw your weapon with ‘G’.
Impressive, no? But there’s more! Once you’ve got the fundamentals down you can start dragging, which involves quickly turning into the direction of your strike so you make contact sooner. Then there are feints, like winding up a slash before switching to a stab, to keep enemies guessing. Dashing lets you quickly sidestep or back away from an incoming attack, but relies on you being able to read the direction of that attack to work – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally dashed into a slash and lost my head for it. Ducking has a similar risk and reward component, occasionally coming in handy during group fights where you can trick two enemies into taking each other out.
Finally, there’s blocking. Unlike in Mordhau, you can hold a block and negate all incoming damage with any weapon in Chivalry 2, although it will quickly drain your stamina. A block keeps you safe, and then you can riposte by aiming at the incoming strike and immediately following up with an attack. You can also perform a perfect parry by anticipating your enemy’s attack and mirroring it – that last one is the only way to get a guaranteed hit unless your opponent’s stamina is drained.
You get the picture. When you factor in all of the above, there are a lot of different ways to win a fight in Chivalry 2. As sword games go, it’s not quite as precise or smooth as Mordhau. However, the fundamentals are approachable and easy to learn, and even a master can make a mistake, so you never feel like you’ve lost a fight before it’s even started. It helps, too, that in the chaos of a 64-player siege battle there’s plenty of space for flanking and ganking if you don’t fancy an honourable duel.
A simple class system separates basic player roles and adds some progression to guide you through your first 15 or so hours. There are four classes – knight, footman, vanguard, and archer – and within each you’ll find three subclasses and a range of weapons to unlock that fit the intended playing style.
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