Lend me your sword! – Chivalry: Medieval Warfare on Steam

It was only once I really understood that my sword was effectively represented in three dimensional space and that I should treat it as such by winding up and moving my “body” along with it that two things happened: 1. My KDR shot up, 2. I suddenly wanted to write about this game on our front page.

I don’t know if this is so much a review as it is just a little chatter about “indie” developers Torn Banner Studios and their Chivalry: Medieval Warfare game that’s recently hit Steam, you see, I think it’s interesting on a few levels:

You’ll find game play examples/videos in a lot of places and I’d encourage you to check out a video first anyway, but in a nutshell: it’s a melee combat game: swords, shields, bows, arrows, a lot of yelling, decapitation, bashing and, of course, a medieval setting. Certainly one can draw similarities  to titles like Pirates Vikings Knights, Mount and Blade, Dark Messiah, the recently released War of the Roses and even smaller releases like Zeno Clash and the original Age of Chivalry (HL2) mod that this is based on. With different game modes like Free For All, Team Death Match and Team Objective (which includes some pretty awesome objectives including killing royal families, pushing carts with disease-ridden bodies, breaking down castle walls with rams, etc) it’s already a pretty compelling buy if you like the idea of putting on your chain mail and learning some new moves against online opponents; the setting is right, the sounds and overall feeling make for a cathartic experience and the price is right.

Now don’t go plopping down that hard-earned cash yet, if you’re expecting a triple-A polished release then you might have to look elsewhere (and please tell me where you find these releases) you won’t be looking hard to find some bugs and some user interface issues to top off the fact that your ping really matters in a game like this. You might even be turned off by the fact that friendly fire is enabled and there’s no way to punish users abusing this..

..but if you are willing to put up with some of these things you may just find yourself embracing them. Personally speaking, I like that TK is on, it makes the whole game more.. hardcore! – you’ve got to really learn the length of your blade and how to swing it else you’ll not just suffer the embarrassment but you’ll likely be robbing your team of momentum – have no doubt: there’s a lot of clashing in this and numbers count. This game gives you so many tactical choices, coupled with deeper options for body movement you’ll find yourself developing combos that may have you feint an attack, dash to the side and stab stab stab, or put up your shield, bash, overhead swing, kick, stab stab.  Either way, you’ll be locked in to some tense, timing-oriented fights that will challenge your hand-eye coordination as well as make you groan when someone runs up behind you to give you a brutal taste of cold steel.

However I also find the fact that the game exists at all is almost as interesting as the game itself. As kickstarter begins to get gently bashed for its long-term project failures here we have a title that’s come out and delivered with 2,000+ backers and raising $35k more than the $50k initial goal. In these dying days of game modding is it possible that we’ve got one in a hopeful series of winning new approaches to delivering new gaming experiences based on tiny budgets, user support and a whole lot of passion?  Is this what “mod development” is destined to become?

It’s fantastic fun, even if you pick up a 4-pack and play it with three other buddies you’ll find yourself wincing and moving about in your chair as you dodge attacks and howl at watching the heads roll. I can only imagine that it’d be even more fun within the clan environment (we’ve got about 8 people with it so far) and it just cries out for tournament treatment! Given that it’s so early in the game also there’s a lot to learn which is in and of itself a great equalizer and makes for some great engagements.

The ticking clock will tell as to whether or not this game will stand some of the tests of time; there’s no doubt that it provides a unique offering in the world of PC gaming and if you feel like under-20-currency-units is enough for a full day of game play (compared to some big studio releases: it is!) then I’m fairly certain that just exploring the game that way will give you your money’s worth and may likely end up being the melee game in your active collection.  You’d also be coming along for the last part of the ride on a kickstarter project further supporting a new game studio which “aims to bring deep passion and full immersion to its games… Focusing on market niches, Torn Banner Studies plans to revolutionize the gaming industry with unique titles, innovation and genre blending ideas.” – that, in some cases, could be worth the price of admission alone if you’re interested in seeing more things like this in the future.

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