Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior Review (PC)

Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior - the meaty expansion to Chivalry: Medieval Warfare - removes the flimsy pre-text of two rival nations (or chivalric orders) and gets straight down to the business of people killing each other messily with great big swords, axes and assorted pointy armaments. The game pits history’s most brutal and effective warriors against each other in a battle to the death, the result is loud, bloody and frequently hilarious.

The best bit about both vanilla Chivalry and its new add-on is the default action for the ‘C’ key. Pressing C while moving causes your character to let out a blood-curdling howl as they charge into battle, most Chivalry players press it frequently. This kind of voice spamming could easily become annoying, yet in Chivalry, it’s a mission statement. The game is a bloodthirsty cry, a call to carnage - a not-so liberal application of the C key is the precursor to a short, tense bout of stabbing, slashing action - often concluding with a brutal beheading or six.

Vikings say night-night to the uh... knight

Deadliest Warrior is not a particularly radical reinvention of the successful Chivalry formula, instead it introduces variety through its expanded roster of combatants, each of whom have a unique or distinguishing feature to differentiate them from the next. The Viking for instance is a brutal melee warrior, whose blows chain together in fast combos at close range. They’re no one-trick pony however, with the ability to utilise virtually any weapon as a projectile, charging towards their foe with a barbaric bellow, the Viking can throw his shield at an enemy for a brief stun, chuck an axe or two, then switch to duel-wielding once the gap is closed (provided they actually have any weapons left by this point). The ninja specialises in short sharp movements and evasive rolls to avoid oncoming attacks. Hit one twice and they’ll likely fall, but landing a solid blow on them can be tricky, especially if in the hands of a skilled player.

The other classes included in Deadliest Warrior are the Pirate - fast, lightly armoured, has a gun and regenerates health if they stop to drink some grog, the Samurai – a deadly mix of strong melee weapons and powerful ranged bow, The Knight - basically the Knight class from Medieval Warfare and the Spartan - spears, shields and voice-over lines pilfered from The 300. Once you put all six classes into the mix, you get a varied line-up, where strengths can be exploited and fights can take unpredictable turns, as a skilled ninja wreaks havoc striking from the edges of a battle, while the Knight stands at the centre of the carnage, armour splattered in the blood of friend and foe alike.

Spartans want to scream 'This is Sparta!!' - even when it clearly isn't

Deadliest Warrior has a few other changes of note from Medieval Warfare and one particularly striking absence is that no maps currently have the ‘assault’ structure from the previous game, with one team attacking, while the other defends. Instead, modes tend to be ‘last team standing’, team deathmatch or free-for-all. Sometimes teams contain mixed combatants, while often teams are grouped by class. The latter modes nearly always end up with one or two classes favoured over the rest and it’s a source of frustration that in nearly every game I’ve played, the Spartans get picked in consistently high numbers, overwhelming other teams with their strong combination of offence and defence. Other classes (usually pirates) can become gristle for the mill. Auto-balance is understandably a rarity - there is no desire into forcing players to try a class they’ve no skill or fondness for.

The problem with the above is that primarily, it exposes balance problems - with the all-rounder classes nearly always coming out on top. Specialised, light armour roles like Pirate or Ninja are for lone wolves or exceptional players and it can be boring to stumble into a server, only to yet again find 7 Spartans bellowing ‘This is SPARTA’ in your face, before casually impaling you. Temporary alliances formed in the heat of battle quickly disintegrate into a backstabbing frenzy and its disappointingly rare to see underdog teams uniting for a common cause. Mixed team modes are better and the structure that allows for up to 6 teams serves to increase the chaos, with every single battle potentially becoming a free-for-all as you search for weaknesses, or exploit reckless attacks while swords slice and heads roll.

The meat of the game - the actual combat actually feels a little more measured this time around, classes seem to be better at defending themselves and fights can often be resolved by two knackered duellists being stabbed from behind by opportunists or newcomers. Teamwork is still very important – even highly skilled players stand very little chance when outnumbered and it can be very difficult to get past the defences of most combatants (as long as they have enough stamina left to block attacks). There is of course a duel mode, if you prefer the ‘purity’ of one on one combat, but then you lose the a little of the riotous frenzy of the larger battles that provide Deadliest Warrior’s best moments.

The Ninja's big stick is far deadlier than it looks

Deadliest Warrior echoes the bloody anarchy of it's predecessor, as the various classes come together in a brutal melee. However, balance issues and the multi-team gameplay are the cause of significant frustration as you sink more hours into the game, it's simply not much fun when certain classes feel overpowering and end up with the majority of the player-base gravitating towards them.

At times I found myself missing things like auto-balance and the set-piece feel of assault mode from Medieval Warfare that saw you storming towards objectives with murder in mind. At the end of the day though, the C key is the saviour, frustration can be sapped away by the sheer ridiculousness of the Pirates battle cry. It serves to highlight that at it's core Deadliest Warrior is still about the spectacle and the thrill of the carnage - and that aspect still feels leaps and bounds above the combat of other melee-FPS orientated games (I'm looking at you War of the Roses). The increase in class variety is welcome and each combatant has a certain novelty value, but Deadliest Warrior perhaps doesn't bring enough to the table to fully elevate itself above Medieval Warfare.

Top Game Moment: Charging with your team-mates into battle as you all abuse the ridiculous battle-cries, a stirring symphony of madness that provides fitting tribute to those about to die.

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