Review by Andy Chalk
If you're familiar with Spike's "Deadliest Warrior" television show, then you know what's in store with Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior , the newest DLC release for Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. It pits six warrior archetypes from throughout history—Samurai, Ninja, Viking, Knight, Spartan, and Pirate—against one another in brutal online multiplayer combat, the hook being that each class brings unique strengths and weaknesses to the battlefield. Heavily armored knights are slow and lumbering but hit like an angry Hulk, while Ninja are protected by nothing but speed and smoke but will kill you five times before you hit the ground.
Deadliest Warrior's simple, single-player tutorial is where I got my first hint that all is not as it should be. Hit detection was imprecise, as the lines tracing my weapon's path in "Visualization Training" would sometimes cut through an enemy's extremities without causing damage, while thrown weapons that missed the target would occasionally still come close enough to "stick" and end up orbiting just outside their intended victim. The one-minute countdown timer in the "Ranged Training" area is broken to the point of near-uselessness, and the trainer bot named John the Chef Master—don't ask me to explain—respawned whenever I entered a training room, and then died (spontaneously and explosively) when I left. I didn't learn much about fighting, but I killed an awful lot of Johns.
Rather than teach me anything beyond the game's basic controls, the tutorial's various modes simply reinforced the idea that this is a half-baked effort. The sub-par graphics, stiff animations, and low-stamina heavy breathing sound effect betray Warrior as a low-budget, low-effort tie-in to a television show that was canceled two years ago. But something unexpected happened when I threw in the towel on training and leapt into the online action. I actually had some fun.
It's by no means a good game, but it is undeniably—and appropriately—visceral. The shouts of angry men mix with the clang and thud of weapons on armor, meat, and bone, and are surprisingly affecting. Taking a guy's head off with a well-placed (or lucky) swing is alarmingly rewarding. One of the highlights came when I turned around to see a samurai wielding a club the size of an oak tree rushing at me from behind. I had just enough time to marvel at the insanity of it all before he swung, sending everything from my neck up into the next time zone. It's meaty, it's crunchy, it's downright personal; I didn't just kill guys, I messed them up. Bad.
Game modes range from ritualized one-on-one duels to massive, 64-player free-for-alls. Sadly, maps suitable for 64-player brawls seem awfully big and lonely when just a half-dozen warriors are slugging it out in a free-for-all. With no overhead map to help find the action, I often felt like I was spending more time looking for a fight than actually fighting one. Clipping errors are common, and a couple of times I found myself running past a thrown axe that was just floating in the air, seemingly stuck in some invisible, untouchable wall. Even when Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior is at its best, there's an inescapable roughness to it.
My favorite move is Last Team Standing, because it encourages a certain degree of sleaziness: Teams will sometimes find a quiet place to lie low while everyone else beats the hell out of each other, and then come charging in like God's personal room service to clean up whatever's left. Relatively short time limits on matches ensure that they don't turn into overlong Camporees and while not everyone approves of these tactics, the up-close-and-personal nature of the combat makes ganking some half-dead sucker a sweeter experience than you might imagine.
That's really the appeal of Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior. It's like forum trolling, except instead of wielding words you're driving a virtual longsword through someone's digital thorax. But it doesn't take long before the thrill of dressing up like a pirate and rushing headlong at an armored knight wears thin; and then everything that characterizes this as low-budget shovelware sinks in. With a night or two of good times under your belt, you'll likely find yourself moving on to better things.