Finally, my Steam friends can experience the thrill of chasing down archers with a greatsword like a medieval Jason Voorhees. After a year of Epic Store exclusivity on PC, Chivalry 2 is releasing on Steam (opens in new tab) on June 12. At the same time, all platforms will get a major free update with a new faction, new maps, and the long-faced, four-legged creatures I've been looking forward to since my first play session. (See the teaser video embedded above or on YouTube (opens in new tab).)
If you already own Chivalry 2 on the Epic Games Store (opens in new tab), you'll be able to participate in a public playtest of the horse update, called Tenosian Invasion, sometime "soon." The invaded and invading faction in question, the Ottoman Empire-inspired Tenosia, may ultimately be appreciated most for the horses they're bringing with them, but I think they'll also be liked for the domes, minarets, and splashes of gold, green, and blue they add to Chiv 2's map rotation, which otherwise features mostly Western European-looking fantasy castles and fields.
Recently, Torn Banner let me play an unfinished version of The Razing of Askandir, one of the two new objective maps in the update. It's an obvious reference to the Library of Alexandria—a real magnet for razings, as far as libraries go—and the final showdown sees the attackers igniting shelves of books while the defenders desperately throw pots of water on them. I preferred to give up on the preservation of knowledge, and instead stood on a table and hucked books at the other team like a poltergeist who doesn't realize they've turned visible.
In Askandir and all the other maps, Chivalry 2's excellence remains the way it blends medieval slapstick with skillful competitive melee fighting (see my 91% review from last year for more on that). The other new team objective map coming with the update, The Breach of Baudwyn, will sprinkle in a pinch of gunpowder with "explosive bombards," which sound like a good way to witness flying knights.
I didn't get to play that map during my tour of the update, which was guided by Torn Banner president and Chivalry 2 creative director Steve Piggott, as well as design director Leif Walter, but it'll be in the public playtest. There's also a new team deathmatch map based on Baudwyn, called Desert, which I did check out (sand is a nice break from ye olde English mud), and an alternate version of The Battle of Wardenglade called The Charge of Wardenglade, which integrates the update's most exciting, and most hooved feature.
Torn Banner told me that horses were coming before Chivalry 2 even released, and here they finally are. The Charge of Wardenglade is a horse-themed TDM map, but mounted combat also features in the update's three other new maps, and will be incorporated into versions of Chivalry 2's existing maps over time.
As you might expect from a game in which you can kill someone with a nice loaf of bread, it's not a deeply convincing or jank-free mounted combat simulation, but its possibilities have been thoroughly considered. Due to my long standing grudge against archers, I like horses as a way to break through the front line and scatter the cowards in the back. But archers who have the guts for it can go full Legolas and test their aim at a gallop, which is surely going to create some sharpshooting monsters. During my preview, I enjoyed throwing javelins both from the back of a horse and from the ground, at mounted enemies. There's nothing like hitting a fast-moving target with a slow-moving projectile, a la Tribes.
Melee weapons on horseback work like they do on the ground, but with some new considerations. You've got the same three basic swings (left/right, up/down, and stab), but the special attacks for a few weapons have been modified to work on a saddle, and you have to aim to either side of your horse—ideally without stabbing your poor steed in the neck. Horses have their own health bars.
It's a little easier to treat someone's head like a polo ball if you're equipped with a longer weapon, and the faster you're moving relative to your target, the more damage you do (the UI has been tweaked to show this multiplier). Plus, when you're moving at a gallop, you can knock enemies down by running through them. One of the funniest things that happened to me during my session was when I successfully blocked a rider's sword attack, which causes the words "block success" to appear on the screen, and then one millisecond later got bodied by his horse, so that my success looked like me being launched into a wall.
Those on the ground aren't helpless, though. Defensive structures that sometimes felt a little pointless are more interesting with cavalry in play as they can reroute horses or stop them. Horses somewhat goofily come to a dead stop when they clip a barrier or rock, and popping them in reverse to get unstuck is awkward. Death comes quickly for cavalry when they're standing in place, surrounded by poking and prodding enemies (spears could see increased popularity), although hitting the jab and kick keys while mounted causes the horse to kick to the front or back to help with crowd control. I spent my whole play session trying to get a kick kill, of course. I did it, but only after switching from first-person to third-person. The satisfaction was worth the Chivalry sin.
(Speaking of sins, attacking an unmounted horse also causes it to kick, so you can use them like environmental traps, although there are many who would not take kindly to such behavior (opens in new tab).)
Jousting is also represented. During charges, which can be joined in the new objective maps by being among the first on your team to react to a key prompt, cavalry spawns with lances, unique new weapons which can be couched: lowered and aimed, the way you expect dueling knights to use them. Mounted enemies are thrown from their horses when struck, just like in the movies. Ground infantry, meanwhile, should get used to ducking. Lances break after three hits, a restriction which suggests that they're effective in the right hands. (I struggled to connect.)
I don't know whether horses will be ideally balanced out of the gate, but when I wasn't directly interacting with them, I just enjoyed seeing them galloping around the maps. Torn Banner is always saying that Chivalry 2 is based on Hollywood's vision of the Middle Ages, and horses are essential characters in medieval movie battles. Their absence has been felt.
The addition of Tenosia references another essential medieval subject, The Crusades, although within Chivalry's comedy fantasy world this appears mostly to be a visual arts decision and not really the addition of religious warfare: new armor and architecture in the styles of medieval Mediterranean and other civilizations as opposed to something one might preface with Assassin's Creed's "produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs" disclaimer. I did not see the pope, although maybe His Holiness appears in the other map.
Aside from horses, something I also look forward to seeing in Chivalry 2 are my friends. For reasons that they are under no obligation to explain, some people don't like buying games on the Epic Games Store and won't do it. But Epic throws advances at developers and publishers (Chivalry 2 is published by Tripwire) who agree to timed exclusivity terms, and that income security has proven attractive for independent studios like Torn Banner. Now that Chivalry 2's exclusivity period is ending, Torn Banner can essentially re-launch it for a new, larger audience that gets the benefit of a year of patches and updates.
A lot has been fixed or improved since Chivalry 2's launch, including some early server problems, so the Steam-only crowd may end up feeling rewarded for their patience. Along with the Tenosian Invasion update, their first Chivalry 2 experience will include two other objective maps added since launch, Galencourt and Aberfell, and a number of other additions. (See the most recent roadmap on the official site (opens in new tab) for more. The "biggest update" coming next is the Tenosian Invasion update.)
Chivalry 2's Steam (opens in new tab) launch will happen on June 12, the same day as this year's PC Gaming Show (opens in new tab) (look for more there), and the Tenosian Invasion update will simultaneously hit all platforms (Epic, Steam, Xboxes, PlayStations). Console players will also get access to the server browser and dueling servers, which were previously PC-only. It doesn't mean much for us (maybe it'll affect crossplay, a little), but it's nice to see an old PC gaming custom not only existing in 2022, but crossing over to consoles.