Medieval slash-’em-up Chivalry 2 is the winner of our Best Multiplayer award. For more of awards, head to our GOTY 2021 hub, which we’ll be updating throughout December.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: In a world of multiplayer games that are either ultra-competitive or glorified checklists, Chivalry 2 is a rare game that just wants you to hop into a match and go effin’ wild. Objectives are little more than set dressing for its impressively massive 64-player battles. You can push the battering ram toward the castle with your team, but no one will begrudge you for ignoring it and going on a kicking spree instead. One time I decided I was allergic to swords and only killed people with dismembered arms and heads (it went surprisingly well).
I also love the tweaks Torn Banner made to its class system. Subclasses and weapons are doled out at a breezy pace, seemingly in order of weirdness. The standard Vanguard class is your basic “man with big ax” setup that’s easy to pick up, but the later Ambusher subclass gives you the tools of an assassin and the passive ability to deal extra damage when attacking from behind. Similarly, the Footman’s unlock tree begins with a simple polearm stabber and ends with a Field Engineer role that specializes in traps and breaking stuff with a sledgehammer.
By simply not doing the service game model that has become a default in multiplayer games, Chivalry 2 ends up feeling generous in its variety. It has no $20 shortcuts that “justify” a gruelling grind for armor unlocks or additional classes sealed behind a season pass. You won’t find a serious meta or obsessives yearning for the most overpowered loadout. The Chivalry 2 that’s really fun right now will still be fun and familiar when I return to it every few months.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: If you’ve ever practiced a martial art (Tyler, tell us your boxing moves), you know how crucial it is to manage and manipulate distance to beat an opponent. Chivalry 2 manages to contain this aspect of authenticity without going all-in on fussy medieval realism. It feels unbelievably good to survive a 3v1 by dodging at the right time or forcing enemies to wallop one another with unexpected footwork.
This is a rare competitive multiplayer game that understands the value of being messy. Sometimes a catapult shot drops out of the sky and insta-kills me and five of my team. Overenthusiastic teammates will hit you in the back of the head with their falchion. Archers are an absolute nuisance, cowardly arrow-lobbers who can kill with impunity. But Chivalry 2 embraces these warped aspects of the game as charming texture. It has a dedicated button for letting everyone around you know that you want to “Kill the archers.” I press it often.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: I love how Chivalry 2 balances negativity with positivity. When you die, you can tap a key to commend the knight who decapitated you, if they deserve it. A couple of times I looked for that key in Battlefield 2042 and was disappointed not to find it. And like Evan says, the combat is subtler than it can look. You’ve got to use footwork to find openings and discover a rhythm without being predictable. So it is a bit like boxing. But with swords.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: I’d also like to nominate Chivalry 2 for best short-form films of the year. I’ve only experienced it through Tyler’s videos, and every single one has made me laugh.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: There’s loads of nuance in Chivalry 2’s sword-swinging antics, which becomes quickly apparent when you’re facing a skilled player who’s just cut down five of your allies in a row and is about to separate your head from your body. Me? I’m more of a screaming, charging, diving head-first-into-danger-and-dying-in-10 seconds kind of warrior. It needs crap, reckless players like me to add texture to the bloody battles, but it never feels like my head’s being served up on a platter to better players; there’s always an opportunity for some glory, or at least a laugh, as I try to murder someone with a roast chicken or win a duel while missing an arm.