Last week, we posted our latest impressions for Chivalry 2, Torn Banner Studios’ long-awaited next chapter of its multiplayer game. It left us with quite an impression, especially when it came to its unpredictable combat and varied class system. But, most importantly, we couldn’t help but enjoy its huge potential with lopping off your friends’ heads. (Not that we’re psychotic, honest.)
We decided to dig a little deeper and speak with Torn Banner Studios about the sequel. PC Invasion sat down with studio founder and president Steve Pigott and brand director Alex Hayter to talk about various subjects surrounding the game. From Chivalry 2‘s ridiculous multiplayer action to why it took so darn long, we covered all the bases, just like a good knight should. Note: this interview has been modified slightly for clarity.
Returning to the battlefield
PC Invasion: First off, it’s been a good while since we’ve seen the original Chivalry, which came out in 2012. Usually, we see companies going, “OK, we’re going to do a sequel, and it comes out two years later.” But this one’s actually been cooking for some time, approximately eight years since the first. In all that time, have you guys been doing research in terms of approach or…?
Steve Pigott: So this is something that this game, Chivalry, the franchise… it spawned our studio. It’s our core passion. We were always going to do Chivalry 2, but we had to do it right. It’s something we wanted to do with a true sequel approach. It’s sort of the opposite of a sports game that might release a title every year without really changing much. I’m not really interested in that. I wanted to go back to Chivalry 2 when we could bring it to the next level entirely, and that’s what we think we’ve done.
PCI: What do you think it is about Chivalry that really caught on with people? What do you think drew them in initially?
Alex Hayter: I think a major part of it was just how Chivalry tapped into the emotions of battle as you’re playing the game, you know. There’s this game where there’s a screaming button — that’s a major part of it. I mean, the melee combat system obviously would have played into those emotions and drawing them out. So, the complexity and the depth of the melee combat was huge for it. And just the feeling of being a knight on the battlefield with a big story.
So that fantasy fulfillment that wasn’t really ever tapped into in other games. It was something that we did.
Setting the stage for epic — and unpredictable — action
PCI: I think one of the things that stood out for me is the fact that when you play in multiplayer, you actually stand a better chance compared to like people who will snipe you. When you walk out of a safe zone or anything, you have to actually get up close. Even with like an Archer or somebody carrying a crossbow, you have to have like this level of, “Okay, I got to get in this person’s face or I’m not going to do anything.” So that’s something I think that really sets it apart from other games. You actually feel the balance when you get on the battlefield.
Steve: That’s right. It gives that sort of sense of you’re actually in battle with someone else. There’s a real fight going on and you have to overcome it. It’s not just, you know, they got lucky. This is, you went head to head and someone beating someone else, and that’s what sort of fighting is all about.
A huge leap forward
PCI: There is a lot of difference with the physics, like in terms of swinging into a sword swing or timing a block or connecting and like a counter. There’s just so much about the gameplay that digs a little deeper than just going, “Oh, I’m just gonna run in and swing a sword and see what happens.”
Alex: On that basic level, you can just jump in there and swing [your weapon] around and see what happens. But you’re going to come across someone who knows the game better than you and is going to teach you where you’re at.
Steve: Yeah, and that’s kind of our goal, is we want to provide something that, you know, it is sort of a bar fight with swords. You can get by just swinging around, but there’s also something to master there. And there’s something that if you really appreciate, understand the mechanics, this will be a multiple-thousand-hour game.
PCI: What would you say is — if there’s any — the biggest change when it comes to gameplay between Chivalry and Chivalry 2?
Steve: The biggest change in gameplay, without a doubt, is the amount of combat options available to the player and how naturally you can move from one strike to another. In a lot of games, you have to sort of do one strike and then wait for your next action. In this one, we think of it a little bit more like swimming: where you’re moving naturally for one strike, and the other one, you can punch, you can kick, you can stab. It’s really about the creativity and the options that players have to try and survive every, every possible diversity on the battlefield.
PCI: Not to mention actually being able to throw weapons. In the first half of our demo, we were just too busy swinging our melee weapons. Second half, we were like, “Oh, I can throw my mace!” We didn’t really think of this before.
Alex: That’s part of that sort of bar fight feeling where you’re doing whatever you can to survive basically. So yes, there is that master swordsman, clashing of swords, element to it. But you know, sometimes you’re going to have a bunch of guys coming at you. You down one, chop off his hand. There’s an Archer pegging at you from a distance, you’re going to throw the head at them. Maybe there’s other stuff on the ground you can pick up.
So, whatever you can to survive, you just always have an element of improvisation and variety. So it’s never just like a one-note “slashy, slashy, slashy” kind of experience, but various different things can come into play and you’re always making an interesting decision. Moment to moment.
A little bit of back story
PCI: I know the general focus is on multiplayer, but based on the new trailer, there is a little bit of backstory here in regards to the return of a tyrannical leader, and possibly somebody that could unseat him. How does that play into the game?
Steve: So our goal, even though it’s a multiplayer game, has always been to present players with a believable world that they can immerse themselves in. Because our inspirations are Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings. And we want players to feel like they’re in a world that we’ve created and they’re on a team that’s doing something that matters.
So you have the Mason Order and they’re sort of more of the Iron Fist faction, where your objectives are going to be going in and killing peasants, setting everything on fire.
Then you have the Agatha Knights that are more sort of righteous in they’re saving residents, they’re liberating towns. And so there’s sort of those two clashing philosophies. And you, as a player, are experiencing a battle that has a narrative context through the objectives. So you do what a medieval army would do when you show up.
So if you’re seizing a castle, you push up a battering ram, throw up the ladders, build up the siege tower. Everything that would be in that movie scene, we try and put and let players actually control on the battlefield.
The more, the merrier
PCI: And yet Chivalry 2 never loses general focus on the multiplayer that it seems to be like the biggest draw. It’s expanded quite a bit, too, to 64 players. Imagine that many players jumping, running, and screaming and battle.
Alex: Yeah, it’s an awesome experience. When the first game was built, it was 24 players max, and the map design of the 64-player game we’re making now is reflecting around that. We’re trying to make you really feel like you’re being placed into one of those movie battle scenes.
The combat mechanics are also very adapted to make that viable. So there’s much more survivability mechanics and interesting things to keep you alive and to be able to fend off multiple foes at once. It’s not just a dueling game; it’s a game where you’re in a war.
PCI: Yeah, there’s actual strategy involved. Like, you have two guys coming at you and you have to react quickly, evade this strike and then try to hit here and then try to hit there. There’s so much deep tactics besides swinging a sword or a mace.
Steve: Our goal is really to capture. We always reference Battle of Bastards (from Game of Thrones), because we think it does such a good job of showing that feeling of like, “How did I survive?” You know?
And when you have this game where you’re improving your abilities, you’re mastering the combat mechanics. And you’re proving your ability to survive in even more and more ridiculous situations. That’s where the fun of it lies.
What lies ahead at PAX East
PCI: You’re about to host the demo at PAX East this weekend with 24 players, with a beta set to follow in March. Are you excited? Are you nervous to see what they say about the game?
Steve: Yeah, PAX is going to be awesome because we’re going to be showing a team objective map or part of a team objective map and not some larger, sequential, objective-based game mode. So we’d be showing lines fire with this, into a city and into a castle at the end. Um, so that’ll be a 36-player booth, I believe. A lot of people running around just screaming. It’ll be amazing.
We at PCI would like to thank Steve and Alex for taking the time to chat with us. Chivalry 2 will release later this year. You can relive its epic trailer below.