Chivalry 2 is one of the most stupidly fun multiplayer games I’ve ever had the good fortune to experience. Thumping close quarter combat, outrageous levels of gore, and a nuanced sense for epic cinema all make for a brilliant game. In Chivalry 2, there’s a real fusion between exaggerated blockbuster action and real-life history.
Creating Chivalry 2’s cohesive game world, of balancing filmic inspiration and history, must have been quite the challenge. I wanted to delve a little deeper into the various influences that brought Chivalry 2 to life, and what better way to do that than to chat with Alex Hayter, Brand Director over at developer Torn Banner Studios?
“Chivalry 2 is set within a fictional medieval world and isn’t particularly locked to any historic era,” Alex told us. “Our goal was to make a medieval game that felt plausibly real – but overall we didn’t restrict ourselves to only using medieval visuals, armour or weapon references from a specific time period. Rather, medieval movies and TV shows were the primary inspiration.”
This is a canny strategy in world building. After all, something like the fantastically popular Game of Thrones has – despite its fantastic elements – clearly done far more to influence a mainstream audience’s understanding of the medieval era than any history book or documentary.
It’s a concept that Alex and his team have certainly immersed themselves within:
“We think that, for most people, the ‘idea; of the medieval times is primarily influenced by popular culture rather than 100% accurate history. That’s not to say you’ll play Chivalry 2 as a history buff and be totally put off by inaccuracies – it’s still a game for those people to enjoy, and ‘history buff’ definitely describes a lot of our team – but our goal is to make a game that transports players into the ‘memories’ they have from medieval movies and TV and enjoy the romance of the era overall.”
Their technique absolutely works. Playing Chivalry 2 just feels right. It feels like you are a part of something epic. A ferocious battle that you can play a decisive role within. So, what were the films and TV that brought the battles of Chivalry 2 into chaotic existence?
“The “Battle of the Bastards” episode of Game of Thrones is a major influence on Chivalry 2,” Alex replied. “Since the beginning of development, the internal pitch for the game was basically making a playable version of that scene. That sense of “how am I still alive?” that you can see Jon Snow feeling as the chaos of battle plays out around him, the quick reflexes he needs to survive and emerge victorious in battle… on an emotional and visual level that scene really resonated with us.”
Anything else? I tentatively asked, before Alex regaled me with a list that would impress even the snottiest of film critics:
:The Lord of the Rings films have long been a big inspiration for our games, especially our hallmark game mode, Team Objective. We want players to feel like they’ve been on an epic journey by the time they’ve gotten to the end of the map with their team and completed the final objective of these multi-staged levels. LOTR has that powerful sense of discovery and the resolution of a team-driven quest that always drives our map design.
:Otherwise, the influences for Chiv 2 really run the gamut of any medieval movie you can think of. King Arthur, A Knight’s Tale, Kingdom of Heaven, El Cid, Henry V, Braveheart – we hosted movie nights at the studio back in 2017 and 2018 and all shared notes for the parts of those films that felt like they needed a gaming equivalent.:
And Monty Python and the Holy Grail, right? Being able to headbutt enemies with the decapitated bonce of their recently dead friend is gruesome and funny in a way that channels memories of the aforementioned film’s iconic Black Knight scene. Surely the Monty Python team’s best film – sorry Life of Brian – was a massive influence?
“Naturally!” Alex replied, “Monty Python, and really a lot of classic British comedies (Blackadder’s another good one) were a huge reference point for Chivalry 2 and the first game too, of course. We even made a Black Knight mod (the ability to fight even with one or more limbs cut off) for Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and at the time we put out a trailer that was an homage to that classic scene. A lot of our voiceline writing for these games is very much inspired by the insults and hilarious quotes from Holy Grail. We like players to be able to take our games as seriously or as comically as they want. Sometimes you’re in a mood to crush skulls and feel like the ultimate badass. But ultimately it’s a game about having fun and a big emotional goal for us is just pure catharsis. Comedy is part of our special sauce to help achieve that.”
The creators of those cinematic battles must have been inspired by historical conflicts, so what were the real world sword fests that were added to the Chivalry 2 potpourri?
“The primary inspiration was movie battles overall; many of which are based on history – but yes there were certainly actual battles that served as inspiration, especially ones with great paintings for us to reference,” replied Alex.
“The sheer scale of Agincourt, and the overwhelming number of combatants who died (6,000 French were killed!) meant that it was a common reference in our studio for the sense of epic battle scale we wanted players to feel in the game. The Battle of Falkirk, dramatized in Braveheart (as well as other battles in that film), was also a big inspiration for Chivalry 2 – again in terms of scale and drama, directly impacting our design for many of our maps which have two teams facing one another, hearing a rousing battle speech, and then charging to meet in a dramatic clash.”
This is one of my favourite aspects of Chivalry 2. Starting a game, accompanied by an army of your fellow knights, and then flinging yourselves headlong into battle is simply glorious and gave me all of the feels in all of the right places. When you finish your charge and make it to the enemy formation, combat is cathartic and meaty. So much so, that I had to ask, were real weapons wielded in the research of combat physics? Did the development team murder many melons with a multitude of maces to get the head cracking animations just right?
“We do keep a lot of replica weapons around the office to swing around and help to determine how animations should look!” Alex told me with a terrifying glint in his eye. “Some of these weapons are made of foam. Others are… more deadly. We also have a full suit of armour at our studio, of course. Audio is also a vital part of that feel, and our team put a lot of effort into making the weapons and armour feel significant on the ‘body’ of our player character.”
While I’d like to know more about those ‘deadly’ weapons, it’s time to wrap things up. As mentioned at the top of this article, what impressed me most about Chivalry 2 – other than the copious guffaw inducing pulse pounding combat of course – was the melding of cinematic and historical influences to make one cohesive game world.
What’s the sweet spot then, Alex? What’s the perfect balance between authenticity and fantasy?
“To be honest, our goal isn’t 100% historical authenticity but capturing the romance of the era – so we do weigh more on the “player fantasy” side of things. We think the sweet spot is simply creating a world that feels believable to inhabit as a knight in medieval times, and empowering the player to feel like they can achieve the same greatness that we’ve either heard about in the feats of famous historical figures, or have actually seen on screen and want to emulate. I think we’ve all left a movie theatre having seen a film with a badass main character, and daydream in our heads about what it’d feel like to be that person. Our game lets you do that.”
And so it certainly does! Chivalry 2 is out right now, so at long last we can all live out our bad ass heroic knight fantasies. So get polishing your broadsword, prep your pike and don your armour; I’ll see you on the battlefield.
Thanks to Alex for taking to taking the time out for this interview. Chivalry 2 is available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, all with online cross-play enabled!
Playing with History is our ongoing series spotlighting video games and the real-world people and events that inspire them. From the harrowing historic backdrop fuelling Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, to the existence of zombies in Days Gone, and a deep dive into Jurassic World Evolution’s T-Rex, join us as continue to expand our timeline. Why not explore the real-world history behind Ghosts of Tsushima, or learn just how authentic the game is, according to a samurai expert.