Age of Chivalry is a mod for the Steam engine. It tells the story of a series of conflicts between the noble Knights of Agathia and the wicked and evil Order of Masons. Age of Chivalry is unique in that it focuses heavily on simulated hand to hand combat with medieval weapons, and in that it portrays this combat in a first person perspective.
Upon entering the server players choose their side, either the Knights of Agathia, who resemble traditional Knights in Shining Armor, or the malevolent, black clad Order of Masons, whose armor features a spikes and bat wings motif.
The player they chooses from nine roles divided into three classes. The light class contains fast, lightly armored soldiers who are equipped with ranged weapons. The medium class contains balanced soldiers who juggle speed, armor, and the ability to dish out damage. The final class is the heavy, plate armor clad troops who can stand and take a beating while dishing out massive damage with powerful weapons.
Each of the nine roles has a slightly different weapon selection. The light class chooses between a crossbow, slow firing but powerful, a rapid firing longbow, or the javelin, which has limited range but is devastating if well aimed, and can be used in hand to hand fighting to strike from a distance. In addition, each of these classes has a short sword, with the javelin class additionally having the option to fight with spear and shield.
The light class is the fastest as a rule, and can function well as a skirmisher who darts in to harass the enemy or as a dedicated ranged fighter, pooring down bolts and arrows from the castle walls to cut down helpless enemies below.
The medium class chooses between a swordsman, a maceman, and a halbardier. Each weapon has unique properties, with the sword and mace being good for one on one fighting, especially when used with a shield, and the halberd being deadly at range, and able to wound more than one enemy at a time with it's wide sweeps.
The medium class also has access to a firepot, a special weapon which catches an enemy briefly on fire with a direct hit or sets a spot of floor on fire on a miss. Medium roles can run down a fleeing heavy or keep an archer from stopping to set up a shot, but they can also stand their own in a sword fight, and a skilled user can outmaneuver and kill a heavily armored knight.
The heavy class are plate mail clad murder machines. Choosing from a longsword, morning star, or warhammer/waraxe, these guys can slay most opponents with one well placed shot and soak up most blows without too much trouble. They're generally slower than the other classes, but once they get where they're going they can stay put and cause havoc.
The longsword can be wielded twohanded for more speed and damage, or one handed with a shield for defense. The morning star has a wide arc of attack, and the war hammer of the Masons or the Agathian double axe is the most powerful weapon in the came, able to dismember and decapitate enemies with one blow. Armed with a throwing knife or ax to finish off fleeing enemies, these guys are the end of the story when it comes to storming a castle or holding a line.
Additionally, siege artillery is available on many maps, ranging from crossbows to trebuchets to spear hurling ballista. All of these weapons must be carefully aimed to be effective, and with friendly fire enabled you have to watch who you shoot.
Level quality varies, but for the most part the levels are fun, detailed, and creative. Many levels are divided into a variety of stages where the two sides compete to achieve certain goals. In a castle siege the attackers will have to bring a ram up to the door (much like the bomb in TF2's Goldrush), then sieze the courtyard before fighting the enemy down into the dungeons to rescue a prisoner. Other tasks involve poisoning a well, looting a monastery, or slaughtering the peasants of a village. Some maps do have occasional problems with event triggers that will require a reload.
The graphics are pretty solid, with each class and role clearly identifiable. Battle is agreeably bloody, and occasionally heads or body parts will go flying away from a particularly well struck blow.
The main draw of this game is the combat system. Each weapon can be attack in three directions, generally an overhand swing, a side to side swing, and a thrust. In addition, one can block with their weapon, which stops some damage, or with their shield, which blocks all damage at the expense of stamina. Either one requires a certain amount of timing and precision.
Running and Jumping are controlled by a stamina gauge. But more importantly Stamina effects how much damage you deal. A blow from a knight with a full stamina gauge might kill in one swing, while a depleted stamina gauge will barely allow the same Knight to deal any damage at all. Maintaining your stamina is an important part of the game's strategy, as if you can engage an enemy who is exhausted you can quickly gain the upper hand. Fortunately, stamina regenerates fairly quickly, enough so that you can get some damage back by evading skillfully in combat.
The nature of the damage system, with it's fairly solid and intuitive hit detection, lends it self nicely to teamwork and cooperation. Archers working together can create a storm of arrows that creates truly deadly ground, and a group of melee fighters is vastly more effective than the same fighters working alone. Classes support and compliment each other, with archers reducing health of incoming fighters or forcing them to run and expend stamina, knights and meduims protecting key points. Each set of weapons has a distinct feel and lends itself to different uses. For instance, the medium class with sword and shield is a great generalist, fast enough to chase off archers, strong enough to hold it's own against heavies, and with decent damage. The Heavy Knight role, armed with the great axe or hammer, is the master of close combat, smashing through enemies one and two at a time with the mighty hammer. In turn, his heavy armor and slow speed make him vulnerable to the crossbowman, while the archer's high rate of fire let's him cut down unarmored foes.
While the community currently playing does not have much coordination or coorperation, the potential is there. Archers working in unison can create impressive volleys and keep up consistent rates of fire. heavier troops equipped with shields can create an imposing and impenetrible shield wall, especially when defending a breech against assailants. Position and encircling the enemy is the supreme tactic, but maintaining awareness of your allies is equally important, as many servers leave Friendly Fire enabled, and a missed swing could easily kill a friend. Finally, voice communication can be set to broadcast to both sides, so combat takes place in a chaotic, though surprisingly civil, cacophony of shouted orders, oaths, curses, jokes, and chatter. In addition to being a better representation of medieval battlefield communication than team directed chat, it creates interesting interaction between teams, as players challenge one another to combat, taunt the enemy from behind the shield wall, and laugh giddly when a particularly devastating catapult shot lands.
In conclusion, I think this game has a good deal of potential for TG players. It's built on Source, a system that most of us can access and are familiar with, it's team based, it allows for and encourages tactical play, and it's free. With it's effective, easy to learn but hard to master hand to hand combat system it offers something new that few games can replicate. And on top of that it's a lot of fun!