Some years ago I was dreaming about an online FPS that involved medieval combat, including melee weapons as well as ranged ones, soldiers trying to get into a castle and others trying to defend it by all means necessary. Kind of like in Mount & Blade but with real players working together.
Now I found something very similar to this idea in ‘Chivalry – Medieval Warfare’. The game features a small amount of maps and game modes, as well as four different basic classes with a variety of weapons that can be unlocked by killing enemies. The tutorial is great and introduces all the classes, but still I decided to mainly focus on the only ranged class available and while there are both bows and crossbows in this game and I’m very well aware of the major difference between these two, all ranged combatants are always referred to as ‘archers’. I will now attempt to give you a brief summary of my experiences as a crossbowman in ‘Chivalry’.
Yep, I’m a crossbowman, alright. They are the weakest unit in the entire game in regards to their defence. They can be one-hit-killed even without head-shots, so it is essential to stay unnoticed, move around a lot and be aware of one’s surroundings. Bow users are just as vulnerable to attacks, but their great advantage is that they can move around while notching a new arrow (aka ‘reloading’), whereas the crossbowmen must stand absolutely still for the one or two seconds it takes to reload their crossbow. They also lose sight of their surroundings during this time, since they have to look down, so during the reloading process they are an easy target for any class. Best way to act for a crossbowman is to aim, crouch, fire at a target, then run for cover and reload. If an enemy is coming for you and is already closer than 15 metres, reloading becomes pointless and one should try to block all hits with the sidearm (short sword or dagger) and retreat, hoping for some team member to stop by and help out. Just turning and running away works only if an enemy knight or archer pursues you, since both the vanguard and the man-at-arms class have a jump attack that lets them kill an escaping target easily.
The great advantage of crossbowmen over bow users is their increased damage and range. Their bolts fly further before dropping/arching and they can therefore stay further behind the battle line, avoiding melee combat and bow men alike.
There is one more small detail making a crossbowman’s life unpleasant and I’m not yet sure whether it’s a bug or an intended feature. If a crossbowman gets hit by a ranged weapon (arrow, bolt or throwing weapons), there’s a certain chance of losing the already notched bolt in their own weapon, causing the character to automatically reload (which, as stated before, makes them completely vulnerable). It doesn’t happen all the time, but veteran fighters will use this to their advantage when approaching a ranged combatant, throwing their knives or axes at them, thereby stunning them into utter uselessness just to finish them off in close combat.
Speaking of melee, the ranged fighters are (obviously) quite useless in close combat. Their short swords or daggers have a much smaller range than any other weapon in the game, so exact timing and a whole lot of luck are required to take down any enemy. Best way of fighting in close combat is to support other ‘proper’ melee fighters by flanking enemies and casually stabbing at them.
You have probably noticed by now that the way of the archer is not the most honourable one and indeed basically any other class user hates archers. Few rounds go by without anyone complaining about ranged fighters and their noob way of fighting. Interestingly enough, some users claim all archers are over-powered and should be downgraded during the next patch of the game while others are sure that archers are way too weak for the game and should be removed because they don’t pose a threat but rather a nuisance. As an archer, one is constantly the target of insults, team kills and general hatred, while trying to cope with the classes actual problems (especially on laggy servers aiming is downright impossible while blindly slashing at enemies still works).
A good feature to help out troubled archers is the enabled kick vote option. One can initiate a vote to exclude any given player from the current game and all players will see a small pop-up indicating the player’s team kills in percentage as well as their idle time. This helps a lot to decide whether the user in question was misbehaving and is a burden to its team or whether the initiator of the kick vote was just frustrated or even confused him with someone else.
The bad thing about this type of kick vote is that people just glance at the percentage of team damage said player has committed so far and then decide about their fate. Let me use an example that happened to me not too long ago: I entered an ongoing game, ran forward close to the battle line and shot a few bolts at some enemy archers without hitting anything. Then I noticed multiple enemy melees pushing through our lines to the right, so I aimed at them, waiting for my own comrades to either step away or perish so that I had free line of sight. When this was the case, one of our own knights stepped in front of me, facing towards me and not the enemy, crouching down so as to be exactly in my way when aiming. This happened quite fast, so my one and only shot at the advancing troops hit him instead. Knights don’t die from a single shot to the chest and though I was sorry for the team damage, I decided not to apologise for it, since it was clearly his fault for trying to block me. However, once the enemies were down, he initiated a kick vote against me and then immediately started slashing at me with his sword. Since my team damage was stated at 100% at this point, I was kicked so quickly I couldn’t even explain my situation.
This was not an isolated incident. Melee troops often attack archers from their own team, claiming poor excuses like ‘They were standing in my way!’ or ‘He shot at me once!’. However, in a game where team damage is not only always enabled but an essential part of fighting and approaching opponents more tactical, the ill logic of their behaviour becomes obvious.
A unique gadget crossbowmen possess to benefit the team is their shield. It’s too heavy to carry around much, but one can place it anywhere and then hide behind it to reload and recover from wounds. Especially in the game mode ‘Protect the King’, this item becomes invaluable, shielding the king from enemy archers. Sadly, the crossbowman’s shield is also one of the most buggy items in the game, often crashing into nothingness when touched, so one mustn’t come too close when hiding behind it.
All in all, I’m sure there are lots of features that could be improved about the archer class in ‘Chivalry’, though the greatest downside of the game is still the other users’ inability to work together and appreciate class diversity.