Age Of Chivalry is an intriguing total conversion mod for Half-Life 2. Intriguing not just because of its radically different setting than the host-source, but for the multiple-stage, multiple-objective scenarios. It was a mod I'd been keeping a loose eye on last year, which makes me feel very stupid for not having noticed it came out in January. Sigh. However, v1.1 came out in the last couple of weeks, and there's a brand new trailer out today. Topical! Comments and trailer below.
Team Chivalry call it "Story Driven Multiplayer". Each game is a series of stages, the story playing out differently depending upon the successes or failures of players. Set in a fantasy medieval world, and focused on melee combat, the ambitions are impressive. There's sieges, town raids, and impressive field battles. To make this work without vast numbers of players, death comes easy, and respawns are instant.
Each of the six stages has multiple objectives, which are dramatically in your face. Playing as the Mason order, fighting back the Agatha knights, defending your castle walls feels a much more realistic experience when you can see the giant siege equipment being constructed as the enemy progresses, eventually forming a tower than provides a way into your battlements. Or perhaps as a knight you're preventing the progresses of the Mason's cart full of poison, which they're shoving ever closer to your water supply.
There's three classes, Archer, Footman and Knight, each with a selection of weapons, a mixture of ranged and melee, with obvious leanings for the relevant class. Wielding a mighty sword makes for an oddly slow combat, in such a frantic game, but one that delivers with remarkable satisfaction as you see the opponent player's head cleft from their neck.
The downside? Well, the story thing doesn't really work. If you stopped to call up the story information as you progress, you're going to be standing still in battle. In reality it's much more of a series of objectives in a row. But that seemed inevitable - there's no neat way to force a narrative on a multiplayer, and the game is fun enough without needing to worry about all that. It's also a bit glitchy, with many doorways awkward to get through, which is obviously frustrating in the heat of the battle.
It can be downloaded from here, and will automatically install itself into your Steam mod folder. You will need Half-Life 2 installed for it to work. And it is, of course, completely free.