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Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior looks to meld the gore of Ryse with the nuance of Street Fighter

Chivalry Deadliest Warrior is a game based on a television show canceled two years ago. So you wouldn't be remiss if you were wondering if this upcoming game might be heralding a return of the Spike TV show.

The thing is, it isn't, a producer tells Polygon.

"We are running episodes and a few marathons," Olivia Coombes, a producer at 345 Games, told Polygon during a recent meeting. "In terms of new episodes, nothing is slated."

So why make a game based on a years-dead television show that only had three seasons?

"There's always been a lot of passion for the show," Coombes said. "There are constantly arguments going on online. It's still one of our better shows in terms of streaming. We'd like to look at opportunities to bring it back, but this isn't a way to test the water, it's something that hardcore fans wanted to see."

It also happens to be a perfect match.

Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior is an expansion for indie sleeper hit Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, a PC, first-person swords-and-arrows game that snuck out late last year to a passionate fan base. Chivalry itself is the commercialized version of Age of Chivalry, a Half-Life 2 mod created by Torn Banner Studios.

That Spike TV and 345 Games found Torn Banner Studios seems like a bit of good luck for everyone involved: The result could be the first good Deadliest Warrior game among a long list of mediocre titles and abject failures.

As with Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Deadliest Warrior will have players controlling one of several types of warriors in first-person or third-person combat with other players online. The thing that makes the Chivalry games so compelling is both their attention to gore and expectation that players need to master the controls of their weapons and the abilities of their characters.

Where Medieval Warfare allows players to only select from four classes, all drawn from the same European time period, Deadliest Warrior falls back on its TV show roots to select from an eclectic mix of fighters.

Players can take on the role of a knight, samurai, spartan, viking, and eventually, a ninja or pirate.

Each warrior has special approaches to battle, but all rely on the deft controls of the original game and deliver the same level of gory and visual fidelity.

A small dot in the center of the screen shows players where their weapon will hit and what it will parry. To attack with the default PC controls, a player has to tap a mouse button, or scroll the mouse wheel forward or back. Each delivers a different sort of swing: left to right, right to left or straight down. Parrying an attack requires clicking a mouse button while that tiny dot is centered on the incoming weapon with the right timing.

The game also includes a number of subtleties like ducking or jumping attacks, feints, breaking a person out of an attack. Combined correctly, the controls deliver a very precise and rewarding back and forth.

"The precision of this game is really what drove me to it," said Matt McEnerney, executive producer at 345 Games. "And it's a natural fit [for Torn Banner] to expand their brand so it's not just set in the medieval world."

Torn Banner animator Richard Yang said that's why their team was drawn to the project.

"We wanted to experiment with a lot more fighting styles and different warriors," he said. "Different characters allows us to explore different fighting systems. A samurai, for instance, would fight quite differently to a knight."

And that's certainly how my time with the game played out.

In action, each of the four classes available during the demo felt vastly different than the others, either through their fighting style or access to weapons.

The samurai, for instance, has a more stoic approach to his attacks and the largest arsenal of weapons to choose from during a pre-match set-up. The spartan is very stab focused, wielding the longest of the weapons, and has the ability to throw a weapon as well. His shield is also of great use in team matches. The knight is an amalgam of the best of the warriors found in Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.

My favorite of the bunch was the viking. This axe-loving warrior can duel wield his weapons and has a unique combo system that builds up power the more effectively he strings his attacks together. The end result is a vicious whirlwind of attacks that in one match left the spartan Yang was controlling armless and headless before his body toppled to the ground.

As with traditional fighting games like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, animation is incredibly important to the Chivalry games. That's because those animations are what help to deliver an experience that feels more nuanced in the heat of battle.

"A lot of work when into the animations for Deadliest Warrior," Yang said. "We have new fighting animations for each class and that effects the gameplay tremendously.

"The classes evolved around how the animation systems work."

Other fighting games automate those amazing finishing moves, but Chivalry leaves it up to players to skillfully execute a dismemberment, or parry and then beheading.

"With other fighting games you're basically watching someone else perform those moves," Yang said. "The concept here is that we're letting you control them.

"When you play games like [Ryse] you want an action game, and it's more of a single player experience. Ours is more about the interaction between players.

"When you beat another player in our game, there's no doubt you beat them."

Chivalry Deadliest Warrior comes to PC on Nov. 14, and while it requires Chivalry: Medieval Warfare to play, it won't allow those two games to intermingle. It is a standalone experience sold as an expansion for $14.99.

345's McEnerney acknowledged that the release of Deadliest Warrior is bound to split Chivalry's players to some degree, but he said that it is also likely to greatly increase the total player count.

Medieval Warfare has sold about 1.3 million copies to date at $24.99 a pop, but Yang agrees that there are probably a lot of people their games haven't reached yet.

"There's a lot of untapped audience," he said. "We thought about how this might split our audience, but Chivalry is more tailored toward objective gameplay and it's more fictional. Deadliest Warrior is more fighting-style focused."

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