Slash your way to victory in three-sided multiplayer battles.
PC Release: January 1, 2007
By Ian Coppock
Back in the olden days, vikings would send their loved ones out with a bang. When an old viking finally keeled over and bit the mead horn, his corpse was sometimes placed on a burning ship as a dramatic sendoff to Valhalla. This month’s series of Source multiplayer mod reviews is set to go out in a similar fashion: with a huge, chaotic fire that consumes everything in its path and leaves players stranded on the shoreline, wondering what just happened. That unconquerable flame is none other than Pirates, Vikings, and Knights II.
Pirates, Vikings, and Knights II (let’s just called it PVK II, that full name is… long) is a game that pits its three titular factions against each other in fierce melee battles. The title’s been floating around the web in one form or another for a little over a decade, but calls the Steam store its main port of call. Even though it’s over a decade old, PVK II has enjoyed a consistent fanbase and continued attention from its developers at Octoshark Studios. The title is generally regarded as one of the most popular multiplayer hack’n’slash games on PC, second only to Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
PVK II was built in the Source engine, leveraging that software’s power to build medieval and Caribbean landscapes of impressive visual quality. Thanks to continued updates from Octoshark, the game features sharp textures, rich object detail, and masterfully implemented lighting. PVK II also has seventeen maps for players to battle across, giving them no shortage of beautiful environments in which to brutally kill each other. PVK II‘s Source engine construction means that it has that lovely Source multiplayer options menu, which leaves no stone un-turned in terms of what players can tweak.
Like a few of the other Source multiplayer games being reviewed this month, PVK II has excellent map design. Each map is fairly large and features 4-5 levels of elevation for players to run around in, from dark rum cellars up to the tops of knightly towers. It’s lucky that the maps are expansive, because PVK II features three concurrent teams of players fighting against one another. It’d be interesting to see such chaos confined to a much smaller area, but PVK II‘s level design means that there’s more room for the blood to spill.
PVK II retains this consistency in level design even though its maps are set all over the world. At any point players can expect to be fighting in a lawless Caribbean town, only for the next match to start in a Viking hamlet or an English cathedral. Each level has the same penchant for alternating between different elevations as well as between wide and constricted areas. This level variety helps keep gameplay fresh and allows players to find creative new opportunities for combat.
PVK II divides its players between pirate, viking and knight factions, each with its own classes of ranged and melee fighters. Pirates come to battle packing cutlass-wielding buccaneers and drunken sharpshooters, while vikings use lots of big melee weapons and the occasional throwing ax. The knights are arguably the most conventional of the three factions, but that doesn’t stop their armored swordsmen from being true terrors on the battlefield or their longbowmen from being deadly snipers. Each faction is pretty well-balanced; just suspend the disbelief that drunk pirates could face off against knights.
Once players pick their warriors, it’s time to take to the battlefield and defeat the two other factions that are also vying for glory. Each match in PVK II is three-sided, which guarantees at least 33% more chaos than more conventional multiplayer games can. PVK II currently has three multiplayer modes: Booty, a game that has less to do with posteriors and more with taking treasure chests to a home base; Territory, a King of the Hill-style mode all about capturing command points; and Deathmatch, a good old-fashioned team-based sword mauling.
The actual hand-to-hand swordplay in PVK II is an uncomplicated mix of slashing and blocking. Just approach an enemy player and proceed to swing until they’re an eviscerated pile of meat on the ground. Each class of warrior has a few weapons to pick from and most can choose between a heavy two-handed killing implement and a smaller, quicker weapon. Switching between weapons on the fly is pretty simple, but the key to victory in PVK II is anticipating an opening in the enemy’s defense. Strike too soon or too late and the enemy will likely have their way with the player’s small intestines.
Ranged weapons are less common in PVK II, but they can be quite powerful. Classes like the Pirates’ sharpshooter come with a long-range weapon as their primary, but it’s usually pretty slow to reload. Some classes have what could almost be considered joke weapons that, while funny-looking, are lethally effective on the battlefield. Word to the wise: any player who spots a parrot flying toward them should run far, far away. That’s not a friendly local bird. That’s Polly, the Captain class’s avian killing machine.
Although PVK II‘s various classes are pretty well-balanced overall, a few can become pretty OP under certain conditions. The Captain’s parrot is essentially a guided missile that can reload faster than most other ranged weapons, giving that class a distinct advantage over other warriors with ranged weapons. The Vikings’ Berserker can be an overpowered killer in the right hands, as players can simply run around while holding down his slash attack button. Because he attacks with two melee weapons, the Berserker can make short work of any foe by simply holding down mouse 1.
That said, PVK II‘s classes have been carefully tweaked over the years to give resourceful players an edge on the battlefield. Players are given a fair amount of health at the start of each round and can maintain that vitality with a hearty plate of Thanksgiving turkey. Some classes also come with armor, which is great for prolonging longevity on a battlefield full of piss-drunk pirates, even drunker vikings, and knights armed with seven-foot swords.
PVK II‘s community is alive and kicking despite the game being over 10 years old. Part of that is due in no small part to the game being free, which also means that the community is an eclectic mix of seasoned veterans and new kids on the block who have an afternoon to blow. Despite a lack of matchmaking, PVK II‘s community is usually pretty civil. There’s always that one guy who takes the match far too seriously and barks out orders like a true armchair general, but most players are just there to have fun. A game called Pirates, Vikings, and Knights II shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Because the title is free, PVK II makes for an easy party night with friends. Get some buddies, divide them up into teams of three, and see which ones are better at grabbing treasure and taking names (in other words, who the real friends are). Either way, most players can expect the Deathmatch mode to be the most common order of battle in PVK II. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to witness a mashup between knights, vikings, and pirates?
In all reality, PVK II has a lot of good things going for it. The community is lively and usually forgiving of noobs, the game looks great and runs well, and its three-sided matches are a lot of fun. Octoshark Studios continues to update the game on a regular basis and does a good job of interacting with the community. Even though PVK II is technically still in beta, it provides a solid, visceral multiplayer experience for the low, low price of zero dollars and zero cents.
So… why are you still here? Get the game, get on a pirate ship or viking longboat, and get to raiding the enemy’s stash of treasure. Even the most chivalrous of knights have a greedy streak a mile long (and pirates’ and vikings’ are much longer), so charge into battle and defy not one, but two groups of foes in one of Source multiplayer’s greatest adventures. At the very least, it provides a fun hack’n’slash alternative to players who’ve had their fill of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare or of waiting for For Honor to work properly.
You can buy Pirates, Vikings and Knights II here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.