I've been spending quite a bit of time with Chivalry: Medieval Warfare lately. And with good reason: it's got a first-person combat mechanic that isn't entirely awful.

Think back to the last time you played a first-person game involving melee combat that was fun. Or even tolerable. There's... well, recent Elder Scrolls games are OK, and Zeno Clash tried a few things out, but they still suffered from the same problem every other first-person melee system does, in that the viewpoint makes defence and depth perception difficult. And that's before you get to the fact your peripheral awareness is almost non-existent.

That's why, for example, Chivalry's current "competition", War of the Roses, uses a third-person camera perspective. It gets around those shortcomings by giving you an avatar as a reference point, though in doing this you obviously lose a lot of the immersion inherent in a first-person game.

Which is why I like what Chivalry is doing. It realises there are insurmountable problems with the perspective and rather than trying to get around them entirely, works within their limitations and offers several neat mechanics to make it more enjoyable.

Above is the game's current (it's still in beta) tutorial sequence. Aside from showing off the game's sense of humour, you can quickly see that first-person melee combat is baked into the very heart of the game, instead of just being a simple last-resort combat option. You don't just click the left mouse button to swing (there are three different attacks you can make), and you don't just hold the right mouse button to block (well, you can, but you will die, and die quickly).

The key to Chivalry, you see, is that it's boiled melee combat down to something akin to a round of Street Fighter. It's all about precise timing and combos. To block an attack, for example, you actually need to be facing the enemy's weapon and click just as it's striking. Screw it up - which is easy to do - and you'll lose a pound of flesh. But get it right and they'll be vulnerable to a counter-attack from your well-weighted weapons.

To successfully strike, however, you need more timing, as well as correct attack selection. Your general slash is OK for most instances, but it won't get you past a shield. An overhead strike is devastating, but leaves you open for a quick counter before it strikes. A stab will get you around a shield, but needs precise aim.

This combination of strategy and timing means every engagement is a surprisingly strategic affair, as you and your opponent dance around looking for the decisive "in" that'll sever an arm or a leg, or smash open a chest.

I'm not saying it's perfect—the combat still moves a little too fast and, in larger engagements, the lack of peripheral vision is quite literally a killer—but it's progress, which I can't wait to get more of when the game is actually out.

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is due for release on PC on October 16.

Chivalry Medieval Warfare Beta - Tutorial [Maddo03]