Pirates, Vikings and Knights II is a multiplayer team-based first-person action video game, developed as a total conversion modification on the Valve Corporation's proprietary Source engine. The game is currently in beta development stages, with its first public release on 1 January 2007. The second major public version was released a year later on 7 February 2008.
The game is a sequel to Pirates, Vikings and Knights, a modification for Valve's earlier GoldSrc engine. The game is set around three teams, the pirates, the Vikings and the knights—each with distinct classes and abilities—battling in a variety of game modes across various Medieval, Norse and Caribbean environments. As of the second major release six of the eighteen planned classes have been implemented.
The game has been received positively by the industry's critics, being praised for its originality and graphical quality. By the end of February 2008, the game has acquired over six and a half million player minutes per month on the Steam content delivery system.
Pirates, Vikings and Knights II is based around three teams competing for an objective. These three teams, themed around pirates, Vikings and knights, are distinct in classes and capabilities. As of beta 2.0, players can choose one of two classes on each team, giving them access to different weapons and abilities. Although beta 2.0 only includes six classes overall, a full complement of eighteen—six classes per team—are planned in the course of the game's development.
The objectives in a Pirates, Vikings and Knights II game is defined by the game mode that is being used; at current there are four game modes implemented out of a planned nine. In "booty" games, teams must collect or steal treasure chests distributed across the level and bring them back to their own base to activate a countdown timer to victory. The more chests a team has in its possession, the quicker the timer decreases. A variation on this is the "booty tag" mode, in which there is a single chest and the teams fight for control of the chest to decrease their timer. The third game mode is "territory", in which teams fight for control of a strategic area of their surroundings. When one team holds the territory, their countdown timer activates unless they are displaced by another team. The final game mode is a straight team deathmatch where the teams simply try to kill as many of the opposing teams as possible.
Combat in Pirates, Vikings and Knights II is achieved through melee strikes, blocking and ranged attacks. Melee is performed through directed mouse movements for different directional of strike, that can be parried or blocked by other melee weapons with a corresponding mouse movement depending on the properties of the weapons involved in the fight. A successful parry leaves the attacker momentarily slowed and incapable of attacking or blocking, allowing for a counter-strike. Ranged attacks allow players to attack enemies from afar, usually at the risk of lowering their close combat defences. Ranged attacks can be blocked by players with shields.
In the initial release only one class was available to each team, although eighteen classes are planned in total. The release of beta 2.0 saw the inclusion of a further three classes. The overall class structure is designed for balance, with a variety of different classes being used to create effective strategies against the opposing teams. Each class' weapons follow the theme of their team: pirate classes use a variety of sabres, cutlasses and flintlock firearms, the Vikings use battle axes and knight players have access to a range of swords and bows. Every class also has access to a unique special ability, which becomes available after a player has dealt sufficient damage to foes.
Pirate players can choose from either a captain or a skirmisher. Captains are armed with a cutlass, a blunderbuss and a parrot, which can be used for harassing enemies or as a distraction. Their special ability gives them the capability of firing a cannonball from their blunderbuss. Skirmishers are equipped with a cutlass which they can lunge forward and impale enemies by using their special ability, six flintlock pistols and a gunpowder keg. Skirmishers move faster than most other classes.
The Vikings can play as a berserker or a huscarl. A berserker possess a two-handed bearded axe as well as a shorter axe and shortsword. Berserkers can use their special ability to drive themselves into a bloodlust, allowing them to move faster and attack more effectively. The huscarl is armed with a shortsword and a shield which can be used to ram enemies with their special ability, six throwing axes and a two-handed axe.
The knights have access to a heavy knight and an archer. Heavy knights are slow moving but field a longsword and can use their special ability to do a circular spinning attack. They are also equipped with a shield and a shortsword. By contrast, the archer is a fast moving class armed with both a crossbow and a longbow, and can use their special ability to fire three arrows at once from the longbow. They are also equipped with a shortsword for close combat.
The latest version of Pirates, Vikings and Knights II comes with seven maps. The maps span a variety of realistic and unrealistic settings and environments, such as Medieval castles, Aztec temples and Caribbean islands and towns. Maps are generally built around a particular game mode configuration and are designed with eighteen players in mind. Further maps are to be added in subsequent releases. In addition to the official maps, the game's community also actively creates custom maps and content for the game.
The major update to the game mechanics with beta 2.0 prompted coverage of the game by PC Gamer UK in their video game modification news. In their article on Pirates, Vikings and Knights II, writer described the new classes added for this later version as exciting, as well as putting forward the view that the redesigned melee system introduced in beta 2.0 had "potential". Stating that "the rampant silliness and absurd title hide a remarkably robost and satisfying melee game", the writer even put forward that the pirate captain's parrot was "in hot competition with [Half-Life 2's] gravity gun for best video game weapon ever".
In an article published on their Planet Half-Life website on the GameSpy network, IGN echoed much of this positiveness for Pirates, Vikings and Knights II, describing the public beta 2.0 version as "well polished and balanced", noting the optimisation of the game's design and the reworked melee system as effective. The reviewer also praised the graphics of the game, stating that the Source engine had been used to create "awe inspiring visuals" and describing the game's models as fantastic. The sound work in the game was also given credit, with the game's music in particular being put as "some of the best mood setting music to be had in a video game". Without any criticism of the game, the review closed stating "Pirates, Vikings and Knights II is here to stay and is setting up a very attractive shop".