The sound of steel against steel, your fellow warriors being slain in front of you. Should you turn and run or face the overwhelming odds head on? Do you fight just to win or do you fight For Honor? Ever since I can remember, I’ve been enamoured with melee based combat. Sword against axe and axe against spear. I, like many of you out there, have pondered on the important question: Who would win in a battle to the death between a Knight, a Samurai and a Viking? This is the question that Ubisoft’s newest IP sets out to answer.
For Honor takes place in a world which is inhabited by three warrior-like civilizations: The Chosen (Samurai), The Warborn (Vikings) and The Black Legion (The Knights). These civilizations are forced to face one and other in battle, due to a cataclysmic event that has shattered their world. And while multiplayer is the main focus of the game, it does have a surprisingly fun single-player campaign which follows the events that lead up to the war between these factions.
The campaign sees players discovering more about a mysterious and deadly woman named Apollyon, who is the reason behind the sudden outbreak of war. The campaign consists of three chapters, one for each faction, which in turn consists of a number of missions. Players will be able to get a chance to play as every character class throughout the campaign. The single-player campaign is a fun way to introduce and help players come to grips with the game’s unique melee based combat system.
For Honor‘s combat systems is designed to simulate melee combat as closely as possible (well, as close as you can get using a controller). While I was initially concerned that it wouldn’t be much more than a button smashing fest, the combat system actually works amazingly well. When in combat, heroes have three stances available to them: up, left or right. By changing their stance, players can attack from these directions. Blocking works in the same manner. When an opponent attacks an indicator flashes red showing which stance they are attacking from. The defender then has a few seconds in which to respond and match their stance which then blocks the attack. Players need to plan their attacks very carefully. Each hero has a stamina gauge that, once depleted, leaves the player in a weakened state. Add to this parries, dodges, stuns and combo’s and you have quite an in-depth combat system.
It’s not difficult to compare For Honor to a fighting game such as Street Fighter as the more time players spend on learning their heroes various combo’s, the better they will fare in combat. Multiplayer battles tend to be tense affairs as players try to outthink their opponents and look for openings in their defenses. Deciding when to run can be just as important as deciding when to attack and, while it took me quite a few deaths to understand this concept, I soon realized that it was truly better to sometimes run and live to fight another day.
Knowing each hero’s strengths and weaknesses can be just as important as knowing their move set. At launch, For Honor currently has twelve playable heroes to choose from. Knights have the Warden, Conqueror, Peacekeeper and Lawbringer. The Samurai have the Kensei, Shugoki, Orochi, and Nobushi. The Vikings have the Raider, Warlord, Beserker and Valkyrie. Each hero although, having similar basic skill sets do have their own unique quirks and abilities that set them apart from each other. Knowing each heroes effective range, speed and abilities can be the difference between life and death.
Players who spend time playing multiplayer will be rewarded with experience points and equipment. Experience points are used to unlock new feats (abilities) that can use in certain multiplayer modes. These include abilities like being able to quickly throw an axe at your opponent, receiving a quick speed boost or setting up traps. Equipment, on the other hand, affords your hero stat increases, such as quicker stamina regen or increased attack damage. Both of these helps players build a hero to suit their play style. For those that are concerned that these feats and equipment might make one-on-one duels a bit unfair, the good news is that the associated stat boosts do not affect your character in skill-based duels and brawls.
Duels and Brawls have players facing each other in one-on-one combat or teams of two. These two modes are where players get to test their skills and knowledge of their character’s move set. Both these modes make for some of the tensest moments in the game.
Deathmatch consists of two different modes, Skirmish and Elimination. Skirmish has two teams racking up points by eliminating each of the opposing team’s heroes, while Elimination removes respawns entirely, the first team to be wiped out losses.
The final mode is Dominion which has two teams fighting for control of various zones on the map. Along with the player controlled heroes, players will be facing AI controlled soldiers battling alongside them. This mode is probably to most chaotic and sometimes most frustrating (especially, if you are in a team that doesn’t communicate). This is the mode where I probably spend most of my time. Its chaotic nature makes you truly feel like being part of a large-scale battle and good teamwork can lead to a landslide victory.
My biggest issue with the game is that it seems that I was continually being dropped into games that had already started. This meant that my arrival usually had little to no impact on the match. I usually joined in the dying last minutes of the match. Along with this, I also experienced quite a few disconnects, which can be frustrating when you are in the midsts of a great match. Hopefully, Ubisoft will sort these issues out in the coming months.
I won’t lie, I died a lot in For Honor. But in death, I learned how to become a better player. For Honor‘s battle system rewards those that take the time to learn it’s nuances and punishes those that don’t. The single player campaign, although not groundbreaking, weaves an interesting tale and does an adequate job of teaching players the game’s mechanics. But it is in the multiplayer department that the game truly shines. The chaos of large-scale battles and the intimacy of a one-on-one duel are the moments where the game truly excelled.
I hope that For Honor is a franchise that Ubisoft will continue to build on for years and years. You have my sword, and my bow, and my axe!