PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
To be completely honest, I find it hard to describe exactly what For Honor is. When the game was first introduced at E3 2015, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. Is it a fighting game? A team-based action game? An online action arena, maybe? It was hard to tell. Even now, after I played through the entire campaign and countless hours of online battles, I still find it hard to truly describe it. However, I do know one thing – For Honor is bloody amazing.
For Honor prides itself as adhering to the “Art of combat”. In other words, the game puts a big emphasis on controls during combat, mostly by introducing a new fighting system that’s both easy to understand and hard to master. Once you target your opponent, you can position your weapon to the left, right, or above your character. The position of the weapon determines the direction you will attack from, and the attacks you’ll be able to block. It’s a simple mechanic that works really well within the game, and lends the feeling of being in an actual duel where you need to anticipate the actions of your rival.
While each type of warrior follows this simple combat system, different classes do have different strengths and combos. Vanguards are the most balanced heroes, Assassins are pure offense, Defenders possess a huge health pool and are built for defensive combat, and the hybrids are heroes that combine two traits into one character. Ubisoft has already announced that more heroes will be added in the future for free, but for now, we only have these four main classes to choose from.
Once you choose a class, you can customize both your character’s appearance and equipment. Visual customization is nothing more than different colors, symbols and patterns on your armor, but equipment does play an important role. Weapon upgrades and loot can drastically affect your play style. The game does its best to balance out weapons, but you can see how heroes with epic gear can swiftly crush those who haven’t had the chance to put in some time in the game and are still using low-level weapons in one of the multiplayer modes.
For Honor offers 5 multiplayer modes: Dominion, a 4v4 battle for territory with AI minions fighting alongside players; Skirmish, a 4v4 battle to the death, where each team scores solely by killing rival players; Elimination, a 4 player team deathmatch with no respawns that goes for 5 rounds; Brawl, which is the same as Elimination, only with teams of 2 players instead of 4; and finally Duel, where players battle it out one-on-one for 5 rounds in an arena.
All multiplayer modes contribute towards the “Faction War”, a metagame where you fight to win over territory for your chosen faction in the overall game map. In order to win war assets and territory, players must participate in the “war” by playing any multiplayer mode. The global map consists of three separate areas: the north, where the Vikings make their home; the west, where the knights reside; and the east, land of the samurai. Each of the multiplayer maps resides in a different part of the game’s world, and they actually change depending on the faction controlling them at the moment. It’s a small touch, but one that makes a lot of difference. When you see Samurai banners all around your stone castle, it makes liberating it a much more personal endeavor.
Unfortunately, For Honor does have its share of problems. Players should get used to waiting, because For Honor will take you through a lengthy process of loading screens and countdown timers between matches. In addition, if there aren’t enough players in the lobby, you’ll have to choose the mode you want to play in again. It’s nice you can see your stats in the beginning and end of each match, but the downtime starts to take its toll after two or three matches. There are other minor things that could be improved, but they doesn’t affect the gameplay that much. For instance, the absence of chat logs and the long waiting time to join matches, but For Honor is a game you’ll spend hours playing, regardless of the waiting times.
That being said, For Honor does have a big, glaring weak spot, and that’s the story campaign. The narrative starts with a great catastrophic event that affects the three factions in the game. With their lands destroyed and food scarce, Vikings, Knights and Samurai go on an all-out war for resources that lasts for a thousand years. When the player joins in on the action, the nations have already rebuilt, and an era of peace can be seen on the horizon. It is then that we are introduced to Apollyon. Apollyon leads the Blackstone Knights, who aim to perpetuate the war between the three factions, for reasons yet unknown.
While there is a full story campaign that supports co-op play with friends, For Honor struggles to immerse you in the story. There’s plenty of potential behind it, but it falls short due to forgettable characters and some cheesy cutscenes. It also doesn’t help that the campaign feels more like an overstretched tutorial than a full on single-player experience. A majority of the missions you undertake are pretty tedious, and although you’ll find a few that can be quite enjoyable, most of them are simply a chore to complete. The fun parts of the campaign are those where you fight one-on-one against an enemy boss, but most of the time the game feels like a complicated version of Dynasty Warriors with repetitive objectives.
In the past few years, Ubisoft has had a reputation of making games look outstanding during presentations, but then falling short when it comes to the actual release. For Honor, on the other hand is a gems in terms of sheer presentation. All of the heroes look stunning and their armor is brilliantly detailed You can see rust and dents form on a knight’s full plate as they clash with a Viking wearing bruised leather pads. My favorite is the Samurai armor, with the designed face masks and the combination of cloth, wood and metal armor. You can get a good sense of history and lore just by looking at a fighter.
The one thing that stood out the most were the animations each hero displays during battle. You can tell the developers put time and effort studying weapon combat. Duels feel like actual combat and finishing off your opponent with an execution is always satisfying. It can get pretty exciting to see two sides charge into battle, with the sword clashing and the people screaming deliver a very cinematic experience. However, there are hiccups here and there. You’ll occasionally see some graphical glitches, but none that would get in the way of the gameplay. The voice acting in the game, although delivered with some stellar performances, also has hit or miss moments throughout the game.
Ubisoft has gone above and beyond in showcasing For Honor’s bleak war with their attention to detail and historical realism, which truly shines throughout the game. As majestic as the game looks, the core factor that makes For Honor a fun game is the “Art of Combat” system. The epic multiplayer action makes up for the lacking campaign mode, though if you’re not the type to clash swords with other people online, you won’t find a lot to do here. However, if you do choose to pick up a weapon and charge into the battlefield, For Honor does a good job making you feel like a true warrior in battle.