Faction and war-based action games are hardly anything new. I’d even argue that the majority of them are slow and boring, and others are just plain repetitive. For Honor is a game that seems to have found the right balance, even though it has its fair share of shortcomings.
What Is It?
The plot in For Honor is one that tries to be epic but ends up being beyond nonsensical.
The game’s story mode is comprised of three chapters, with six levels each. Each of the three chapters corresponds to one of the three factions you had to align yourself with when first booting up the game: the knights, the vikings, and the samurai. Each of these proud classes are put through treachery by the leader of the Blackstone, Apollyon, whose main goal is to put the world in an everlasting war.
Why does she want endless war? No idea. The ending didn’t say much either. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the story mode is just there so that the game would have a single player campaign (except it also supports two-player online co-op).
Choosing your faction at the beginning of the game is metagame on its own and is reminiscent of the same process in Pokémon GO when choosing between Valor, Mystic, and Instinct, except you can change your allegiance, and it looks like Ubisoft will actually be giving out in-game and physical prizes to the winning alliance at the end of every season.
At its core, For Honor is a multiplayer action game with the grace of a spirited fighter, and while it has quite the learning curve, there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had once you grow to understand its deep mechanics.
While the story is hardly worth talking about, it’s also entirely necessary because it works as an extended tutorial with quite a bit of rewards to reap in the form of both loot and actual experience. The gameplay aspect of it is also enjoyable, especially for completionists who insist on exploring every nook and cranny in the game’s vast levels as there are plenty of breakables and viewables to destroy and gaze at.
This isn’t a game that you’ll be able to easily pick up and play. Even the most hardcore gamers are encouraged to swallow their pride and take part in both the basic and advanced tutorials, as well as its story mode.
Why Should I Care?
For Honor features some of the deepest combat mechanics you’ll see in any action game. Trailers made this out to be some westernized version of Dynasty Warriors, but it’s far from that. The game is essentially a multiplayer version of what The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was, except with Skyward‘s gameplay logically translated to a traditional controller.
On the surface, it plays like your traditional hack-and-slash game. The most basic controls have you run around as 16 different knights, vikings, or samurai lightly (with the right shoulder button) or strongly (right trigger) beating on your opponents.
The meat of the combat lies in its defensive mechanics. When you hold the left trigger button to target another hero, you’ll bring up a shield icon that’ll indicate the direction in which your hero will attack and block. When locked on, you’ll also see the direction in which your opponent is blocking or will attack from. Your defensive stance is controlled with the right analog stick. Tilt left, and you’ll attack and block left. Tilt up, and you’ll attack and block from above. Lastly, tilt right, and you’ll attack and block from the right. There is no attacking or blocking from below, so players don’t have to worry about getting their feet swept. You can also shove players off of ledges and cliffs or into spikes, fire, or other hazardous areas to get some awesome instant kills to keep people on their toes.
In addition to blocking and attacking, heroes can also attempt evasive maneuvers such as rolling and juking which are all essential because each hero also has unblockable moves that can only be avoided by using such maneuvers. Throw in the fact that each hero has their own moveset with combos mapped to certain buttons, and you have a brawler with the feel of a traditional fighting game.
When you first play the game, even after the tutorials, it’ll all feel awkward. Having the camera angles and stance controls both mapped to the right stick takes quite a bit of time to get used to, but once you keep in mind that stance controls only come into effect once you’re locked onto an enemy, it gets easier as long as you already set the camera to where you want it.
Of course, seeing as how it’s a multiplayer game, it’s extremely easy to throw fundamentals out the window once the odds are against you when having multiple enemies ganging up on you, so another part of the game is forcing your opponent into uncomfortable button-mashing situations, and there’s plenty of that with all the multiplayer modes. I hear my friends on the headset button-mash all the time, and it leads to awesome trash talk.
As for the modes of play, the most chaotic of which is Dominion, a tower defense-style game in which you try to capture and hold three location points for as long as possible while wreaking havoc on your opponents. While Dominion is primarily four-on-four, both sides also have an army of smaller soldiers on which you can feast to easily build your score while holding those captured locales. Most of the chaos happens on Point B as there are always plenty of NPC’s fighting each other in addition to the player-controlled heroes that hardly eases any tension.
There’s also the Skirmish and Elimination modes that are all about the action. Skirmish mode is pretty much Dominion mode without the need to take capture any points, while elimination is a four-on-four onslaught where the last team standing wins.
Lastly there’s the more focused duel (one-on-one) and brawl (two-on-two) modes which do away with armies and respawning. These are arguably the most skill-based fights in the game as there isn’t anybody other than your one opponent to worry about–unless you’re playing brawl and partners decide to gang up on one person.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As enjoyable as these modes are, since the game seemingly doesn’t have its own dedicated servers, a lot of connections have been dropped resulting in games ending prematurely with all stats from that fight lost. As of today, Ubisoft has yet to comment on whether they’ll continue using what can now be considered a faulty peer-to-peer networking system for their matchmaking, and if something doesn’t change on that front, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see players drop the game as well.
In terms of what we have now, For Honor is fantastic. It looks great and sounds even better. It isn’t even the clanging of swords, the bumping of shields, or the squishy sounds of a beheading that give the sound its character. It’s the drumming we hear while the games load. For Honor‘s epic battles will definitely have players jacked, but listening to the background music as you pound your way through opponents in total war is nothing short of mesmerizing and it really immerses you into the world by getting you ready to chop some limbs off. The fact that you can also really represent your chosen faction every season by deploying war assets provides a sense of pride that few other games have managed to create.
For Honor‘s success lies in its ability for Ubisoft to keep the game playable, and the peer-to-peer networking isn’t doing it any favors. If or when it gets through that, there’s no telling how much potential a possible series could have. Despite its blemishes, For Honor definitely boasts the most visceral multiplayer experience we’ve seen in a long time as its set to be a trailblazer in the realm of competitive gaming if Ubisoft wants it to be.