What happens when a Knight, a Samurai, and a Viking, meet? Ubisoft says, “Wonder no more!” For Honor is Ubisoft’s first triple-A release for 2017 and it’s sounding pleasantly well for the company.
Ye Olde Story
Campaign is standard but it does have its moments…
There’s nothing much to expect when it comes to storytelling in For Honor as this was made with multiplayer in mind. With that being said, recent titles that shied away from singleplayer experience paid the price. For Honor doesn’t want to make that same mistake.
The campaign highlights how Samurais, Vikings, and the Knights, came to be at each others’ throats. For starters, the world was ravaged by an extremely powerful earthquake. Land moved, swallowed most of its inhabitants, and magically made far-flung places as neighbors. Instead of helping each other, as with the basic tenets of diplomacy, the three different civilizations decided that the best way to live is to kill each other.
…moments like leading an elephant to break the castle gates.
Knowing fully well that war is what drives the world, the incredibly overpowered warrior, Apollyon, seeks to continue the onslaught. As peace is but a pipe dream, Apollyon wants only the best warriors remaining alive after the dust settles. But what about the economy? What about the children? In For Honor they don’t matter (implied). If you think that’s crazy, it definitely is.
If there’s something that makes For Honor unique is its fighting system dubbed as the “Art of Battle”. Art of Battle presents the player with three stances represented by a triangle. This gives a dimension of directionality when swinging your character’s weapon. At the pointy end, the opponent must also counter attacks using this scheme. Attacks from above can be guarded by having a high stance, attacks from the right with a defense from the right and so on.
Even though one on one dueling is plastered on almost every For Honor gameplay image, it doesn’t change the fact that some players or AI bots can attack from other sides. With that in the equation, each duel can become a dance of shifting stances to parry attacks from all around. Aside from directional attacks, depending on the character being used, the player can execute unblockable attacks or lightning-swift counterattacks.
Timing and stamina are two pillars of Art of Battle. Heavy attacks are slower and require more stamina but they do dish out more damage. Light attacks are the opposite, faster but less damage. Guarding diminishes, not eliminates, the damage from the enemy. Some abilities require more stamina, and if used too much and left unattended, would exhaust the hero making him slower and more vulnerable.
For Honor’s multiplayer is the end of the rainbow. To begin, the player must choose from 12 different classes of heroes, four for each army. Three heroes are available on the onset, with the others being unlockable through “Steel”, the game’s currency. This system is similar to that employed in Rainbow Six: Siege, but with swords and screaming.
With only 12 characters, it does sound few but do bear in mind that each one is a class of its own. For example, the Orochi, an assassin, has to make use of timing and counterattacks to win matches. On the otherhand, the Orochi has a very low health. Heroes such as the balanced Warden offer a rounded defense and offense abilities, while the hulking Shugoki can endure a large amount of damage yet sacrifices speed. With these heroes, players can (or is recommended) to choose one character that fits their play style.
Apparently, the more you level up, the more powerful items you can acquire.
Oh, and picking a hero isn’t an end-all endeavor. The player can also customize the looks and the stats of their chosen warrior. After each multiplayer match, the player is rewarded with accessories and weapon parts. These have effects on certain game modes by adding some stats, and more importantly, they change the hero’s appearance.
Aside from winning individual matches, players are broken into three different factions. This faction war rewards players with the largest number of territories at the end of each season.
When reviewing this game, I tried four different game modes. Dominion is by far the most popular one. In this 4v4 game mode, players must capture three different points in the map to slowly earn points. Each capture point is worth 100 points. The first team to get to a 1000 must eliminate the players from the opposing side to win the match. One capture point is situated in the middle of the map, with AI cannon fodder bots representing the front. This location forces players to converge in the middle to fight for the capture point. Dominion also employs a leveling system, rewarding players with skills that can be used within the match.
Every duel match, I try to take the fight to a wider place that’s far from traps and ledges. Getting killed by one and killing using one sounds and feels cheap.
Next is 1v1 dueling. I can say that this is my favorite game mode as it pits players, without their equipment buffs and skills, against each other. Man for man. This game mode relies on pure skill, with a sprinkle of luck. There’s also a game mode called, “Brawl”. Instead of 1v1, the matches are in 2v2. I have yet to try brawl as the player population is low.
The last two modes are variations of the standard deathmatch. Elimination pits two teams of four players against each other. The twist is that at the start of each round, players from both teams are paired. The team that survives wins the round.
Orders reward the player with steel and experience points once the prerequisites are met.
The last deathmatch-esque mode is Skirmish. The first team to get to a thousand points wins the match. Points are gained by killing enemy players and skewering their foot soldiers. This is a pretty straightforward game mode.
Prepare for glory!
So is For Honor another victim of hype? Fortunately, it is not. It’s what I expected it to be, whether in visuals, gameplay, or anything else. The foundations are pretty sound and summing it up produces an excellent product. But it’s not perfect.
Some features in For Honor might tick-off some players. Microtransactions are embedded into the system, which in itself, is already enough to spark anger into some gamers’ hearts. In the shop are skin packs and the typical EXP boosts that players can buy to increase their experience gain. Though the system can be circumvented through sheer hardwork, however it does require a lot of that.
For those in a rush. In-game currency is mostly used for cosmetics.
Personally, the microtransactions are but a dent on the spectacular armor of For Honor. It’s because that every match is mostly based on skill. Even if your hero’s character is glittering with the most expensive set, if you can’t block or anticipate your opponent’s moves, you might as well play as a foot soldier. Also, the game requires you to play online, alienating some players that have poor internet connection or would just want to have offline fun with bots.
Balance is also an issue. Or is it? As with every new game, I can say that there’s not enough time to warrant a judgement just yet. Every alien character move might look like a cheat at first but figuring it out and countering it is part of the learning process. On the otherhand, we do have a number of move sets that are downright annoying, take guard break for example. This modern day equivalent of Street Fighter’s ridiculous grapple move is difficult to counter. Also, somewhat funny (despite the “For Honor” monicker) is that 1v1 duels tend to become a shoving simulator. Some arenas are unbelievably populated with environmental traps such as pitfalls and wall-mounted spikes, making duels reminiscent of the LRT during the rush hours. But then again, these are things that can be fixed with future updates.
Surprisingly, in-game chatting isn’t as toxic as I expect it to be. Probably because nobody knows how to use it (for PC, it’s Tab + T).
“Hold my beer while I unscrew my pommel and end him rightly.” Side note: this is rendered with the in-game engine. Just look at that reflection!
To summarize, For Honor is a great game that’s worth the wait, the hype, and spending your time on. All the parts fit well and the game modes are simple, yet forces and encourages action. There’s a little bit of everything that just blends well. If you’re after a game that gives you the thrill of beating your opponents with pure skill, then this is it. In this game, the spoils are rightfully rewarded to the skilled and the sly. To say, I found it incredibly fun and I’ve been playing it since the weekend. Comparatively, the last time I had this fun with a multiplayer game was when I played Battlefield 4. And that is saying something.
With all that said, For Honor deserves this fat and juicy seal. Now, it’s time for me to stop resting my sword arm and jump back into the fray.
For Honor is available on the Sony PS4, Xbox One, and PC.