A War Ultimately Won
When For Honor was originally announced as Ubisoft’s brand new IP back in E3 of 2015, it was met with a fair amount of uncertainty and scepticism, and for good reason. Ubisoft didn’t have a very good track record at the time, with titles such as Watch_Dogs and Assassin’s Creed Unity leaving fans disappointed and unhappy with the publisher in general. It started generating more enthusiasm and excitement over the course of another E3, alpha tests, beta tests and incredibly effective advertising. For Honor definitely isn’t the pristine shining masterpiece it set out to be, because it definitely has chinks in its armour, but ultimately, that armour proves to be impenetrable.
Knights, Vikings, Samurai
If there was one thing I was still cautious about with For Honor up until release, it was its campaign. I was worried it’d be shoehorned in much the same way that other online focused titles handle story modes, such as the original Titanfall. Luckily enough, all of these worries were swept away within the first hour of the campaign, and while it’s nothing special, it’s certainly enjoyable. The campaign is split into three different chapters, one for each faction which are the Knights, the Vikings, and the Samurai. Each chapter consists of 6 missions, and all of it is playable in co-op. Most of the missions in the Knight and Samurai chapters got pretty repetitive, aside from one or two standout missions, and the overall tone of the story feels way too serious, especially when there’s some comedic elements to be found in the Viking chapter. None of it ever gets boring, but there are certainly some standout missions, like storming a beach in order to siege a Feudal Japanese fortress or stealthily making your way through a Viking camp in order to sabotage one of their contraptions. For Honor shines during these missions, and while it’s not very representative of the brutality and harshness of the wars back then, it’s nice to see the development team toss that aside for some truly epic set pieces. The story is very passable too, with the main antagonist Apollyon trying to manipulate the different factions in order to usher in an age of war. It’s a fairly predictable plot, and most of the characters are fairly one note, but seeing how everything unfolded and connected was pretty cool to see. It certainly doesn’t reach the storytelling heights of The Last of Us or Resident Evil VII, but it certainly isn’t the half-baked campaign I expected it to be.
A Dance of Offence and Defence
For Honor’s greatest asset is undoubtedly it’s unique directional attacking system, which is easy to learn, hard to master, and deceptively simple. You have light attacks and heavy attacks, which can be executed in 3 different directions. The direction of the attack is the direction that your opponent must block in, in order to avoid taking damage. It’s a very simple premise, but once you get into attack cancels, dodging, guard breaking, combos, and stamina management, For Honor’s combat system becomes a deep, intricate dance of death where every single input matters. Learning the ins and outs of each hero will give you a significant edge in combat, and grasping some of the more technical concepts takes time, thought, and dedication. There are 4 different heroes for each faction, making for a total of 12 heroes, each split into different classes. These classes include disablers, tanks, assassins, hybrids, and vanguards. Each hero has their own weapons, combos, abilities, health, agility, damage, the list goes on. Long story short, each class has their strong points and their weak points, and while there are a few balancing issues at this stage, each hero has some sort of counter. This means that combat always keeps you on your feet, smart decisions and utilising all of your hero’s techniques is paramount to winning a single duel, and it’s incredibly refreshing. Take the Warden for example, who is considered one of the more basic heroes in the game. The Warden is seemingly an incredibly simple class, but upon further experimentation I found that he/she can also be one of the deepest, with a homing guard break that can be cancelled out into a normal guard break. All of this at least applies to the Duel Modes, where players can 1v1 and 2v2 in a test of raw skill, where gear is purely cosmetic, and hero abilities can’t be used, but more on those later. For Honor is at its absolute best when your best of 5 match comes down to the final round, and the victory could go either way. It’s truly intense stuff, and I found that I kept telling myself to play 1 more match before I stopped playing. Unfortunately, For Honor doesn’t manage to hold the same magic in its 4v4 game modes, and this is due to multiple reasons. While the spectacle and idea of it is cool, For Honor’s combat system isn’t built for large fights, and engaging more than 2 players at a time during combat often devolves into mindless spamming in hopes of bagging some sort of victory. Dominion acts much like domination in the sense that there are 3 different control points to capture and hold, while your forces and enemy forces (controlled by AI) attempt to push, take, or hold these zones. I can definitely see where Ubisoft was going with it, and while it provides some initial enjoyment, those who want to play For Honor for its deep and technical combat system, will find it gets boring quick. Elimination doesn’t suffer as badly, due to players being pitted against each-other in different parts of the map, but it still often devolves into spam when rounds go on for too long. Skirmish is simply a team death-match mode and much like the other 4v4 game modes won’t hold interest for long. I spent the majority of my time in 2v2s and 1v1s, as most other people probably will. I certainly think there’ll always be a lot of people who enjoy the 4v4 game modes, but they simply just aren’t for me, and I’m sure there are some other players who feel the same way. Maps on the other hand are all spectacular, and I never found myself dreading one particular map. They’re all well designed, with a number of environmental hazards, verticality, and varying environments. Finally, when completing a match, you’ll be awarded with gear and Steel, which is For Honor’s in-game currency which can be spent on more loot drops and/or heroes. Like I said earlier, the gear in 1v1s and 2v2s are purely cosmetic, because the buffed statistics become null and void to make them as fair as possible. In 4v4 game-modes however, this gear buffs and nerfs different stats such as sprinting speed, damage output, defence, or health gain on the visceral executions you can perform. My one biggest problem with the loot system, is that gear can be purchased with real money, meaning that there’s a small element of pay-to-win within the 4v4 game modes. The gear doesn’t provide an incredible edge, but it’s enough to change the tide of a match if used properly. Finally, each hero has a different array of abilities available to them to give them an edge in combat in the 4v4 game-modes. These range from things like smoke bombs to a hail of arrows. They can be changed and customised before you enter a game, and add a layer of complexity to otherwise simple 4v4 battles.
Technical Chinks in Shining Armour
If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that For Honor looks absolutely gorgeous no matter what you’re doing in it. Environments are beautiful, character models are detailed, sparks fly as swords and shields clash, and to top it off it all sounds excellent. It’s unfortunately locked at 30FPS on console, making PC the more attractive option, but it’s definitely still playable. For Honor’s biggest problem however, comes in the form of its connections and stability. For Honor uses peer-to-peer connections, meaning that if the host drops out, it can often cause long wait times before gameplay starts again. I found myself dropping out now and again in 1v1s and 2v2s, but even more so in 4v4 game modes, making it hard to ever fully complete them. I can see why peer-to-peer is used in a game like For Honor, but in the end it creates more problems than it fixes. Dedicated servers would’ve been a much better option, and while it’s a fairly inconsistent issue, it still arises enough to be a pain.
Ubisoft’s attempt at a medieval warfare game has certainly been a fruitful one. While its campaign is nothing to write home about, it does provide some awesome set-pieces and awe-inspiring battles to take part in. It’s battle system is incredibly deep, and hours upon hours can be sunk into learning it’s mechanics and various systems. It’s such an intricately designed combat system that ultimately works perfectly in 1v1 and 2v2 game-modes, but not so much in 4v4 ones. While technical hiccups sometimes get in the way of your experience, it’s never enough to put you off the incredibly enjoyable game that Ubisoft have come up with. For all of it’s flaws, For Honor more than makes up for it, and it’s a war that Ubisoft ultimately won.
-Incredibly deep combat system
-Duel and Brawl game-modes
-Varied heroes and unique maps
-Strong performance and stunning visuals
-Small element of pay-to-win
-4v4 game-modes might be found boring by some
Thanks for reading guys, up next will be an article. There’s a load of stuff I want to cover next week, including Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nintendo Switch, and Breath of the Wild, so keep a look out for those.
Thanks again, Harry.