The best warriors from three different factions – Knights, Samurai and Vikings – have been pulled into a realm of war, where they continue to fight for 1,000 years. With such a simple concept, For Honor delivers immense fun and satisfaction thru a well-polished combat and, when everything is aligned, exquisite multiplayer.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows (tested)
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Annecy, Red Storm Entertainment, Ubisoft Quebec, Ubisoft Toronto
I’m one of those who believe campaigns in fighting games are unneeded, but For Honor’s feels like a nice touch. It relates the story of Apollyon and how she wants to pull the worst from each faction, to separate the wolves from the sheep, and then war. Thru fantastic cinematics and a couple of chapters we will get to play with most of the heroes we have at our disposal. We will learn the very basics of how they are supposed to be played, their special moves, and that’s it. The story is just an excuse to introduce us the mechanics to then shine in multiplayer. I can’t really say much more about the story without spoiling it, but let’s agree on that it works and delivers. And most importantly, while the concept is silly, it does a great job at teaching you all the hero’s range, chain attacks, and various feats, as it lets you try them while you progress. It is possible to finish the story knowing which ones best fit your playstyle.
The combat system is easily the highlight, working as a solid foundation for the rest of the diverse modes. It’s a 3D action/fighting hybrid. The warriors, our heroes, have a variety of different weapons, including poison-tipped spears, battleaxes, broadswords, halberds, katanas, you name it, but the fundamentals are the same regardless. Your hero can hold his or her weapon in three directional positions, for either attacking or defending. Switching positions is as simple as locking onto your opponent and moving the right analog stick. Add in feints, parries, block-breakers, stamina bar and unique movesets, and you have a robust melee toolset.
But these simple mechanics can be deceiving. They are deep and hard to master. You will need to pick your battles and be both methodical and thoughtful if you want to win. Button-mashers quickly run out of stamina, leaving them vulnerable and slower. For Honor creates a good amount of tension, something I didn’t feel in years in a multiplayer game. Initial moments usually consist of you and your enemy circling one another while switching stances, looking for weaknesses and openings. Being aware of the environment and your surroundings. It only takes a second to get distracted and down you are. It is very common to think about ten ways to take down your enemy, and all of a sudden, he simply threw you down a cliff. Or trying to break a big guy defense, or trying to parry a relentless samurai and his fast katana. Each and every battle requires you to think about your hero, your enemy, and what can you do. I love For Honor and 1v1 duels and 2v2 brawls for that.
Dominion and Elimination modes can be more overwhelming. The mind games of the 1v1 or 2v2 are traded for a more chaotic friction between the factions. Dominion is everything you can expect from the name: two teams of four earn points by taking and controlling three points on a large map. While the same battle mechanics remain, here is more common to Double- or triple-teaming the enemy. To counter this a little bit, For Honor makes it easier to block attacks coming from several directions and also allowing the outnumbered party to quickly fill a revenge meter. Reveng will knock attackers down, heal you a little bit and increase both your stamina and strength. I can’t describe how satisfying is to win a 1v3 or 1v4 with this mechanic. Again, you will only help a good enemy by only smashing buttons. Elimination is a mix, where you will fight 4v4. All modes can be played Player vs Player and Player vs AI.
To throw some RPG elements into the mix, For Honor has a leveling system. As you play more with the characters, you level them up and get better gear. Stat boosts never feel like they really matter in the skill-based duels and brawls, but they can make a difference in some of the other modes. Feats like healing while killing soldiers or capturing points faster are there to provide an advantage and nothing else. You can earn them via random drops or buy blind bundles of gear using the in-game currency, steel, which is earned in matches and daily missions. Earning steel through matches alone is a slow process, with a typical Dominion battle earning about 40. You need 500 steel to open the best bundles, and even more to purchase additional taunts, costumes, or other cosmetic items. Most of this is purely cosmetic and optional, but it’s there, with a little more than $200 of microtransaction content in the very first week.
And while I love For Honor as a whole, your biggest enemy will be the online infrastructure. I experienced frequent disconnects and other networking issues thanks to connectivity issues. Not my issues, but others. The P2P system doesn’t work as it should, and more often than not when a host disconnects, it fails to migrate to other player and it disconnects, losing everything you achieved in that match. Lag and stutter was also there, only damaging the otherwise awesome experience. Ubisoft promised big plans for For Honor in the months ahead, with a faction-based metagame, evolving stages, and additional characters to join the war, but I really hope they take the networking issue as a priority, since it is the only one.
When everything lines up, For Honor is a brutal and rewarding game that makes you feel like an unstoppable warrior. One of the most fun games I’ve played and will continue playing.