Medieval Knights, Sea-faring Vikings, and Japanese Samurai were separated by many years and many miles from each other, making the possibility of them fighting each other to the death impossible in real life. However, fantasy has often brought them together to do such that for the purpose of entertaining audiences. Such is the case of Ubisoft’s latest I.P., For Honor. The latest game from Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy developer certainly gains points for premise, but does the full game earn glory, or die with no honor? Let’s find out.
It cannot be stated enough; For Honor is a truly unique game, in that it takes aspects from various genres of games in order to make something new. For Honor combines thoughtful hack-and-slash gameplay similar to Dark Souls, while combining unique characters with their own gameplay styles and combos similar to fighting games, and placing them in game modes that feel made for shooters or MOBAs. The result is a game that is unlike any other made, and for the most part, it works. Combat is enjoyable and no two encounters feel the same, wither you’re fighting waves of regular grunts or engaged in one-on-one with another player, For Honor keeps you on your toes as you strategize for both the moment in front of you, as well as the overall match.
Combat in For Honor is referred to as “The Art of Battle”. Attacks can be executed in three directions: overhead, left, and right, with either light or heavy attacks. Blocking is done matching your opponent’s movement. Attacks can be chained to form combos to deal more damage, or have other effects such as bleed damage over time, or a single, unblockable final attack. More advanced maneuvers such as grabs, dodges, parries, and feints all add depth and variety to the combat. Each playable hero also plays differently from each other. Vanguard-class characters are balanced in offence and defense, Heavy-class heroes favor a defensive playstyle, Assassins rely on speed and dodging attacks to defeat their foes, and Hybrids are the most unorthodox and tricky heroes to use, but come with great rewards for those who use them correctly. But even two heroes of the same class offer very different combos, abilities, and styles of play. Such variety and depth to the fighting system and character classes is For Honor’s greatest strength. Meaning that you have to change your tactics depending on both who you are playing as, and who you are fighting against.
A story mode also exists for players hoping to spend time fighting alone or wishing to get invested in a story. Long ago, a cataclysm forces the Knights Vikings, and Samurai into war with each other over dwindling resources. In the background, however, is the warlord Apollyon, who seeks to fan the flames of war for her own purposes. Each level sees the player controlling different heroes as they fight for their own causes and eventually unite to take down Apollyon. Each level introduces a different gameplay element that makes each level different, and keeps the gameplay interesting. Each level also contains hidden secrets such as observables that detail the mythos of the world, or breakable containers holding steel, emblem pieces, and loot crates for use in multiplayer. Unfortunately, the story itself is rather uninteresting with dialogue that can come across as overbearing; and while Apollyon herself is a compelling antagonist, none of the other characters are as memorable as her.
The real meat of For Honor is its multiplayer mode, with the overall metagame being known as the Faction War. When you first start up the game, you pledge your allegiance to one of the three factions, and then fight over territory by winning matches against human players or A.I. opponents. The Faction War is divided into seasons consisting of five rounds, with each round lasting approximately two weeks. Whichever faction holds the most territory at the end of the round wins that round, with the faction winning the most rounds winning the season. Players can customize their characters by equipping them with gear that changes their stats, as well as abilities that you can use in select multiplayer modes. You can also customize your heroes using steel, an in-game currency that is obtained both by playing the game, and by spending real-world money. Steel is used to purchase loot crates to obtain more gear, or to purchase cosmetic items such as ornaments, emotes, and different executions. Fortunately, microtransactions never feel like something you are forced to do, and if you wanted, you could play through the entire game without spending another dollar, making any sort of fears of pay-to-win not a problem. What is a problem, however, are server issues. Matches have a tendency to randomly disconnect and cancel, and whenever a player leaves the match, the match pauses for at least a minute before returning to the action. Its frustrating Ubisoft didn’t use dedicated servers, but considering the fact that For Honor is always-online, it’s understandable that Ubisoft wouldn’t want a useless game if servers were shut down.
For Honor is a sold execution of a brilliant idea. Despite a lackluster story and issues with online connections, the game’s combat system and variety easily outshine such problems. At long last, we can answer our questions of who would win in a fight between Knights, Vikings, and Samurai, in one of the most unique and well-thought out games currently available. Now go and fight, for honor.
Pros (What’s good):
- Deep, tactical combat system
- Each character feels unique
- Lots of customization
- Microtransactions don’t feel intrusive
Cons (What’s bad):
- Connection issues plague multiplayer
- Writing is rather trite