For Honor, the latest release from Ubisoft, is a fighting game done in a very unique way. The game pits some of the most renowned factions of history against each other in a historically inaccurate but hugely entertaining fusion. The three factions squaring off include Vikings, Knights and Samurai, each bringing their own unique style and culture to the game. For Honor has introduced a brand new combat system dubbed the Art of Battle, which involves the intricate detail, precise timing, and to some extent, the combos of fighting games such as Street Fighter and Tekken, and places these elements into a 3D world of faction warfare on steroids. The system works by giving you 3 zones you can block from and attack to, left, right and up. There are two main types of attack, light attack and heavy attack, and you have to be blocking in the same direction your enemy is attacking you in order to negate the majority of the damage. There are additional elements to this system that really flesh it out, such as parries, which require precise timing but have a massive pay off in giving you a window to capitalise on your enemy’s lowered defences, and feints which allow you to play mind games with a defensive opponent.
For Honor does have a single player campaign, which is split in to 3 sections. The actual narrator is the main antagonist of the campaign, a warlord known as Apollyon. Her aim is to carve away the bureaucracy that has weakened and softened the 3 factions of the game by provoking them into war, with her and each other, forcing the Vikings, Knights and Samurai to kill off the weakest of their number and for the ‘wolves’ to shine through and take command and become embroiled in what she believes is humanity’s natural state, war. You play as different heroes from all 3 factions, starting off with a Warden actually recruited to Apollyon’s cause, through to an Orochi known as the Emperors Chosen, eventually working your way to Apollyon herself. I found the single player campaign somewhat enjoyable, but it’s very easy and got a bit monotonous as the objectives are all similar for all parts of the campaign. I would recommend buying another game if you were thinking the single player aspect of For Honor would be a stand out feature, it wasn’t a let down because I never expected a great deal in this regard as it was marketed as a multiplayer focused game, but it still wasn’t anything special to go out of your way to play.
As I said, the core of the game is focused on the multiplayer, and it really is something special. The multiplayer is meant to lead on from the end of the campaign, I won’t spoil the end just in case you want to play it through for yourself, but the upshot is basically… more war. Shocking, I know. But lore and story-lines aside, the multiplayer is enticing and extremely entertaining, even excluding the arsenal of connection errors, which are more common than words beginning with E in this sentence. The combat in general feels visceral and thrilling. Whether collapsing onto your foes as a Norse meat mountain, gracefully decapitating your clumsy counterparts with precise and efficient slashes as a noble Samurai or mercilessly pummeling your opponents into broken submission with the flail-wielding one man sentinel from the Knights, you will feel rewarded in punishing your enemies. The fighting in For Honor is unforgiving in its execution, it is, at it’s core, solely skill based. If you have a keen understanding of the core mechanics of the game, you already have a huge head start. That last point might seem like common sense, of course understanding the basics of the game help in any game, but in For Honor they are totally essential, if you try to spam heavy attacks at a veteran of the game, you will get meticulously broken down and crushed for your impudent assumption that this plays like a hack ‘n’ slash game.
For Honor’s multiplayer mode fills up the majority of the game’s content. Currently, there are 5 game modes you can choose from within multiplayer: Dominion, Elimination, Skirmish, Brawl and Duel. Dominion, Elimination and Skirmish are all 4v4 game modes, splitting players between a team of attacker and defenders, although the objectives remain the same for both sides, you aren’t actually attacking or defending anything making the teams functionally the same. In Dominion, the map is split up between 3 capture zones, A, B and C. You start nearer either A or C depending on your team, and B is the middle point where you meet with the enemy to spill blood for your cause. Another interesting dynamic about point B is that even without player intervention the control of the point sways, this is due to the constant struggle of the AI controlled minions wrapped in an almost endless battle over point B. This is until, of course, a player decides to visit death upon those computer controlled weaklings, carving through them with satisfying ease and taking point B for their team, thrusting them towards victory, which is attained when one team accrues over 1000 points, at which point the enemy team becomes hunted with only one life remaining per man. At this point it is best to have one or two players tactically hold points to avoid your imminent victory from slipping back into the abyss of bloody struggle.
Elimination is pretty much the end of Dominion for a whole game, but for both teams, everyone has one life, everyone starts in a 1v1 scenario and there are buffs dotted around the map to aid in your victory, such as extra health and damage for a limited time. This often makes ‘tactical retreat’ or cowardice a viable option to claim these buffs and turn the tides. Skirmish is just an all out kill fest, no real objective other than to kill the enemy team more than they kill you, this is just Team Deathmatch from other multiplayer games. I would say this is probably the least favourite game mode generally, most likely due to its lack of a clear-cut goal and the feeling of impotence when the enemy you kill for the sake of killing re-appears shortly after to harass you as you fight another enemy. Brawl, my personal favourite, is just a straight up 2v2 fight in a smaller map, no buffs, no gear stats, just a straight up fight. I personally enjoy the added team element, someone to talk to in between rounds and to slate the enemy with if things devolve into mutual mockery. Duel is probably my least played mode, it’s just a straight up 1v1 fight, same rules as Brawl but 2 people instead of 4. This just feels inferior to Brawl in my opinion. That added communication and team aspect adds a bit more flavour to Brawl as opposed to Duel where most people don’t even respond to you in chat. Duel is, however, the hub of the most high level play to be found in the game as of yet, although there are always exceptions to the rule.
As is the case with every competitive multiplayer game, balancing characters is a big deal and can make or break a game. Right now in For Honor, the game is surprisingly well-balanced for a new release. Some games can require huge amounts of balance patches in order to even make them playable, or to stop one set-up, build or class being the one and only competitive way to play. Fortunately For Honor isn’t like that, for the most part at least. The majority of people I have spoken to about the subject agree there are some classes that are definitely stronger than others, almost to the point of being unfair, but no class is unbeatable. For example, a lot of people think the Warden class has too many good parts to his moveset and not enough bad to balance him out. His lightning quick overhead light attacks and his near instant zone attack, a move actually intended for killing minions in Dominion, but now often used in combat because of it’s ridiculous speed and substantial damage, make him too good a defense breaker. No other class can play so aggressively in the high-end of play, and are forced to read and react to other players patterns, and the Warden can forgo that to quite a large extent. Issues like this, if left unaddressed or handled improperly, could ruin For Honor just as it is meant to be evolving into a hugely popular game with even more potential for DLC, game modes, characters and more. There have also been issues with connection, some people going multiple games with disconnects and drops of all kinds, although there is a patch coming soon so hopefully these issues will be addressed.
In conclusion, For Honor is a massively entertaining game with a lot of replayability. At the moment, the dominating strategy is to turtle up and assume an impenetrable defence, playing reactively minimizes risk and therefore increases your chances of winning a fight. I hope to see this changed in the future as it will bring back those fraught and exciting lower skill plays that were definitely more enjoyable than the current staring contest meta. All in all, if you enjoy visceral combat, Vikings, Samurai and Knights battling for supremacy and a bit more depth to your combat than say Call of Duty or Chivalry can offer, For Honor is for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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