When I first heard about For Honor, I was ready to dismiss it as a pointless hack and slash attempting to cash in on the Dark Souls hype. It’s embarrassing to admit this given how wrong I was, and given how little I knew about the game, but having spent some serious time with For Honor, it’s obvious that Ubisoft have forged something special. But it’s something special that will grow over time that has a few more steps to take to be truly great.
While single player is not the focus of For Honor, there is a flimsy unapologetically stupid storyline to go with it that takes itself too seriously but still manages to work. After a magical fissure breaks the crust of the earth, a break in the space time continuum is formed and these warriors populate the planet from all realms of life. Knights, Vikings and Samurai – although existing in entirely different time periods – now exist together, and battle against each other. A warlord seeks to manipulate each faction to keep them fighting, too. It’s simple and unpretentious but it works to set the scene for For Honor’s concept.For Honor is a third person, medieval themed action game. Players choose their own class, of which there are thus far 12, from a team of knights, vikings or samurai. Each class has their own unique weapons, movesets and abilities as well as characteristics and features that ensures that they all play differently. They play so differently, in fact, that For Honor at times has more in common with a modern fighter than a typical multiplayer action game.
I say this because every character in For Honor has their own little idiosyncrasies. Their own intricacies that you’ll have to work out to play them effectively. A lot of that is hidden behind some (ironically) hidden tutorial videos that detail what each class can do and how, so it’s a huge recommendation that you put some time and thought into how you’ll play with the class you choose. Some are better at stunning players, others are better at guarding, while some might even be better at escaping. It’s for this reason that I recommend trying everyone in For Honor – the game lets you access them all from the get-go – before writing it off.The real meat of For Honor’s gameplay is what Ubisoft calls the “Art of Fighting” system. Essentially a glorified duelling combat system, it allows players to attack from three different directions as well as defend. Such a system sounds simplistic but adds a lot of depth and tension to every battle, especially against human opponents, where actions are as unpredictable as ever. It’s a simple system too – if your opponent is attacking from the left it’ll be a successful one unless you’re guarding in the same direction. Knowing when to attack is key – though unfortunately this means a lot of duels will just be staring contests until someone gets gutsy enough to make the first move.
It’s a great fighting style to the point where it really does feel like you’re in a duel and where the smallest fault in calculation results in a big punishment if your opponent is as switched on as you are. And despite the title of this game, be prepared to face some questionable tactics – evade or dodge rolling around a precipitous cliff can mean an easy and instant death. Playing online I found most players trying to resort to these dirty tactics but they’re one that can just as easily be avoided with a brisk jog to move the action elsewhere.So For Honor has some well thought out combat that feels true to it’s concept, but what do you actually do in the game? You’ve got two real options here – go online and play against other players or go online (yes, you must be connected all the time) and take on the game’s campaign. Both options are just as fun but both have their own shortcomings too, some of which are fixable and some of which aren’t.
The campaign itself is surprisingly solid. While it only clocks in at about six to eight hours, it takes you through a storyline that is told from the perspectives of the three major factions. The goals can get rather repetitive – namely killing people one way or picking up an object here or there. But the scenarios are surprisingly spectacular and much like the storyline very dumb. But a good dumb. You’ll raid the beaches in a Saving Private Ryan-style sequence except it’ll be Vikings crashing the shores of Feudal Japan. It’s ridiculous, and it’s bound to have historians cringing. But even though it’s unapologetically stupid, it’s amazing. To make things even better, you can play through the whole thing co-op with a friend too.The multiplayer is where you’ll spend the most of your time in For Honor and where Ubisoft plans to continue to support the game. You’ve got some standard fare here – duel mode lets you take on other human players or pair up with someone to take on the AI. Deathmatch is the same kind of thing, just on a larger scale. Dominion is the main mode I predict will see the most popularity in the months to come and easily the most enjoyable.
Dominion places three major control points on the map, and your team must capture and hold them to earn points. Two of the control points are normal, while the third one is usually in the center of the map and is populated with AI controlled soldiers. You can kill the soldiers to “push back” the enemy and take back the central location, in constant tug-of-war of sorts, but those who want to win must carefully coordinate taking all the points always rather than just focusing on the one.Regardless of what mode you choose to play in For Honor, there’s one thing that it gets right – and that’s the feel of the battle. You’ll charge into a crowd to take down your enemies but focus on the greater ones in the swarm. It’s a strangely exhilarating experience that manages to catch the authentic “feeling” of a battle. Even though they don’t really affect the outcome, there’s walls exploding and objects on fire that give the sense that the battles are much larger than they really are. It’s a form of window dressing, for sure, but it’s one that enhances the For Honor experience.
What didn’t enhance the experience is the way the game handles matchmaking and server hosting – in that there isn’t really anything. Employing a quasi-peer-to-peer system, For Honor has a long way to go to be a truly seamless online experience. Almost every session I sat down to play would be plagued with networking issues – whether a map loaded and then instantly disconnected me from the match or that a match would play to the end and disconnect. For Honor was rife with connection issues that downright stopped me from playing at times, which is disappointing. This is something that could easily be fixed in future updates but would be remiss to not mention here.For Honor features a comprehensive customisation system that lets you deck out your warrior in gear that marginally improves your stats as well as change the general appearance of your character. Such gear can be unlocked through natural progression by playing or unlocked quickly through the purchasing of Steel, the currency in For Honor, using real money. It’s an inevitable happening in today’s gaming climate but For Honor’s system feels reasonable and more importantly not like a pay-to-win scheme.
From a visual standpoint, For Honor is a spectacular looking game. The detail on your character’s armour is incredible, the locales (while a bit drab) feel very authentic to each of their time settings and the animations are fantastic and nuanced enough to a degree that they are tangential to gameplay. Other details like braids and tassels move in the wind. For Honor is a visually arresting game, and the attention to detail carries over to the sound design which gives a real feeling of weight to the game’s array of weaponry.
For Honor feels like both a triumph and a failure in some senses. On one hand, it’s an exceedingly genuine melee combat experience that manages to leverage the wild and varied styles of the knights, Vikings and samurai in a comprehensive package. The single player is great, if not terse. The multiplayer well designed. On the other, it’s let down by consistently disappointing server and networking issues. These can be fixed in the future, no doubt, but for now, For Honor has some more territory to conquer before it becomes truly great.
The Xbox One version of this game was played for the purpose of this review. You can read our review policy HERE.