Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Quebec, Ubisoft Toronto, Blue Byte
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Tested on: Xbox One
For Honor – Review
For glory, for fame , for king and country, but above all for honor, which is perhaps something we now see as a charming aspect of the Dark Ages. Nonetheless, for many knights in dented armor, this was reality, as they would either find honor or a bloody death on the battlefield. Ubisoft’s newest IP tries to replicate said feeling with a digital online battlegrounds where your swords, clubs, spears or axes do the talking. We were eager to dust off our scratched, dented and bloodied armor, take a last gander at our sloppy rooms and head towards our certain demise, For Honor.
War seems to be everything the people of Ashfeld know and it is clear that the conflicts will not let up in the near future. The story begins with the ‘Warden’, who follows a holy pledge of defending the weak and innocent, and when he finds himself in a battle with the Blackstone legion, he is chosen by his lord to fight in his stead. After winning the duel, this valiant warrior is forced to join the legion, to fight for Apollyn, who claims to be the savior of the masses, but after only one encounter, it becomes clear that this warlord is pushing her own agenda and is just planning more and more seeds of war. From here on out a journey of doubt begins, while you plow through the stories of the three different factions.
Truth be told, the story is pretty much a prolonged tutorial, but one with a decent amount of story content and value. While games like this often have a story, in the form of short snippets before online matches, or simply by adding a small tutorial and sketching the current status of the world, Ubisoft went a step further and actually provided a full-fledged story mode, that will keep you occupied for a few hours.
Tossing aside the many static objects in the different battlefields For Honor has to offer, this game looks extremely nice. You’ll be treated to vibrant arenas, all with enough clutter, decorations and details to make it hard not to look around, even when other players and AI opponents are taking swings at you to crack open your skull. Nonetheless, it’s the characters that stand out the most, with their battered pieces of armor, the different weapons and of course, the whistles and bells that serve as ornaments to their impressive battle gear.
Atmosphere is also a very important part of the game, which is properly enforced by the use of different weather effects, lighting and the proper usage of colors. Thanks to these changing conditions, the world feels alive, and it changes up the appearance quite a bit, simply by the shift in said different components.
‘Cinematic’ might not be the proper word to describe the For Honor soundtrack, as it doesn’t really have that many tracks for you to enjoy, but it’s certainly a very atmospheric one, that heightens the experience. You’ll be treated to very ‘war-like’ tunes, where the drums are going rampant, while the melody remains rather still on the background. Other than that, it’s the sound of clashing blades, grunts, screams and the dripping of blood that will keep you entertained. While the latter may not be really innovative, everything just sounds realistic.
For Honor is a rather tactical MMO fighting game, which might not be the most precise and perfect way to call it, but it’s basically just that. This means that after you choose your desired faction (samurais, Vikings or knights) you’ll basically be chopping down other combatants from start to finish, if they don’t finish you off first. As mentioned earlier, the story portion of the game is somewhat of a very lengthy tutorial, thus those who are unsure of their skills or who want to perfect their blocking and attacking techniques first are advised to play through the eighteen missions first, or at least until you build up some confidence. The story mode will also provide you with the basics of what to expect in the different online modes, as you’ll often find yourself conquering areas, doing PVP on a grand scale, but also solo duels against AI opponents. Plowing through the campaign together with a friend is also an option, but it’s certainly just as pleasant to simply play this mode solo.
Of course, as expected, the meat of the game can be found in the online multiplayer modes, where you’ll truly battle for honor. From here on out, you’ll be able to choose out of twelve different classes, and while some are obviously tied to certain factions, you will not be limited to the characters that would only be found in your chosen faction, as you’d otherwise have to make do with four characters. That being said, all three different factions pretty much have the same setup when it comes to their fighters, as you’ll get one balanced type, one assassin-like type, a heavy fighter, and something between the heavy type and the normal balanced fighter. While these types may be akin to each other, they ‘handle’ differently, have different combos and their swings, range and so on, are also slightly different, making it fun to mess around with different types. At the beginning you’ll have the balanced fighter of each faction unlocked, but you’ll already get sufficient funds to immediately purchase a handful of extra warriors for you to mess around with, if you so desire. If you earned some cold hard cash in the story mode, you’ll probably be able to already purchase nearly every available class.
The game plays the same for the most part but the different modes will appease to different types of players. In dominion you will have to conquer three areas on the map, and hopefully keep them until you reach enough points to permanently finish the enemies in their final standoff. Nonetheless, you’ll notice that the areas will constantly shift control, thus many battles are ensured. Team deathmatch is pretty much that, fight in teams to finish off the competing team. Last but not least, you’ll be able to do 2v2 or 1v1 duels. The latter is probably best for those who already have some experience under their belt, which can only be achieved by playing around in the different modes and with different classes for some time. The duels are prone to imbalance issues however, as it’s clear that some slower classes can barely win against faster, more balanced classes.
The more you use a class, the more experience it will get and thus unlock new skills and even gear. This will slightly improve your characters, but it will never give you a grand advantage over your opponents, especially not experienced ones. Keep in mind that gear is only a key item in the dominion mode, as you’ll be fighting on equal ground in the duel mode, thus rendering said items useless.
For Honor is all about putting your reflexes and common sense to the test, but to do so the game must have rather tight controls in order to achieve said goal. Luckily Ubisoft did an effort to optimize the attack/block system, and they have done it in such a fashion the game is actually very accessible for newcomers. Blocking or attacking can always be done in three different directions, namely left, right or up. This direction depends on your stance, and your stance can easily be switched by simply flicking the right stick in one of those three directions, thus you’ll be able to switch quite rapidly. Nonetheless, switching in the heat of battle has a small delay, just like it would in real life, which means you can’t block attacks from two different sides if they follow in a rapid succession, or you can’t switch your stance in the middle of one of your attacks, but you can do so per swing you make at your foe, if you don’t spam your attack buttons to rapidly.
For some reason the servers felt more stable during the open beta than they are on release, while there are currently less players online. More than often you’ll find yourself in fairly long queues to join a game that is almost finished, to have players leaving in-between matches, to fight the next match with a few players short, thus versus AI opponents. Connection problems also occur quite frequently, where you’ll be thrown back to the lobby for no apparent reason.
At the moment For Honor has a sufficient amount of content to remain interesting for a fairly long time, but we do hope a lot of updates will happen during the coming months, where free content will be added. A few extra classes, extra maps and items would certainly make this game even better.
For Honor is a very amusing and exciting new MMO title that will certainly please many players who would love to get a hefty dose of PVP. The game is very easy to learn, but you’ll spend a lot of time mastering it, but the feeling of accomplishment after winning a few duels is immensely rewarding. If you’re into medieval combat, with a highly competitive feel, but also a satisfying atmosphere, For Honor will surely get your blood boiling, albeit in a positive way.