Fighting games are one of the hardest genres in the video game industry for developers to tackle. They require countless hours of testing, balance adjustments, and thought out execution to create anything close to a satisfying experience for their players. Ubisoft certainly doesn’t have the best pedigree in the field, but their latest historical fighter, For Honor, is a golden check mark that shows that they have the talent to craft them now.
If a Viking, a Samurai, and a Knight met on the battlefield, who would be left standing? For Honor is built around this core question that historical buffs and groups of friends alike will continue to discuss for years. Now that answer is left for players to discover as they pit the three warring factions against one another for territorial dominance. The concept may be completely unrealistic, but the immense fun and satisfaction that comes from learning this unique, yet deep, a combat system will leave players focused on the fight at hand instead of why it started in the first place.
Starting with the fundamentals, players focus on attacking and defending against their opponents through one of the three directions inputted by the right control stick. If the player attacks where the opponent isn’t guarding the hit connects and if the opponent attacks in the same direction the player’s stick is aiming the attack is blocked. It sounds like a simple system, until you throw two attack buttons, combo strings, unlockables, guard breaks, parries and even a stamina bar into the collective mix.
My first hour of gameplay of For Honor was rough as I struggled with bots and tutorials, trying to absorb every bit of information I could as fast a possible and skip some of the learning curve. Once I took things slow and focused on perfecting the fundamentals first, the rest of the mechanics my character could perform came more naturally with practice. Learning all of the match ups however, is an entirely different beast and it will be interesting to see if a tier list develops in the future.
The 15-character cast is a diverse mix of powerful warriors and weaponry with no faction standing out as the clear powerhouse to play. I recommend starting out with each factions starting warrior because they introduce some of the specializations that each army can perform. Samurai are swift and precise, quickly taking advantage of any mistakes their opponent makes to come out ahead. Vikings are unpredictable and can quickly get players caught in a flurry of wild, yet powerful swings that are hard to block. Lastly, the knights are an equal mix of strength and defense, able to adapt to any opponent with simple attacks, but effective damage.
For Honor plays at its best when it’s just one player against another in a balanced 3 out of 5 death match. The mental chess match that takes place feels just as intense as any current EVO fighter on the market, and because of the changing environments each round, there’s always a new strategy to test out. There are multiple gameplay modes to experience though. Dominion is the first 4v4 mode, revealed originally at E3, which has players capturing points and fighting minions until one team reaches 1000 points. When this occurs the opposing team enters into a break state, where they can no longer respawn and must capture points to keep their team in the game. I like this approach to the end game because the key focus is still on skilful play. The rest of the 4v4 modes are broken down versions of Dominion, removing the capture points and then, later, the minions until the game is just an elimination mode. I would have liked to see one more type of objective game mode to add one last touch of variety to the base game, but surely Ubisoft has something planned for the inevitable DLC.
While the PC version has had some pretty atrocious connection issues, whether from Uplay issues or player-player connections, the console version’s launch has been relatively smooth. The issues will surely be worked out in the coming days, but I hope the next issue addressed is the rage quitters. It’s common in fighters to have rage quitters, but not enough devs penalize them to stop the behavior from running rampant in the community. Games in progress have been stopped half way because of the lack of players, and the winning team doesn’t get any reward or experience except wasting their time.
For Honor’s multiplayer also has some interesting social features. Upon starting up the game, players choose one of the factions as their preferred faction to represent in the Risk-like territorial battle for the season. This doesn’t restrict players from using any of the other 12 characters available so there’s no reason to jump over to the Vikings if you want to try them out (so please don’t leave the knights). By representing a faction till the end of the season, players will get in-game rewards, including customization items like gear and color patterns for that faction.
Single-player gamers will be left disappointed however. While For Honor does feature an 18-mission campaign, its primary function is to get players primed for multiplayer by introducing a handful of warriors to play as from each faction. The overall narrative is very sparse and it tries to add some logic and deeper meaning into a game that excels at dumb fun.
For Honor is a great example that Western developers can make some great innovative twists on a primarily Japanese-built genre. It’s so safe for AAA titles to resort to going action, open-world, or FPS, but this is a real risk that Ubisoft is taking on a brand new IP and I hope it pays off for them. This is the best combat system I’ve had the pleasure to experience since the death of character action games. I hope to see you on the battlefield, even if you fight for Valhalla or the Emperor.