Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Third-Person Action
Rating: M for Mature
Knights, Vikings, and Samurai doing battle in all-out war? This riveting “who would win” scenario has been brought to life by the talented team at Ubisoft Montreal.
When I look at For Honor, I think of Deadliest Warrior, a show that put warriors of ancient history against each other one-on-one, determining the winner through research and recorded statistics from various weapons, armor, and more. At the end of each episode, a short choreographed fight between the two warriors would reveal the winner. Though the show only had a few seasons, it did spawn a couple video games in the fighting genre that were pretty sub-par.
For Honor is one big Deadliest Warrior scenario. After waiting two years since its reveal in 2015, I was more than ready to armor up on release day.
ESRB has given an M rating to For Honor for its intense violence. Three factions fight to the death in brutal melee combat. While engaged in battle, characters bleed as they are struck by a sword, axe, mace, or spear. The violence level heightens even more when characters are executed. Most of the finishing blows are either decapitations or impalements. Know that the execution skill is completely in the hands of the player. You have the option to not activate your execution skill, but most players around you will choose to use it. It is also possible to push opponents off of ledges and into environmental hazards, like spiked walls.
The environments themselves are sometimes absolutely war-torn, with structures on fire and bloodstains on the ground. In one particular scene during the campaign, a group of characters walk in one of these war-torn locations, there is a vivid image of a soldier’s head on a pike. On a more positive note, I expected to hear cursing at some point, whether during the campaign or on the battlefield during a match. To my surprise, For Honor has no profanity at all, making the Mature rating solely due to violence.
Though I had the chance to play For Honor during its multiple tests throughout production, I barely had the opportunity to get my hands on it until the open beta, which was available just a week prior to release. Playing the open beta helped me grasp the combat and multiplayer modes right before release. When For Honor launched at midnight, it had only been one whole day since the open beta ended. What awaited me was a full single-player campaign, three new heroes, new maps, and more customization options. I was eager to knock out the campaign right away, which I quickly finished, and now spend my time in For Honor continuously mastering the deep combat and learning strategies for the handful of multiplayer modes.
The campaign takes around seven hours, which is pretty standard for online shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty these days. The reason I bring up those titles is because the campaign in For Honor shares a similar format. Players enter a mission and go from point A to point B with various enemies looking to kill them on their way. The campaign mode also has cooperative online features, with your friend taking control of a fairly useless A.I. companion to help conquer your foes. Consisting of three chapters, the campaign begins telling the story through the Knights’ point of view, then transfers to the Viking’s and Samurai’s perspectives. The buildup to foreshadowed events had me in great anticipation, but the campaign fell short in its final moments with a jarringly abrupt ending.
Combat gameplay is For Honor ‘s strongest trait. It’s quite different from anything else out there. The right stick is mapped to a multi-directional attacking and blocking system. Aiming your reticle up, left, or right determines what direction you will block or counter, as well as the direction you will be aiming your attack. Matching your reticle to an enemy as they attack will block the blow, allowing you to aim in another direction and hit the attack button to try and deal damage to your opponent. There are much deeper layers of tactics and strategy that make every battle totally unique. There are also twelve different heroes that all fight a bit differently and further the depth of combat.
Once you have finished the campaign, you can fully devote your time to multiplayer. The four game modes offer enough variety to keep me coming back, with Dominion and Duel being my personal favorites. Dominion handles the control point system that we know from our favorite shooters and lends itself to the combat very well, while the one-on-one Duel mode brought me back to the days of playing Bushido Blade on the original Playstation.
Brawl is a 2-on-2 match that can be loads of fun when playing with a friend. Deathmatch is exactly like it sounds with a few lesser gametypes blended in. Unfortunately, it suffers from a lot of one-sided battles; when enough players get killed, the match ends up becoming very one-sided, often with three players ganging up on one lonely soldier. There is no honor to be seen in these moments, but the close comebacks and underdog victories over said evil-doers are what keep me coming back to that particular mode.
You have multiple incentives to keep playing on top of the simple victory. When playing a match, you are also playing for your faction. At the end of a battle, you gain War Assets you can use to assist your faction after each match. War Assets are placed on a territory your faction is battling for, either adding to an attack your team is making on an enemy territory or adding defense to a territory of your own.
The territories are updated every six hours, with the overall winning team determined after the round ends every 14 days. The real victory is to be had after winning a season (5 rounds lasting 10 weeks). The results of these seasons will apparently play a part in the game’s future somehow. We don’t yet know how, exactly, but there are rewards awaiting those who participate in the faction war.
One of For Honor’s greatest incentives is its customization, which is where I have invested the better part of my hours so far. It has great depth and variety. I have customized every piece of my character’s armor, down to different parts of his weapon.
You can earn different pieces by playing matches or purchasing packs with Steel (the currency). Each piece also affects various stats. I recommend catering those stats to how you plan on using your character. Patterns, colors, and emblems can also be added to armor to allow some personal flair to reflection from your favorite heroes. The option for such creativity keeps things from looking bland and gives players the chance to be different from the rest.
For Honor may not have the most jaw-dropping graphics on this current generation of consoles, but the set pieces and battlefields are crafted very well. Each map even changes its theme based on which faction is controlling that territory at the moment. Weather effects are also added into the mix. I never had that feeling of playing the same repetitive maps that I get from other video games.
It has been hard to find the words to describe how deep For Honor can get. Though that depth shines within the combat, it is present throughout the game, except the campaign which turned out to be pretty shallow. Hopefully, the story will continue as new downloadable content rolls out. Until then, I am perfectly happy with what we already have in the multiplayer mode. Ubisoft took a leap of faith and created something totally unique. The beauty of new intellectual properties is that we never really know what to expect. That feeling of surprise is, unfortunately, saturated by an industry that consistently births multiple sequels and annual releases of our favorite franchises. I knew For Honor would be right up my alley, but I still never knew what kind of product I would be getting.
For Honor is completely unlike anything else on the market due, primarily, to its deep combat. Players can easily sink hundreds of hours into the game with so many customization options for twelve different classes. The weak campaign and one-sided Deathmatch battles are, thankfully, not a killing blow.
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