For Honor is a game that demands flesh and blood and it doesn’t overly care how it goes about getting either.
Beaten, wounded, blood-soaked, shattered bones, body and mind broken. In my time with For Honor, I’ve watched as my head swivelled around on my broken neck, having been decapitated more times than I can remember, thrown unceremoniously from the edge of a bridge into the dark abyss below and driven forcefully onto wooden spikes. For Honor‘s ‘Art of Battle’ style gameplay is no Dark Souls but is just as bloodthirsty as it is exhausting, humbling and punishing.
For Honor: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 14 February 2016
Price: £54.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
There is a brutal honesty about For Honor. Approach it with a careless attitude and you’ll find yourself face down in the rain-drenched mud following the swift blow of a battleaxe to the face, the familiar taste of rusted copper soaking your mouth. However, accept For Honor for what it is, adopt a methodical approach to practising the game as it so duly craves and you’ll unearth a heavyweight that twists satisfying combat and moulds it into a bloody, grizzled work of art.
To become a fearsome warrior, you must embark on an unforgiving road pathed with extended periods of torture, embarrassment, submission and death…so much death, but through all of that, there will be defining moments after the blood eventually clears from your eyes; moments of bravery, satisfaction, revenge and victory. Picking yourself up from the ground to finally hold off an unrelenting foe; parrying their attacks back to respond with a hard blow of your own that sets your opponent firmly on their backside, these are the moments to live for.
Watch_Dogs developer Ubisoft Montreal’s latest outing longs for you to practice its violent form of art, and has different canvases to help you conquer its complex battle system. The greatest example of this comes not with its tutorial but from For Honor‘s story.
Divided into three sections that direct the spotlight over each of the game’s three opposing factions: Samurai, Knights and Vikings; For Honor‘s campaign is playable in solo and with a friend, with each individual campaign lasting no more than a few short hours. Withstanding the lure to burrow directly into the world of online play may be too much of a sway for some to completely forgo this feature, but there is much experience to be gained from an indulgence in this fighter’s campaign.
More than fantasy-historical lore on offer. You’ll get a taste of For Honor‘s roster of hardened heroes, how each particular warrior’s playstyle ties into the game. Aside from the sluggish heavy weapon-wielding Heavies capable of pummelling you deep into the dirt, there’s also the intelligence and light feet of For Honor‘s Assassin, whose strength comes from its use of speed and quick reflexes to shadow far larger and stronger opponents.
You’ll learn how to time and execute heavy and light attacks, dodge roll, throw, successfully block and parrying back enemy attacks; the combination of training mixed with a background story can be decisive and goes a long way when selecting the most appropriate warrior type to take online with you.
A double edged sword. The primary focus of For Honor‘s campaign is to bring you up to scratch with its combat techniques rather than provide you with storytelling that would see you return to it long after its conclusion. There is, however, something to be said for the cathartic like feeling that comes as you carve your way through a sea of bodies or the unbridled warcry after fending off a pack of savage wolves to reach the Viking leader with your trusted sword. But despite its large open play areas, its stunning stable like environments, dialogue and cutscenes,
But despite its large open play areas, its stunning stable like environments, dialogue and cutscenes, For Honor’s stories are unashamedly linear experiences, broken up by a progression screen that details and rewards you based on how triumphant you were in battle or how disastrously you fared. All fluidity each passage of the campaign possessed quickly diminishes behind the cloak of a pre-level menu.
Hopefully now more familiarised with the intricacies of combat or ‘Art of Battle’, the online world of For Honor awaits those willing to brave it. A lot hinges on selecting the correct type of fighter to best suit your style of play, this mindset should far outweigh your thinking when it comes to which of the games three faction’s colours you wish to bear in battle.
For Honor is a brutal, unforgiving game played out on an environmental chessboard with heavy or light weapons used to knock each enemy piece aside. If you work better with speed over brute power, selecting a larger warrior to take into battle would only prove detrimental to your long-term progression and mar your experience.
With five multiplayer modes to choose from: Dominion, Brawl, Skirmish, Duel and Elimination, For Honor’s multiplayer is an explosive mixture of the great and the unfortunate. Step into a 1v1 duel with a veteran opponent too early in your career and you’ll likely be made to pay for your haste. There can be no solace when battling others online, especially when mono e mono. Battle hardened warriors don’t take pity on the weak, they prey upon them, unjustly removing his or her head as a personal trophy after a domineering performance.
The level of predictability you once enjoyed when squaring off against swarms of A.I opponents feels entirely different and hard to replicate when compared to the struggles of engaging a real person who denies you the luxury of time to figure out their attack plan, not offering you the opportunity to predict their attacks.
Unless you’re lucky enough to come up against an opponent who is content with swinging at you until they foolishly run out of stamina, leaving them vulnerable to defeat, the fight will likely end quickly and won’t favour you at all. With that in mind, For Honor‘s Dominion mode surely provides a more suitable way to curve your learning as opposed to Duel and Elimination.
A 4v4 mode where controlling landmarks is critical to victory, Dominion gives the newcomer a chance to take on human players and a collection of A.I bots on a far fairer and more even keel. With 3 areas of ground to control, it’s less likely you’ll continually face off against another human and more likely if you do, you’ll have the help of an ally to bail you out or to assist you with combat. Be warned though as this exact scenario will also work against you at times, and with the roles reversed you may find yourself in an entirely impossible situation, either dead or forced to retreat, giving up much-needed ground.
Dominion plays out like much like Call of Duty‘s Domination or Battlefield‘s Conquest mode would if the player was only afforded a knife or a shovel to wage war with, rather than an assortment of weapons and heavy armoured vehicles to park and take aim.
For Honor isn’t a long range tactical game, nor run and gun warfare, it is nevertheless still a thinking man’s game, a melee fighter where to take on and take down an enemy, you must be prepared to get up close and personal in order to deal some major damage, the same can be said of all of For Honor‘s multiplayer modes but Dominion would help keep the game exciting while you come to terms with the somewhat harsh nature of online.
For Honor rewards the player with in-game currency otherwise known as ‘Steel’, but it is a sparse commodity, offered out at the conclusion of each online game. Perform well for your team or as a lone hero and you’ll be greatly credited, however, fail to adapt to the pressures of online play, fail to contribute and you’ll be faced with a slow degrading ascent up the ladder.
The accumulation of steel and speed of level progression allows players the better armour and weapon upgrades available, while forever punishing the weak. With such great emphasis on perfecting For Honor‘s particular style of war, it really comes as no surprise to see microtransactions play a significant role in the experience, with players able to buy customisation items through the game’s many store packs to help in battle.
The tutelage of For Honor‘s story campaign is no match for the unpredictability of a fight against a real person online. There are few moments more tense than the one where you begin to circle your opponent, each nervously awaiting the other’s opening move, and the reaction when that inevitably happens. For Honor is a game of chess, sometimes a game of cat and mouse that if practised often, can be honed and mastered. For Honor is as much a game of tactics as it is an excellent no punches pulled brawler and while its story will help you to better understand the intricacies of online war, it doesn’t hold a candle to a fight against an unpredictable foe.