For Honour is a medieval game where combat relies heavily on getting your stance right, and timing your attacks. At first, I thought it was too hard. Having now pumped plenty of hours learning its incracacies, I can now report that For Honour is a refreshing third person action combat game.
The story mode is pretty decent, but is basically a large scale tutorial. There are three stories to work your way through, one for each class of combatant you will find in the game: Knight, Viking and Samurai. They aren’t particularly long to get through, and while you can enter the multiplayer arena without needing to complete the story, it’s a good way to get a light introduction to each class and familiarise yourself with their unique styles against an AI that is relatively easy to defeat. The story isn’t going to blow your mind, but by the same token it isn’t terrible, either. Really, it’s just a good old fashioned tale of those bloody Knights looking to cause chaos among the land, and the warriors that fight back against them.
It isn’t essential that you complete the story before proceeding to multiplayer, but I’d highly recommend it in order to set yourself up for success when you enter online play. You can learn on the fly but taking that time to familiarise yourself with the uniqueness of the control scheme in a more structured and predictable environment just makes the transition from single player to multiplayer easier.
What makes For Honor challenging is that the gameplay is not like many games you are likely to have played. The enemies you face can be broken down into two categories: Soldiers and the class Champions (that title isn’t quite right, but it fits the medieval theme well). Soldiers are your basic cannon fodder style AI, there are lots of them and all you have to do is push your attack buttons and they will die with a single hit. They have little purpose other than to pad out the environments and get easy kills. You can’t block or make any real use of your moves.
Taking on the Champions however, is a different story altogether. Be it human controlled or AI controlled, these are the enemies you’ll face that require full use of your skillset. Blocking, dodging, countering, pushing and of course attacking are all required. Whether you’re on combat attack or defense, your stance is the most important part of the fight and it takes some getting used to. Fighting in medieval times was vastly different, and you couldn’t just swing wildy and hope to succeed. If you do try that method you will die quickly and become incredibly frustrated. When you engage you can see your opponent’s stance, so make sure you are replicating that stance if you want to successfully block or counter. Similarly, if you want to attack then you need to get yourself into a different stance to your opponent so that you can get through their defenses. It takes some practice and the encounters are at a slower pace than you’d usually find in a game, but it creates an intimacy to the battle. It’s a real battle of wills, and strangely enough it’s quite beautiful to watch and be a part of. Be warned though: you need to be very purposeful when going between stances, and by that I mean make sure you move the analogue stick across to the other stance in a straight movement as opposed to rolling it around the outside. I found if I tried the latter it often kept me in my old stance.
Keep those main points in mind and you will handle yourself very well in single player and adequately in multiplayer. Multiplayer is for the most part a fantastic experience of close combat that is the ultimate test of skill. Most modes you’re familiar with from other games are here, but given the medieval spin, you start by choosing whether you want to fight for the Knights, Vikings or Samurai. Don’t worry though, this just sets which faction you are a part of and regardless of which you choose you’ll be able to choose to play as any of the classes. It’s a little bizarre, but does mean that you aren’t locked in a class of fighter that doesn’t match your style but still lets your victories and defeats go to that faction.
This faction system is what makes multiplayer great. It doesn’t matter whether you are in deathmatch, domination or a duel, every victory and defeat matters and is part of a bigger game. The faction war going on across the multiplayer world means that success will give you War Assets that you can deploy across the map. Every day the map is changing as the factions fight for dominance. You’ll need to defend land you’ve captured and attack for new control on the map. At the end of a 10 week cycle the “season” ends and the rewards will be handed out based on how well your faction did. I find myself invested in every battle I want to win because I want my faction to win and that is what keeps me coming back.
For all the great things For Honor has to offer there are a couple of let downs, particularly in multplayer, the first being that it can take an age to find a match. Matchmaking starts by looking for games in your region and similiar skill level and then works its way out until it finds a game. Even playing match type that says it has very high activity, I’ve waited over three minutes to get a game and even then had times where I am kicked out and have to start again. Once in a game, that is where things get interesting.
Teamwork is a must, so if you get paired with players that run off and do their own thing, prepare to die a lot even if your skills are excellent. You’ll find yourself taking on multiple player controlled enemies and two or three on one is very hard to win. Finally, knocking players out of their stance is all too easy and appears to be the most overpowered skill in the game. I’ve come up against players who use that move almost exclusively, and it’s incredibly effective. No matter how much you block you’ll be knocked out of your stance and become easy prey. That to me takes the fun and beauty out of the fight.
For Honor is a bold game from Ubisoft. By going medieval, gameplay is quite unique and takes some getting used to. The system is simple enough so that everyone can have fun, yet has plenty of depth to allow players to advance their skills and apply more complex movesets. The Faction system working with war assets is a fantastic way to keep players interested, even in the more tedious multiplayer rounds (and you will get them) where you are utterly destroyed. For a game that slows down combat and forces players out of the tradtional third person combat comfort zone, For Honor does remarkably well. BEN CARMICHAEL