For Honor – Review
PC, PS4, Xbox One
For Honor has been on the radars of many for a couple of years now. Initially unveiled at E3 in 2015, For Honor has been at the forefront of player’s minds due to a relatively aggressive marketing campaign which has seen it playable at countless many gaming events and conventions worldwide. In a gaming landscape that boasts a broad spectrum of melee-centric action games that range from God of War and Bayonetta through to Dark Souls and NiOh, For Honor’s release provides players with yet another alternate choice – this one with a cool multiplayer focus that helps it to stick out in a crowded genre.
The main attraction to For Honor is the game’s multiplayer, and the incredible combat that it boasts, one that extends into its single player, but is best experienced in the cut and thrust of combat against other human players. Players have the choice to play as multiple variants of Knight, Samurai or Viking, some characters are your traditional tank, while other classes are much faster but are more susceptible to damage from heavier blows. Whatever your chosen class the inner workings are the same; your character along with your opponent/s have three stances they can take up, with encounters at first glance resembling a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors as a result. Mix up your use of three stances, heavy and light attacks, as well as dodges, pushes and parries and all of a sudden you’ve got one of the most strategic, challenging and engaging combat systems seen in gaming.
It’s extremely important for me to note the how well balanced these characters are. The extensive beta testing and hands-on exposure at gaming conventions has clearly been pivotal in ensuring that each class, regardless of the Faction that the class descends from is viable in one, way, shape or form in combat. Of course, some characters will fit your particular play style better than others but in the battlefield, the Assassin has just as great a chance of success as the Heavy, Vanguard or the Hybrid, an important aspect to any competitive game.
There’s a wide range of modes available to any player of For Honor. 1v1 and 2v2 duels are perhaps the main attractions, especially if you’re looking to dine on the game’s combat, which is, of course, its great strength. Some of the finesse and strategy found in these modes is lost when you blow things out to larger, 4v4 encounters, like those found in Dominion, Skirmish and Elimination modes simply get too chaotic, and often the winner is the person to swung their weapon the most which flies in the face of what the core For Honor experience is about. If you’re still new to the game and want to ease your way into the mechanics or the flow of combat, each mode can be played with AI instead of other human players, so keep that in mind should you be feeling uncomfortable with the jump to the big leagues.
Multiplayer is the focus of For Honor, but it’s not the only way to play. Those looking to ease their way into the fray should look no further than the game’s campaign. It’s bare bones, and its story fails to resonate in any particularly impressive way, but what it does do is provide players with a fantastic tutorial for the bloodied battles ahead. The campaign itself is a missed opportunity with the game’s intriguing premise of three factions suddenly thrust against one another after a catastrophic event shifts the lay of the land forever. It is though still quite effective for players unfamiliar with the game and are looking for an introduction to each of the Factions, each of the classes and to get sufficient time to find one that suits their preferred playing style.
You’re getting the good with the bad in the campaign. There are some truly exceptional moments; intense tussles that see you scrape through by the skin of your teeth and then there are other circumstances which (for example) see you partake in perhaps the worst ever escort mission I’ve ever had the displeasure to play through. On the flip side there are some incredible battles as I’ve outlined, and other moments where you’ll chase down enemies via horseback and lay siege to a fort while it rains fire laced arrows from the other side. The highs are high, while the lows are quite low but you couldn’t be expecting too much more from what is ultimately the sideshow to the main attraction.
I was thoroughly impressed by just how fantastic For Honor looks. Perhaps I was a bit foolish but I had this assumption that given that the game was built around online play, and the gameplay itself that presentation was to be much less of a priority – but how wrong I was. I’ve already spoken about some of the set-pieces in the campaign, and these look truly gorgeous, while game holds up just as strongly even during the games more heated online moments. The sound design is right on the money as well, and while I didn’t hear anything especially noteworthy in terms of the game’s soundtrack, the clashes of blades and the sounds of battle feel incredibly genuine.
For Honor is not a perfect game; the campaign is rough around the edges, with a completely forgettable plot, and battles that escalate beyond a four-player total, get sloppy quickly, but the core of For Honor is golden. Handling your character is a dream, while the simple Rock, Paper, Scissors combat mechanic boasts incredible depth to it that when taken at face value initially seems absent. For Honor has crafted itself a really cool niche in the competitive space that few currently occupy, and provided the game continues to run as it has been online, that the game gets continued support from Ubisoft, then you can be sure we’ll be hearing much more about the game and the franchise in the weeks, months and perhaps even years to come. For Honor is a fantastic start, and has an impressive building block to work from going forward.