Platform: Xbox One, PS4, PC
We’ve been spoiled with numerous gratifying releases this month. For Honor, Ubisoft’s latest battle-centred, in-depth combat extravaganza, being a new addition.
Despite bringing phenomenal technical prowess, however, it might still be unable to compete with other dominating projects in today’s multiplayer-saturated market. Then again, it really never meant to, as it doesn’t fall into any one existing genre category.
For Honor brings three factions – Knights, Vikings, and Samurai – into the same battle arena in a historically-impossible, but truly satisfying brawl. Each faction with its own perks and buffs, you can explore the various customisation options and battle-approaches your character possesses as you progress through the campaign.
The campaign itself, being decidedly linear and featuring forgettable characters, therefore serves more as a tutorial and overview of the technicalities of the game, and the three different character types.
It is the build-up to this title’s key focus, which is multiplayer. A completely necessary build-up, as you would be eviscerated if you started with a multiplayer run before learning the moves through singleplayer.
The novelty of For Honor‘s concept lies in the meticulously crafted in-depth combat. Starting with a regular lock-on, the player then faces the enemy in a one-on-one duel, amidst a siege or wider battle. Here, the hack and slash becomes strictly strategy, as you alternate between Guard, Block (from left, right and top), or Attack modes, searching your enemy for vulnerable angles.
These duels gradually build up in difficulty, although even the easiest ones aren’t precisely easy, with each new enemy or boss featuring his own unique fighting style and hidden skill. This is overlapped with the all-too familiar stamina bar, which seems to be the new omnipresent Achilles’ heel in recent projects, demanding each move to be yet more calculated.
The techniques you learn take a significant amount of time to master, making this game not an on-the-go casual pick-up. If you want to get good, and get the best gear (some of which is ridiculously expensive, and requires winning literally hundreds of battles, or else succumbing to in-game purchasing), then keep at it.
The level of dedication required here might be off-putting to some players, methinks, as the mechanic complexities, which seem superficial at first, make the game more challenging to get into, and risk turning fun into a chore.
If you keep to the proverbial grindstone, though, and learn to analyse your enemies’ styles quicker, find weaknesses more efficiently, then you’ll reach that multiplayer utopia, which is what the game has been grooming you for.
Brawl mode, involving two-on-two stand-offs, can be rewarding for you and your buddy, and made even more interesting via the tools you’re given to be able to defeat both opponents by yourself, should your comrade fall, leading to Souls-esque glorious satisfaction.
The four-on-four Skirmish, Dominion and Elimination modes are more hectic, but an insane amount of fun. Reminiscent of some of Quake 3 Arena’s different modes, here you employ all the battle skills you’ve learnt thus far, and combine them with sneak attacks, capture-the-flag type arenas, defensive vs offensive strategies (dedication to either one will result in fantastic ‘feats’: one-off, special wide-area attacks), and tactical approaches.
Depending on your team’s level, you can play an entire round conflict-free, by simply guarding and building up your points until you unlock an awesome feat, and destroy your opponent’s whole faction, for instance.
For Honor’s challenging, highly-involving combat revolutionised duel mode, creating a mash-up genre of medieval-brawl-strategy-action all its own. In combination with the wider context of a gorgeous world, fluid graphics, relatively stable servers, difficulty adjustments, and free DLC content, this game shines.
Although the singleplayer campaign is nothing to write home about, if seen as an elaborate, necessary tutorial, it becomes a fun run before the real challenges of multiplayer – as the game’s spotlight is on competitive play.
Is it as compelling and personal as Overwatch, or as addictive as Diablo III‘s multiplayer? No. However, it cannot strictly be compared to any other title out there at present, and should be commended for its novelty mechanics and own overall merit.