For Honor Review
At around the 5 hour mark something finally clicked and I stopped treating For Honor like a glorified Dynasty Warriors game. Throwing out flurries of heavy attacks and easily telegraphed rolls wasn’t working and, until then, I couldn’t easily grasp why. Nothing in my gaming vocabulary could make sense of what exactly For Honor wanted from me. It wasn’t until I slowed down, took a deep breath, and lengthened my patience, that I came to realize that For Honor was quietly offering the deepest and most satisfying third person combat ever devised. That’s on me. I hadn’t been following the game up until now but I’m glad that I’ve come around because For Honor is special and worth some attention.
What the folks at Ubisoft Montreal have made is, in some sense, the anti-fighting game. Where titles like Street Fighter or Marvel vs Capcom put a premium on offence and screen filling special moves, For Honor demands a level of patience and methodical positioning that I’ve never quite experienced before. It might seem like an odd comparison at first but For Honor has more in common with a fighter than it does with almost any other type of game. It too has combos, unblockable attacks, feints, throws, and parries. Staples in any balanced fighting game diet. And the game does a good job of explaining these fairly obtuse concepts with a series of in-game and video tutorials. While locked in a duel, long stretches of time can pass without a single attack, while two combatants circle each other waiting for an opportunity to strike. On the surface it may look like nothing much is happening, but the act of positioning and quietly feeling an opponent out can be surprisingly thrilling.
” It wasn’t until I slowed down, took a deep breath, and lengthened my patience, that I came to realize that For Honor was quietly offering the deepest and most satisfying third person combat ever devised.”
Those tutorials are much needed too because at launch For Honor ships with 12 heroes, each with unique combos and traits that heavily influence how they are meant to be played. The characters cover all the bases and range from the lumbering Shugoki, a 500-pound club carrying man-boulder capable of teeing off on his opponent like it were the 14th hole; the Peacekeeper, a silent dual blade wielding assassin that has the tendency to sneak up on you and stab your kidneys repeatedly; and the Warden, the fully armored longsword dualist, capable of mixing up their opponent with a series of shoulder bashes and quick blade strikes that will leave them with half their health before they even know what happened. The range of heroes is fantastic and offers something for everyone.
One of the first things you’ll do in For Honor is pick one of the three factions to swear allegiance to: the Knights, the Samurai, or the Vikings. The reason for this is the game’s persistent online “Faction War”. Which is a sort of territorial control meta game, overtop the base online modes. Every match you play, whether you win or lose, will reward you some war assets which you can place on the map to defend or attack territories that you control or want to steal from another faction respectively. The zones that any given faction control also determine what maps you’ll play on, and it changes the aesthetic effects. So a map controlled by the Samurai will be all anime’d out with kabuki masks and cherry blossoms. It’s a neat draw that makes each match feel more meaningful. As a bonus, at the end of the 10 week season the faction with the most territory will win some faction specific gear and prizes.
In its current state For Honor has the modes you would expect. Single and two person duels, a zone control mode, and a few team deathmatch variants. It scratches all the major itches, but it would have been nice to see some truly unique modes that could capitalize on the idiosyncratic nature of its combat. The mayhem of an 8 player free for all might be weird enough to work. I would have liked to see a little bit more.
“On the surface it may look like nothing much is happening, but the act of positioning and quietly feeling an opponent out can be surprisingly thrilling.”
It also has a single player campaign that started out strong, but ended up being quite tedious. 18 missions that mostly boil down to: go here, kill him, with some cutscenes between the action. Granted, it serves as solid training for what is obviously the main draw of the game – the online mode.
Another cornerstone of the game is its loot system. You scavenge loot at the end of matches or can open “packs” of loot with the in-game currency (steel) which will net you some guaranteed higher quality items. These items aren’t just cosmetic, they also affect certain stats. One piece of chest armor might increase throw distance while lowering stamina recovery. It’s all about trade offs so in some sense there seems to be checks and balances in place. It takes quite a while to grind out the good rare and heroic loot, so I haven’t been able to compare the differences between gear, but at the lower levels I wasn’t able to notice much of a difference in gameplay, which is a good thing because pay-to-win schemes in competitive games are just plain gross. But honestly, I can already feel Ubisoft leering at my wallet. The interface is jacked up with ads that encourage you to visit the store to purchase more steel, or EXP boosts, or costume bundles. I get it, they’re in the business of making money, but in some intangible way the entire experience is cheapened when I constantly feel probed for cash.
Microtransactions aside, For Honor is a special game. Ubisoft took a huge risk on an intellectual property that offered no guarantees on its financial return; that alone is worthy of applause. But get this, they actually pull it off. They somehow made a medieval fighting game that is intense, smart, rewarding, and demands something of its player. It asks for your patience, yet the glory you’ll receive in return is well worth the trade.
***A PS4 review code was provided by the publisher***
- Looks stunning
- Offers a wide range of heroes
- Deep combat system
- Intense PvP combat
- Occasional network issues
- Story mode is tedious
- Steep learning curve