For Honor Review: Slicing and Dicing
I Need A Hero
Trudging through mud and rain, wading through battle as dozens of small clashes erupt around you, finally encountering an opponent and facing off, and clashing swords and spears through a tactical combat system. This is the general gameplay path that For Honor runs on, ensuring that as a player, you are never really left wondering what to do or how to proceed.
Yet this single-minded approach to the game creates a dichotomy. On one hand, you have enjoyable combat that features a degree of depth that becomes surprising over time, but on the other you have a fairly 'one note' style of gameplay that, if not your cup of tea, may very well push you away from the gameplay.
This review hopes to give you a picture of what For Honor is all about, I hope you can gleam some of my feelings and thoughts towards the game as you read this review. I played For Honor on Xbox One, and thus far have spent about 22 hours in the game; slashing, hacking and otherwise causing a whole bunch of problems for my enemies. Thanks for taking a look!
It's A Mad World
For Honor features a minimal single-player campaign, and is extremely dependent upon a robust multiplayer experience to ensure that players keep coming back for more. That being said, this lack of emphasis on single-player does NOT mean that the developers skimped on the, frankly bizarre, story that takes place.
In the game their are three main factions, constantly at war with one another:
- Knights - Castles, armor and heraldic symbols abound, these are your typical knight in shining armor, medieval archetype type of knights.
- Vikings - These are not the cultured and economically vibrant Vikings we know today, but the stereotypically violent and bloodthirsty kind. Think lots of tattoos and furs.
- Samurai - Mysterious warriors who specialize in swift and brutal combat. Probably the least stereotypical in the sense that the samurai class does represent an accurate portrait of Japanese warriors from what history tells us.
All three of these disparate groups are nudged and prodded towards conflict by a power-hungry individual who plays a major role in the story after the world is changed and altered in such a way as to bring these groups face to face to begin with. While there not elaborate cut scenes or in-depth emotions on display, there are plenty of tidbits about the land and the history of these three groups (and why the dislike each other so much) as you venture through the single-player campaign.
Of course, with all of this warring and bloodshed, combat plays a major role, and this is where For Honor does seem to shine. Each of the aforementioned classes features four characters, from lumbering axemen, to agile berserkers and massive walls of metal with halberds.
The true strategy of the game comes into play when you have to find which class suits you best (the single-player portion does introduce the player to all of the classes) and how that class fares against others.
Then entire crux of the gameplay is focused on the right stick. Once you lock onto an enemy, a small symbol appears showing three directions: left, right and up. This represents how your weapon is positioned for blocking. The enemy can see how you are positioned, and you can see how they set-up. The challenge is bluffing and working your way through an opponents defense. If they swing from the right, you need to position your sword to the right to automatically block the swing, etc.
Of course, this is just the surface layer of things. With that block comes caveats. Should you parry? Should you roll away? How fatigued is your character? Should you avoid blocking and just take a swing yourself? The interesting part about this is that initially it feels very cumbersome and awkward, but eventually it becomes more natural, and you can really learn how to combat different opponents and styles in unique ways.
A Warrior Stands
A Swing And A Miss?
But this clever combat system seems to be the only pole holding up the For Honor tent. The single-player is rote, the multiplayer all features modes focused on Deathmatch, except for Dominion, which is pretty much the standard 'territories' game type that is present in almost every multiplayer game.
While the game overall features some striking visuals, ranging from snowcapped mountains to fetid swamps and lush forests, everything is marred by scenes of carnage and death. A part of me things that maybe there is some deeper message underlying this casual use of beauty scarred by war, but I frankly don't see For Honor reaching that deeply.
Sound design is also solid, but not something to write home about. The dialogue in the single player portion seemingly features each protagonist either yelling or speaking gruffly, adding to the vibe that 'war is everything' which the title wears proudly on its sleeve. None of this is really a detraction from the overall nature of the game, it is just disappointing that some spots which could tone things down and make for more narrative variety are eschewed for the sake of more testosterone laden scenarios.
Despite any negatives listed above, the package as a whole feels like a strong, cohesive unit that is meant to look and appear the way that it does.
So, how does For Honor actually fit into the current gaming landscape? It feels quite familiar in some ways, and very different in others.
On one hand, the multiplayer progression system and limited single player story seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft as a publisher, and having multiplayer focused combat and progression be the 'meat' of a gamer is not new for the industry as a whole. But the sword and axe combat style is unique.
Not many games manage to capture that tension found in film of a sword fight. There is a level of strategy in the multiplayer that is much more tangible and enjoyable than in any bout of Halo or Call of Duty. Furthermore, as you continue to play and develop your skills, a rich pool of tactics does become apparent and one can conceivably spend quite a good amount of time perfecting the game.
However, it is another violent, multiplayer centric combat simulator, albeit a unique one. While it certainly has some things to do in it, the variety seems to quickly grow stale, unless character customization provides a unique thrill that is lost upon me. It feels unique to a point, and is well made, but is not really something to rave about.
For Honor Release Trailer
For those of you inclined to hunt for achievements or trophies, this game has a pretty standard list for a multiplayer focused game. There are a handful of items related to the story, but the majority are focused on getting a certain number of wins in a game type, or deploying 'x' amount of troops in certain modes, etc.
There is also a smattering of items focusing on things such as unique decorations for your characters, and leveling them up to a certain point. Some will certainly take a solid time investment, but nothing is particularly challenging and all items seem doable.