It’s kind of hard not to get excited about something as cool looking as For Honor. When the initial trailer dropped a couple E3’s ago, everyone was raving about this mythical land where Samurais, Vikings, and Knights squared off in battles to the death. We weren’t sure what the actual game would offer in terms of story or replayability, but we did know that this was an awesome concept that had some amazing potential. For Honor’s release has come and gone and we’ve had some time to check it out. Is there enough here to warrant a purchase or is the game all show and no filler?
Before I get into what For Honor is, I think it poignant to point out what it isn’t – a single player game. Sure, there is a single player mode, but this can best be explained as a somewhat longer and fleshed out tutorial that will walk you through all of the possible characters you can play along with the lore going on behind the scenes. Most of the missions will task you with taking down swarms of enemies and then going toe to toe with some bigger, more online human like opponent that will block and actually make you do more than just swing your weapon wildly. It’s not that the mode is bad, it does it purpose extremely well and when I completed the storylines, I felt that I was better equipped to jump into the online mode and know what I’m doing. If you were hoping that For Honor would have some long drawn out single player and you’re not the biggest online gamer? Well, then I would say you should pass. It’s a little disappointing, especially with the awesome setup for some neat story moments, but For Honor is a multiplayer game first and foremost. All of the exciting and nuanced combat you have seen in screenshots and videos have come from these online modes. But on the other hand, if you’re a fan of fighting games or third person action game’s online modes, then For Honor might be right up your alley.
So, now that we know what For Honor isn’t, what exactly is it? While playing For Honor online, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I was playing a fighting game over and over. Whenever you’d come across an enemy, it became a one on one fight to the death with attacks made based on your opponents actions, blocks, and defensive moves based upon how your opponent was playing. Now, throw in the fact that this isn’t a one on one fighting game, but a large scale battle and that concentration you needed for that one enemy has now expanded into watching out for his friends and handling them as well. Things can get pretty chaotic, pretty fast in For Honor but with the right team and the right strategy, no obstacle is truly insurmountable. The online portion of the game is best played with a headset and friends due to the strategic nature of the fights but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something here for the lone wolfs among us. There are modes that will pit you and some others against AI controlled enemies in battles that are similar to the human on human battles. I found that this was a good place to start after finishing the tutorial. Enemies were tougher and you were able to get your feet wet in a little more of a structured play through.
The actual gameplay in For Honor is where the nuanced combat comes into play. You aren’t just hacking and slashing out there with the numerous character types you can unlock. Each faction has 4 playable classes. The first is a vanguard that is your standard warrior type character. The Assassin, a nimble but lower health character, was a little tricky for me to get used to because of my attack first mentality, but in the hands of someone actually really good at this game could do wonders. The Heavy is about what you’d expect, big armor or large health pool with a somewhat slower attack. Finally, the fourth slot is different on each faction and is typically some mashup of the previous 3 classes. Depending on your playstyle and overall dedication to the game, these characters depths and matchups with other characters will begin to give way to a more skilled level of playstyle. Some classes are better vs. others and with time and dedication, becoming at least serviceable with each will help your team out immensely over the course of your online play.
The combat in For Honor is the one area where I think this game really resembles a more wide open, multiplayer, fighting game. Your left stick will control your movement in the game while your right stick will control the stance you are in. The combat, in it’s most basic form, is finding a stance your opponent isn’t actively blocking against and swinging your weapon to connect. Where the game starts to get more complex revolves around the use of charges to disrupt a block, attacks that can move a character behind a blocking one, revenge mode that gives you more power, and other enemy combatants on the field of battle. Throw in AI controlled creep style mobs that can do damage but are mowed down in a single hit and you have an epic battle on your hands. Every once in a while, For Honor would truly shine as the chaotic beast that it is as you and your friends are squaring off against a horde of enemies with their human controlled champions leading the charge. Taking down another player while blocking off attacks from his friend can give anyone the biggest gaming buzz around. It’s just that these moments tend to be sparse and bookended by battles with 4 vs. 1 after some poor teammates dial it in or people leaving randomly. That’s why the moments can be fleeting, but when they hit, they hit hard and leave a memorable mark.
For Honor is a game that will not be for everyone. That needs to be conveyed before you make a purchase. If you rarely play online games against human controlled opponents, your enjoyment of this title will be extremely limited due to the fact that there really isn’t any substantial single player portion. The single player could be completed in one long night of gaming and with that completed, you’d only have the online portion. The online mode, while awesome at times, really depends on the level of effort you put into the game. Plus, depending on your feelings on the matter, there are microtransactions spread throughout the online mode. You can pay to get steel, the online currency, and while you aren’t getting anything you couldn’t unlock with time, this could rub some people the wrong way. In For Honor, when you get a good team and face off against an equally skilled enemy team, the game shines brighter than most other online games can ever dream of. It’s just that these moments are sprinkled in between battles that won’t nearly be as exciting. This is a game where you will truly get back the sum of what you put in and if you don’t have time to delve deeply into it’s simple to learn/complex to master online battles, then you might not be the target for the game. If you are though, For Honor could provide some truly memorable experiences.
Reviewed on an Xbox One retail copy provided by Ubisoft