For Honor [official site] is an intense multiplayer melee brawler set in a medieval world in which three factions — Vikings, Knights and Samurai — are at war. Is it worth buying?
If we’re being completely honest, which we are, I hadn’t originally expected For Honor to be quite the way it is. My first concern when hearing about a medieval close-quarters fighting game was just how fight-y the game was going to be. There was a voice in the back of my head whispering ‘It’s going to be all about bashing people and stabbing people with no essence of real strategic fighting.’ While that is the case to a certain extent, as in you’ll be doing a lot of whacking and slicing, that extent ends very quickly.
The game relies mainly on reflexes, timing and predicting what your opponent’s next action will be and what you’re going to do about it. The attack system — a rather creative one — is controlled mainly by an upside down triangle which is where you decide which way you are holding your weapon. If you hold your weapon to the right, your character will automatically block most attacks from the right side (unless you’re playing as one of the few characters who don’t block automatically but instead require timed responses); the same goes for the left and top sides.
To attack your enemy, you can perform a variety of different hits, swings and special blows, but you’ll have to keep in mind that you’re not the only one who can block. Your best bet is to catch them by surprise on one of their sides or go in for a guard break, which makes them vulnerable to all attacks and throws for a second.
Poke your problems away!
Often you’ll find yourself near an open ledge, just waiting for you to knock someone off of, which you can absolutely do. Typically with the Raider, who can pick people up and run with them on his/her shoulder and throw them abnormally far, I enjoy tossing people off these ledges. They don’t like it nearly as much, though, and usually message me a few moments later saying something along the lines of ‘NO SKILL NO HONOUR U SUCK AT THE GAME’.
See? All is well, there’s a decently high level of strategy involved — you’ll hardly be forced to mash buttons. That is, until you get bombarded by a second or third foe and start panicking. Well, don’t panic. Nothing good comes from panicking.
I’m a nice guy. I really am. If you’re fighting someone and it’s a 1v1 with no threat of another enemy intervening, I’ll happily let you two battle it off until someone dies. I wouldn’t call it honourable, as I’m not assisting my teammate who could probably do with my help, but I think it’s more fun for both parties when the game is fair. Some people, though, don’t think the same way. They think with their win/loss ratio and want to get the game over and done with as quickly as possible. I have no problem with this, as it’s what the game is all about, but it’s a real pain in the backside when I’m trying to fight one person and the Hulk comes and takes me from behind.
There is a solution to every problem, and Ubisoft thought well about this and has come up with two slightly unrealistic solutions. The first one is that if someone is on one of your sides and they are attacking you and your guard mode is focused on someone else, you merely have to move your highlighted attack indicator triangle to the side of you the flanker is on and it’ll automatically block almost any incoming hit. The second is ‘revenge mode’, which can be activated after taking so much damage or blocking enough attacks and it gives you a significant strength, health and defence boost.
These solutions are unrealistic, but without them we’d all be doomed and the game would be absolutely no fun for anyone up against more than one opponent. This way, your whole team could be down and you could destroy the whole enemy squad and revive your team, making you feel like a badass and your enemies feel incompetent.
If there’s one thing that I dislike about For Honor’s combat system, it is the attack indicator on your adversary’s character. I’d rather have to look at which way my enemy is swinging so I can react accordingly, not be walked through the entire thing like a toddler. This is why I play the story mode on realistic (which I’ll come back to soon), because it requires a lot of attention and eye-keeping-on.
After each match, you’ll get rewarded with some cool loot, including steel which can be used to buy new characters and such, XP which you can accumulate to level up and unlock things with, and items for you to pimp out your warriors (which also give buffs to certain traits like revive speed and revenge mode duration, as well).
‘Orders’ are daily tasks that challenge you to do certain things, such as killing 25 people in player-vs-player Brawl or winning 15 matches of Dominion, and in return offer nifty bonus XP and steel. It’s a nice feature which assists greatly in getting more juicy loot — you can never get enough juicy loot!
For Honor’s game modes span from 1v1 to 4v4, and present many opportunities where teamwork and coordination would be to your advantage immensely, but also gives you the chance to organise your team if you don’t have a squad by using its quick communication system (because there is no voice chatting). There is the classic 1v1 Duel, which is you against one opponent, best of five rounds, with no rules — kill or be killed. Then there is the 2v2 Brawl mode, which helps if you do have someone familiar with the game to play with, but is still relatively easy if your teammate is worse at the game than Top Gear is at keeping people watching. 2v2 Brawl is also best of five.
While there is no 3v3 mode as of yet, there is 4v4 Dominion, a control-the-area mode, where you must capture most of three points and keep them until you reach 1,000 points and the enemy team goes into a ‘breaking phase’, where they each have one life. Your effort is helped by soldiers, which are abnormally small people who fight the battle for the middle capture point. Skirmish is another game mode similar to Dominion, except there are no capture points and instead it depends on killing enemy soldiers for points; you are also assisted by captains, which, basically, are halfwit AI versions of your heroes.
Lastly, Elimination is another 4v4 game mode (this one is best of five), which gives all players one life only. In order to win, you just have to make sure all of the enemies are dead and your team is not. This game mode is made much easier when you use executions on your enemies, which give you a small health boost and make the unfortunate victim un-revivable. There are also boosts dotted around the Elimination maps, adding stats to your defence, damage, movement speed, etc. depending on which one you pick up.
There is a wide variety of heroes for nearly every play style, ranging from fat samurais with bats who rely purely on strength, to skinny knights with two daggers who have a more dodge-and-counter style. One character, Nobushi, uses poison (or is it bleed?) to jab away at her enemy’s health, while the Berserker is a dual-axe-wielding hero who isn’t best at blocking, but is a considerable amount better at swinging around and following through with a volley of strikes.
The main issues in For Honor reside in its online functionality. Even though there is a single-player campaign, the game is completely online, meaning you’ll have to constantly have an internet connection if you wish to savagely slaughter people. Abhorrent! Haven’t got an internet connection? Too bad, you can’t play. The other globally-despised problem is with the terrible matchmaking, and if you do manage to find a decent game, you’ll probably end up losing connection or getting kicked when the host selfishly leaves. Around one third of my playtime is in matches where I’ve been unwillingly disconnected due to migrating hosts or other unspecified reasons. This is the make-or-break argument, if you have medium/slow internet speeds and you don’t think you’d be able to hold a stable connection with the host, then the game wouldn’t be worth it. Dedicated servers are the way to go, Ubisoft — ditch P2P matchmaking.
Besides the connection issues, I was pleasantly surprised by For Honor’s single-player story mode, which provides lots of well-narrated dialogue and action sequences very similar to the multiplayer. It manages to tell a good story of the three factions (which each have their own tales spread through a large handful of missions), whilst also imprinting the fundamentals of each character in your mind. I play on realistic and wouldn’t have it any other way, as mentioned above — I haven’t attempted any of the other difficulties so I’m not entirely sure whether there are checkpoints, but on realistic there aren’t any, which grants a challenging experience.
In conclusion, I’m glad I bought For Honor (even though it doesn’t use proper spelling, what’s that all about?); I entered the game expecting a fresh experience and have left with nothing less than that. It’s a new take on brawlers, and for some reason keeps me coming back for more.
👍 For Honor IS worth the US$60 it is available for.
This review is for the Xbox One version of the game (although I did get to play it for a bit on PC during the beta) — any other devices may play differently.
(May 2017) — Just a quick follow-up on the disconnects: I’ve grown used to slow internet speeds, high ping and a lack of players as I live in Australia and the price of having fiber optics installed where I live is absolutely extortionate. It seems I’ve been rather lucky with my connections to the For Honor servers in the past according to the amount of users reporting that they can’t play a decent round without having several bad ones, but even for me it’s terrible at times. That, combined with the declining number of players over recent months, really brings the game down. Like I said, it’s a make-or-break argument, and this should play a massive part in determining whether you believe the game is worth buying or not.