For Honor is a fighting game in a 3D space with the camera situated behind your character. The gameplay is radically different from anything else in that you initiate attacks and defend from one of three directions designated from the right analogue stick. You choose a character from one of three legendary warrior factions–knights, samurai, and vikings. Upon release there are four characters per faction, each with a different purpose and gameplay feel. Every character has a few combos to learn but they’re fairly easy to perform making the barrier of entry for the game extremely low–perhaps one of the lowest in the entire fighting game genre.
Players fight on stages meant to reflect these historical warriors. There are snowy battlefields, stone castles, and weeabo towns. When played in multiplayer, these stages differ depending on who wins the meta game faction war. Knights get sunny stages, samurai get foggy stages, vikings get snowy stages. The meta game is like the boardgame Risk involving the entire player base. Units are deployed after earning them during a played game, and players either choose their deployment or units are randomly organized across the different regions on the game board. The game isn’t the main focus of For Honor, and victors don’t seem to gain anything upon victory, but it is a nice little touch that keeps with the game’s aesthetic of a giant war between history’s most legendary warriors.
Players join factions but are free to play as any character in the game, so you’re really just choosing which you like best. Otherwise the outline of the player-made emblem differs in that knights get a diamond shield, vikings a circular shield, and samurai get a scroll. I picked viking because I like vikings and heavy metal and upside down crosses. I am not sorry.
If you are playing this game and you choose to side with the samurai, you should feel sorry. You fucking weeb.
A single player component exists in this game, but focus is clearly on multiplayer. In single player there three campaigns, one for each faction, and chapters include every character so that players can get a feel against A.I. fodder. Each campaign has a story complete with cutscenes and voice acting and it’s fairly well done. I only played a bit of the knight’s campaign and found myself having a good time. There is a separate leveling structure for the single player that doesn’t seem to matter much, but players can unlock perks through this leveling. The game wants you to replay every chapter on higher difficulties but I don’t really see the need for that. Online co op is available for these campaigns, which is always nice, yet it’s weird in the way Borderlands is weird–where characters refer to one player during dialogue and cutscenes, when two are obviously present. I’m also not sure if/how they scale difficulty.
Problem is, the game is always online. If the servers are down for any reason you can’t even play the singleplayer campaign. This is a huge issue with multiple video games that needs to cease existing. It’s bad enough when players can’t play the game they bought during the first weekend of the game’s launch, which happened, but what happens in the future when someone wants to go back to this game? Ubisoft cannot run servers forever–it’s simply impossible. Stop setting games up to be unplayable! I could understand if multiplayer was the only component in this game, but there are story missions are player vs ai game types that anyone could jump into without an online player base.
The multiplayer had me obsessed for many days. I loved the feel of combat. It’s very thick and intense, with lots of “Dark Souls” touches like stamina management and slow attack animations requiring dedication with every swing. It makes battle feel real, as ridiculous as that sounds, and because there’s such a low entry in mechanical terms (you aren’t learning long combos ala Street Fighter), you can get to the mind games quicker. This is important because fighting games really flourish when you’re both at similar skill levels and you’re spending the fight trying to get into the other person’s head. It’s why these games are so appealing, and why their fanbase is so dedicated and ravenous.
Another issue with For Honor is the game’s servers: They’re ass. It’s peer-to-peer connection, not dedicated servers, meaning if you match to someone with a shitty connection the game lags terribly and in this game every frame matters. While peer-to-peer is better, since most of the time you’re matching with people that have similar Internet connectivity as you (or you’ll host the game), this can create awkward transitions during larger games where someone quits and host migration causes a stall during battle, sometimes ruining individual fights. Although this occurs frequently, I wouldn’t call it a major issue, and admittedly the game’s connectivity usually remains stable when not connected to people with McDonalds Internet. Fighting games have a long history of struggle with online. Compared to most fighting games, this one’s alright.
The assiest part of the game’s serves is the playerbase ON the servers YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE because they seem more interested in the gear based game modes that involve more players. These are Skirmish, Elementation, and Dominion. Dominion is easily the best of these game modes, involving capture the point gameplay between teams of five with minions and leveling, making the gametype feel almost like a MOBA. There’s Elementation, which is a team death match where dead players are eliminated until the next round but can be revived unless they are executed. I never got to play this gamemode, because its matchmaking is tied to that of Skirmish, the worst gamemode in this game, and possibly the worst gamemode in the history of online video games. Skirmish is a team death match with nearly instant respawn and the leveling (and loot effects) from dominion. Players endlessly team up on other players so the game quickly becomes a beat down making the experience a drag when you’re on either end of the beating. It’s not good.
Especially with the loot system. These three game modes all include the effects given by loot, and high level loot makes players godly relative to those just starting out. Here’s where the actual barrier of entry comes in For Honor, and that’s pathetic. You shouldn’t have a system that explicitly punishes players newly jumping into the game. It’s not a good idea for the game going forward, especially when most people aren’t going to spend the time grinding for loot.
Loot is handed out after battle along with the game’s currency which is called steel. Loot contains certain statistical benefits, like added defense or attack, and steel can be spent to deck out characters or purchase things such as loot crates and “championship status,” which I spend time describing bellow. Steel can be bought with real money if the player chooses to accelerate the process. Rarity of a piece of loot affects the strength of these upgrades. Currently the most important upgrade is to players’ revenge mode. Revenge mode is meant to counter double teaming. It’s a mode in which players receive buffs to attack, defense, and their combos become uninterruptible. Players build revenge by defending, and once properly leveled, players can get loot that lets them activate this mode after three hits. This makes them into gods, especially when fighting against multiple people.
With champion status, a kind of “double xp” that is purchasable with real money or 4000 steel (a ludicrous amount), players gain more steel and higher chances at loot drops after each match. Champion status is temporary so there’s a stress to take advantage of the benefits while you can. This leads to players beginning matches just to spin around in circles in spawn merely because it’s the quickest way to gain levels, and loot, in the game. I would say “fuck these guys!” and don’t worry I do! But I can’t entirely blame players taking advantage of this method since the system is designed in such a way to promote using tactics like this. If loot was balanced in such a way that didn’t discourage new players with absolutely brutal beat downs, then maybe this wouldn’t happen. Losing matches isn’t inherently bad for new players, but at the moment the biggest lesson to learn is “that guy had better gear than me.” At least with three of the most popular game modes.
Orders, which is For Honor’s form of dailies that reward players with steel and xp for completing designated tasks, is the game’s primary form of character progression beyond what is gained past matches, which on its own occurs too slowly. Orders, at the moment, shepard players into game types designated by these daily tasks, and most of them deal with dominion, elimination, and skirmish. While there is a nice balance of players vs player and player vs ai orders I would like to see way more orders given for duels and brawls since the other three gametypes are trash. With over powered loot even dominion is brought down to a tedious struggle.
As I said, these are where most of the player base seems to be playing on PS4. The other two game modes, which are Brawl (2v2) and Duel (1v1) are substantially better and they do a better job at promoting the game’s unique combat. I love the feeling of getting my ass handed to me 1v1, where I can typically learn something and feel my skill and familiarity improve, just as much as I love the feeling of making someone ragequit after throwing them off a mountain. Environmental hazards are part of this game, and they actually make it as interesting as it is because it isn’t every fighting game that includes options such as these. Makes me think of the Smash Brothers series, or Soul Calibur 2, in that regard. Those are some of my favorite fighting games. Wow!
There is balance within almost every feature and strategy when it comes to the combat. You can counter grabs and parry strong attacks. You can dodge. You can punish. Characters usually end up being one of a few archetypes. There are defensive characters with shields. There are offensive characters who are fast and easy to kill (also they are typically called assassins). There are balanced characters that are easy to learn, and yet amazing once mastered. There are huge characters that mean to slowly pummel players while throwing them all over the place. The balance between character types feels very solid in that assassins and huge characters, depending on player skill and character selection, of course, will have a fairly balanced fight even though their stats differ so wildly. Either than the revenge mechanic, there is no stat, no advantage, that feels to broken.
At first I played a lot of Conqueror, who is a knight with a mace and shield and the best taunt in the game, where you can make him thrust continuously and issue what sounds like sex noises. His punish game is strong since his defense is so hard to crush, but I found it difficult to keep playing him because I didn’t like how slow it was to kill people. I ended up switching to the Warden, who is a knight with a two handed sword, possibly a claymore or bastard sword. She’s one of the easiest characters to learn, and I found myself acquainted to the game’s mechanics quite nicely while learning her. Her attacks are slower and easier to parry, but once proper mix ups are implemented he can be a tough character to defeat due to her strength.
It’s worth bringing up that, for most of these characters, you can switch the sex. I tend to play as girls when I can just because female characters are few and thus more interesting to me. I also happen to think strong females are sexy, okay? So a big tough lady wielding a claymore is pretty fucking cool even though the difference is only in her voice, the thinness of her body, and a long braided ponytail which comes from her helmet. It’s a pretty cool ponytail though, I gotta admit.
Most, if not all, of these characters are interesting and appealing. I feel bad that I don’t want to play more of the viking characters since I tend to prefer vikings in these types of games, however the knights are just too good. There are a few characters that are extremely difficult to be successful with and I hope the receive buffs in the future, I just hope balancing isn’t taken as it usually is–by nerfing every character into the ground until they are all shit. That isn’t fun. Bring the low tiered characters up.
There are some great features implemented to teach the player how to play each character. There is a mandatory tutorial, and an advanced tutorial that should be mandatory, and these teach the player mechanics every character can utilize, such as counter grabbing and parrying. Then there are videos, basic and advanced, that show how characters can be used by going over the combos and strategies they strive with. This is a great way to get started before jumping into the game’s practice modes. One thing that sucks is that some of these features are hard to find in the game’s horrendous menus system. It can be difficult to figure out how to face specific characters when dueling ai controlled bots, and that’s a problem considering how important that is to learning each character’s matchup. Still, I gotta give credit to the option being available at all.
With balance tweaks, especially in regards to how leveling and loot works, For Honor will become an immensely exciting game to learn, master, and continue playing for a very long time. As it stands I’m waiting for some of these things to happen. I’ve heard of new characters coming out, which is very exciting, and knowing Ubisoft’s recent track record with updating and balancing their games I can rest assured that they will continue to support For Honor. I’ll be getting good in the near future once video games have calmed the hell down, but I fear that this will never happen, so buckle in and get ready for…nothing? I don’t know. I just don’t fucking know.
The next game will have ancient prophecies and massive drops in frame rate. Stay tuned.