Knights versus Vikings versus Samurai sounds like something the team at Deadliest Warrior would dream up. Instead, Ubisoft are the brains behind the brawn and they are packing all their experience of item leveling from The Division, slick combat and animation from Assassin’s Creed, and a dose of the compelling fast paced multiplayer of Rainbow Six Siege.
Thrusting these worlds together is hung loosely on the whims of the warlord Apollyon and her desire to cause war and conflict – with the strongest rising to the top. This war is at the centre of the multiplayer; an ever-changing map of territories that reflects the triumphs and failures of the three factions’ players – think the online world of Chromehounds.
Like many other titles with character classes, each one has their strengths and weaknesses, but For Honor’s were more of a reflection of my own playstyle and inability to adapt – and adapt you must. Stick with the same moves or insistence on button mashing and you’ll soon be at the wrong end of a pointy stick. The combat mechanic is simple to learn but hard to master; only by playing through the campaign will you fully grasp (and appreciate) everything on offer to your warriors.
During the campaign Apollyon tells the story of her need for war and how the three factions ultimately mix – it’s a loose explanation as to why Vikings can fight for the Knights or Samurai can fight for the Vikings and one that I’m not sold on. It does mean you aren’t tied into a faction’s warriors but I think it could have made for a better war. Each faction has similar classes but each one is subtly different and this would have made an interesting consideration when choosing a side.
The campaign flows smoothly with only boss fights proving troublesome, particularly the Samurai, General Tozen, who fights with Honor – he doesn’t – using cheap tactics that will infuriate and slow down the combat. Retreating to recover health before returning to chip more of his was not fun. Meanwhile the Vikings get two excellent, albeit short set pieces, it’s a shame there weren’t more of these spread throughout the three campaigns. Ultimately, the campaign serves as a way to play as all the character classes and learn the art of war, which is based around a three-zone system.
Attacking and defending is done through the choice of three directions – left, right or overhead – these zones must be matched to an opponent’s attack to block the strike or used in combination with light and heavy attacks to mount your own assault. Attacks can be chained for deadly combos and if you finish an opponent with a heavy strike you can execute them, forcing a respawn and a penalty to their team points. Stamina must also be managed carefully; wildly swinging your weapon will leave you knackered and open to a counter attack.
When on defence you can parry attacks, which can open up an opportunity to counter attack, while dodging and blocking can drain your opponent of their stamina leaving them ripe for slaughter. It’s a wonderfully balanced system that is further buffed by feats that, once unlocked, can be used when you’ve earned enough points on the battlefield. Successfully blocking your opponent’s attacks also fills a revenge meter. Unleashing the full bar gives your attack and health a boost while a shield protects your overall health bar.
The omission of bots from games frustrates me – sometimes you just need to practice – so it’s great to see that For Honor has the option of AI matches for each of the game modes, this is made even more essential when you hit periods of disconnects. Favouring a peer-to-peer system over dedicated servers, disconnecting mid-game or being put into one as it was finishing was a constant irritation that wasn’t nearly as bad while playing against an AI team.
There are three styles of battles in For Honor. Duel puts you directly against another player – either in 1v1 or 2v2, meanwhile, team deathmatch comes in two flavours – standard deathmatch or one-life elimination. My favourite mode though was Dominion. Combining team deathmatch with domination, three areas on the map need capturing, doing so adds 100 points to your team score and a place to recover your health, while losing an area costs your team 100 points. Killing enemy heroes and AI grunts also bolsters your score, with grunt kills helping to turn the tide of tug of war over one of the points on the map.
Once a team hits 1,000 points the opposition loses the ability to respawn their heroes – kill them and you win. This is when things get interesting. The losing team can still turn the tide of war and claw back some points and knock the other team’s points down by capturing points and executing heroes. Like the character classes, Dominion is wonderfully balanced and is exhilarating when you band together and turn the tide of battle.
For Honor looks gorgeous. Clothing flows as you run across the battlefield and becomes soaked in blood as you maim your foes. The lighting is incredible and the landscapes highly detailed – Ubisoft have done a great job. Character animation is smooth, attacks are brutal and the combat is so in depth that you won’t be left wanting for more.
Playing through the campaign is essential if you want to get ahead online, and by the time I had hit the Samurai campaign I was hooked to the combat mechanics, and with a greater understanding of the skills and techniques I had acquired I confidently took on Duel mode – it was a shame my opponent seemed to have missed out playing the campaign.
For Honor is awesome to play with a bunch of mates, while still a lot of fun if you’re on your own – although you may want to take on the AI or duel modes. Teamwork and sticking together is key if you want to rule the battlefield.