Understanding the ways of the warrior.
For Honor, Ubisoft's weapon-based combat game, has the makings of a brutal power fantasy. Its bleak, war-torn medieval world is populated by three of history's most iconic warrior classes: Knights, Vikings, and Samurai. Due to the focus on multiplayer, my time playing so far has been brief. The servers have only gone live recently, which has given me little chance to dive into everything For Honor has to offer. Fortunately, I've managed to complete the first of the game's three story mode chapters (in just under three hours). While there's still a lot more to play, what I've experienced so far has me excited to dive deeper into the subtle nuances of For Honor's distinct take on melee-action.
Rather than feel like a full-on single-player experience, For Honor's story mode comes across more like a tutorial for multiplayer. Each scenario acts as a means of introducing you to the game's various mechanics. For example, one stage presents the rules of the "capture the point"-inspired Dominion multiplayer match, while another acts as a tutorial to familiarize you with a faction's specific hero class. The function of story mode has made it an enriching undertaking so far, despite the hollow characterization of the ongoing storytelling that attempts to link each of the scenarios together.
While For Honor's story mode is straightforward, there is a multitude of engaging one-on-one battles to be had, even against AI. The ruthless combat system is by and large its standout feature, managing to be both elegant and simple, while displaying a level of nuance in the restraint it demands. Quick reflexes are needed to win, but victory also requires steady, deliberate movements and well-timed attacks. Button mashing drains your character's stamina, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. For Honor punishes recklessness, forcing you instead to follow its more measured pace.
The slow speed of combat can easily breed impatience at first, as it demands you to unpack years worth of habits that faster-paced melee-action games might have instilled in you. Coming out on top in a fight is more about patience and your ability to read a foe than the execution of brute force or button mashing. Even against an AI-controlled warrior, this level of patience and skill is paramount. I can only imagine how this all feels when put into practice against a human opponent, who also fully understands these tenets.
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One-on-one battles are fun and challenging for the way they punish you for thoughtless play. But this heavily contrasts with fighting For Honor's AI minions, which frequently feel mundane; defeating them simply requires mindless swinging rather than the calculated execution of one-on-one combat. Fighting these "opponents" also proves middling due to the inability to lock onto them directly. More often than not you'll find yourself swinging your weapon wildly at the air rather than hitting them.
Despite these evident shortcomings, For Honor already has the workings of a well-made multiplayer fighting game. However, I still have a lot to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of each class, and how to exploit them in the heat of battle. So, for the next few days, I'll be fighting my way through the rest of its single-player campaign, and facing off against other combatants online once the servers are populated with more players.
Stay tuned for our full review in the near future, and in the meantime, check out our For Honor footage and features below.
- 8 Minutes of Conqueror Gameplay
- How is For Honor Shaping Up?
- Executions Montage
- For Honor Launch Trailer Shows Off Brutal Swordfighting