If you played For Honor for an hour, there’s a risk you might leave it disappointed and confused.
After an absurd overload of information and a, frankly, too-short tutorial, nobody could be angry at you for not delving deeper - but, if you decide to stick with it, For Honor has depth and some good ideas and unique gameplay beneath the surface.
There are so many modes, upgrades, and customisation options that it’s hard to even know where to begin. Know, though, that this is a multiplayer game first and foremost, and the single player is merely an addition for people that want to use it as a practice run.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Speaking of practice, that’s one of the most important things you can do. Few are saying it in among the early comparisons to the Souls-genre, but For Honor is actually closer to a fighting game than anything else.
Blocks, parries, counter-attacks, and combos make up the vast majority of what you’ll be doing with the combat, and it’s vital you learn how it all works, and when to use moves, similar to the likes of Street Fighter.
Hidden in the menus are tutorial videos (basic and advanced) and we can’t recommend enough that you watch these and learn the moves and abilities of each of the classes on offer. You can then hit up practice and learn how to get in the thick of it no matter how you approach the battlefield.
Quite why these aren’t part of the main tutorial, we’ll never know, but if you’re getting stunned regularly and taking an absolute beating, go and watch them, because they’ll teach you not only about your chosen class, but the ones you’re battling against. Practice makes perfect and expect to lose (a lot) before you begin to win.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Ultimately, For Honor attempts to channel both tense one-on-one duels and Game of Throne-like epic conquests.
Approaching an opponent (human or AI) you’ll need to watch the small arrow that indicates which way they are blocking. There are three options: up, left, right - and the idea is that you attack from an angle they aren’t protecting themselves against, but without opening your own defence up for them to get a strike in first.
A well-timed combo can be satisfying, thanks to the weighty, brutal feeling combat, no question, but being on the receiving end of a combo from someone who has practiced far more than you needs to be used as a learning experience.
The classes all offer their own various positives and negatives, switching between avatars that are full-on strength builds, or the more nimble-yet-weak ones.
MODES, GLORIOUS MODES
Similar to the most recent Mortal Kombat, Ubisoft has created a “Faction War” that encompasses all of the multiplayer modes within it. Your chosen faction will be awarded points for doing well within the modes, and it’s all split up into seasons and rounds. It all feels a bit eSports, and will go over the head of most people.
With the maximum of 4v4 on offer, Dominion offers the largest, most diverse mode. Switching between capturing control zones, and a front where the weak AI soldiers are battling, the idea is that you can kill opposing team grunts to push forward and tip the battle in your favour, gaining points.
Hitting 1000 points “breaks” your opponent’s team and, if you push on and kill them, they can’t respawn. This is how you win the match, and it feels fast-paced and frenetic, with action happening everywhere.
Some modes allow you to use feats, which are special skills that give you a tactical advantage. Varying from simple healing feats to moves that let you rain down fiery death on your enemies, or even skills that make all your attacks unblockable for 15 seconds, there’s plenty to unlock as you progress through the rankings.
Similarly, you will upgrade and equip weapon parts and armour as you go along. But you can also buy chests with in-game currency - and, at the risk of sounding negative, it has a distinct feel of feature creep. Almost as if someone in a board room somewhere said “Oh go on, one more thing” in an already fit to burst package.
For Honor is at its best when you’re duelling one-on-one, though. Trading combos, blocking a faster class character’s attacks, or even breaking a guard and just throwing them off a ledge; it all feels cathartic and brilliant.
The tension when you and a single enemy are on a sliver of health and know that whoever lands the next blow will win is incredible, and it loses something when it pushes up towards that 4v4, messier, full-scale battle. Good players will run around the battlefield wreaking havoc on people, and there may well come a day that For Honor has that “Call of Duty” feel about it, where, unless you dedicate yourself to it, you’ll get ruined every time you play.
In fact, there are already matchmaking issues that are causing lopsided matches, so it’s vital Ubisoft gets on top of that - and fast. Battles that end with 2 (or 3) on 1 feel pointless, and the larger scale modes are all about the journey towards the victory, rather than the final blow itself.
That said, the balance of the actual characters and classes feels pretty good, and when two well-balanced teams go up against one another it feels pretty fair. Sadly, at the moment, for every amazing match you get, there are just as many full of people who don’t play the objective. In that regard, it’s very much a standard multiplayer game.
THE LONE SOLDIER
While you can play the multiplayer modes against bots, there’s also a story mode offered up. In truth, it feels like an extended tutorial, and the story is all over the place.
Offering three mini-campaigns that focus on each of the character classes, the action veers from okay to woeful. Weirdly inappropriate voiceovers dictate the story; it just feels ham-fisted and awkward, and on normal it’s easy enough that you often don’t play as cautiously as you would online.
On top of that, there are a lot of moments you can just grapple and throw enemies off ledges. It feels like cheating, but you’ll get tired of the campaign quickly and might even end up just running through some battles towards the objectives.
It’s worth mentioning that For Honor is a nice looking game, of course. It has fairly long load times, but it certainly doesn’t push either console to breaking point. Even though you can play it in co-op, it’s hard to imagine anyone but the biggest fan of For Honor’s combat going through the story mode entirely. If you played the betas you’ll miss nothing by jumping right into multiplayer.
FOR HONOR VERDICT
For Honor is a deep fighting game that’s pretty hard to get into. Give it time, though, and it will reward you with some tense moments and unforgettable battles.
When you execute (you know, chop someone’s head off) an enemy thanks to your patience and skill, it feels exhilarating.
A button masher this is not, and it’ll demand concentration and patience. If you want to play the larger modes you’ll require friends to get the most out of it, but solo, it’ll still offer bags of entertainment for would be duellists.
It’s just a shame about that story mode, because it could have been so much more.