'For Honor' For Sure
The world of Ubisoft’s upcoming medieval multiplayer hack-and-slash-em-up “For Honor” is one where knights, Vikings and samurai wage war forever in a clash swords, shields and axes. The beta for “For Honor” was opened to the public in preparation for its release, and I got a chance to try it out. The flurry of blades and battle cries was quick and tactical, but was also slightly marred by questionable mechanical choices and Ubisoft’s familiar annoying design decisions.
Please note: Experience in a game’s beta aren’t necessarily representative of the final release product. But considering that the beta is occurring immediately before release, it’s plausibly safe to assume that most of the game is final.
While the beta was strictly a multiplayer-only affair, an opening cinematic gave a glimpse of the setting of “For Honor,” which would presumably also give context to as-of-yet unseen singleplayer campaign. From what could be gathered, some kind of apocalyptic event literally tore the world apart such that the distance native lands of knights, Vikings and samurai were smashed together. Now that these medieval factions are within walking distance of each other, they fight forever because of the machinations of some mysterious warlord named Apollyon. It seems silly to have an actual explanation why these three factions are fighting each other, but it does give some amount of flimsy context for the game.
But no matter what the reason, there’s a certain amount of adolescent fun to be had in having some of history’s most romanticized warriors going head-to-head on the battlefield. Clashing blades and shields is the meat of “For Honor,” and it boasts a surprisingly in-depth battle system that’s equal parts twitch reflexes and quick tactics.
In one-on-one duels, both warriors determine the direction of their guards and their attacks while maneuvering around their opponent. A swing from the right will be blocked by a right-facing guard and so forth. This element of prediction and anticipation shows that “For Honor” shares some of its mechanical DNA with traditional fighting games. The direction of an attack needs to be carefully watched, and the tells for a light or heavy attack need to be memorized. Combined with blocks, grabs, parries and unique attack sets for each warrior, “For Honor” has found a way to demonstrate the realistically methodical nature of deadly combat.
However, there is at least one mechanic that’s quite worrisome and dilutes the strength of the rest of the game. Since “For Honor” is often team-based, it’s not uncommon to be ganged-up on by multiple enemy players, and the normal battle system cannot target more than one enemy. To compensate, “For Honor” has a ‘revenge’ meter that builds up and then can activated for a brief health and attack buff.
In theory, ‘revenge mode’ would let you fight back against multiple attackers. In execution, it’s almost like a “get out of jail free” card for a player regardless if they were losing or winning. ‘Revenge’ is accumulated so quickly and easily, and the buffs it gives are so powerful, that there’s never a bad time to use it, even if you were winning. So a player can just wait for their revenge to fill up and then counterattack with ease, making the rest of the mechanics almost meaningless.
Then there’s the problem of Ubisoft’s dedication to using peer-to-peer connection instead of dedicated servers for a multiplayer game. Basically, this decision ensures that a player’s internet connection can be directly related to their ability to play game. A player with faster or more consistent connection just has a plain advantage over other players. Hopefully, this something that can be changed before release.
“For Honor” shows a lot of promise for a multiplayer-centric game, especially one that one relies on melee combat or over shooting and guns. Its mechanics are just deep enough to be engrossing, but not so much as to slow down the pace of combat or a multiplayer round. But a few poor choices in mechanics and networking could prove distasteful for most players.