Game: "For Honor"
Release Date: Feb. 14
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal, Quebec and Toronto
Most of the big competitive multiplayer games are shooters, MOBAs or even card games, but those who thrive in fast-reflex sword fighting have largely had no way to test their skills with friends, instead having to settle for comparing how quickly they beat a Dark Souls boss. However, with “For Honor,” Ubisoft took a big step toward filling that void.
“For Honor” is a multiplayer melee fighting game set in a fictional medieval-like setting where three factions — Knights, Vikings and Samurai — are in a constant state of war. The player chooses from a list of warriors, each with their own unique movesets and play styles, and fights against online opponents in one of four game modes: Dominion, Deathmatch, Duel and Brawl.
In the gaming industry, most games, even the best of the best, are fundamentally just different takes on established genres be it open-world RPG, fighting game, first person shooter, etc. This is exactly why "For Honor" stands out — it created one of the most truly unique gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
The heart of this unique experience is the Art of Battle fighting system. How the system works is when two players encounter one another, one player will choose to either swing their weapon up, right or left, and the defending player must block in the direction of the attack to avoid being hit. This evolves what easily could have been a mindless hack and slash, button-mashing fighting style into something that requires strategy, patience and quick reflexes. There were numerous times that I thought I had my opponent beaten and started attacking more aggressively and carelessly and wound up watching my character’s head get severed in one of "For Honor’s" brutal death animations.
"For Honor" is all about spectacle. From the previously mentioned decapitation to the sprawling war-zones and the muscular behemoth characters you play as, everything in "For Honor" is designed to put you in awe. While the actual visual style of the characters and setting are actually surprisingly bland and generic, the scale of the maps mixed with a battle system that puts weight and tactic behind your swings, these shortcomings aren’t too damaging.
This scope is most readily seen in the Dominion mode. In this mode, there are two sides with four players each as well as endless streams of smaller NPC characters, making it into a full-scale battle. Both sides need to rack up 1000 points by securing objective points and killing enemies. Once one side has 1000 points, the enemy team will lose the ability to respawn unless they land kills or recapture objective points, allowing the first team the chance to finish them off. The NPC characters are half the size of your character, and you can easily dispose of three of them at a time in a "Dynasty Warriors" fashion. While they can’t really damage you much, the inclusion of these characters does make the mode have more of the chaotic feeling of an actual medieval battle and allows for interesting tactics — such as bailing out of a battle you are losing and disappearing into a crowd of infantry.
The other modes, Deathmatch, Duel and Brawl are focused on player-versus-player combat rather than capturing objectives. In the elimination version of Deathmatch, two teams of four are placed into a map and one team must kill all of the other team’s members to win the round. Where it gets interesting is the fact that players can be revived for a certain amount of time. This means that, if you aren’t careful, your 3-1 advantage over the enemy team can turn into a 3-4 deficit if you allow that one player to reach his dead buddies and revive them. This keeps the match interesting the whole time, even after you’ve been killed, because there is the chance that you will be brought back right at the crucial moment. Brawl is the same concept just two-versus-two, and duel is an intense one-on-one showdown. Each of these modes play significantly differently, and it is possible to be good at one and bad at the other, and it kept me from getting burnt out.
Another place where "For Honor" shines is in variety of character classes. There are 12 playable classes, four for each faction, and they range from large, slow tanks who take many hits to take down to speedy and elusive characters and many interesting spaces in between. Each fighter uses the same Art of Battle system but with certain variations in range, moveset combos and special abilities. As I played, there were at least four times that I thought I had found my character, only to go on a streak with a different character and start to have doubts. This is another way that I think players will be able to get extra mileage out of "For Honor’s" multiplayer — switching around from character to character and learning what strategies must be implemented for each was a lot of fun.
While multiplayer is certainly at the forefront of "For Honor," it does have a single-player campaign. This campaign takes place in three different chapters with six episodes each that follow the Knights, Vikings and then Samurai. While it isn’t as bad as some other campaigns from multiplayer-centric games, this story mode is certainly the weakest part of "For Honor." The story itself is very predictable, and the characters never really feel or look like distinguished characters. The few attempts to make you care about them either through humor or tragedy just came off as awkward.
That said, if you go into the story mode expecting a rather simple experience that will teach you how to play the game and show you some crazy and bloodthirsty action between Knights, Vikings and Samurai, you will likely be satisfied. The campaign makes you play multiple different characters and puts you in a variety of situations and does a good job of teaching you the nuances of the battle system. If you view the story mode as a supplemental addition to the multiplayer, it serves its purpose well enough.
Overall, "For Honor’s" drawbacks are minimal, and the way that it strikes new ground in the multiplayer gaming world is incredibly exciting. While I don’t think there’s quite enough there to keep me playing for hours on end, I think "For Honor" will be, much like other great multiplayer games like "Overwatch," a game I will keep coming back to when I have a free 30 minutes or so, and to me, that is perfect.