For Honor is an interesting mix of many different elements, yet falls into its own to become a unique flavour of medieval action warfare with a style unlike anything else out there.
When I picked up For Honor I wasn’t sure this would be the game for me, partly because of the competitive side of the multiplayer, but mostly because I didn’t really know what was on offer beyond the combat. Quite a few hours later have both changed my mind, and reaffirmed certain thoughts I had going in.
Choosing from a roster of characters that represent the three factions of Knights, Vikings and Samurai, the heroes have been compared to the line-up from a fighting game with their own slight variations and skills to bring into the fight. It’s not an analogy I might use, but for all intends and purposes it brings the point across. While each faction has their own version of a character class, there is enough different between all the hero’s to feel like unique characters in battle, and everyone will find a class or hero within it to get into the groove of. So that said, what do you do with them? Kill each other mostly. Is that not the true purpose of connecting people online through gaming?
What differs For Honor from the competition though is easily where its core strength lies, in its combat mechanics and fighting systems. It essentially boils down to attacking and blocking from three different directions in the simplest terms, but there is a lot more going on the deeper you go. On top of parries, dodging, counters and guard breaking, each hero has their own attack combos and special moves, not including perks and abilities. It might seem straight forward at first but the systems have a lot going on under the surface, and while the combat is easy to pick up, mastering it is quite a different matter. If you play through the story mode first, like all reasonable people are supposed to, For Honor does a good job of leading you through the learning process, and gives you free rein of training grounds to hone your skills as needed. Though all the training in the world isn’t going to stop you getting steamrolled online against that prestige 5 walking tank on some kind of drugs. You know the guy, there’s always one.
Speaking of the story though, I didn’t really think there was one going in, but to be fair, story might be a strong term for what it is. Not that it’s bad exactly, but it does exist more as a faction based tutorial with character motivation attached than a real narrative going on. I’ve seen many complaints about this, which I can understand, but was anyone really hoping for more than that? The story is a short look at the setting of the world while it teaches you the game in the process, it is what it needs to be and gets the job done. Everyone playing this multiplayer experience is buying it for exactly that.
If you didn’t get heavily invested in the story of the Knights, Samurai and I guess briefly the Vikings for a while, you can still use it to begin your first steps into the rewards and upgrades system. This is still a Ubisoft game, so it’s crammed full of unlocks and skins to grind out and collect. Some cosmetic, but many also serve as gear to equip with their own stats and benefits. Playing through the story is a good start, but you will get most of your loot from doing the multiplayer challengers and completing games. What you get is largely tied to luck, but grind enough and each hero can level up, equip different sets of feats and buy or upgrade gear to build the character and way you like. It has a lot of customisation, and gives player a lot to work with in terms of playing the game whatever way suits them best. Even if you don’t have a lot of luck, like someone I know, challenges to complete regularly refresh in the menu section, giving you a choice of what goals to chase for a chance to contribute without having to be MVP each round. Add this on top of deploying war assets and fighting for your chosen faction each season, there is a surprising amount to play with and manage across your experience, both personally and as part of a larger team.
All of the story, gear and nitty gritty of content aside, this is a game about killing people the way nature intended it, with massive swords, so how does it feel! More than anything, For Honor has a great sense of scale and weight to everything it does. You feel the weight behind your swings, the force behind your steel clad knight lumbering through the battlefield. The game holds a great sense of atmosphere regardless of what you’re doing, be it feeling every movement, every beat to the combat, or the scale of the warfare at play, both big and small. Larger maps let you fight across these beautiful landscapes with castles under siege or Japanese temples under fire while armies of fodder storm in, with an almost dynasty warrior feeling of power as you wade through them, swatting them back like flies. Duels become incredibly personal one on one fights where it becomes not just about beating them, but about…well…your honour! It is better with friends though, as most things are, and having teamwork while taking back the map goes a long way towards feeling like it’s you against them on the battlefield, especially when you can fight back to back.
It doesn’t hurt that the game looks and feels great, with your bloodied armour and flowing clothing proudly displaying your custom emblem. The maps themselves have as much personality as the characters, and running through the war torn lands really latches you into the world on hand. The game runs smoothly when you do, as it really needs to for this to work, despite some rather irritating server issues with loading times and disconnects. It does all come down to the big “but” though, which is to say, For Honor is a pretty decent game with a lot going for it, but, it is and always will be a PVP experience, often one on one. As much as I enjoy the game, I don’t tend to go for that experience for a long time, and despite the positives, the lifetime will largely depend on how you feel about that. That said, there are plenty less competitive options, even if you only play with friends. You can even co-op the story for…some reason. The experiences are there all the same if you want the action, without the pressure.
For Honor is a meaty and well-constructed fighting game with smooth and in-depth gameplay, beautiful settings and offers something fresh on the multiplayer market. It’s worth your time even if you only play with friends every now and then for that medieval itch that needs filling. Despite some gripes, it’s probably some of the best old school warfare we’ve got on the market. Even if it should be spelt with a U
Worth a Go?