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For Honor – Review

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For Honor – Review

Platform – PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer – Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher – Ubisoft
MSRP – $59.99 USD

(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the Xbox One with a review copy being provided by Gaming Instincts.)

Introduction

With Ubisoft’s last few titles falling into the samey glut of open-world sandbox action games, it’s hard to believe that a title like For Honor would be one that bares the publisher’s name. This is a boldly unique title that takes a crack at a niche genre seldom seen in gaming – a weapon-based medieval combat game with an emphasis on positioning, timing, and stance. This title delivers solid visuals through its war-torn environments and playable heroes and does it with a historical accuracy that is second to none.

Campaign

The story mode in this title is nothing to be amazed by. It’s just there to introduce the controls, environment, and the heroes you have the option to play as. The story has potential with the cut scenes but it’s disjointed in most places. The principle excitement is playing as each hero with the sacrifice of a less cohesive storyline. The baddies come in three types and they consist of standard grunt soldiers, slightly better-trained elites, and warrior heroes who are equivalent to you. Grunt soldiers are cut down with ease, while the elites are better trained and able to block some of your attacks. Regardless, they are still slain with your basic knowledge of the combat system. There are also breakables in the game that provide you with loot. Oddly enough, this loot will actually come in handy when you’re ready for multiplayer.

The heroes, on the other hand, are the adversaries that truly challenge your understanding of For Honor’s combat system. These warriors can seriously ruin your day in a heartbeat if you aren’t careful and go in without a strategic mindset. Essentially you are put in the shoes of each character with the sole intent of clan survival by any means possible. On the off hand, you are given a small taste of each playable hero whether it be raiding villages for food, solo infiltration for enemy intel or simply following orders. During the play-through one hopefully, discovers that Apollyon’s plan is to cause an all-out war amongst everyone. There is no major rhyme or reason, she simply wants to rid the human race of the weak and for the heroes who kill in the name of peace to admit what they truly are – Wolves.

Combat System and Mechanics

The combat system in For Honor is incredibly unique compared to previous melee games and is implemented in a way that will surely redefine how games of this genre are designed. The development team has dubbed the system the “Art of battle,” which is something that may not be easily explained from the outset. Mastering this combat system is not an easy proposition. However, it’s very rewarding once you understand its various intricacies. You can fully expect to spend countless hours honing your skills with each unique hero. Essentially the flurries of attacks go back and forth until one of you makes 2-3 mistakes. The fact that the player is able to control the direction of each attack makes tailoring a strategic playstyle a must for each character. Hero feats are also a very nice touch to even further your character customization to tune your playing style.

Overall the player movement controls are very smooth and deliberate. However, performing combos while changing attack direction with RS is very sticky with some classes. While making a combo in the same direction is easy and simple, it is even easier to block if you can’t switch it up. Very few characters have the speed to change attack direction easily. Another control scheme that a player might not be happy about is how little foot movement you move while in target mode. You have the ability to dodge and/or roll out of the way paired with a counter light attack to combat movement speed. In a nutshell, the combat system may seem to be simple at first, but is actually quite in-depth and will take.

Overall the player movement controls are very smooth and deliberate. However, performing combos while changing attack direction with RS is very sticky with some classes. While making a combo in the same direction is easy and simple, it is even easier to block if you can’t switch it up. Very few characters have the speed to change attack direction easily. Another control scheme that a player might not be happy about is how little foot movement you move while in target mode. You have the ability to dodge and/or roll out of the way paired with a counter light attack to combat movement speed. In a nutshell, the combat system may seem to be simple at first, but is actually quite in-depth and will take time to understand if you truly want to excel at a high-level.

The camera system in this game is undoubtedly innovative in its own form and a feature that other third-person games should adopt. Have you ever played a third-person action game that was so amazing but every time you were backed into the wall the camera would glitch? Sometimes it just wouldn’t stay still and try to constantly, but unsuccessfully, switch to each shoulder. Most games just zoom in and you’re looking at the inside of your characters face with floating eyes and teeth. For Honor has found a way around all of that. When the camera is obstructed it actually gives an x-ray cut away from inside the wall. Ubisoft did an absolutely amazing job at giving the player the confidence to roam and fight freely without having to worry about camera placement or losing frame rate.

Graphics and Visual Representation

The look of this game is absolutely stunning. The level of detail in the Knights campaign levels are a very good representation of this, but the true comparison is the warden level just before you see Apollyon wrecks some fools for lighting and the Viking level where you are raiding a Samurai beachhead for shadows. One characteristic of For Honor that is unusual, given that it is an Ubisoft developed game, is the small world and the inability to free roam with just a few collectibles to find. One other tidbit players will like about For Honor campaign are the discoverables you can find throughout your journey. If you are a big history nut or just like to learn about the cultures these are for you.

The historical accuracy of this title is impeccable. The design of the castles and fortresses are dated around the 9th to the 10th or 11th century and around the year 1000 A.D. At this time for Knights the lion was the noblest and feared animal of all. Therefore, statues of lions were reserved for only the most prestigious of castles and rulers. Because of the meticulous craftsmanship, they were seldom seen which eluded to its level of prestige. For Honor depicts this perfectly with only about four statues of lions in the first castle. Another accurate depiction is the style of the armor of each soldier and how to identify their rank at first glance. One of the pieces depicted the most is the fighting style of the Warden. He holds the sword in his hand. Wardens had to always be ready for battle and are bonded to their sword so there is no need for a sheath. In regards to the samurai design, the placement of the armor and shape and design and texture is just so perfectly depicted.

The visual representation of the Viking soldier looks to be of Nordic or Swedish descent. Mainly because they were the taller of the Vikings and essentially giants to the rest of the European and oriental world. It’s not an amazing height, however, the taller of the Vikings only stood at 5 foot 7. So one can imagine how much smaller the rest of the world was at that time. While the Vikings design is interesting, it is not entirely historically accurate. Despite, this one imperfection the visuals and overall representation in For Honor are astounding and do justice to the depiction of the Medieval and Feudal world. After playing through the Campaign mode it’s safe to say that players will get the best experience with online play.

Heroes of For Honor

The three given playable heroes in multiplayer of For Honor are also known as the Vanguard. The Vanguard are essentially the leaders and represent their factions during diplomatic discussions and are the undeniable leaders on the battlefield. In total there are 12 heroes in all three factions with four class options making it easier to tailor to your own playstyle.

The Warden is a warrior of peace for his homeland and its people who are trained in the most deadly ways an of a two-handed longsword. Unlike other warriors, they feel combat is only necessary when reason and diplomacy are no longer an option. Very well-balanced fighter in regards to speed, offense, and defense. Many knights seek to earn the name Warden, but very very few actually attain the title. Simple combos and efficient blocking should suffice when using the Warden.

The Raider is a ferocious fighter of unreal tenacity and born to fight until fate decides they are ready for the gates of Valhalla. Simply the fact they can shoulder lift and carry and sprint to full speed while throwing said enemy forward speaks volume the strength this hero has. I would tuck my head between my legs and kiss my butt goodbye if I witnessed this hulk in battle. Brandishing a two-handed battle-axe they shred opponents to pieces in one effortless swing. Another well-balanced fighter with more focus on dealing heavy damage. Learning how to effectively use the range of the battle-axe along with uninterrupted heavy attacks will make short work of even the most formidable of foes.

The Kensei is the reason why samurai are feared and the example of a dedicated fighter who will let nothing stand in its way of victory. Wielding a beast of a sword called a Nodachi they have a longer range than any of the Vanguard warriors with a downside of being a tad slower. If one waits patiently and studies how your opponent fights your victory is almost certain. Blocking or parrying and timing counter attacks is his specialty.

The other heroes who are not considered of Vanguard status are in essence support roles or members of the army who tend to fight better in teams. If the player takes the time to master these support roles they are potentially more deadly than any Vanguards.

The Conquerors were ex-prisoners turned forced conscripts who found comfort in the bondage of battle. They rose to the title of an elite soldier through either seeing the error of their ways or simply enjoying cracking skulls and being allowed to do it. Equipped with a shield and ball-and-chain version of a Morningstar they are excellent in defense speed and the possibility of infinite attacks. This class is a tough one to master due to the Morningstar need to be swung in a circle but is immensely rewarding when perfected.

The Peacekeepers is a class that is best described as the assassin of the Knight faction. With a one-handed short sword in the right hand and a dagger in the left, this class is best suited for players with fast reactions and a deep understanding of combos and strategic retreats. If you plan on charging head on into battle with this class you better know exactly what you’re up against from beginning to end.

The Lawbringer is a warrior who is a marvel in and of himself. With another hero favoring the two-handed battle-axe, the attacks are mainly heavy based combos with major damage output. But by far the best feature is having the diversity of the Viking Raider’s strength with the agility and cunning of the Knight’s Warden class. It is the perfect package for counter-attacking and putting down enemies in a hurry when used effectively.

The Berserker is a hero who wields devastating dual axes. This fighter is easily the reason why the front lines of any army would tuck tail and run. When the attacks from a Berserker connect it is something your enemy will not soon forget. With the agility of a Knights Peacekeeper and the damage of a Viking Raider its a class worth mastering. The only but huge downfall of this class is its stamina loss on poorly timed attacks.

The Warlord is the backbone of any Viking army. Theses soldiers have worked their way up through the ranks from sheer determination, bloodlust, and strategy. With a standard short sword and larger shield, the defense on this character is formidable to say the very least. With the ability to block from all angles and deal fairly large amounts of damage it is truly the most annoying foe to encounter.

The Valkyrie is easily one of the better heroes in the Viking lineup. When used correctly this hero is able to keep multiple enemies at bay and on their toes. The spear gives you the advantage of reach and the speed of an assassin. The downfall for this class is the extremely low defense capabilities.

The Shugoki can only be described as the beefiest tank when compared to others of the same weight class. At first, this beast seems slow and cumbersome. But when played with patience and resolve the Shugoki will make even a Viking Raider and Knight Lawbringer retreat. His only ally is the infamous Kanabo. It’s insane range coupled with the sheer size and demonic strength of the Shugoki is a not recommended starter choice for any For Honor first timer.

The Orochi is the stepping stone to Kensei and the stereotypical look of samurai we have all seen in old Japanese movies like The Last Samurai. Dealing moderate damage and slightly lower defense than most, this is an excellent class to learn patience and build your skill. Also, a perfect character to use as bait to force a 2v1 situation in critical match points.

The Nobushi is the single most rewarding, yet annoying hero in For Honor who wields a spear and katana combo called a Naginata. It has a long range that deals poison/bleed damage when comes in contact. Most attacks are a full arm and body thrusts along with sweeping attacks for a lot of misdirection.

Multiplayer

The matchmaking system in For Honor is a combination of hit and miss. There will be times when you are pitted against much higher level players when you start out and vice versa. This can both work in your favor and of course the opposite. Annoying as it can seem to be at times, it’s only a minor blemish on For Honor’s multiplayer. However, hopefully, this is fixed in the future patch.

The map sizes are made to a fair size with a bit of a lengthy sprint from spawn points but still, maintains the ability to quickly aid an ally from control point to control point. Keeping close to your allies and reviving them is a good idea if you want to up your chances of winning. There is also a decent variety of maps for each of the modes. For example, 1v1 maps are usually really small and contain tight spaces and may range from forests, varied cultural structures and of course different scenery such as snow and summer. Some maps are also designed in such a way where you can throw your opponent off the arena and 1-shot them which earns you a kill if you’re good at baiting them towards high falls or openings on the floor.

Knowing each class is imperative as well. Button mashing will no longer be a successful option against other players. Having discussed and assumed the role of the characters it is safe to infer that every class is not equal. For example, a Shugoki is a strong but slow moving character. His attacks can be read from a mile away. So going up against a Peacemaker, Orochi, or Nobushi is a massive speed disadvantage despite the heavy damage output of the Shugoki. As a Kensei, you are fairly well balanced but take major damage from other Vanguard heroes heavy attacks. The smaller classes always pose a threat but only in skilled hands. Being able to recognize these attacks, blocking, and counter attacking accordingly is definitely a learning process.

There is also a system of upgrading your gear in multiplayer. You can buy gear and weapon packs with the steel you earn from campaign and multiplayer. There are also loot crates you can earn and find in the campaign to get premium packs for more chances on higher level equipment. Be very careful how you spend the mass amount of currency you earn after campaign completion. You have more than enough for 4-5 characters and some weapon or armor packs to upgrade. But once you start playing multiplayer the payout for each match is pretty minuscule. Once you master the menu navigation it is easier to customize between matches with a lengthy one and a half minute match timer, seeing as how one person hasn’t pressed the ready option to start the next match.

Now let’s talk a little about each of the game modes For Honor has to offer. The strategy for Dominion is very simple to understand for seasoned KOTH (King of the Hill) players. Dominion is a 4v4 game mode where the main objective is to control strongpoints. First, to 1,000 points wins. If one team has control of all 3 capture zones then the opposing team can no longer respawn. It is the captor’s job to kill the rest of the enemy team and the game is over regardless of the score. It is the losing team’s job to capture at least control point to continue respawning. Brawl and Duel are the more popular game modes. These two game modes are where the dedication to learning the combat comes in. While the class differences I mentioned before are still apparent, it is solely up to the skill of each individual player.

Brawl is a 2v2 elimination while Duel is a 1v1 deathmatch with one life per person and the best out of 5 rounds is the winner for both modes. Skirmish is essentially a version of Dominion but with the first to 1,000 points aspect. It’s a 4v4 match with infinite respawns until one team reaches the point goal. Elimination is a 4v4 deathmatch with no respawns with best of 5 rounds win condition without the capture zones. If your team dies quickly you are in for quite a surprise 3v1 gang up.

For Honor also offers the option to play every game mode against AI. This gives players the ability to form strategies effectively without consistent dying to better-skilled players and hone their skills or learn the heroes combos and fighting mechanics before they dive into the multiplayer. It is also a great feature for the casual players and who don’t have online services.

The game does support voice chat communication. However, some people who choose to not communicate or are not able to for whatever reason will make playing as a team harder than it should be. Especially, if someone just randomly quits mid-match and is a replaced with an AI-bot. Also, once the match is complete and no one quits you will stick with the same people unless they choose to leave post-match or they will ready up and will gladly do a rematch. If you experience a player who is clearly making it harder for you to play there is an option to “report griefing” instead of reporting them to Microsoft/Sony and getting an account banned. It helps to team you up with people who are more team players and help pair you with less selfish players.

Final Verdict

Ubisoft Montreal has completely outdone themselves with For Honor. The amount of control a player has is unlike any other sword-play game available to date. Paired with the steady combat flow and smoothness of the visuals it is easily a game to be cherished. The game pulls all of this off while maintaining a consistently smooth framerate and even innovates with its camera system. However, it can suffer from some issues with its matchmaking process. Even with these minors snags holding For Honor back from time to time, it is still a refreshing title that will compel you to choose your weapon and start the duel of the ages.

For Honor

8.5

Overall

8.5/10

Pros

  • Fun and In-depth combat system
  • Historically accurate and has great visuals
  • Each hero is unique and offers different skill-set which allows for variety of playstyles

Cons

  • Matchmaking against other players is a tad unbalanced
  • Campaign is nothing to ride home about and mostly serves as a training ground before you jump into the multiplayer
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