Review by GonzoDuke
Reviewed: 02/24/17 | Updated: 02/28/17
A New Wave
For Honor Review A New Wave
For Honor, created by Ubisoft Montreal, is the culmination of the new wave of online games that have become popular over the last few years. Combining fighting-game style controls with an always online, arena-battle approach to multiplayer leads to a totally fresh experience. Pitting Knights, Vikings, and Samurai against each other For Honor does many things well, but first and foremost is the combat. The fighting is fantastic. Based around a system of directional blocking, combos, and special finishers the combat mechanics work to pull you into the game world and forces you to master different styles for different situations.
Add in the wonderful graphics, the large online player base (at the time of writing), and large online-faction war Ubisoft has created for the game and you end up with a recipe for success. Ancient warfare has never been more fun. If you enjoy fighting games, MOBAs, or medieval combat dont miss out on this game!
The gameplay in For Honor is broken down into several game modes all based around medieval warfare. The game modes typically pit teams of 1 to 4 players against each other. You fight to either capture control points or simply to kill your enemies. You can play as 1 of 12 heroes, and the heroes themselves are split into 3 groups - Vikings, Knights, and Samurai. Those 3 groups also represent the 3 factions players must choose to join at the start of the game. These factions are pitted against each other in a land war represented with an in game map, and Ubisoft claims the outcome of the war will have lasting consequences on the game world and maps.
Each faction has 4 character types with different strengths and weaknesses. When you begin playing For Honor, the game will make you choose a faction to support. However, you are not limited to the heroes in that faction during play. When you actually begin a match you will have the option to play as any hero that you have unlocked. This is where a lot of the variety in For Honor comes into play. The character that you decide to play as will totally determine your playstyle. For example the Knight faction has a giant hero named Lawbringer. Playing as the Lawbringer will mean slower but powerful moves, whereas the Valkyrie in the Viking faction trades power for speed and agility.
Each character feels completely different from the others. Even if you play with a similar style character from a different faction there is enough variety in the movesets to make them feel unique. Trying out the different heroes and finding the one that suits you best critical to success. This game also lets you build up a history with your character. Each piece of armor or weapon can be customized to make you stand out in a crowd. The game also keeps track of your stats specific to each hero so you can easily see who you have the best K/D ratio with, or which hero has the highest win percentage. Its easy to feel a connection with the character you like best.
At the end of the day it all comes down to the fighting. For Honor really hits the combat out of the park. The system is based off of a core mechanic of blocking on the correct side of your body; you can block left, right, or up. You will need to block in the same direction as the incoming attack to be successful. The HUD will flash the correct direction to block right when the attack starts, so it pays off to be hyper vigilant and prepared to block on any side at any time.
Offensively each hero has a repertoire of light hits, heavy hits, and grapples/throws. Each character also has unique combo chains and special abilities. There are really helpful videos for each hero that will explain how to fight with them built into the game. Combined with a full practice mode For Honor presents a variety of features to let you master each hero. For Honor does a great job capturing the same depth and variety in the combat as a fighting game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. By going this route they are able to make the fighting extremely intense and satisfying. Just the simple act of cornering an enemy player and throwing them off of a ledge is incredibly satisfying.
The game itself is broken down into several different modes of play. There is a story mode that can be played single player or co-op. However, the main crux of the game is online multiplayer (More on multiplayer in a bit). The story mode currently has several chapters each with a 4 to 5 missions each. It goes over the story and history of the world of For Honor. I didnt find it to be all that interesting, but it can present a nice break from the intense multiplayer.
For Honor is an always online game, so keep that in mind before purchasing. Multiplayer is the main focus of this game and the main reason it is so addicting. The combat feels intense and real in a way that makes the battles with other players so much fun. The fighting is brutal and fights can be over in a matter of seconds sometimes. Other battles can get locked into an epic standoff with each player successfully blocking the other players moves. Most importantly though, is that the fighting always seems fair. The player who knows their character the best will usually come out on top. It may seem cheap at first to get pushed off a ledge, but will eventually learn to stay away from the ledge (Or use it to your own advantage).
The multiplayer experience is split into 5 game modes. The main game mode Ubisoft has created in For Honor is called Dominion. Dominion is a 4 on 4 battle on a large map. There are three control points on the map the must be held in order to boost your points. There are hundreds of small mob enemies running around that can be slaughtered very easily. The object is to rack up points by killing the mobs and enemies players while controlling the bases to boost your score. It is quite fun, and will seem instantly familiar to those who enjoy MOBAs.
It is also a great mode to try out some new heroes as you can help the team by killing mobs and holding zones if youre not quite ready to take on an enemy hero. It is nice to see the MOBA concept being applied to new genres. Ubisoft made a smart decision by taking the fun parts of different game types and combining them into a fresh experience.
For Honor also has a 4 on 4 deathmatch mode. It can be played in 2 ways. The first is where each player is paired off with an enemy, and there is no respawning. You can only be revived by one of your teammates (unless you are killed with an execution. Each hero has special executions they can do to enemies when their health hits 0, and killing people with these moves does not allow them to be revived.) This mode is called elimination.
The other way to play deathmatch is called skirmish and the game starts you off next to your teammates. Respawning is allowed so it turns into a constant team fight for most of the match. Both game types are popular with players, but it would have been nice to be able to choose which game type you are going to play. There is a map voting system and it is possible to keep voting for the elimination game type, but that feels more like a band aid than a real solution to the annoyance.
Rounding out the online game types are brawl and duel which are 2v2 and 1v1 matches respectively. Each game mode is enjoyable, and it keeps the game fresh when you start to get tired of a certain game. Ubisoft also issues daily challenges and bonus XP for completing tasks and objectives in the different game modes. This is a great tactic to keep the online population interested in all of the different modes. Skirmish is my least favorite of the different modes, but I will play it in order to complete the challenges.
Ubisoft adds to the online experience by having an overall faction war running in real time while you play. When you log onto the multiplayer mode you are taken to the world map, and you can see which territories are controlled by the 3 factions. By completing online matches you can earn war assets which can be deployed onto specific sections of the map. There is a timer that runs in real time, and when the timer runs out whichever faction has allotted the most war assets to a territory will own it for the next round of battles. This is a fun idea that helps to keep the player invested in the overall story Ubisoft is trying to tell.
According to Ubisoft controlling a territory will affect the game world maps. The maps will have different banners depending on which faction is in control at the time of playing. To be honest I have not noticed these differences in game. I have been too focused on my opponents. It would be nice if the changes were more dramatic or actually changed the battlefield in some way. If it already does that then it is impossible to notice. Its too bad because the idea itself is compelling, but it never comes to fruition.
Overall my time spent playing multiplayer was really fun. The battles are extremely intense and addicting. Going toe to toe with an evenly matched opponent gets the blood pumping like few other games are able to do. Even if you are getting beaten by a better player throwing them off of a ledge will still put a smile on your face.
I found the competition in the For Honor multiplayer experience to be fair. You will come across a range of tough players, and people who need more practice. It took a few days at the beginning for people to separate themselves into skill groups, but now that the game has been out for a bit the matchmaking does a great job of putting you in matches with similar level opponents.
I play on a reliable high speed internet connection and I have not had issues with lag or trouble connecting to a game. I have heard reports from other gamers where these things seemed to be an issue for them, but I can only speak to my personal experience. I found the online matchmaking to be smooth and painless.
Now we come to the elephant in the room. Yes, this game has micro-transactions, and yes, the gear you can get will improve your character. However, I am going to argue that this is not a pay to win game. So far I have not spent a single penny more than I did to originally buy the game, and I have not felt held back or limited in any way. I am able to progress my characters at a fast rate, and I hold my own against most opponents.
You will occasionally run up against an enemy with a crazy high level gear, and fancy armor, but the truth is most of these players are easy to beat. The combat in the game is so good that gear is not the deciding factor. Knowing your moveset and your enemys is much more important. Practice and experience go a lot farther than a dollar when it comes to For Honor.
That being said if you are a player who gets sucked in and spends money on these games - be careful. If you buy your way into a high level you are going to get grouped with players who did it the hard way. It may be tough to get better yourself if you are getting steam rolled every match - excellent gear or no. Also, Ubisoft set the price for the coolest looking armor extremely high. You may find a bigger dent in your wallet than you imagined.
At the end of the day I dont feel like micro-transactions should be the thing that stops you from trying this game. Yes, they are present, but the combat mechanics and the balance of the heroes work to offset most of the advantages of the gear.
The graphics in For Honor are incredible. Ubisoft put a ton of attention into the detail of the characters and environment. The movement of the fabric and the armor on the characters is very realistic. Blood will begin to cover your character as you kill more people. This is clearly a game that could only have been made on the current generation of systems.
Each battlefield feels like a real place. The layouts make sense and the way Ubisoft was able to bring them to life really draws in the player. Smoke rises from fires, and the ground seems appropriately muddy and worn.
Ubisoft also does a great job with the sounds design. Characters will give vocal ques when they are about to do a special move, so the sounds can be used to help in battle. The music also adds a great deal to the experience. If two players are locked in a duel the music will crescendo into an epic battle song. Overall the graphics and the sound design are a major factor in the immersion of the game world. Ubisoft really came through in this area. I would be nice if there was slightly more variety in the music as it is mostly just a drum line, but it still serves its purpose.
For Honor is a game built for replayability. As stated above, Ubisoft sends out daily challenges to keep players invested in the different game modes. Playing a dominion match with the specific goal of killing 300 hundred mobs makes it into a totally different game then when it is otherwise played. The faction war will also keep people coming back to make sure that their territories are protected.
As stated above, the control of different territories affects what the different battlefields look like. It would be nice if Ubisoft made more meaningful changes than simply cosmetic ones; it would make the faction war even more compelling than it already is.
Each character can continuously be levelled up as well, so if the game begins to feel stale you can switch to a new character. It would be nice if there were a few more game modes, and a few additional maps. There is enough content right now, but if Ubisoft wants the game to remain popular they probably need to add a little more variety to the online choices.
For Honor is a great game plain and simple. It is the culmination of the new wave of online gaming. It has excellent fighting game combat mixed with the addicting aspects of MOBAs. This is a game that will keep you coming back from more, day after day. Ubisoft smartly uses daily challenges and the overall faction war to fuel the multiplayer activity.
There cant be enough said about how great the combat is either. The use of directional attacking and blocking is easy to grasp but difficult to master. Add to that 12 unique heroes with their own moves and weapons and you end up with an incredibly deep and nuanced combat system.
Micro-transactions take away from the game slightly but I dont feel like it is a pay to win game. If Ubisoft can continue to add features over the course of the year and expand the multiplayer experience then For Honor has a chance to become a contender for game of the year. I highly recommend this game!
Final Score: 4.5/5
Product Release: For Honor (US, 02/14/17)
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