The sounds of steel and flesh collide with a furious crash in Ubisoft’s newest IP, For Honor. Set in a universe shared by Knights, Vikings, and Samurai, an endless battle for control wages and Ubisoft was kind enough to send us a code to help sate our appetite for more medieval melee combat after the pre-release online multiplayer beta. If you played the open beta and you’re still on the fence or are just hearing about For Honor for the first time, keep reading as we’re about to dive into this unique brawler spear first.
First of all let’s get a little backstory of this war-torn universe that the team over at Ubisoft has created because as far as we know Knights, Vikings, and Samurai have never had a glorious battle royale to the death in the real world. Ubisoft has remedied this by tossing all three factions into a world ravaged by a great disaster that has left the lands of the 3 factions in total ruins. The warriors of the factions have been in a 1000 year war with no one side coming out on top. The Knights to the west in the mountainous region of Ashfeld, the Vikings to the frozen north in Valkenheim and finally the Samurai to the east in the forests and swamps of the Myre. This 1000 year war has left these 3 factions splintered and living in a somewhat peaceful state with each other by remaining in their own regions, but someone plans to bring war back to the lands and route out the wolves living among the sheep and this is where For Honor’s campaign begins.
Now before we dive into the meat and potatoes of For Honor, which is its multiplayer, we have to discuss the story mode which I will admit after hearing that the focus was going to be on PVP multiplayer I had my doubts on a decent campaign. Like most, I thought it was going to be a tacked on as a throwaway story, something to appease those who complain about MP only games but I have to admit I was very pleasantly surprised with For Honor’s campaign. My playthrough clocked in at around 5-6 hours which admittedly isn’t a sprawling epic compared to games such as The Witcher 3 or Fallout 4 but you’ve got to remember, this is a fighting game, a fighting game that doesn’t have 30 years of history where the antagonist has a brainwashed elite teen girl hit squad. I found that the 5-6 hours I spent playing through all three chapters (Knights, Vikings, Samurai respectively) was quite enjoyable. There is plenty of characters and little pieces of lore sprinkled throughout each level helping shape this battle-scarred world we were fighting through.
Through each factions chapter we are introduced to the main band of characters (and the classes you will play in multiplayer) each with distinct personalities including the always incredible voice talent of Jennifer Hale (better known as Fem Shep) as Fem Warden and the in my opinion, the oddly out of place Brozerker (Bro may be a bit harsh, he just sounds very out of character for what I expected). While all the voice acting is done rather well it’s the tone of all the characters that seems out of place, true they have been battling for 1000 years but all the dialogue feels very modern. Fem Wardens dialogue had me chuckling in points because it felt as if I was playing as sarcastic Sheppard in plate mail.
Modern dialogue aside, during each chapter you will have the opportunity to play as 2 of the other factions classes in one or two story missions giving you some albeit brief insight into that character while keeping the main focus on one key player of each faction. For the Knights, the story is seen from the point of view of the Warden class who have recently joined into the Blackstone Legion with supporting story roles from the Lawbringer (playable), Peace Keeper (playable) and the Conqueror. The Vikings follow the Raider class who have partnered with the Warborn tribe and seek to end the in-fighting between the Vikings after the 1st chapter. Joining the Raiders during the campaign is the Warlord (Playable), the Valkyrie (Playable) and the Berserker. As the final chapter looms on the horizon you are placed in the shoes of our final hero, the Samurai’s Orochi class. Joining them on their fight through the great war is the Kensei or “Sword Saint” (playable), The Nobushi (I can’t recall if one mission has you playing as the Nobushi) and the Shoguki. With all three stories intertwining in the finale, I found myself hungry for more of this world that had been created. While not technically long for a game that focuses on the Multiplayer aspects I feel that Ubisoft hit the perfect margin between short and sweet and have created solid lore and groundwork for the future of the series.
With the campaign out of the way let’s dive into the real meat of For Honor – the multiplayer. For those that don’t know me personally, I have a bit of a competitive streak when it comes to gaming, so anything PVP or head to head always has a way of drawing my attention and keeping enthralled if only for those white knuckle moments of clinching a victory 1hp away from defeat and For Honor delivers up plenty of those moments quickly turning a defeat into a split second victory. For those unaware, Ubisoft has implemented a very simple to learn yet complex to master battle system they call “The Art of Battle”. Rather than your traditional fighting game mechanic of high/low blocks, your warrior will have 3 stances, top stance, left stance and right stance. You can switch between all 3 based off of the direction you are pushing the right thumbstick. Blocking works a little differently than traditional fighters as there is no “block button” and since battles take place in a fully 3D environment holding back to block is not an option, instead players must match the direction of their opponents attack, so for example if a Raider is attacking you with an overhead you would have to switch your stance to overhead in order to block the strike. Seems pretty simple right? Well it is and that is one of the beautiful things about For Honor, the combat system is very simple but when combined with parries, dodge strikes,deflects and feints it becomes a very simple system with a high skill ceiling allowing those who happen to be less competitive and more casual can still hold their own and have fun with friends while those who like white-knuckle combat using feints in order to play mind games with your opponent at top levels of play will find it here.
Now it wouldn’t be a multiplayer focused game without a few different game modes to go along with it, For Honor’s multiplayer portion boasts 5 different types of matches split across 3 regions of the faction map (more on that later) they are 1v1 Duels/2v2 Brawls, 4v4 Elimination/4v4 Skirmish and 4v4 Dominion. 1v1 duels and 2v2 brawls are pretty self-explanatory, both go to the best 3 out of 5, these are the most honorable duels you will find online where even in the 2v2 duels you will often see the enemy player stand back and allow his partner to finish the duel with the enemy rather than joining in 2v1. It’s not to say this won’t happen in the 4v4 elimination matches but don’t expect it. 4v4 elimination is just what the name says, two teams of 4 against each other with the added difference of various boosts placed throughout the battlefield (speed, damage, defense, health regen) that players can stand upon for a temporary boost, be prepared to fend off multiple attackers in this mode as 2v1 and 3v1 is quite common. The final two modes are Skirmish and Dominion.
In Dominion, you and your team are charged with capturing 3 points (A, B & C) and holding them while fending off the enemy team. As you capture points and take out enemy soldiers your team will slowly gain points until eventually hitting 1000 at which point the enemy team “breaks” meaning that unless they are able to retake a captured point or kill enough enemy players to drop the opponents score back below the 1000 point, any death for their team is now permanent and the enemy team can win the match by killing all 4 player controlled characters. The final mode and what is currently known as the black sheep of game modes is Skirmish, Skirmish brings with it the 4v4 gangbang that is elimination and combines it with an odd scoring system similar to Dominion (1000 to make the enemy team break) but has 0 objectives often leading the gameplay to turn into a messy 4v1-2 and then snowballs from there. It should be noted that these 4v4 modes are the only ones outside of custom matches that take your characters gear stats into consideration, all other modes your various pieces of armor and weapon parts are purely cosmetic (and isn’t crushing the skull of a samurai all about looking cool while doing it?)
Gear for your character is obtainable by playing either PVP or vs A.I. as after every match you have the chance to scavenge pieces of armor or weapons to alter your chosen character. Now unless you have champion status (which can be purchased with the in-game currency steel) you will only be finding 1 piece of gear (if lucky) at the end of a match and possibly 2 with champion (though I’ve only ever gotten 2 pieces once, champion status doesn’t seem to make a difference as of now) Your main source of gear comes from the Scavenger, 3 random basic pieces of wear (armor/weapon) costs 300 steel, a package of 3 weapon pieces costs 400 steel, 3 pieces of armour costs 400 steel as well and both come with 1 guaranteed “superior item”. The best bang for your steel though is the 500 steel scavenger crate which gives you 5 pieces of random gear (weapons/armor) with two of them guaranteed to be superior or better.
I’ve mentioned steel as the main source for acquiring your gear and you may be wondering how to go about obtaining it, well Ubisoft has provided daily “orders” which can be completed for a chunk of steel and a large chunk of XP towards the class that finished it. Steel payouts range from 100 steel and 1500xp for the “side orders” and then 300 steel and 300xp for the 2 “Daily orders”.
Learn from my mistakes, here are few tips to make the most of your steel:
- On the character select screen it appears as if you need to purchase the other classes for 500 steel to be able to play them, this is incorrect. While it gives you the appearance that they are locked, you can actually use any of them. The 500 steel price is strictly to customize and change their gear, so before you spend all of your steel from the campaign (you get 5000 for just finishing and I believe 1500 for finishing the advanced training) play around with the characters to see if you click with them before spending your steel to customize them.
- Wait until you hit Rep 1 (Lvl 21) with a character before spending your steel on items or scavenger packs. You will only get common white rarity gear until rep 1, after that you will start pulling higher quality blue gear, eventually pulling purple gear (which is currently the highest tier I believe, I’m still a rep 1 pleb)
- Search for the breakables in the campaign, while most of the time it will only be 30 steel or a new emblem piece there is the chance that it will be a scavenger crate for multiplayer (5 item box) and just like purchasing packs, wait until Rep 1 or higher to open them so the gear isn’t instantly replaced.
I’ve gushed about how fun the campaign and how rewarding the multiplayer combat is, I’ve unfortunately got to mention the bad as well. One of my biggest complaints has been the inclusion of Skirmish and Elimination into one cue, if you have an order for completing 5 duel matches you cue for a duel and bang them out. If you have Elimination orders (which has been the bulk of mine so far) you cue up for Elimination and then end up being tossed into Skirmish, which is fine, it happens, but 3-7 times in a row is infuriating, if I wanted Skirmish I’d pick Skirmish. This is the only game mode that for some reason doesn’t have its own cue and when I’m trying to get Elimination specific orders done but am unable to, it puts a very easily avoidable taste in my mouth.
Staying with the theme of multiplayer orders, I have found recently some are an absolute detriment to the actual game mode. I’m specifically talking about two matches I had last nice titled “Dominion Butcher” and “Dominion Slaughter” which required 200 and 400 enemy soldiers killed respectively. It should be noted that enemy “soldiers” are the goombas of For Honor and are there for you to cinematically crush with one hit. I mentioned Dominion is the only mode with actual objectives? Yea you better believe your teammates aren’t going to be focused on those, they will be sitting at the other end of the map spawn killing goombas as 1 person tries to actually play the game mode only to have all 3 objectives fall to the A.I. Now I love the orders as a method of making steel but I feel a few of them need to be tweaked if they continue along the “butcher & slaughter” patterns. All of this is a very simple fix and I don’t feel like it will be too much longer until these issues are addressed.
Now the big negative I have to mention which I will admit has put a damper on some of my play time recently has been the connectivity issues. I have found it increasingly difficult lately to finish a match (more so in the last 2 days) without losing connection to the server/host since For Honor goes about using a P2P connection method. You may find yourself in matches where the host leaves due to being “first blooded” causing the game to stutter and have to re-synchronize causing some potential rubber banding between players or being in a completely different region than the host and find yourself saying “BS, I BLOCKED THAT!”. While I personally have had the host leaving/re-synch issue very rarely occur to me I have seen it mentioned enough that I do feel it needs to be addressed, on the other hand, I find that the complete loss of connection and being booted to the main menu during a game or on the rewards page happens far too frequently. At the time of writing this I have not seen Ubisoft mention anything in order to alleviate this but here’s hoping they make an announcement soon. Aside from those issues I have found myself very impressed and surprised by For Honor and am reminded that Ubisoft has the ability to create really unique worlds and have now created two of the best and unique forms of multiplayer to date with Assassins Creed multiplayer (which dear God please bring back Ubisoft, I beg you!) and For Honor.
So for those of you sitting on the fence on whether or not to grab For Honor, I hope this review has helped make up your mind.
- Looking for a solid single player title? Wait for it to go on sale, I love the story and campaign but for $90 CAD (after taxes) at 4-6 hrs on hard I can’t recommend it.
- Looking for a great multiplayer experience and maybe something to dive into when tired of multiplayer? Absolutely, pick this up right now, if you’re like me and like that feeling of competition and besting your opponent through skill and not through rocket launcher splash damage, then this game is for you.