Here’s what you probably already know: For Honor is a third-person melee combat game that features intense battles between Vikings, Knights and Samurai. Since the game was initially announced at E3 2015 I’ve been chomping at the bit to know more; with a firm release date of February 14th, things are really coming together for the new IP and it’s feeling like more of a must-play with each update. I even have managed to get my hands on it a couple of times to play it for myself – so with that in mind, let’s get stuck into everything we know about For Honor.
Apologies in advance to my partner, but it looks like I have a violent date with some Vikings this Valentine’s Day.
After civilization was destroyed a millennium ago by a cataclysm, the world is still in ruins. The Knights, Vikings and Samurai as three separate factions attempt to rise again and rebuild what was taken from them, trying to recapture the glory of their ancestors – setting up quite the epic battlefield between all groups.
The battle maps are large in scale and show a land that has been torn apart and fortifications hastily built. There’s verticality to each battlefield allowing perspective on the chaos happening around you, offering moments of clarity within the madness of war. It’s beautiful and destructive, backed up by the fierce war-crys from the intense fighting.
Battles themselves are filled with a mix of disposable grunts that will stylishly get destroyed by your Hero of choice. You essentially carve through them like butter, a total badass surrounded by plebs just lining up to be destroyed one by one. A game full of them would be easy, but that’s when the more dangerous foes come into play and where the combat really has a chance to shine.
The Art of Battle
The engaging and interesting element that makes For Honor stand out with its melee combat is the rock, paper, scissors mechanic that takes place whenever you’re locked on to a tough enemy. It’s beauty is in its simplicity; you have to strike either from above, left or right while also watching what your opponents movements are so that you can block their attacks using the same directional flow. It becomes a tactical battle of who is going to strike first and who will take advantage of a sweet block and parry,
With the destruction and death surrounding you, these moments slow things down slightly and allow for some more thought to what you’re doing; what starts out relatively easy ramps up in difficulty when there is more than one opponent trying to take you down with varying speeds and styles of attack. In my play session, I got cocky early when I thought I had a handle of things, but was caught out by trying to rush through. You need to stop, think and pay attention, which made me far more cautious than I originally thought.
The whole thing has been motion captured from martial artists and professional stuntmen, so the experience with medieval weaponry feels authentic and has real weight to it.
All of this tactical combat wouldn’t mean much if there wasn’t a variety of characters to use with their own strengths and weaknesses. Ubisoft have been revealing different Heroes over the past few months, with a diverse range including The Shugoki, a heavy Samurai that literally throws his weight around and has a massive health pool. In contrast to this, the Knights have the devastating Peacekeepers, assassin-like characters who focus on stealth, jumping into the fray fast to do massive damage before making a swift exit, leaving a trail of bodies behind them.
Vikings are my personal favourite. Strong, powerful and with heavy weaponry, they have a serious presence on the battlefield, especially the Warlord who is able to defend very effectively with a shield in his left hand while pummeling foes with a harsh blow from a sword in his right. You’ll need to work out which style suits you the best, as there is a learning curve, with some having particular unblockable attacks or preferring a counter-attack approach rather than chaining together offensive moves.
When first revealed, only a multiplayer mode was showcased, but it’s the single player campaign that has me particularly excited. I’ve played the opening mission of the game that teaches you the essentials and gets the ball rolling on a storyline that will have you embodying one of the key warriors from each of the three factions at different points, as you take part in the events that led to the war.
You’ll storm castles and battle with challenging foes in memorable duels, but a real effort has been made to flesh out the narrative and establish what each of these factions is really fighting for. While the other modes are just bloodthirsty, the campaign will make you empathetic to their cause and provide important back-story that has real thought behind it rather than merely being tacked on.
When you’re done with the campaign, there is a bevvy of multiplayer modes, with the flagship mode Dominion that I’m sure will become iconic and key to the franchise. In this 4v4 mode, a combination of killing enemies while capturing and controlling points on the map sets up a race to 1000 points, but more ‘classic’ modes like Elimination and Duel are there too which are relatively self explanatory.
Regardless, the map is full of enemy AI that can be smashed through, but it’s the enemy players that you’ll have to really worry about. Using The Art of Battle against a human opponent is even more unpredictable and exciting than it is in the campaign. When I was able to defeat three opponents in a 3 on 1 situation when playing For Honor at PAX, I couldn’t contain my elation. I may have even self high-fived.
Conceptually there was a lot of doubt with For Honor, whether or not the “simple in theory” melee combat would carry an entire single player campaign and competitive multiplayer experience. From everything I’ve played so far, I have to say that those doubts have been cancelled out; with the beta around the corner and the games full release just over a month away, we won’t have long to wait to experience it properly for ourselves.
If you want to get in on the beta in January, there’s still time to sign up – just head here and register.