Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
In typical Ubisoft fashion, For Honor has received some significant hype over the past year or so. Set in a fictional world full of strife and chaos, choose your Hero from the noble Samurai, the relentless Vikings, or the bloodthirsty Knights and represent your faction in a war for dominance. Whether you are in the captivatingly beautiful wilderness or the majestic ruins of civilization, your Hero will stand as a bulwark against the oncoming threat of annihilation. With an interesting twist on the action-fighting platform, For Honor uses an innovative control system called “The Art of Battle” that provides full control over your choice of one of twelve heroes. Stab, parry, and block your way through the fight control. For all of the interesting new fight mechanics, focus on faction-specific persistent PVP world, For Honor is both new and exciting while feeling, at times, incredibly frustrating and empty.
To start, For Honor is one of the best looking games I have seen on console to date. Though incredibly linear, each and every map is meticulously detailed, right down to the invisible walls… Sure, some of the maps, especially those in the marshlands, have a handful of paths, but boy is this game linear. I long for some open battlefields full of these microcosms of chaos and destruction. Instead you have predictable paths and groups of players huddling around all of the insta-kill spots, significantly cheapening the entire spirit of the game. I was actually impressed with the campaign and was bummed to find that there are only a few campaign missions for each faction. I would love to see some focus on the single player here and would easily score this a full point higher if it had fleshed out campaigns for each of the faction, not the half-assed “tutorial-with-a-story” that we got. Sure, there could be an argument that this is a multiplayer game, and that the campaign is an afterthought. I would be okay with that, if the matchmaking was not so horrifyingly bad. I am not a fan of matchmaking, but this is the worst ever. It is so painfully slow and horribly bad at proper matchmaking that you are better off folding your eyelids back, shoving rock salt into your sockets, and then flushing with a mixture of lemon juice and hatred. Matchmaking in For Honor is broken.
That is not to say that it is not, at times, a fun game. There is a certain allure to its chaotic combat, though that allure is not for everyone. I have seen comparisons of For Honor to the various “Soulsbourne” games, or as I see it, a Western approach to Musou-style games (the Dynasty Warriors franchise where you run up and down a series of hallways, tapping a face button to one-hit a dozen units at a time) while trying to marry the style to the more intimate fighting game 1-on-1 fights. On paper the concept is really neat, and in the single player campaign (with a few caveats), it actually works. But once you put actual people into the mix you are looking at an absolute shitstorm, as people suck. People aside, the issues I found within For Honor are more mechanical in nature, for example, the dodge mechanic. It is useless. In fact, Ubisoft could remove the function completely and I think it would truly improve the experience. You see, when you go to “dodge” something, you will roll away, or step backwards away from the enemy that is attacking you. Except that enemy is mid-swing animation so you dodge backwards and they are then teleported to you, while you are stuck in a dodge animation, and they smack the crap out of you. I was killed more times by the faulty dodge mechanic that I was by the incredibly cheap, oft-spammed bash mechanic that will throw you into nearby pits of instant-kill. It is incredibly frustrating and had more work been put into balancing the classes against one-another I think I would enjoy it far more on a multiplayer level (and either fix the dodge mechanic or remove it entirely as dodge is a death sentence).
Another struggle I have for this potentially wonderful brawler is in the lack of precise controls, and if For Honor demands one thing and one thing only, it is precision timing. The problem is that the control concept (called “The Art Of Battle”) needs to work accurately across twelve very different classes, and it just … it just doesn’t. Take for instance, the Warden; every single player can be a master with the Warden because its control scheme is so simple and is really what I feel “The Art of Battle” was designed for, whereas the Viking’s Valkyrie, a hybrid support class that requires precision is absolutely absurd, since there is no FEEL to the controls. Everything just feels heavy, or waited, and in a game that demands perfection and precision, the controls do not jive well with a number of the classes. On the topic of classes … they are split into four “categories,” the Vanguards, the Assassins, the Heavies, and the Hybrids.
The Vanguards are the rank-and-file front-line warriors. For the Knights, it is the extremely lethal Warden class, the Vikings have the lumbering brute called the Raider, and the Samurai have the painstakingly slow, but massive-reach Kensei. The Assassin classes are all nimble and focus far more on precision and style while being relative push-overs; the Knights have a dual-wielding dagger menace called a Peacekeeper that are not the best for straight up fights, but are excellent stealth units. The Vikings have the Berserker which is relatively easy to learn and can be lethal due to its ability to infinitely chain combo attacks. The Samurai have the Orochi, which is the most nimble class to play are requires the highest skill to play well; they are downright lethal and could go toe-to-toe with any of the Vanguard class … if The Art of Battle were tighter and more precise. More often than not you will see people choose this class and suck badly at it. The Heavies are just that; heavy. The Knights get the Conqueror which is the easiest heavy to learn with massive defense and while slow, hits like a battering ram.
The Vikings get the Warlord who in the hands of a capable player can demolish everything on the field using counterattacks only. The Samurai get the lumbering Shugoki, who is without a doubt, the strongest and heaviest hitting pound-for-pound unit in the game. They have a special that charges the enemy that can, and will 1-hit you every. Single. Time. Dodging is about the best you can do to get away from them … but wait. Dodging is broken. Expect to die when you see a Shugoki take the field. The Hybrids are various mixtures of the three “standard” class types; for the Knights there are the Lawbringers, mixtures of Vanguard and Heavy classes and designed to take punishment … and to spam bash/throw enemies. The Vikings get the Valkyrie, a shield-and-spear wielding vixen that is a mixture of the Vanguard and the Assassin classes, being nimble yet versatile, and specializing in more random attacks. They have a charge-up attack that is devastating to all around them. The Samurai get the Nobushi, a nimble spear-wielder that is relatively difficult to master as it is best used at-range. The issue here is … it is difficult to be at a longer range because of the stupid “zoom” mechanic that has enemy players or NPC’s glide into you while you try to dodge. Until they fix the dodge mechanic, the Nobushi are downright useless.