For Honor is a new action IP from Ubisoft that pits Knights against Vikings and Samurai. The game has been in development for five years with the aim of bringing players a brand new melee combat experience. Having enjoyed my time with the Alpha and Beta builds of the game I’ve been keen to see how the final release turned out.
There’s a full backstory behind For Honor but the short version is basically that the three factions of Knights, Vikings and Samurai are all at war. The game begins with a decision that asks you to pick the faction that you want to fight for. They all have a certain appeal but in the end I decided to go for Vikings. Despite having to choose one of the three factions you can still play as heroes from all of them.
To get you started there is a short tutorial that takes you through the basics of combat. Ubisoft call the control system ‘The Art of Battle’ which sounds a bit over the top but after some time with it I wondered why no one has come up with it before. Put simply the control scheme is fantastic.
Watch the For Honor launch trailer below:
You view the action from a third-person perspective and move your warrior with the left stick. The left trigger lets you lock onto an enemy and double tapping it cycles between targets. When locked on the right stick is used to change your guard stance between left, right and top. Your current guard, or that of your opponent, is easy to determine by a handy onscreen shield icon that shows which of the three guard stances are in use.
Your guard stance is used to block, so for example if your enemy is attacking from the left you need to be in the left stance to block it. Similarly you need to be in a different stance from your opponent in order to land an attack. Attacks can be performed with the right bumper (light attack) and right trigger (heavy attack). With the right timing you can chain attacks together to release devastating combos.
If you finish an enemy with a heavy attack you are presented with a small window of opportunity to unleash a brutal execution. Other moves include guardbreaks, throws, dodges and even emotes to taunt your opponents. Performing all these different moves uses stamina so you need to be careful not to run out. The inclusion of stamina helps prevent players winning by simply button mashing.
Each of the three factions has four different heroes for you to use in battle. They each fall into one of four types – Vanguard, Heavy, Hybrid and Assassin. Each plays quite differently but the game always feels balanced. Initially only one of each faction is unlocked and the rest must be unlocked individually using 500 of the ingame Steel currency. This is obtained slowly through play or you can purchase more via optional microtransactions.
To help learn each of the heroes there are two training modes – practice and advanced practice. There are also game mode and fight videos to explain things further. Pausing the game shows you the moveset for your selected hero. Finally you can also create practice duels against bots to fully test out and improve your skills.
Online multiplayer battles are the main focus of the game but there is a decent campaign to tackle as well. This is split up into three chapters – Knights, Vikings and Samurai – each with six missions. The campaign on normal difficulty is going to last you around six hours on a first playthrough. Sadly the option for split-screen co-op was cut before release but you can still play co-op with a friend online.
The campaign is very polished and acts as a kind of extended tutorial. As you progress you are taught more advanced skills and earn experience to unlock new abilities. Some of the big set pieces are quite spectacular. There are plenty of collectibles to track down during the campaign and these make it worth replaying for extra Steel. There are also higher difficulty levels to tackle for players looking for a greater challenge.
I expect that most players will start with the campaign and then turn their attention to the online play. In the background to the multiplayer action is an overall Faction War. The world map is divided up into different territories owned by the different factions. Your performance in battle allows you to deploy War Assets to attack or defend a particular territory.
Every 6 hours the Faction War updates based on the strength of each faction in each territory. This causes the different war fronts to shift as control of the different territories is won or lost. The faction in control of each territory determines which maps are available to play on at that point in time.
There are 12 multiplayer maps included at launch with more planned over time as free DLC. The maps have different variations available causing them to change based on who controls them. There are also different weather effects and times of day resulting in 60 different map variations which helps keep things interesting.
Players are presented with a choice of five different multiplayer modes which are Duel (1v1), Brawl (2v2), Skirmish (4v4 deathmatch), Elimination (4v4) and Dominion (4v4 objectives). Each mode essentially revolves around killing the enemy players.
The combat in For Honor really is thrilling and going 1v1 is incredible fun. Taking your time and reacting to your opponent is the key to succeeding. You really need to have put the time in to mastering the move set of your chosen hero.
Things get even better when you find yourself behind in a team game. When you have to face multiple enemies solo and manage to leave victorious it’s impossible not to fist pump the air in delight. There’s so much satisfaction to be had when things go your way.
As great as the game is there have been a few issues during launch week with server stability. It’s almost to be expected with big multiplayer titles and thankfully things have much improved in recent days.
For Honor is a fantastic game that manages to deliver the best melee combat experience around. It’s a game that should get better with age as the developers tweak the balance of the heroes and roll out more content. If you’re not put off by the steep learning curve and enjoy competitive games For Honor should be top of your most wanted list. Highly Recommended.
For Honor was reviewed using a standard edition digital code supplied by Ubisoft.
Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft Release Date: February 14, 2017 Reviewed On: Xbox One Also Available On: PS4, PC