Reviewed on: Playstation 4. Copy supplied by publisher.
Basically Dynasty Warriors meets Just Dance, For Honor incorporates a whole lot of features gamers will be familiar with, and creates something unique in the process. Available in single and multiplayer modes, the game has quite a lot going for it, and it really does shine in some areas, but unfortunately is cringe inducing in others. Let’s start with the bad and work our way up to the good.
It’s kind of great that Ubisoft decided to incorporate a single-player mode into For Honor, which could have so easily just been a multiplayer title considering its MOBA like elements and status as an online only game. But the bad part is that the campaign is a bit of a head scratcher. Dialogue is often beyond silly, and it takes you out of the moment when you hear one liners and pop-culture references coming from a knight’s mouth prior to a duel. Yes this is a bug-bear I carry with me all the time, but jokes for the sake of a joke are never a good idea, especially in a new IP that could have taken itself more seriously.
The campaign thankfully isn’t a main selling point of the game, it pretty much introduces you to a handful of the warrior types and establishes For Honor‘s world. Which for those wondering how Knights, Vikings and Samurai ended up in a seemingly endless conflict with each other, it’s a good yarn. A natural disaster forced each faction onto one continent, and their constant warring and limited resources keep each society from progressing out of medieval societies. On paper it’s cool, and the concept is strong, but don’t enter into this game expecting a meaningful exploration into any of it.
Some of the themes at play are genuinely interesting, but as a story, the pacing and level progress is well off, leaving you to figure out quite a lot of what’s going on. Take the longest segment of the game for example, which has you controlling The Raider, a powerful Viking war chief. The character motivations in this chapter boil down to “Vikings are dicks and will attack anyone”, rather than a more sensical plot of “hey, fellow Vikings, let’s maybe focus our efforts on the people who showed themselves to be our true enemy literally five minutes ago, instead of antagonising a different faction entirely”. It’s frustrating to watch unfold, and isn’t helped by the cringiness of the Viking’s constant guttural yells. Like dude, you’re in a battle, we get it.
But once the eye rolling subsides and you just embrace the game mode for what it is, it’s not bad. Sure some bosses were so stupidly hard it wasn’t fun at all to fight them, such as the Viking warlord who spawned wolves, completing trashing the mechanics the game had spent the past hour teaching you. But it was relatively short lived and the urge to put my dualshock in a trash disposal unit soon subsided.
So the best part of the single player is really it teaching you to fight, and luckily the fighting is something For Honor does extremely well, and this shines in the multiplayer. The gameplay is unique and engrossing, and far slower paced than I thought it would be, which is a good thing. Reading your opponent is a large part of the game, as is stringing together combos. So knowing how to shut down a combo is vital, and not easy to do. Some players I’ve faced have been stupidly good, reminding me how much I suck at games like Street Fighter, but when you face a relatively balanced opponent skill wise, it’s good fun trying to read them and sparring.
In certain multiplayer modes you will also have minions to slay on a battlefield, as you either try and eliminate your opponents, or cap points. The animations here are addictively violent, and make you feel very much like Vader from the hallway scene in Rogue One. Each pitiful minion death results in a point for you, and clears the map out, allowing your minions more space. It’s a fun system, and it does look very swish cutting your way through a crowded battlefield to duel an opponent.
Each of the hero types are fun to control, and offer something unique. Currently there are four fighters for each faction, usually including some form of heavy hitter, an all rounder, and an assassin type. As you progress into the game you can level up your preferred hero, unlocking new feats for certain game modes, and better gear. The feats are like ults, with passive and active types, such as an ability to order a volley of arrows, or a passive health regain per kill. There’s a bit of strategy involved in arming your hero, and those who want to go heavily into the game’s meta will be able to do so.
Perhaps the best part of For Honor is using the battlefield to your advantage, in most maps there are environmental obstacles that can be used to trap your opponents or straight up knock them off a ledge. Running foolishly is a quick recipe for death, so learning how to enter a duel, and knowing when to run is a big part of the game. In modes with more than one fighter to face, it’s also important knowing when you should bother engaging in a fight, as being outnumbered is a quick build up to an Oz style shanking.
Broadly looking at the multiplayer, there is a cross platform element that some players may find interesting. A map of the war entangled continent shows each faction’s battle lines, with each able to deploy war assets and contest certain spots on the map. This occurs over seasons, and at the end of a season one faction may have expanded their territory, giving their players bonus goodies. It seems cool enough, but I haven’t really found it that engaging, so have mostly concentrated on playing the actual battles. Of course this could change over time, but at least it seems like a relatively good thing on face value.
Unfortunately for the game, there are microtransactions at play, which can speed up the unlocking process for those that want to spend money rather than time on the game. It’s not something I like to see, but fortunately For Honor still requires skill, and not just sick cosmetics, to be good at.
Weirdly For Honor features peer to peer hosting, so do come into multiplayer expecting garbage connections and random drops. I often wake up in the middle of the night and deeply reflect on why this decision was made, but sure, it is what it is.
With several online game modes to choose from, there’s plenty to keep most gamers around, and the brutal and chess-like nature of dueling has me pretty hooked at the moment. Whether the meta shifts over time and turns this game into a nightmare for casual gamers is yet to be seen, but for now I’m very much into what I’ve played.