Platform: PlayStation 4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date (NA): February 14, 2017
Genre: Action, Hack ‘n’ Slash, MOBA
With For Honor‘s release and Valentines’ Day right around the corner, nerds and love birds alike have a lot to look forward to. For Honor has seen a lot of hype surround it since it was first announced at E3 in 2015. At first all we saw were some well-made trailers and bits of gameplay here and there. But what do players actually have to expect? Recently I got to spend a little bit of time playing in the For Honor closed beta, and have quite a bit to add to the existing hype. You can also check out The Watchman‘s stream of the beta gameplay on Nerd Bacon’s Twitch feed here, while it’s still up!
For Honor is Ubisoft Montreal’s new baby, and for me, at least, it’s an action-packed whirlwind of excitement. For Honor is an action/hack ‘n’ slash with several MOBA elements sprinkled in, but not-so-much as to take fun away from non-MOBA players. I’ve had my eye on For Honor since I first heard about it a couple of years ago, so when I received an invitation to participate in the closed beta, I freaked!
The story mode apparently has some cool mechanics like horseback chases!
The beta was held January 26th through the 29th and not nearly long enough for me to give it the full attention it deserved. Anyways, the For Honor
beta consisted of a tutorial and introduction to the multiplayer side of gameplay. So far, there is not much hype surrounding a story or campaign mode; although, Ubisoft has confirmed that there will be a single-player mode
. The game revolves around the Faction War between the Vikings, the Samurai, and the Knights and their constant struggle over the lands on which they live. However, I didn’t quite pick up too much on the story of the game during my time playing. I don’t see that as a bad thing, because personally the multiplayer aspect is what initially called out to me.
The beta started by letting me design my emblem, customize my Heroes, and choose my faction. Once I tweaked my emblem to look pretty sick, I had to decide which faction to pick. I sided with the Vikings, as I see myself having a warrior spirit, plus those horned helmets are freakin’ cool, though historically inaccurate. After I picked my faction I played around on the multiplayer menu, checking out various tutorials and customizing my Heroes. After solving some connection issues with the game’s servers, I checked out the game modes. So far, we know of three game modes: Dominion, Brawl, and Duel. Dominion is a TDM kind of game mode where two teams of four players are pitted against one another. There are also waves of soldiers that spawn every 30 seconds or so to aid their team’s Heroes. One team is the attacking team and the other is defending.
The little guys are the soldiers or minions who keep the other team busy while our Heroes focus on taking each other out.
Each team must battle for control of several waypoints in the arena. The first team to reach 1000 points “breaks” the other team, meaning if they eliminate all players of the opposite team, they are victorious. However, the breaking team may make a come back if they can score enough points! There are no time limits in Dominion so games can last as long as 15 minutes to an hour or so! This game mode gave For Honor a MOBA kind of feel, almost like Paragon, but not as complex. I had the most fun playing Dominion as it relies on teamwork, skill, and timing to really make the game fun. In Brawl, two teams of two players face off in a best-of-five round team elimination. The first team to wipe out the other players wins the round. In Duel, its a five round one on one match up. To me, this is the best way to test one’s skill in battle. After each round, players are awarded experience as well as Reputation points which are used to purchase various customization options or recruit a new Hero. Players also “loot” the battlefield and unlock various weapon or armor pieces. I spent a good deal of time in each game mode and don’t really have any issues other than the server connection was spotty, although that is to be expected in a beta. Otherwise, I only had an issue with the looting system. Sometimes I was awarded nothing even when I did really well in a match. For Honor makes players go through a gameplay tutorial before actually diving into the multiplayer experience. This tutorial gives an overview on Factions, classes, combat, and game modes.
An attacking Kensei carefully prepares his assault on a defending Raider. Notice the three combat directions, health, and stamina bars around each Hero.
The initial tutorial teaches players about the controls in combat for blocking, attacking, and using special moves and combos. Combat in For Honor is among the most realistic combat experiences I’ve used in any game. Players have to pay attention to many aspects to survive a battle. Things like stamina, position, and even the type and number of opponents have to be taken into account. Players must change their stance/weapon position in order to attack their opponents without being blocked. Attacks and blocks can come from the left, right or above, and in order to block, the defenders weapon must be positioned on the same side as the incoming attack. To land an attack, players must read where the opponent is blocking and attack from one of the other two directions. Both blocking and attacking directions can be changed on the fly. The key to really taking out other players is to use the lock on feature which focuses on one attacker at a time and can easily switch targets. When fighting two or more Heroes at once, players are granted “Revenge” which boosts their health, stamina, and attack power for a few seconds.Players may also dodge or roll out of the way of attacks in stead of blocking. In order to attack, players must use light and heavy attacks.
This is gonna be brutal..
Using either a few times in succession causes the Hero to unleash a combo, sometimes knocking back or stunning their opponent. Each Hero has different combos that have varied effects on the opposition. Heroes also have a Block Break ability that staggers the opponent, leaving them open to a swift attack, or, in the case of the Raider, a grab. I had a lot of fun grabbing players and running them off of a cliff or throwing them between some ramparts causing them to fall to their death. Each fighter has several skills they may use and unlock as the battle progresses. The skills available do things like buff the player’s teammates, debuff the enemy, allow for distanced attacks, and much more. My Raider could throw fire bombs, increase the speed and stamina of my team mates, set bear traps, and lower the attack power of an enemy.
I noticed that the combat in the beta flowed pretty smoothly when playing as the Raider…when faced with the right opponent. Some classes, like the Knight’s Conqueror, were tough to read, block, and (because of their high defense) were difficult to attack. The Conqueror wields a flail, a huge shield, and wears thick, heavy armor. My struggle when facing off against these monsters was mainly overcoming their defense. I would attack from any direction I could, but their shield blocked most of my attacks. Once my Raider had become exhausted, it was nothing for the Conqueror to come at me, spinning his flail, alternating from left to right, leaving me no room to block or attack. Needless to say, I’d get trampled nearly every time I decided to try my luck. The Peacekeeper (the Knights assassin or “ganker” so-to-speak) was another challenging foe. They use primarily high speed and counter attacks to chip away at their opponent’s health and cause bleeding damage. My Raider constantly fell to the Peacekeeper’s block-to-counter assault due to the Raider’s sheer inability to block in time.
These are all the Heroes from the Knight faction. The bastard with the spiky shield and the scrawny one with the hood are not my favorite opponents.
I foresee that when the full game is released that Ubisoft will have balanced some of the classes better. Perhaps we’ll see armor degrade and fall off throughout the battle. There were a few other classes that myself as well as some of the Ubisoft forum dwellers believed were a little too overpowered. But for me the Conqueror and Peacekeeper were my downfall.
Samurai, Viking, or Knight..which will you choose?
Now that we’ve talked about the combat and how I think it could be improved, let’s talk about Factions. Choosing a faction does not limit players to only play as Heroes from that faction, nor does it really effect the overall gameplay. The way factions work and effect the world of For Honor is what happens after each match. There is a war over territory between the factions, and players must assign War Assets to battlegrounds surrounding their land. Vikings rule the north, Knights are in the south west, and Samurai attack from the south east. Each faction has a border that is in conflict with each other faction; players should want to expand their faction’s control of the opponents land or fend off the enemies’ grasp of theirs. According to the in-game tutorial, when the full game releases, this will be represented by rounds lasting two weeks, and seasons that last a bit longer. After each round and season, the faction with the most control will be in charge, and each battleground will reflect that teams supremacy. I’m hoping that this will also be reflected in the character customization, allowing players to wear certain items as trophies of victory. Perhaps winning a season will grant players alternate abilities that reflect a higher morale from the victory, and grant other abilities or buffs to the losing team to help level the playing field. Each faction had three Heroes to choose from in the beta. The Knights had the Warden, a claymore wielding badass, the Conqueror, the flail-flinging powerhouse, and the Peacekeeper, the fast and stealthy, dual dagger weilding maniac that I mentioned earlier. The Vikings consisted of the Raider, my best friend and favorite, the Warlord, a mountain of a man (or woman) equipped with a sword and shield, and the Berserker, a masked warrior equipped with dual hatchets. The Samurai honestly scared me.
Each faction has a stronghold and an unwavering desire to expand their reach.
They have the Kensei, a master of the two-handed Katana, adaptable with a killer reach, the Orochi, the sneaky and swift master of assassination, and the Nobushi, who controls the battlefield with incredible reach and effectiveness. Ubisoft’s For Honor website mentions another Hero for each faction, however, none of these were playable on the closed beta. These mystery fighters are the Valkyries, the Shugoki, and the Lawbringers; each of which have their own unique move set and fighting style.
Ubisoft is planning an open beta for February 9th through the 12th; maybe we’ll get see some action with these three new characters.
Customization in For Honor
is pretty detailed for a beta! Players are given the freedom to choose their characters’ outfits, colors, weapons, and armor. Some pieces of equipment are unlocked through leveling up, some are acquired through looting the battlefield. When leveling up, players are awarded various abilities, tattoos, designs, and war paint for their Hero of choice. After the battlefield is looted, players can unlock and equip looted items.
Each piece of armor and weaponry equipped gives a bonus to the player. Sometimes this means an ability cools down faster, other times it means the player deals more damage. From what I noticed, these effects are randomized. Occasionally I’d acquire a copy of equipment I already had, but the boosts were completely different. Players can also break down equipment they don’t want for salvage. This salvage can be used on their equipment to upgrade it. Beware though, Viking armor can only be reduced to Viking salvage; therefore, it can only be used to upgrade Viking gear. If I could change anything about the customization it would be the type of loot acquired and the ability to have one big salvage pile, instead of one for each faction.
Loot was not varied cosmetically; I consistently received the same pieces of equipment or no equipment each match. As far as the salvage issue goes, I would like to see it reduced to one kind of salvage. That way players can upgrade whatever they want, when they want. Let’s say someone wants to level up their Viking Heroes while simultaneously upgrading their high level Samurai’s equipment, they should be able to do that.
Levels seem to go on forever, and, boy, are they gorgeous!
The graphics of For Honor were incredible, which is not unusual for Ubisoft. Each character is detailed down to the kind of rope used to tie their armor together. Rivets stuck out on a Knights armor, and the difference between a leather belt and a cloth skirt was noticeable (graphically and in mo. As in, it didn’t overlap or have clipping issues. The environments were also intricately detailed. Balls of fire would crash into the landscape, and pieces of debris and dirt would rain over the area making it hard to see at times (as if dirt was getting in the Heroes’ eyes). The draw distance of each map left little to be desired, as it seemed the landscapes went on forever. There wasn’t just a wall of fog beyond the distant mountains. The various day and night cycles along with the weather effects brought a mood into each battle. Night time battles seemed intense, and players can see the sweat accumulate as their Hero battles for life. Rain caused puddles to pool up around the battlefield and the sun reflected off of metal armor. The best part for me was the detail of character movements. There were no frame rate issues and the motion blur wasn’t a clever mechanic put in to cover up a lack of detail. Surfaces loaded each and every time with full detail, not in chunks. Heroes’ clothes didn’t flow with a rag-doll kind of motion but as if each individual movement had been designed to feel natural.
Even in the heat of battle, there is something to be said about the detail put into everything from outfits to the environment.
The only graphical drawbacks I noticed were not severe. I would like to have seen scars of battle on each character or more destruction of the environment. If my Raider takes a spear to the chest and walks away, I want to see an oozing gash in the middle of his torso. I want to know that my Dane axe was cleaved into a Warden’s helmet at one point. Also, if one spot on the map is hit with barrages from a catapult I would like to see a distant wall crumble as time goes on, or a pathway that was once a shortcut getting demolished by falling debris. If a match lasts an hour and the environment isn’t effected by constant explosions, it just takes away from the rest of the amazing detail for me. Dynamic environments are either hit or miss, however, so I can’t fault Ubisoft for leaving that to FPS games.
At the end of the day, For Honor, even in it’s beta phase, seems like an awesome game. During the three days of closed beta I clocked about 24 hours in game, and I enjoyed every bit of it. There were a few times I raged after getting killed by the same person repetitively, or from teammates who still hadn’t grasped the objective of the game. But that goes for any multiplayer experience in my book. The overall gameplay is awesome, the graphics are beautiful and intricate, and after all is said and done I believe Ubisoft’s For Honor beta was a success.
Remember, Ubisoft is hosting and open beta from February 9th through the 12th (two days before release). So get onto the battlefield, hone your abilities, and get ready to have a blast with the funnest hack ‘n’ slash game I’ve played in a long time.