Game: For Honor
Release date: February 14th, 2017
Platform: Xbox One
For Honor immediately caught our eye when it was first revealed back at E3. The idea of playing through a campaign or multiplayer match as one of my favorite class of characters of all time was fascinating. It's hard to lump For Honor into any one type of genre. The fighting takes place over gigantic battlefields, yet uses strategy similar to fighting games such as Killer Instinct. There are so many different types of gaming elements blended together in For Honor, and it remains incredibly balanced while brilliantly illustrating the time period.
The campaign deals with the main villain antagonist Apollyon (Uh-polly-on). After years of peace between the knights, samurai and vikings, Apollyon feels the factions are becoming too weak and complacent. As the leader of Knights of the Black Stone Legion (rogue knights), she sets the factions against each other. Rather than killing them all, she recruits the best of each faction while pitting the remaining in an inter-faction fight. It takes place over three chapters with each chapter letting you control an individual faction. You control Knights, Viking and Samurai in that order while playing through Apollyon's schemes to rip the factions apart.
Although For Honor is a multiplayer game first and foremost, the campaign is surprisingly in depth and provides a great story. The cinematic cut scenes and voice acting are top notch as well. You can hear the exhaustion in voices after a fight and almost taste the tense, emotional turmoil the characters are going through while fighting for their survival. Broken up into three chapters that tie into each other, the entire campaign will take you about 8 hours or so to complete. It's a two-fold benefit as you experience a story with an incredible ending (really, the last cut scene though) and get to prepare for multiplayer. In each chapter, For Honor sets you as a different type of fighter within each faction. This actually allows you to aptly prepare for multiplayer as the fighting mechanics are exactly the same.
The quickness of the Peacekeeper or strength of the Lawbringer, playing the full campaign provides a solid base foundation for multiplayer, something that up until now has really only been a myth for other multiplayer games like Call of Duty or Battlefield. That's because no matter how you play in those games, you can go lone wolf and still fair pretty well. In For Honor, on the other hand, it really is all about strategy while being forced to play to the objective in order to win.
Without a doubt, multiplayer is where For Honor really shines. RIght off the bat is the overarching battle between all players with the Faction War. Simply playing multiplayer matches lets you earn valuables for your faction which get contributed to the war effort. Whichever faction has the most at the end of each Faction War (determined by Ubisoft) receives extra boosts and benefits. It's not much, but definitely makes you want to play everyday so as not to lose the edge to another faction.
For Honor lets you play Duel (1v1), Brawl (2v2) or Dominion (4v4) with a couple of modes for each. Duel is simply a best of five mano a mano match for bragging rights. Brawl is similar but pits two against two. Here is where you can practice your divide and conquer strategy in order to eliminate the threat. Dominion is mode of utter intense chaos and I loved every minute of it. You play Dominion to one thousand points and earn points with kills and holding capture points. Once you get to a thousand, the other team gets a rally cry allowing them one final chance at redemption. There are no respawn durig this, so once the winning team kills them it's game over. As I said though, you need to play the objective. Standing in a capture zone nets you double the points as just holding them. If your team decides to team up 4v1 or 4v2 against the other team, you'll quickly be losing as the remaining enemies can simply stand in a zone uncontested and earn double the points. Implementing your feats requires well timed strategy and map knowledge is paramount. All of this and it doesn't even include the actual combat.
You'll be fighting as one of four types of warriors within each faction. With each having different names, they basically come out to be a speed based attacker, heavy brawler, all around fighter and mixed hybrid. The types of fighters function the same pretty much across factions with some minor differences, but nothing of importance. This balance is beneficiial as you can customize your fighter's appearance and battle setup by choosing various passive and active unlocks. Different ones work better for some then they do for others, so you'll need to find which one works best for you. It's incredibly well balanced as each match it was obvious that one of two things happened. Either the better player won by using better strategy, or the "worse" player took a chance and executed a high risk maneuver. Full disclosure, I was the worse player in a few matches as a samurai. Rather than fight straight up and get killed since I couldn't keep up with the speed, I lured my enemy into trying to guard break me. As they ran at me, I dodge rolled out of the way only to see my enemy plummet off the edge of a tower to their death.
All of this aside, the graphical and sound components of For Honor are beautiful. The game's environments and 3D textures alone are great, but the characters' movements are the key which makes it all work so well. Sword clangs and character screams become louder and softer depending on your proximity to them. The howl of approaching catapult fodder and collapsing rocks from buildings can be heard in the air as well. All of these may seem minor individually, but function seamlessly together in For Honor allowing for a much more immersive online experience.
Having so much precise control in battle could only be pulled off if the characters behaved accordingly. Your movements slow down as you lose stamina and your character's body moves are incredibly realistic. Many fighting games see a character completely alter and contort their bodies if you press a strike button in the middle of another attack. For Honor sees momentum as a key factor in fighting as your body moves with your attack. A hard sword slash to the left will leave the right side of your body open to attack, so careful balanced attacks are necessary. Using an enemy's momentum against them is key also when it comes to guard blocking and parrying. All of these factors involved are a fresh take and make For Honor revolutionize the battlefield when it comes to competitive online gaming.
For Honor is an incredibly competitive multiplayer game and one of the best action titles in years. It includes well orchestrated battles requiring fighting strategy down to minute details with plenty of variety in matches to avoid repetitiveness and frustration. It's meant to be a gigantic battle with the primary focus on player vs. player matches. The very set up of For Honor requires this and pretty much changes the entire approach to competitive online gaming. It's single player campaign is by all means worth playing, but its story isn't setup for multiple playthroughs. If you are into customization and unlocks, For Honor has plenty for every type of faction fighter as well.
For Honor is the first multiplayer game we've seen that focuses on individuals succeeding as a team. It's the perfect blend of strategy and teamwork that encompasses the all around online experience. You'll be jumping into multiplayer matches for a while in For Honor as its very setup and reliance of human player strategy illicits continuous play. All in all, For Honor not only solved the sword fighting mechanics issue, but also changed the competitive online gaming landscape in the process.