Publisher and developer Ubisoft can’t be accused of not offering choice when it comes to their library of games and its most recent offering For Honor proves that they’ve got a firm grasp on fantasy experiences loosely based on historical events and themes. Headed by producer Jason VandenBerghe, For Honor opts to fuse fantasy elements with Vikings, Samurai and Knight factions in what is essentially a fighting game of war. There’s quite a selection to sink your teeth into in terms of modes available but the core essence and where the game shines is going one-on-one with an opponent of equal or better skill in a dance to the death.
To begin, it has to be stated from the off that For Honor is an online game only which means you need to connect to Ubi’s servers to play and that extends to simply playing single player content as well. If you attempt to even start the game without a Ubisoft account you’re locked out. Thankfully, the sign up process is pretty simple and if you don’t have an account then your PSN, Xbox Live or Steam credentials can be instantly used to create one without leaving the game.
So, once the pleasantries are out the way For Honor asks players to affiliate themselves with one of the three factions. This is based purely on personal preference at this stage which thankfully you can change if the wrong choice is made – the reason why this choice is made becomes clear the further you delve into the game. Once you’re in then there’s a choice of single player modes, online co-op and online versus to sample, after a quick tutorial showcases the basic mechanics of the gameplay.
The single player story mode offers the chance to play through three campaigns featuring the aforementioned factions. You’re also given a choice as to whether you want to play as a female warrior or male character. This is an interesting choice because effectively the stories play identically with just a different voice-over and cosmetic changes for the character models. Sadly, once you’ve selected your fighter’s sex and appearance you’re not able to experience the story from the opposite sex for that particular campaign. It’s a shame no distinction is made between the two sexes here with different outcomes and stories as this would have doubled the mode’s appeal. That said, you’re able to breeze through the entire three campaigns in an afternoon so it’s not the longest of stories even if it’s thrilling, visceral and brutal in equal measure. The hook is to level up and gain extra story based feats which improve your odds on the battlefield. Once suitable level is gained then replaying the levels on a tougher difficulty is the hook to keep you coming back for more. The realistic setting offers the ultimate challenge with tougher enemies, less checkpoints and assistance markers off.
There’s enough variety here and what the story does well is give a greater insight into how each class of character plays in preparation for the other modes on offer. Not that it’s considered a glorified tutorial as it’s fully realized in its own right with cut-scenes aplenty and solid performances from the cast.
The core gameplay offers a tactical element within its third person viewpoint where with the right thumb-stick you change the character’s stance to match your opponent. If timed against an incoming strike you can parry and dislodge your attacker offering counter-attacking chances, although the window is rather small meaning cat like reflexes are required. Players can also stun and throw opponents with relative ease but it’s a risk and reward option requiring perfect reading of your opponent’s moves. The nimble fighters can dodge and roll out of the way making for tense encounters as players size each other up waiting for the opportune moment to strike without being countered. It’s a basic premise that works exceptionally well across all the modes on offer and whilst it’s pretty simple for beginners, much like any side-on fighting game there’s a distinct learning curve against tougher opposition who can rip you to sheds in seconds.
For Honor offers a neat selection of modes where you can duel 1 vs 1 against humans or AI, play co-op in deathmatch or brawl style 2 vs 2 modes but the premium big battle mode of play lies in the Dominion arena. It’s here where you go up against the opposing team of four players in a battle setting complete with NPC soldiers and points on the map to capture and keep control of. You’ll experience all the game has to offer in this mode as the two teams aim to reach a 1000 point threshold before wiping out the opposing team leaders for victory. Whether you play competitively against humans or AI, in co-op or solo this is a fun mode to play.
Now returning back to the faction selected at the start of the game there’s an underlying season of events where the three faction vie for control of the lands. Between matches you’re able to assign resources to specific areas with either attacking or defense. It’s a team effort here as data is collated from everyone who contributes it also provides some bonuses for participation.
For Honor looks pretty spectacular as well with some great attention to detail for its characters and varied locations to fit the themes of the three factions. On top of all the carnage the game runs smoothly as well with no performance drops (on the PS4 Pro at least) making for a game that doesn’t falter when the screen is filled with large numbers of battling AI.
Audio is also of a high standard with Jennifer Hale being instantly recognizable as the Vanguard Knight character and putting in a not so unexpectedly cool performance. There’s a decent script despite the story of encouraging war being a bit too contrived simply to fit the design of the game’s on-going multiplayer. But still, it’s well produced with some excellent sound effects and music which sits neatly in the background without intruding on the sounds and cries of battle.
As mentioned there’s a number of ways to play the game and if you’re not too keen on hooking up with other players via matchmaking then custom games can be created or rooms for just you and your friends. Ubisoft has nailed the online interface here meaning all bases are covered. As an underlying element there are points to be earned, character levelling and plenty of unlocks to strive for to keep you coming back for more, however regardless of how well the game plays or the tensions created, gameplay can veer towards repetition if played for extended periods.
For Honor joins the Ubisoft line-up of games as a great new IP and one that brings the company into fighting game territory for the first time. Rather than copy tried and trusted 2D offerings such as Soul Calibur, Mortal Kombat and the like, has entrusted its core mechanics within a third person action game style experience. It works, is refreshing and a complete joy to play. The team alongside VandenBerghe’s vision has created an IP that hopefully will stick around and evolve much like the aforementioned fighting games. If you’re a fan of tactical combat with a slither of free roaming action game style thrown in then For Honor is well worth checking out.