In recent years, games have strayed away from competitive team play. Most games often revolve around being killed by another player and doing it again. There is very little team play involved. Games such as Battlefield 1 (2016) have luckily attempted to allow players to contribute toward a certain goal, such as the ability to heal certain players with the “medic” class or give ammo with the “support”. Luckily, games such as Rainbow Six: Siege (2016) and Overwatch (2016) have balanced out the game with certain characters that contribute to the main objective. Rainbow Six: Siege (2016) requires communication, Overwatch (2016) not so much, but there has never been a game that has a battlefield involving players with melee weapons. Firearms have been the go-to in recent multiplayer games, the last triple budget game that had multiplayer that focused on melee combat was God of War: Ascension (2013). Unfortunately, that game has been overshadowed in recent years. Now, Ubisoft has attempted the melee gameplay in multiplayer with its new IP, For Honor (2017).
Single and Multiplayer Gameplay:
Combat in any video game requires some form of strategy, some more than others. Melee combat fighting games such as Mortal Kombat XL (2016) and Street Fighter V (2016) take time to learn. Each character has his or her combos and move types. Recently, there have been multiplayer focused titles that focus on types of characters that have special perks, weapons, or abilities. These adjustments and character types are often focused on teamwork. For Honor (2017) attempts to use these gameplay elements while using melee focused combat in multiplayer, and it succeeds marvelously.
At first, the “Art of Battle” combat system feels different and complicated, but after only a short time of practice, the battlefield soon became my playground. The game heavily focuses on melee combat, and with its first announcement back in 2015, people speculated that there would be very few characters. The feedback was listened to, and developer Ubisoft Montreal has expanded the character variety to four knights, four vikings, and four samurai. Each of these clans have a specified class, either designed for speed, strength, support, or agility. I was highly impressed about how balanced and how much variety these characters have.
The “Art of Battle” combat system is by far one of the best and most original combat systems in recent years and is easily adaptable. The player is given the choice to defend from three points while using the right thumb stick. The player enters this combat system by holding the left trigger, once this happens the camera focuses on the player’s shoulder viewpoint in order to see their opponent better. The player is able to dodge and roll out of the way of the attacker, this can also be used to counter an opponent. To specify what the player can do depends solely on the character of their choosing. Each character has his or her attacks, counters and combos that they can use to gain the advantage.
Attacking in the game is extremely important, quick attacks are meant to do little damage but are meant to distract and trick the opponent into thinking you will strike from that direction. The player chooses which direction they will strike and defend from by moving the right thumb-stick. The opponent will have a small icon, identical to yours, showing where they are defending from. It is your task to quickly attack them from a point where they are not defending from to deal maximum damage. Another given mechanic is the “guard break”. Which allows the player to break the defense of their opponent in order to strike them, or throw them in a certain direction, towards an environmental trap which will result in an instant win. Player’s health is displayed above their chosen character, along with a stamina meter that will deplete rapidly if the player is not careful. If the stamina meter is depleted entirely, the character will stagger and will not be able to perform strikes as efficiently. If the player is attacked and takes an extreme amount of damage, they can initiate “revenge mode” to give them a fighting chance.
While the main characters are being used by other players, there are other soldiers that are around that attack your team and army. The player can easily handle them by hitting both the quick attack and heavy attack buttons which will initiate a cinematic kill move. This mechanic is to help immerse the player into the given scenario by having them actually fight the opposing force. Once the player’s level meter has increased, they can perform a certain perk or ability.
The amount of customization in the game is highly surprising, considering that nowadays, multiplayer games often don’t have such a large variety of customization. The player is able to purchase gear packs with the in game currency known as “steel”, the gear packs increase in price depending on the equipment within each pack. The player can customize their character with a variety of different outfits, color types, war paint, gear, and weapon attachments. After each battle, the game will “Scavenge The Battlefield” for supplies that you can use to manipulate your weapon, or gear statistics.
The game offers a large variety of different practice modes, these are intended for the player to learn a new character and what exactly their move set, and abilities are. There are four game modes within For Honor (2017). Dominion, which is territorial war mode that has the player battle over three areas that serve as arenas for other players to battle in. Dominion tends to be the go to mode within the game, but in order to participate in the metagame “The Faction War”, the player will fight over designated territory depending on which game mode resides above each area. The modes vary per territory, as each mode will tend to rotate. By deploying “War Assets”, each faction will grow in numbers until the official piece of territory becomes theirs. Duel & Brawl are smaller but in depth modes that show the innovative yet ambitious combat system. Duel involves two players that face off for five rounds, if one player wins three rounds they win the match. Brawl involves four players, two on each team as they face off for five rounds, basically Brawl is Duel but with two players on each team. Deathmatch is a four versus four mode that has each team attempt to out score their opposing side by scoring kills. There is also a mode with Deathmatch elements, but there are no respawns, this mode is called Elimination.The variety of different game modes all contribute to “The Faction War” depending on which faction you will choose.
Each faction, or clan has their own types of warriors. The Chosen are the samurai, The Warborn are the vikings, and The Legion are the knights. Once the player first starts the game, he or she will be asked to join a certain faction. This mechanic falls into the metagame, called “The Faction War”. This metagame revolves around the amount of points or wins you have in battle, if your chosen faction is in the lead, that faction will gain new equipment, currency, and other resources. They will also take over portions of a small map that creates the outline of the territorial war that is happening within the game’s story. While the game itself is multiplayer focused, there is a single player element within the game.
There is little to no memorable moments within the single player campaign. It is obvious that the campaign was an afterthought. The game is multiplayer focused, and it shows. While the campaign is not bad, by any means, but unfortunately it is disappointing. The first thing I will admit that is most impressive about the game, are the set pieces. They are impressive and are the most standout moments within the single player aspect of the game. Other than that, there isn’t much variety. The campaign is split into three chapters that sets the stage for each of the three factions. But with almost no story, the campaign just feels like a long tutorial showing the different characters. The player is able to create a private match allowing them to pick and choose which characters to face and where they can face them. Other than that, the campaign is disappointing, but hopefully considering that this is a new IP for Ubisoft, they can improve upon this.
Graphically, the game looks fantastic and runs smoothly. I only had a few slow downs but things eventually picked back up again. Sound design is also impressive, but it could be slightly better. Overall graphically the game is impressive, and the sound design and soundtrack are good but considering other Ubisoft titles such as Assassin’s Creed II (2009) and Far Cry 3 (2012), all of which have standout soundtracks and sound design, these elements of For Honor (2017) can be improved upon.
There are other issues with the game, such as balancing issues. Characters such as the Peacekeeper can perform light attacks until they “win” the fight. The matchmaking also needs improvement, as I have seen level two players be put up against players who are level forty. Along with this, the whole “Scavenging The Battlefield” mechanic in the game is a unique idea, and it makes sense. But it seems that a fallen army barely has any supplies worth taking, because I have seen players do excellent in a match only to receive a different paint for their character rather than a weapon attachment. This was a similar issue seen in Halo (2001) developer Bungie’s first-person shooter Destiny (2014). The server connection does also need major work as the game has crashed on me multiple times. These are mainly launch issues, they are fixable, but they should have been fixed before the initial release. The only flaw that is as of now permanently an issue, is in fact a key flaw in the combat system. The game’s combat system offers the player a chance to defend against two players, but that is by itself a difficulty. If there are three or more players attacking you, the combat system is ineffective as it does not seem to be designed for more than two players. I do not know if this is a permanent issue within the game that is will not be fixed in this entry, but if Ubisoft does fix this along with the matchmaking, and balancing issues then For Honor (2017) will be by far one of the most perfectly balanced multiplayer games seen in years.
Also, something to take note of, all downloadable content released in the future with will be free, but there is a season pass that is purchasable which will give you a variety of exclusive features, skins, and boosts.
The reason as to why I did not separate the single player and multiplayer gameplay sections of this review into two, is because it is often seen in multiplayer focused titles that the single player element often contributes to the practice and skill development that helps the player in multiplayer. But For Honor (2017) did have an extremely entertaining and intriguing premise, but the story falls flat on its face rather than being a standout and original experience. The story revolves around a warlord Apollyon, as she attempts to create an all out war between the three factions after a natural disaster in order to “flesh out the weak”. That pretty much sums up the entire story.You play a variety of different characters that only take the names of the characters from multiplayer. Like the Warden is only called the Warden, no specific character is given a distinct and original personality or name. In fact the characters are often covered by their armor or helmet. It is not until the very end you see the warrior behind the mask, this kills any element of character attachment or favoritism as you never truly know what type of person they are. Each section is narrated, but the voice acting is often cheesy and never stands out.
The campaign only really serves as a long tutorial that introduces each multiplayer character and puts them in a cinematic moment and gives you the controls. Unfortunately, the game has very little story and almost no character development.
For Honor (2017) can build off the premise it has created, it can, but as of now I can only judge the story for what it has already been brought to the table which is very little as of now.
- The “Art of Battle” combat system is in depth and highly enjoyable gameplay element and is by far one of the most ambitious, innovative, and original combat systems seen in recent years.
- The player is given the chance to improve his or her skill by the variety of different practice modes. Most multiplayer games do not have this.
- The premise of the Samurai, Vikings, and Knights all fighting is a pro on it’s own.
- Each multiplayer character has a completely original move set and design, each character has a variety of different gameplay options and attacks.
- Expansive variety of different customization options and weapon attachments.
- Excellent map design for all maps.
- Overall, impressive balancing considering the vast amount of characters within the game.
- Highly commendable graphics and frame rate considering the scale of each battle.
- Well designed and entertaining game modes such as Dominion and Dual.
- The combat system, is fantastic and commendable, but it does not seem designed to handle battle between in one versus three opponents. So some fine tuning is needed.
- Little to no story, and the story that is presented here is cliche and very cheesy.
- No memorable characters which kills any sense of attachment to the story.
- Server connection issues and some balancing issues in both the vast amount of multiplayer characters, and matchmaking.
- Both the soundtrack and sound design could use some improvement.
Final Score: 8.5/10
For Honor (2017) was ambitious from the beginning with its highly innovative and in depth combat system. The game offers a variety of enjoyable modes and customization options, along with excellent map design and graphic performance. While the game is commendable for its efforts, there are definitely some matchmaking and balancing issues that can be fixed in time. Unfortunately the overall story is cliche and is not nearly as good as it should be considering the intriguing concept of three of the most deadliest warrior factions facing each other in combat. But overall, For Honor (2017) is by far one of the best melee focused combat games released in recent years. Considering the in depth multiplayer focused gameplay and vast amount of customization and game modes, the game overall is a great package.
Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC
February 14, 2017
Hack and Slash, Action-Adventure