Ubisoft’s soon-to-be-released action fighting game For Honor is currently in beta, and I’ve sunk many hours into the game to see what it’s all about. Here are my impressions from what I’ve played/seen thus far:
A story of war and manipulation
The For Honor beta opens up with one of the most intriguing and eye-catching cinematics I’ve seen in a long while. It begins with a cataclysmic event that brings ruinous fires, floods, and earthquakes to three militaristic factions consisting of medieval knights, vikings, and samurais. The lucky few who survive become desperate for basic resources and enter into a millennium-long war with many casualties on all sides. The cutscene ends by revealing that a callous warlord named Apollyon has been manipulating the war from the sidelines, and revels in all the bloodshed she’s instigated.
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For war history buffs there’s a lot to be excited for here, and given the huge success of TV shows like History’s Vikings and HBO’s Game of Thrones there’s clearly a huge appetite for this kind of fantasy warfare. Ubisoft confirmed over a year ago that For Honor will include a full single-player campaign, and while I had no idea what to expect, this three-minute intro is absolutely brimming with potential.
Choose your side
The first major decision to make in the beta is seemingly a big one: which faction will you fight for? It turns out this choice doesn’t impact your overall experience as much as you might initially think, but which faction you end up siding with plays an important role in the game’s “Faction War” metagame (more on that later.) I’ve long been interested in Japan’s warring Sengoku period (huge Nobunaga’s Ambition fan here!), and so I naturally pledged my loyalty to the samurai code.
What’s really neat is on the selection screen you get background insights for each faction, such as the Samurais having just come together after enduring a divisive civil war, and the Vikings going to battle out of necessity due to their homeland’s scarce resources. These small tidbits help to humanize each faction, and provide tantalizing details that are hopefully explored further in the game’s campaign.
One last step before heading into battle is to create your personalized emblem. Here you can select from dozens of main symbols—like a lion, kanji characters, or a four-leaf clover—as well as select the emblem’s main, secondary, and tertiary colours, among other options. I had fun tinkering around with many different combinations, and it got me excited to think about all the cool/interesting emblems people will come up with when the game releases.
Combat tutorial time
Let me say right from the top that For Honor is not an easy game to learn. The innovative “Art of Battle” system is very in-depth so absolutely be sure to run through the tutorials. Combat employs a type of rock-paper-scissors mechanic where you flick the right analog stick left, right, and top to guard (or attack) in that direction. To successfully deflect an incoming strike, you need to pay careful attention to your opponent’s stance—if they are attacking from the left stance, you need to match that with a left guard. When attacking you need to do the reverse—if your opponent is guarding left, change to a right or top stance, then strike.
After about an hour with the beta, I felt like I had the attack/guard basics under control, so I went back to the tutorials to practice more advanced moves. These included chain strikes using different combinations of light and heavy attacks, dodging, parrying with counterattacks, guardbreaks, and throws. Each move is useful in specific situations, such as executing a throw near ledges to knock your enemy off for major damage, or guardbreaking defensive players then launching a follow-up light attack. Though it takes a fair bit of time to get a handle on all these techniques, once you do the gameplay gets tremendously satisfying.
Layers of gameplay to master
Even more combat mechanics begin to reveal themselves once you get into online multiplayer matches. One of them is Feats, earned by leveling up your heroes, and these serve as your loadout. Up to four Feats can be assigned per match, and they range from passive buffs to specific perks you activate by tapping its corresponding D-pad direction. There’s quite an impressive variety of Feats, including passive ones that regenerate your health and stamina after every kill, and active ones like throwing a flash grenade to temporarily blind your opponent. I can see myself spending a lot of time experimenting with different Feat combinations to find the right mix for my play style.
Another combat technique I stumbled upon during battle is Revenge mode, which momentarily makes all your attacks penetrate your foe’s defensive guard, and increases the damage you inflict. The revenge meter fills up when you block or dodge enemy strikes, encouraging you to have a balanced offense/defense. As you can plainly see, For Honor‘s gameplay is endlessly deep, and I fully expect the community will be discussing new tactics and exploring new strategies well after the game’s release.
The most action-packed and seemingly the main mode in For Honor is called Dominion. Here two teams of four fight to dominate a battlefield, which can range from a viking river fort, to a medieval castle citadel, to a long, narrow samurai bridge fortress. Your team’s goal is to get 1000 points, obtained by securing zones and defeating AI minions, which will then prevent enemy heroes from respawning after dying. Defeat enemy heroes for good to win.
Dominion matches are epic to say the least, there’s just so much action happening all the time and you constantly need to scan the mini-map to see where best to focus your attention. One minute you may be rushing to secure a control point atop a castle wall, while the next you’re charging the central front with two dozen AI soldier allies to push the line back. Coming face-to-face with enemy heroes makes for exciting showdowns, and tense duels can become heated multi-hero skirmishes in a flash.
If more intimate fights are more to your liking, For Honor also includes a 2-vs-2 Brawl mode, and a head-to-head Dual mode against one opponent to the death. While I spent significantly more time in the large-scale Dominion battles, these two versus modes were great for practicing moves, and I appreciated the option to play with AI bots.
As briefly mentioned earlier, For Honor includes a metagame and it’s called Faction War. This is perhaps the coolest aspect of the game as it turns out every online battle you have is actually a microcosm of the larger war. Prior to matches, you can select to invade or defend contested zones on a continental map, and depending on how well you perform in the online match you’ll contribute “War Asset” points to your faction. After a specific amount of time, the Faction War map will calculate winners and losers, and update the map accordingly. If you’ve played Mortal Kombat X‘s online Faction War mode, you’ll have a good idea for what to expect here, though it seems like For Honor‘s take on this system is even more ambitious and core to the experience.
There’s still a couple days left in the For Honor beta, and I can’t wait to see what else the game has to offer. This includes experimenting more with the nine different playable heroes (final game will have twelve) and taking a closer look at how you can supplement your heroes abilities by equipping gear. One thing is virtually certain though—judging by the beta, the full game is going to be absolutely incredible.
To pre-order For Honor, visit the BestBuy.ca links below: