Ubisoft’s latest offering is For Honor. This new franchise in the publisher’s ever-growing library is a new take on brutal combat that takes me back to my Bushido Blade days on PS1. Available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, For Honor pits Knights vs. Vikings vs. Samurai. Yes, it is as badass as it sounds; be it katana, axe, shield, or spear, all weapons feel great, balanced, and can get the victory. But why? Let our two gaming gurus, Adam and Nick, take you through with this momentous, organ-shredding review duel.
“The Advocate” ADAM BOWERS: I’ve been excited for this game since E3 2014. I signed up for the Closed Beta and was given a tiny sliver of what the full game was to have, and what I came away with was awesome. And even though I’m Asian, I’m partial to the Knights and was using the Mace.
“Nasty” NICK AUGER: See… I chose the agile, counter-heavy, bleed-inflicting Peacekeeper Knight. The Peacekeeper cannot stand toe-to-toe with some of the bigger hulking, shield carrying hard hitters. [Bro-Fist Exchange!] Where For Honor earns its blood-soaked stripes is in the core combat. You choose between light attack, heavy attack, dodge, parry, block and guard break/throw, with the attack line up in one of three directions: up, left or right. Chosen which the right thumb stick, defending against an attack is as easy as the line up to the same stance as your attacker.
ADAM: Funny you mention the sticks, Nick. Due to this game, I need to buy two new controllers. I see heavy usage because of this game. When you face a dude that is evenly skilled, the heavy stick usage can get pretty intense.
NICK: “That’s what she said!” Each warrior has their own moveset and special abilities, which make them all unique and fun to learn and, ultimately, master. Learning one character’s moves and strategy is the only way to go if you want to have any success. But with some practice against the AI (and when I say AI, I’m not talkin’ Allen Iverson; but please do feel free to insert his infamous “PRACTICE?!!?” rant here), you can learn to parry inflict bleeds, run away and slowly chip away and defeat any class.
ADAM: While For Honor initially feels like a Dynasty Warriors rip-off, like Street Fighter II before it, it has a deeper and more strategic underbelly. One that is ripe to be sliced open like a Kraken! Since I spent most of my blood-soaked pastures in a button-mashed multiplayer mode, how’s the campaign treating you, Nick? Like one long tutorial?
NICK: The single player does feature a passable narrative detailing exactly why the three factions are at war. Each faction gets 6 missions where players get to assume several, different characters and experience the varied play styles. For me, the only real incentive for single player was to unlock in-game currency (steel) and savage crates to use in multiplayer unlocks. It’s the-minute to-minute combat that reigns as For Honor‘s best feature. Combat between 2 warriors starts easy enough, press L2 to lock on and then the chess match begins. If you go in wildly swinging you will most certainly be blocked causing you to drain extra stamina.
(Nick, cont…) The stamina system will be familiar to Dark Souls fans; use it all and you’re fatigued and won’t be able to dodge, sprint and if thrown you will go to the ground leaving you open for a big hit. Swords clashing off axes and shields feels great and landing strikes is very satisfying. Landing a heavy hit for your final blow will allow you to perform 1 of 4 executions–unique to each warrior. Creative decapitations, dismemberment, and skull crushers are all visceral, violent rewards for you effort and patience.
ADAM: The executions were too sweet. Playing on the Xbox One, I really enjoyed how the environments looked frighteningly like a place straight from history. The mud, the dirt, etc., For Honor impressed the heck out of me visually. How’s the graphics and sound on the PS4?
NICK: I’m on the PS4 Pro and, while nothing ground-breaking with usual day, night and weather effects, FH looks very good. Each faction map has a unique look; Knights with towering castles and turrets, Vikings have huge stone statues and wooden forts straight out if the show.. Vikings, and the Samurai landscape is littered with cherry blossoms and Samurai-style castles. All 12 playable characters look great from the heavy spike club-toting Shogoki Samurai to the swift, harassing duel axe-swinging Berserker Viking. All armor and weapons are customizable through item drops and character level unlocks. The voice acting is above average, but is really only used in the single player campaign. The combat sounds real with authentic clashing of weapons and armor.
ADAM: And that “CLANG!” really made you feel like a big, hulking brute. Oh, and when either you or your opponent would defend your big blast, it was like an audio cue. Overall, the audio of the game is more impressive than I imagined since its E3 debut over 2-years ago.
NICK: While it sounds great, the multiplayer options are even greater: Duel 1v1, Brawl 2v2, Elimination 4v4, Skimish 4v4 and Domination 4v4. The “Best of 5 Round” Duel creates a feeling of accomplishment that has to be earned. When I won a Duel it was not luck, and when I lost I learned from my mistakes and always got a “ good fight” emote– nice thing to see in today’s mostly toxic PVP environment. In Elimination mode each player gets a single life, which can be relived unless executed Deadpool-style–adding another layer of strategy:
- Do you go for the slow ‘n heavy attack to initiate the execution, risking parry?
- Do you counter off the telegraphed attack but guarantee a permanent-kill?
- Or, do you use quick, light attacks to put down your opposition and run to help a teammate, knowing you previous kill might not last?
While the nature of Elimination can lead to snowbally fights, with good teamwork I seldom felt cheated or like I couldn’t come back and win.
ADAM: Let’s not forget that each playstyle win (team deathmatch, capture the zones, duels) also goes toward the faction you chose at the start of the game. You have assets to send to the battlefield and that can help your faction win the map, in which you have 10 weeks for your faction to dominate. After 10 weeks, the Season ends and a new one begins, with the previous season affecting the map.
NICK: Good point, but you can also unlock various cosmetic and functional upgrades purchasable with steel. Just another shining example of where developers are getting greedy. You earn steel at a snails pace (10 or 20/match), and most items cost 5000 and up. I saved up 15000 for an outfit on my Peacekeeper with a badass fire wings execution effect that only applies to the one character. So, now, if I want to get another upgrade I’m staring down at 10- maybe 15-hours of gameplay, or I could shell out $99.99 for 150000 steel and loose the incentive for playing and earning my cosmetic unlocks.
ADAM: Shocking: MICROTRANSACTIONS! And this seems horrible. They better fix this quick. And I thought EA or Activision were money grubbing douche knockers.
NICK: Haha! So, as in so many games today, microtransactions rule the day, undermining the feeling of earning something no one else has. Instead, more money equals more swag, especially since I already gave Ubisoft $80 for the pre-order bundle. Regardless of all that, For Honor brings original gameplay and concepts to this generation, making you really feel like a badass Knight or Samurai blade dancing with a Viking. I’m over 40-hours of bone-crushing combat and can’t wait to learn more of the warriors skills.
ADAM: Although a bit behind from what you’ve accomplished, McNasty, I love the deep gameplay, the strategy, and the mind games. I’m also thrilled that For Honor will be put into EVO 2017. It deserves it too. Even though we play on different systems, I sincerely hope to see you one day on the battlefield.