For Honor: First Impressions

For Honor is a new Ubisoft game, coming out on February 14th.  Ironic considering the day’s theme, and its contrast with the general object of the game.  For Honor has a fairly simple premise; standins for medieval england, Norway, and Japan are inexplicably thrust together.  The warriors of the nations must fight for their own survival, no matter how little sense this makes.  I, like many, am willing to excuse the poorly executed backstory, and merely revel in the fact that someone has actually created a game, where a dude with a broadsword, a battle-ax, and a katana can violently coexist.

The following is solely based on my experience with the game’s beta. I am aware, that many other features will be added, including playable characters.  Know that I am not jumping to conclusions about the final product, merely relaying and commenting upon my experience with the pre-release.

One major pro is the fact that for Honor has what may be the most excessive customization system of any game I’ve played in a long time.  Not only are multiple color schemes available, but loads of cosmetic options are offered for the individual personalization of one’s chain mail, bamboo armor, or bare chest (if you use a viking character).  In fact, all of the little details in the game are pretty perfect.  The many maps — though they have little effect on the battle’s outcome — are rendered to an immaculate resolution, and look about as good as a wide open area for bladed combat can.

Where for honor fails, is when it lazily tries to be like other multiplayers.  The dominion gamemode pits players against each other as they fight for zones A, B, and C (sound familiar?).  Where it is unique? You don’t get a gun.  It is next to impossible to combat more than two enemies at once; the game’s mechanic only allows you to lock on or block blows from one enemy.  So while you decide to be brave and take an enemy control zone, but happen upon two enemies, the result is your getting hacked and slashed to bits while scrambling to defend yourself.  That mode is positively maddening.

Conversely, the games Duel mode (1v1) is an absolute delight.  Two players duke it out in a series of five rounds, the winner being the one who wins more.  It is so simple, and yet, oh so complicated.  There is a rather steep learning curve to the game.  After being demolished by player after player who seemed to be light years ahead of my skill level, (curious considering the beta went live three days ago) suddenly something clicked.  Its all about the timing really.  Blocking your enemies blows at the right moment, and positioning strikes when he is off guard.  If your foe is a good blocker, use a guard breaker, slamming him with your shield, or in one particularly awesome instance, kicking them back with a Samurai Nobushi class.  For Honor’s combat system is easy to learn, but harder to master.

The graphics of combat as well as the mechanics are excellent.  Most exemplified on the games execution system, which allows players to finish their opponents off with an elaborate flourish, or brutal final stroke.  Looking like a page torn from a Frank Miller book, there is a strange beauty in the violent display.  The executions, and their variety are oddly poetic; whether the match was close, or the winner simply destroys the loser, these deft dispatches are a sight to behold.

I probably won’t buy For Honor right away.  $60 is a lot of money, especially when I already know that I won’t enjoy four of the 6 gamemodes.  With that said, it has the potential to be revolutionary.  This combat system that Ubisoft Montreal has concocted is the type of thing I’ve been wishing existed for years.  I have hope for this game, and I can;t wait to see what new features are included in the full release.

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