For Glory, For Honor! (Hands On Preview)

For our country! For Glory! For Honor! For Honor is an upcoming fighting/action game releasing on February 14 2017 that pits 3 factions of warriors against each other- The Valiant European Medieval Knight, the Ferocious Viking, and the deadly and precise Samurai, each with a unique set of weapons, aesthetics, and abilities. Although For Honor allows players to have any variation of these three factions face off, the premise centers around pitting the most iconic warriors in history against each other to prove which are the most deadly of the three. Aside from this interesting concept, the game prides itself on having a deceptively intuitive battle system that is simultaneously satisfying, accessible, and challenging at high levels. I’ll detail what works, what doesn’t, and what I hope to see in the final product.

Regarding the visuals, the game looks quite nice. It won’t be winning an award for the best looking game out on the market, but it’s certainly not the worst looking game either. Detailed visuals and smooth animation ensure a pleasant experience. The locations feature some really nice environments, with of course the Japanese scenery being my favorite. That isn’t to say the snowy mountain tops of the Nordic realm, or the stone castle walls of Europe are slouches either. The level design is sensible, and the visual style of the maps themselves mean you’re usually not bored by the locations. One of the pleasant surprises of this game was the inclusion of character customization and unlock-able loot. Some of these items are purely cosmetic, allowing you to use special emblems, unlock-able color schemes, and weapon designs.

Conversely, the customization is a bit limited. You can’t upload or create your own emblems to make the experience truly yours, nor can you decide specifically where colors will be allocated on armor and weapons. What if I want to use an all black color scheme? What if I want to use white armor with orange highlights and gray leather pieces (Black Oni anyone)? Players shouldn’t have to be limited in this way, especially with the tech being plenty capable of applying color swaps while retaining the properties of materials and physics. You also can’t customize how your character sounds, or their facial features, which would bring a new level of connection to the on-screen avatars. There’s still time, so hopefully we’ll see something like that on release.

There are a lot of unknowns in terms of how the game will pan out once it releases in February, but from what I’m seeing, there’s a fair bit of content added to the game. You have a dueling mode which is just you against one opponent, a 2v2 dueling mode, which takes the formula of a duel and allows a team to face off against each other in separate duels (or all out brawls if you so desire), or 4v4 skirmish mode which like a MOBA, pits you against another team and requires that players capture 3 control points. The middle capture point is occupied by NPC warriors that fight between themselves until one of the players, or “heroes” of the army comes in to interfere and push the enemy line back. This 3rd mode adds an interesting layer to the dueling formula that encourages strategic teamwork while at the same time relying entirely on the other person being able to pull their own weight in combat. Knowing when to retreat and when to fight to the death is an important aspect of maintaining control over the capture points and keeping your enemies on their toes.

Additionally, there is a story mode slated for the game, which I’m a bit concerned about. We’ve seen games release with a story mode that is essentially “multiplayer skirmishes” mixed with a few cutscenes. It’s challenging to imagine what a story campaign would even look like for a game like this, and It’s really easy for a game that centers on multiplayer in this way to ignore meaningful storytelling. However you could make the argument that For Honor doesn’t need a strong story mode. Only time will tell!

The last thing I wanted to talk about was the combat, which to me represents a wonderful balance of accessibility and depth. Player characters have 3 stances they can attack or defend from; left, right, and high. Locking onto an opponent, and switching to a left stance (left on the right analog stick) will allow you to block all incoming attacks that come from the left, while being able to strike from that left side once you initiate either a light or heavy attack. Doing so from the right or high stance will attack or defend from that position as well. You can dodge, break an opponent’s guard, or throw after a standard guard break. Seems simple right?

This is where the game deepens. Some characters will be able to quickly chain attacks after a successful hit, and every character has special moves, some of which allow you to parry attacks, or quickly dodge counter, break an opponent’s guard, or confuse the enemy. Adding to that, each character has special timedown-based and/or passive abilities that give players an edge in certain circumstances, like being able to lay down a smoke bomb to disorient other players and prevent them from locking on in a tight bind. There is a tutorial to help you understand how to use your selected character, but…

The character specific and advanced tutorials only display video clips of what your character can do, rather than additionally allowing players to practice moves and recommend when said moves are useful. This is one of the downfalls of the combat, in that the basic actual tutorial teaches you the basics in this way, but the advanced techniques do not. Players must experiment on the battlefield, which may lead to some unnecessary frustrations.

Additionally, the “throwing” mechanic seems broken. It’s far too easy to throw opponents off of ledges, (especially with the massive axe-wielding viking berserker.) Simply pressing square once to guard break, and then another time to initiate the throw, (on PS4) results in a successful throw. While a guard break can countered with a guard break from the opposing force, it’s far too easy to hit people with this. A lot of people get thrown off of ledges in this game. A possible solution is including another layer of “rock/paper/scissor” during a guard break, which will likely prevent the mechanic from being abused as I’ve seen in my play-time.

Overall, For Honor is shaping up nicely. I’d be surprised if Ubisoft didn’t put some thought into making the single-player substantial enough for players to want to experience. I knew once I saw the footage at E3 that playing this game was going to feel good, but I had no idea it would be quite as satisfying as it is. Pulling off combos, seeing the characters react to the tension of battle and hearing the warcry on the battlefield was exhilarating, and I can’t wait to jump back in. Part of that was also how smoothly the Alpha went, with minimal hitches and smooth and responsive hit detection. (seriously, I wish Dark Souls III would take some notes here, the pvp there is a laggy mess) With some more character customization, a solid story, and some tweaking to the throwing mechanic, I think this will shape up to be a game I go back to often. Did you have a chance to try out the Alpha or Beta? What did you think? What are you hoping to see in the game?

You can purchase For Honor on amazon here.