We have been spoon-fed bits of gameplay footage and trailers for Ubisoft’s upcoming game For Honor since it was first announced back at E3 2015. Up to this point, most of the content has been easy to digest, and we have developed a decent understanding of how combat works and matches are won. Since we are approaching For Honor‘s release, Ubisoft invited a handful of eager combatants into their closed For Honor beta. I was lucky enough to count myself among the handful of champion-in-the-makings, and am eager to report my findings to you.
Let’s talk first about the story. The closed For Honor beta does nothing to further clarify the story, but it’s interesting to talk about nonetheless. Three factions, the Knights, Vikings, and Samurai, have been in a state of constant conflict for over a thousand years. The origin of this conflict has been lost to the ages. In the past, the factions had come close to achieving peace but this has been prevented by a mysterious figure of war, Apollyon. Apollyon believes that the warriors of the world are growing weak and she does everything in her power to keep a state of worldwide conflict. Why she does this and what she stands to gain from this is largely unknown. She talks about making the warriors tough, but there has to be way more to it, right? The E3 2016 trailer which gave info on the story in For Honor was also included to give player a little background before jumping into the chatoic slaughter-fest that the game can quickly become. See it below:
During the time I have spent with the For Honor beta, I have decided my favorite thing about it is the combat. Other games that depend on a hack-and-slash depiction of swordplay often train the player to hold whatever button is designated to block. When the player decides that it is time to deal some damage, they unleash a fury of attacks with little resistance from those they oppose. For Honor handles this very differently. As Ubisoft has shown off in the past, you have three positions that you can hold – top, left, or right. Holding a certain direction protects from attacks coming from that same direction. It also delivers any of your attacks from that angle. If the opponent attacks you from a right position, you must be defending from the right position to block the attack. If the opponent is guarding towards their left side (your right), you have to attack from either the left or the top position. This system forces you to be alert to the changes in the stance of both your enemy and yourself. It also may cause you to hesitate in attacking (as I did) because your opponent can quickly flick the right joystick to change the position of there weapon and launch an attack without warning. The pattern I began to developers was hold a position to prevent incoming damage and when I felt confident in my attack, I would quickly change positions and do a light attack, followed by a series of other blows.
You have a choice between a light and a heavy attack, allowing you to attack from one position with a light attack and quickly change positions to follow up with a heavy attack. Anticipating this behavior from your enemies requires your constant attention. Needless to say, it is a skill you need to master if you want to be a force to be reckonded with on the battlefield. In addition to your light and heavy attack, you can also utilize a quick attack. Hitting your opponent with a quick attack will leave them temporarily stunned. Attacking a stunned enemy with another quick attack will knock them back, and open them up to more attacks. This was my most abused method attack in the For Honor beta. Quick attacks are delivered very fast (hence the name). Enemies can quickly be stunned and damaged without exposing yourself to much risk. Unfortunately, this removes a lot of the caution and tension that the positioning system creates. Landing a quick attack is easy and effortless. It also rewards you too much for using it since it allows you to land a couple of heavy damage attack in the time the enemy is stunned. The enemy is completely open to the attack, and apart from getting lucky and dodging the attack (which is the simple dodge-roll that many hack-and-slash games utilize) there is nothing that can be done to guard against it. The top ranked player of the rounds, present and future, will use this attack because (even though it feels like an exploit) the reward is tenfold the risk. It is also worth noting that since using the quick attack twice in a row will knock the enemy back, they can be easily pushed off of ledges behind them. By the way, a fall from any height is lethal.
Multiplayer game modes range from one-on-one duels to full on wars. In duels, you fight an opponent for five rounds with the goal of winning three. The larger scale fights send two teams against each other. Each player chooses one of the classes and aims to capture and control three bases. If two opposing player initiate combat, it is a thrilling battle of strategy, deception, and reflexes. You are forced to pay attention and be cautious, yet the duel needs to be concluded before the enemy’s allies come and join the fight, otherwise you don’t stand a chance. The few two-on-two stand-offs I took part in were the most tense and excited moments during my time in the For Honor beta. You need to pay the majority of your attention to the fighter you are currently fighting, otherwise assisting your ally will be out of your control. Watching for your ally to create an opening on his opponent can enable you could jump in and help attack. At the same time, you need to keep an eye on their opponent in case they get the advantage on your ally. With so many moving pieces, these moments consumes all the mental power your brain can provide, and are incredibly thrilling to take part in. Situation like these arise frequently and forces you to consider so many different variables that each match truly feels earned while each loss leaves you swallowing your pride a little. In addition to other players, battlefields are littered with other members of a grunt militia. The can be quickly dispatched with a single attack, so the feel more like weeds that need trimmed instead of anything actually threatening.
My largest concern with For Honor is that there is not enough variety in the game for me to justify buying it on launch. While multiplayer can be fun for evening playsessions after school or work, thanks to the uniqueness of the situations that arise, the novelty of the matches will be fatigued quickly. This opinion speaks mostly from the kind of gamer I am since I don’t (personally) find a ton of longevity in heavily-mulpilayer experiences. Especially when they don’t have constantly changing content. I also can’t see the mass of gamers who play games exclusively for the multiplayer migrating to For Honor while waiting for this year’s iteration of Call of Duty or Battlefield. I would love to be wrong about this for the sake of seeing a newer Ubisoft IP succeed. It will probably follow the trend of recent Ubisoft games like Steep or Watch Dogs 2 where the social/multiplayer received very little interest and so it suffered in terms of longevity.
Ubisoft chose to exclude any info regarding the single player campaign up to this point, and the For Honor beta is no different. Here’s the thing with Ubisoft: if they don’t show something off, there isn’t anything impressive about it. They have a track record of only showing one or two impressive or unique things. Perhaps their effort is developing those thing so much that they don’t pay due attention to the other aspects of the game, or they choose not to show them because they simple aren’t good enough to help sell the game. Having a unique idea does not make a game good. It takes execution on a ton of different fronts (in addition to a good idea) for the game to succeed without that one unique idea feeling like the only ruse selling an otherwise uninteresting game. That has me worried for the release of For Honor. Personally, the story is what drives my purchase of games. If that story is non-existent or has not been presented, I’ll avoid the purchase until I hear that the story is worth the investment of my hard-earned money. That, or I’ll wait until it’s cheaper.
More than likely, with For Honor, I will not play it on initial launch, and I may never play it if the story or gameplay (that was not shown in the beta) do not prove to be of a higher caliber than it appears to be. Even if it receives a significant price reduction, chances are that games which I am more willing to invest my time and money in will come along shortly, causing me to not feel obligated to pick it up. The For Honor beta (and by extension the whole game) has a couple of cool things going for it, and it is fun to play. The problem is that it isn’t anything more than an interesting concept for a combat system. Since Ubisoft has failed to release a first-party game lately that lives up to the hype that they market them with, it is neither wise nor justifiable to take the risk on them anymore. Which is hard for me to say considering they have developed and published some of my favorite games of all time (Assassin’s Creed, the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time series, Child of Light, and quite a few more).
Did you get a chance to play the For Honor beta? Is it a game that you can see yourself spending a decent amount of time with? Do you think is will release to great praise? Let me know in the comments below!