For Honor

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2017

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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'For Honor'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 19, 2016 @ 1:20 a.m. PDT

For Honor is a fast-paced, competitive experience mixing skill, strategy, and team play with visceral melee combat.

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For Honor is a hack-and-slash with a fictional medieval setting. Disaster struck 1,000 years ago and destroyed all civilizations. From the ashes rose three factions who are trying to rebuild their nations and their heritage: The Legion (knights), The Chosen (samurai) and The Warborn (Vikings). At first blush, For Honor resembles a lot of popular games ranging from MOBAs to Chivalry. We spent some hands-on time with the title during the PlayStation 4 multiplayer alpha this weekend, and while there's a lot to unpack, we saw a lot of potential, though it's still understandably a little rough around the edges.

The basis of the combat system is to block enemy attacks and hit them with your own; the first one to go down dies. Combat is based on the concept of duels. When you encounter an opponent, you hold the L2 button to lock onto them. From that point on, you're in a duel with them until you release the button. Duels are based around stances, which determine the direction you're attacking and the direction you're defending. Pressing the right analog stick in a direction (up, left or right) changes your stance. If someone attacks you from a right stance and you're in right stance, you'll automatically block the attack. You can even chain attacks and swap stances between attacks. You have a stamina gauge that depletes when you attack or use certain moves. Run out of stamina, and you can't defend yourself or attack, leaving you vulnerable to enemies.


It gets more complex when you consider character classes and special moves. Pressing Square does a short-range guard break, and if you break someone's guard and tap Square again, you can throw them. Throwing someone off a cliff or a ledge is effectively an instant kill, and the arenas are littered with high ledges. Most of the one-on-one duels I saw ended with someone going off a ledge, so you need to be careful about your positioning, since getting backed to the edge of a cliff makes it easy for an enemy to knock you off. Every character also has access to Revenge mode, which powers up as you attack or get attacked. Fill up your Revenge bar, and you can enter a state where you're temporarily more powerful and durable.

Further adding to the complexity are the six character classes: Berserker, Conqueror, Kensei, Orochi, Raider and Warden. Each of the character classes has a specialty in combat, which includes special moves, abilities and general stats. For example, the Warden is an all-around fighter designed for players of all skill levels. Conqueror is a mace- and shield-wielding knight who specializes in defense. He's not as fast or mobile as the other classes but makes up for it with strong defenses, including the ability to drain stamina to block attacks from all directions at once. In comparison, the Orochi is an incredibly fast and mobile character who trades static defenses for the ability to parry enemy attacks and convert attacks into other attacks, making it tougher to predict where their hits are coming from. Every character shares the same basic gameplay style but has distinct abilities. They also can find loot on the battlefield, which allows them to power up and specialize their stats.

The "make or break" element of the For Honor alpha is how it handles multiple-character combat. Combat is designed with one-on-one fights in mind, and fighting multiple opponents at once puts you at a distinct disadvantage. Anyone who isn't your locked-on target is very difficult to fight. Rather than defending directly against them, you have to press in the direction of an attacking enemy to briefly parry their attack. Skilled players may be able to hold off an extra enemy for a few moments, but by and large, if you're outnumbered you're in serious trouble. Even a two-on-one fight is incredibly difficult for anyone to survive more than a few moments, while a three-on-one fight might as well kill you on the spot.


The other major issue we noticed is that lag makes the game almost impossible to play. In anything less than optimal conditions, you can expect to get your face pounded in by a quick-moving enemy before you can respond. During the alpha, we only encountered this situation a few times, but anyone with a weak internet connection will find it to be much more frustrating. When the game relies on quick attacks and counter-attacks, there's a lot of potential trouble in suboptimal conditions.

The alpha build included three game modes, though Duel and Brawl are pretty similar. Duel is a one-on-one fight between two characters while Brawl is a two-on-two. In both modes, you start in a large, empty arena, and you fight to the death. The first to five kills wins. Duel is extremely straightforward and has few frills, but Brawl is a little more complex. The players start divided from one another, with one of each type in the same area. This means the game encourages 1v1 fights, but there's a chance for skilled players to quickly turn fights in their favor. If someone wins their fight early, they can run over and help their friend for an easy victory. Alternately, if one of each side goes down, then the two winners can fight to determine the true victor. It's a fun game mode that's better for pick-up-and-play than the third mode, Dominion.

Dominion is where For Honor's reputation as a MOBA-style game comes from, but that isn't an accurate description. Dominion is a 4v4 mode where two teams fight to take control of the map. Each map has three objectives to control, two of which are Control Zones, or standard "capture the point" areas. Taking hold of a control zone earns you points, and holding onto it keeps the points flowing. Capturing an enemy zone can steal some of their points. The other option is the Front, where groups of incredibly weak NPC soldiers fight eternally. You can slaughter enemy soldiers to progress, but the same goes for the enemy. Whoever controls the front controls the flow of points, so there is an endless battle occurring. When one side reaches 1,000 points, the other side is routed and loses the ability to respawn. If the surviving members of the opposing side capture enough zones to bring the enemy's points below 1,000, they'll rally and recover the ability to respawn. The first to 1,000 and to kill all of the enemies wins. This is also the only mode to include Feats, which are power-ups that you obtain by leveling up, which increases your character's abilities or allows them to do things like summon catapult attacks.


Of the three modes, Dominion is the most fully featured in that it contains everything you'd find in Duel or Brawl and a whole lot more. The only downside in the demo is that you're not going to get much in the way of high-stakes one-on-one duels. With three targets but four players, the game encourages ganging up and taking advantage to overcome enemies. The front mechanic is interesting in that it revolves around killing NPC soldiers, so there are more ways to control the battlefield than simply holding a single location. It's difficult to get a feel for how it develops based on what we've played, but it should be interesting to see how this mechanic pans out in the final version.

For Honor has a lot of interesting potential. The combat tries to mimic the realism and brutality of actual combat while retaining enough flair to be exciting instead of merely fatal. It'll be interesting to see how the final version shapes up, and there's still plenty of time for the game to see some significant changes before launch. For Honor comes out Feb. 14, 2017 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.



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