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For Honor

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2017


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PS4 Review - 'For Honor'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

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

Buy For Honor

While swords are one of the most ubiquitous weapons in video games, most titles don't really do sword fighting. They're more like a buzzsaw that tears through enemies and blocks bullets. For Honor is interesting in that it tries to make a sword fight feel more realistic: weighty and slow. Victory involves a dishonorable trick as often as it involves glorious swordplay. In short, it tries to make a fight feel like a fight and not a choreographed movie.

In a postapocalyptic world, we have returned to the feudal era. From the ashes arose three factions — Knights, Samurai and Vikings — and all are battling over control of the world. The simple plot is forgettable and largely serves as an excuse to justify having Samurai fighting Vikings.

For Honor is a duel-focused game with a significantly more complex combat system than most hack-and-slash titles. The basic concept revolves around attacking and blocking. Fighting boils down to choosing a side to block, your opponent choosing a side to attack, and you attempting to feint and trick your opponent into leaving themselves exposed. You can't smash wildly and expect to win, but being predictable means that your opponent knows what you're doing and can counter it. Things get more complex as more mechanics are introduced. You have dodges, environmental dangers, guard breakers, and various other elements. You can win by forcing an enemy off a cliff as easily as you can by piercing them with your blade.

In addition, each character class has a distinctive playstyle. The default Warden character is a jack-of-all-trades who focuses on basic combat and putting the weight of his armor behind his attacks. The Nobushi, on the other hand, uses a naginata and is a ranged character who excels at forcing his opponent to fight at a distance. There are classes that excel at overwhelming their foes with weapons, like axes or flails. There are also defensive characters who largely depend on their shield or counterattacks. No two characters are the same, and the learning curve between characters is steep.

For Honor has the potential to be frustrating for newbies. The game looks simple on the surface, but each character's specialization means you need to be good with your character and understand your opponent's skills. Playing defense against someone who specializes in guard-breaking will end up with you pounded into the ground. On the other hand, an ax-wielding berserker might not have a good time against someone who can dart in and out. The game balance is difficult to determine at this point. Skill level matters so much, and it's still so early on, that it's impossible to tell which characters will be too strong or too weak.

For Honor's biggest barrier to entry, and the thing most likely to make or break the game, is that everything is so abstracted. You can't play without following and understanding the roles and rules, and it's essential to know how each move interacts with the opponent and how to counter. It makes it tough to judge the longevity of the game, whichdemands a significantly greater execution from the player than most multiplayer-focused titles. There's an interesting combat system here, but if you're unprepared, you'll be led to the slaughter again and again … and again.

As such, the game is at its best when it fosters those roles. The 1v1 Duel mode is the simplest but strongest mode, and basic one-on-one fights to the death are where the game really shines. There's also a 2v2 mode, which is effectively two concurrent duels where you can assist your partner if the going gets rough. If For Honor has a long-lasting community, I expect it to solidify around these two modes.

In comparison, the 4v4 Dominion Mode felt like the weakest component of the game. It's less about defeating your opponent and more about controlling the battlefield. There are capture points that you have to stand on, as well as a frontline that involves slaughtering helpless AI soldiers to advance the frontline. The idea of genuine battlefield control is a neat idea, but it plays against the game'sstrengths. A big part of this is that the combat system starts to crack when you face more people simultaneously. This can work if all players cooperate and communicate, but an uncoordinated team will suffer frustrating losses. There are also kill streak-style bonuses that further amplify this. Since skill is such a huge factor in combat, it can feel overwhelming if you're on the losing side.

The larger metagame is called War of the Factions, and the multiplayer is built around defeating enemies and gaining resources. Essentially, every multiplayer battle contributes to your faction's total area control, and the more a faction wins, the more area it controls. Every so often, the scoreboard updates, and at the end of a season of approximately 10 weeks, the winning faction earns prizes, which allow them to further customize and upgrade their characters, and that's followed by a full reset of the world map. You also earn loot for winning battles, but the loot ranges from cosmetic to actually impacting how your character plays. As such, you need to win and keep winning to get more rewards. It's an interesting concept, but without devoting a full season, it's hard to predict how it will play out.

The game has single-player content, including AI battles and a campaign, but it's is clearly secondary. It's barely there and not very fun, similar to arcade mode in a fighting game. It can help you hone your skills and practice in a safe environment since each stage is basically an extended tutorial built around something that's important in multiplayer. For Honor is clearly a multiplayer title and not something to buy if you're looking for single-player action.

For Honor feels a bit thin. Everything, from the UI to the unlockable heroes, feels like it was designed to be a F2P game, especially since it has microtransactions. However, it's a full $60 title, and what you get for $60 doesn't feel that great. A pretty egregiously expensive (though entirely optional) season pass only compounds that feeling.

Even after playing it throughout the beta and release, it's still hard to get a feel for For Honor. If it clicks for you, it's going to click hard — but that's a big if. At its best, For Honor is amazing, an intense and brutal duel between characters that looks and feels incredible. Hardcore gamers who love testing their skills and mastering esoteric mechanics will get their money's worth. Otherwise, the title has all the problems of a fighting game mixed with a higher-than-usual skill floor. This isexactly the sort of game you need to try before you buy.

For Honor is largely a good-looking game. The environments are distinctive, and each character class has a lot of nice little touches. The game feels weighty, and every blow and impact lands with a satisfying crunch. If I had to settle on one major problem, the UI is bloated and messy. For a game trying to look realistic, it overflows with colorful auras and excesses of information that take away from the general tone and feels out of place. It's certainly not enough to sour the game, but it feels like the UI could've been toned down. The sound effects are nice and satisfying, giving a real meaty thunk to every blow or a loud clang of metal for a block. Overall, I enjoyed the visual and sound design, except for the UI.

For Honor is enjoyable enough, but it feels more like a proof of concept than anything else. The core combat system is interesting, but everything built around it is awkward. When you're in the middle of a dramatic duel against another foe of the same skill level, the game shines. Anything beyond that, and the seams begin to show. It's a game that demands a high skill level for fun and success, and that can be enough to turn off someone. The game is also pretty light on content for the $60 price tag. If you've played the beta and enjoyed For Honor, you'll have a good time, but others may want to find a way to try it out before committing to a full purchase.

Score: 7.5/10

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