For Honor Review: Take Up Arms

For Honor Review: Take Up Arms

Sharpen your blades and ready your spears, for the time of battle is at hand.  For Honor is a game of medieval warfare that pits Vikings, Knights, and Samurai against each other in a variety of battlefields.  Is this a glorious battle of honor and noble deeds, or just another ugly war?

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Genre: Fighter
Developed by: Ubisoft and Blue Byte
Published by: Ubisoft
Release date: Febuary 14th, 2017
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Reviewed on PC)
Price at time of review: $60 (Includes Microtransactions)

Story & Setting

For Honor is set in a fictional medieval world that has suffered a great cataclysm.  It’s never explicitly stated why the three main civilizations – Knights, Vikings, and Samurai – go to war, but one can assume they’re fighting over the greatly reduced land and resources.  I’m not sure if the cataclysm or the level design came first, but either way the levels feel perfectly at home in this world.  The crumbling castles and deep chasms feel like they belong, that this indeed a world that suffered some unimaginable tragedy.

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This ruinous state forms the backdrop of the single player campaign.  The land has been slowly drifting into a state of peace, with conflict between the factions almost gone and even internal conflict drifting off.  The story follows the effort of a war hawk called Appollyon to re-ignite the flames of war.  She actually makes for a very interesting antagonist.  I don’t even really want to call her a villain.  Many times throughout the campaign she is shown as someone that simply believes a bit too strongly in survival of the fittest.  She has one goal, and that is to plunge the world back into what she believes is the best state for it to be in – eternal war.

Sadly, this interesting character and ideology is lost in a very lukewarm campaign.  It’s as if they were afraid to fully commit to giving the characters the player controls a personality.  They give them a little personality, but just a little.  The result I find is very dissonant.  You are always referred to by your classname, with the exception of the few missions where you control a named NPC.  In most cases this feels very flat and impersonal, and one case it was absolutely hilarious.  In your fight against Siv, she screams out “RAIDER!” many, many times in a totally overdone voice filled with anger and hate.  You’d think she would remember the character’s name with that much hate….

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Sadly, this is one of the more memorable moments in the campaign.  Most of the campaign is just…there.  It’s not bad, but it’s not great either.  The campaign is worth doing however, as during its course you’ll encounter collectibles that give you emblems and high-end scavenger chests, not to mention the blocking practice you’ll get during the boss fights.

Visual & Audio

One thing you won’t get tired of while playing this game is taking in the sights.  At high settings, this game is beautiful.  You can tell a lot of love and care went into the level designs.  They just flow.  I never really felt that I was in a video game level, even when presented with barriers.  The cliffs, piles of rubble, rivers, walls, it all felt very organic, like everything was where it was supposed to be.  The levels are very linear, but as this is a fighting game I wasn’t expecting anything else.

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The character designs are excellent as well.  From a visual standpoint, they all look unique and believable.  The armor designs are very well done, interesting to look at yet not overdesigned.  You can believe these are elite warriors decked out with the best their faction has to offer.  The animations are a little over done at times, but it conveys the weight of your actions very well.

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Audio is solid.  There’s really not much else to say on that.  It has good feedback on the SFX, and while there’s no part of the OST that stands out, it sets the tone of the matches really well.  Not the type of soundtrack that you’d listen to outside the game, but it blends into the background of the game perfectly.

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Gameplay

Alright, so it’s got a tolerable campaign, and it looks really pretty and sounds OK, but is it fun to play?  I can answer with a resounding Yes!  But….only if you like fighting games.  I love the combat system and it feels really great when you pull off a sequence of blocks, but it is hard to get used to.  Every character follows the basics of 3 stances (left, right, and high) and two attacks (light and heavy) but the specifics vary between each class.  This means that not only do you need to know your class, but you need to know the class you are fighting against so you can counter their moves.  This will take some dedicated practice if you wish to get really good at it.  So if you hated the need to practice and learn combos in Street Fighter or Mortal Combat, chances are you won’t find much here to enjoy.

Thankfully, there’s plenty of ways to control the difficulty.  The campaign has 4 difficulty settings, and the practice mode has several different options for fighting against bots.  This gives you plenty of ways of practicing.  Not to mention the multiplayer options.

Now multiplayer (MP) has been detailed in other articles on this site, so this part will be kept short and sweet.  Currently there are 4 game modes – 1v1, 2v2, 4v4, and Dominion.  The various vs modes play out exactly as you would expect them to, and Dominion is basically King of Hill with 3 control points.  I’ve said this before, but it really needs to be said again – If you want honorable duels without any gear stats, do 1v1.  Currently I would say the 4v4 and Dominion modes are the weakest, mainly because of the gear score and general player shenanigans.  I really find 2v2 and 1v1 to be the most enjoyable modes against other players.

If playing against humans is a stressful thought, every MP mode can be done against bots.  You still get good rewards playing against the bots, and you still have to pay attention.  The high level bots are good.  This can make for a fun, semi-stress free night of fighting and earning xp and steel.  The AI will still taunt you if they win though.  Somehow it feels even more insulting when they do it.  Here I find the Dominion mode to be the most fun.  Having a team of decked-out players taking on the bots is just a lot of fun.  Not particularly challenging depending on the bot AI levels, but ya know, sometimes you want a fancy steak dinner, sometimes you just want to sit down and have hamburger and fries.

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Speaking of gear, if you have the patience, save all your chests and steel for after you hit level 20 in MP.  The reason for this is you gain a prestige level every 20 character levels, and this unlocks a new tier of gear.  This gear tends to be more visually distinct, so it’s best if you save all your chests and steel until you reach that point.  You actually get a lot of room to customize the look of your character with this system.

You have three slots for armor and three parts of your weapon that you can customize.  Each piece will boost one stat, slightly penalize another stat, and leave the third alone.  Balancing these boosts is important for the 4v4 and Dominion modes, but has no impact on the 2v2 and 1v1 modes.

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You can also reforge pieces to match the look you want with the stats you need.  All of this is acquired either through matches or by buying scavenger chests with steel.  Steel is reasonably easy to acquire by playing the game and completing your daily orders, so even casual players shouldn’t have trouble opening 2-3 chests a day.

However, that does lead to one disturbing item – microtransactions.  If you stick to 1v1 or 2v2, then the ability to purchase gear is a moot point, it’s purely cosmetic.  However in 4v4 and Dominion gear stats do matter, so someone who drops a lot of cash will have more options than someone that does not.  In theory they try to match people based on gear score, but that doesn’t always work.  I’ve been in a game where the other team had a total of 60+ gear score, and my had a total of about 15-20.  That did only happen once, mind, but it did happen nevertheless.

 

7
Summary: For Honor is fun game to play, and a gorgeous game to look at.  If you have an interest in medieval sword fights or fighting games, you definitely should pick this one up.  For everyone else, I'd still say you can't go wrong with it, though perhaps wait until the first DLC is out which will add in some more play modes.
Story & Setting (6.5)
Gameplay (9)
Visual & Audio (9)
Replayability (8)
Pricepoint (7)