Many of us with an ear to the ground understand that Ubisoft has been in trouble the last few years. The Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry franchises have all underperformed on sales. This is on top of a tanked player base for The Division Now Ubisoft is upping the anti with fresh IPs like For Honor and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. With For Honor hitting the shelves first, will it be enough to keep Ubisoft’s head above water? (Just so you know, if you’re reading in America, we here in the UK spell honour with a “U” in it. I know, it’s weird.)
For Honor’s Art Of War Is Its Most Redeeming Feature
As we all know, For Honor’s frontline feature is its famously touted Art of War control system. Fighting one on one, you must match your opponent’s stance while locked on. Up, left and right are frantically pushed onto the right stick, in attempts to match enemy stance and block. Attacks feel weighty and so do blocks. Screw up enough times and you’ll lose your head. Of course, this is a very fresh and original approach to combat.
Things get even more interesting with other players online and the unpredictability that comes with the territory. Where Ubisoft’s newfound ambition starts to fall down is when this system is expected to be applied to any more than a one on one scenario. While the system itself is easy to understand, applying it is a different story altogether. While wrestling with matching stances to block and differing stances to strike, the system is fantastic for stand offs. But when more than one opponent is in the mix, applying this alternating stance formulae simultaneously with two opponents is a bit of an ask. Unless players dip in and out of “the hot zone” with sweeping strikes here, they’ll likely get ping ponged around like a fleshy ball to the slaughter.
Once these combos start to land, there is literally no reprieve available until rolling away becomes an option. Very frustrating indeed. Especially online. However, there is a solid argument in that teamwork is especially encouraged. Then, are we just saying the only way to win is to gang up on the enemy?
For Honor Smartly Takes Videogames’ Hottest Trends
In For Honor, we can see many things gamers have praised this last generation rolled into one game. We have the tactical lock-on, timed attack and dodge system of Dark Souls. The variation of gameplay seen in different heroes like in Overwatch. The MOBA format to multiplayer maps with left, right and centre avenues to clash with the enemy.
Lastly, to top it all off, Ubisoft have cleverly selected three of our most beloved ancient civilizations. To roll all of these things into one was a smart move and blatantly designed for multiplayer and a lengthy post release marketing plan. So we’re lucky to have received a campaign at all.
A Thousand Years Of War?! How Is Anyone Still Alive??
Sure, For Honor’s campaign is pretty dumb. It’s basically a game of Deadliest Warrior (but that show was brilliant fun). Ironically, there’s very little honour to be found in For Honor’s campaign. The Vikings are portrayed as mindless bloodthirsty brutes. The Knights seem a little more intelligent but are just waging war for the sake of it. Lastly, the Samurai spend most of their story segment killing each other. Then there’s the lack of honour found in getting clobbered over the head from behind when at low health online. Something to crack into later.
If you do your best to forget that not every Samurai soldier had a katana (as it was not cost effective, and should not be especially so in a post apocalyptic world), not every knight wore badass tanking armour (a privilege saved for aristocracy) and Vikings never ever wore helmets with horns in them, then the campaign is pretty fun. The Art of War is a far more enjoyable system when you can sit down with it, learn it and become efficient with it. Not a learning process that’s possible online. If any historical accuracy is to be found for academics out there, it’s in the fight choreography. Different civilizations fight distinctly and convincingly.
Is There Any Honour Left For The Noobs?
As previously mentioned, there is a thrill to be found in going head to head with other players. Since For Honor’s release, its multiplayer has found brilliant success. Ubisoft has even reported matchmaking issues due to an oversaturation of players. Yet it is the humble opinion of this reviewer that, that kind of activity is a result of post launch curiosity. This is as equal a likelihood as a loyal launch player base.
You see, as enjoyable as the novelty of functional online melee play may be, the multiplayer is fraught with issues. Yes, I said it. Not a very popular idea right now but for this writer, these issues could not be ignored. They are problems that have taken several dozen matches to draw upon.
Don’t get me wrong, each of the heroes have been balanced fantastically. They each play differently and take just the right amount of time to master. None of them are any worse than the other if in the right hands. Like I said earlier, when things get overcrowded, all skill or tactical application go out the window. Getting ganged up on happens a lot. So sure – teamwork, right? With the MOBA format of map building however, uneven clashes happen more often than not. On the occasion you do get a decent one on focused fight, some other player will finish you off from behind, regardless of how well the fight may have been going for you. And it goes both ways. Most of your kills will likely come from kill stealing or whacking an unsuspecting straggler as they desperately run by you.
For Honor’s Chaos Theory
Adding to this formula of sheer chaos is the unlock system. Like many multiplayer games before it, For Honor rewards the player gradually not through application of skill but from time spent playing. What this means is that if one person is less skilled but has been playing for longer, they will have an unfair advantage. Buy this game at any point from now and you should expect to work very very hard to reach the level of others. These unlocks will boost stamina, attack power and defense. All big deciders in any fight. Ones that you will have to work hard for if you’re not like little Timmy. Little Timmy, here, is still in school and plays videogames in all of his spare time. We, who have jobs and less spare time will get our asses kicked by little Timmy over and over again.
All These Gripes Aside, For Honor Is Still Really Cool
And like the coolest kid in school, it also wears the coolest clothes. Graphically, For Honor delivers a great experience. You’ll get the most out of the medieval visual bazaar in the campaign. We’ve come to expect great character models from Ubisoft and For Honor is no exception to the rule. Each playable hero has been painstakingly crafted in every imaginable area. Scarred battle hardened Viking look great. Samurai armour and blades shine in the sun and the knights are convincingly gritty with their crest sash blowing about in the wind. Each character has a meaty credibility to them, especially when hacking their way through lesser soldiers.
Suffice it to say, seeing each of the heroes in action is eye candy. If you’ve seen any of For Honor’s release trailers, expect your experience of the finished result to be very very similar. Cutscenes almost look like full CG and despite the weak story offering, they find a lot of strength in just how good they look. No frame rate issues were encountered in my time with For Honor and graphical errors are nowhere to be seen. With the singular exception of the nodachi sword (next size up from katana) poking through my helmet as it rested over-shoulder. Other than that For Honor is technically tip top.
Will You Be Screaming HONOR At Your Screen In The Coming Months?
For Honor is a coin of two sides. A completely new way to engage in melee combat is welcome but may have you screaming during online matches. We could debate all day if sucking online is due to “ not being good” at the Art of War or slightly broken unlock systems. As a result, For Honor’s multiplayer offering is both awesome and awful at the same time…somehow. Playing it will certainly help you to understand what I mean. The campaign is not very inspired and has an ending that just sputters out. So if those things put you edge about making the leap to a purchase, maybe wait until this gets a little cheaper.