Review: For Honor

After being announced long enough ago to feel like it was the Middle Ages, For Honor is finally available in its completed form. At long last, the question of who among Knights, Samurai or Vikings would dominate the battlefield against each other can finally be answered, at least in video game format. For Honor is packed with enough content to keep players busy for quite some time. In addition to the alternate history single player campaign, there are several multiplayer options that are easy to sink countless hours into. The online component is enhanced with the ongoing Faction War that allows the outcomes of multiplayer matches to shape the world. So without further ado, let’s dig into everything.

One of the most unique aspects of For Honor is the Art of Battle combat system. As we can all imagine, sitting on the couch with a controller that manipulates polygons on a TV will never recreate what it is like to be in a gory medieval battle. That being said, the Art of Battle system is designed to simulate the tactical approach to being in armed closed quarter combat. This control system may seem a little strange at first, but once some time is spent using it things start to feel more natural. Art of Battle is based on locking onto the target and using visual clues to determine which direction the player needs to guard as well as attack. Blocking to the right against an attack coming from above will not work well for the player, and likewise if the enemy is guarding to the left attacking from that direction is equally useless. More advanced techniques like dodge rolls and guard breaks come into play, and the stamina level also needs to be monitored. This system makes combat much more tactical than simply button mashing attack and block, leading to intense and cerebral matches against other players. It’s simple enough to get the basics down quickly, but will take a bit of time to master all the various aspects of it. Typically there is a reticle on that indicates the guarding and attacking direction but this aid can be removed on the Realistic difficulty setting for those wanting a greater tactical challenge.

Multiplayer offers five different modes where the objective of kill the other players can be done in a variety of ways. The different modes included are Duel 1v1, Brawl 2v2, Skirmish 4v4, Elimination 4v4, and Dominion 4v4.  Duel 1v1 is a one-on-one face off, because that’s really what duels are, but sadly there is no animation of slapping your opponent across the face with a gauntlet while demanding satisfaction before the duel begins.  Duels are a best three out of five affair, which can typically have a round end in roughly half a minute, something our female readers can unfortunately relate to.  This is a battle where button mashing will only bring about defeat, as these duels are won through an understanding and skill execution of the Art of Battle system.  Brawl 2v2 is two versus two combat where victory is obtained by defeating the two enemy heroes.  Like Duel mode, environmental factors can be used to one’s advantage but cooperation and communication are also key components to winning the battle. A good tactic in Brawls is for the team that gets the first kill to gang up on the lone survivor, which is kind of mean but being nice has never helped anyone win a battle, something even James Dalton understood when he was working at the Double Deuce.

Dominion, Skirmish, and Elimination are variations of four on four battles. Skirmish is a four on four team death match, where battle skills are put to the test and points are accumulated by killing enemy heroes.  Elimination is also a four on four team death match, but in this mode the last player standing wins the match for their team which has zero respawns. Dominion is the most enjoyable of the three. In this mode there are three zones that need to be controlled by eliminating all opposing heroes in said zone. Capturing a zone nets the controlling team 100 points, while losing the zone deducts 100 points. Each team passively earns points from having control of zones and by occupying them. Once a team reaches 1000 points the opposing team enters break status where automatic respawn ceases. Victory is reached by eliminating all enemies while they are in break status, but because the points fluctuate and territory is frequently turned over this competition truly is not over until it’s over, making communication with your teammates essential to attain victory.

Whatever activity is played in multiplayer the result will impact the perpetually ongoing Faction War. While players cannot play against each other cross platform, the Faction War does occur across all three platforms that For Honor is available. How it works is the player will align themselves with one of the three factions, Knights, Samurai, or Vikings, though the player will remain free to play as any hero they desire. After each battle the player will be awarded assets for their faction that they can deploy on various territories on the battlefield, with the faction with the most resources in a territory will control it. The Faction War is divided into territory updates, rounds, and seasons, which last six hours, two weeks, and ten weeks respectively. Players will be rewarded at the end of every round they participate in based on the rank of their territory, and visible changes will occur in each territory based on who controls it. For example, an area that the Knights lose to the Samurai will be visibly different, and the scenery will now indicate who is currently in charge of it. After each season the territory map will reset but the environmental changes to an area will remain, making the results of war permanent until these areas are successfully conquered by someone new. Players will be able to switch their faction allegiance, though this may impact their rewards.

For Honor’s
 single player campaign covers three chapters with six levels apiece, each chapter focusing on a faction. The campaign will have the player involved in shaping the events that lead up to the Faction War. This begins with the Knights, where the players are introduced to a figure that goes by Apollyon. This eventually leads to Valkenheim where the Knights attempt to put an end to the Vikings. The next chapter will switch over to playing from the Viking perspective, with the final chapter taking control of the Samurai and discovering the true motives of Apollyon. This campaign has the player controlling many different heroes, so everyone will get some time in with their favorite type. As the player advances through the campaign they will gain levels and unlock more feats to use in battle, giving For Honor some mild RPG elements.

At launch For Honor will have twelve playable heroes, with each faction having four to choose from. The Knights have the Warden, Conqueror, Peacekeeper and Lawbringer. The Vikings have the Raider, Warlord, Berserker and Valkyrie. The Samurai have the Kensei, Shugoki, Orochi and Nobushi. Each of these heroes fit a type of Vanguard, Assassin, Heavy or Hybrid. No single type is inherently better than any other, they just all play slightly differently so it’s really a matter of figuring out which type tends to feel best with an individual’s play style.

The Vanguard type is the good at everything but master of nothing. They are considered to be the most balanced and probably a good choice for players new to the game to use while getting their feet wet, though that is not to say this type isn’t well suited for players who have advanced their For Honor skill level significantly. Vanguard heroes include the Raider, Warden, and Kensei. The Assassins are quick and nimble and well suited for Duels. They are great offensively but their defense leaves something to be desired. Unlocking other types, Assassins’ guards are not held when moving the right stick so blocking requires more finesse with the timing. They also are not the stockiest of fighters and can’t stand up to as much punishment, but with their quickness and agility they can get some strikes in and move out of harm’s way. Assassins include the Peacekeeper, Orochi, and Berserker. Heavy types are your bipedal tanks. Their large health meter and great defense make them difficult to take down, and while their slow attacks are practically telegraphed their hits are devastating when they are able to land one. These are the characters that you would want to defend a zone in Dominion, and the Heavies include the Warlord, Conqueror, and Shugoki.

The Hybrids use electricity for greater fuel efficiency are a mix between two other types and are more diverse than the other classes. The commonality they all share is they all have long range weapons that make them effective at controlling a zone. Unlike the other types, each Hybrid is unique since it combines two different types. The Lawbringer is a Heavy/Vanguard, the Nobushi is a Vanguard/Assassin and the Valkyrie is a Heavy/Assassin. This type is a nice inclusion as it allows players who find aspects they like in a couple different types.

As far as graphics and sound are concerned For Honor is top notch. Voice acting quality in games can range anywhere from embarrassingly cringe-worthy to Hollywood blockbuster, and thankfully For Honor is closer to the latter on that continuum. The music is a perfect fit for the setting and story, and a fine compliment to the outstanding visuals. For Honor uses the same character models for the full motion cutscenes as they do for in game, so unlike many other games, there are no high res/low res models that are switched back and forth. The motion capture actors had their work cut out for them with the Art of Battle system, but I have yet to see any combination of moves that did not look fluid. The graphics look outstanding in 1080P, but For Honor is designed to take advantage of 4K TVs if you’ve upgraded to the Xbox One S or PlayStation 4 Pro. Naturally, PC gamers just need a powerful rig and graphics card.

As much as For Honor has going for it, there are a couple areas where it does fall short. Split screen local multiplayer is a feature that many were looking forward to, but it was decided that this feature should be omitted a few months prior to release. Another technical drawback is that a constant internet connection is required to play For Honor, even during the single player campaign. This is not only a personal pet peeve with single player gaming, but also a practical concern for people who live in areas where the internet connection is not the most reliable or may stationed in military or law enforcement barracks, or if the provider happens to be having some problems on their end. Neither of these issues are deal breakers, but are disappointing nonetheless. For Honor does include microtransactions that can theoretically be purchased entirely with in-game currency, but like Street Fighter V, it requires an unrealistically huge amount of grinding to acquire everything without spending real money. Fortunately these items are mostly cosmetic and have virtually no impact on game play outside of the vast customization options for character appearance.

Closing Comments:

For Honor can be likened to a third-person medieval Call of Duty: the single player campaign is well produced and tells an interesting story, but the bulk of the replay value comes from becoming involved with the Faction War in multiplayer. The Art of Battle gives combat a unique feel setting For Honor apart from other action games and helps reduce the feeling of repetition. Overall the action packed title is an enjoyable ride, whether it is advancing through the single player campaign filled with cinematic cutscenes or battling against other players online. The Faction War is an interesting concept that gives incentive to remain involved with multiplayer long after the campaign is completed, though how well that holds interest will be revealed in time. While there are some imperfections, such as a constant internet connection required and the large amount of grinding required to unlock everything, For Honor is a solid title and recommended for fans of melee combat action titles who want to try a unique twist on a familiar formula.