For Honor is a game full of surprises. Coming in with nothing more than watching a bunch of trailers and a rather lukewarm marketing, I expected a simple half-baked MOBA with pretty graphics. Thankfully I was wrong. For Honor is not only one of the best fighting games I played in years but could easily be this year’s sleeper hit.
Just like any fighting game, For Honor has a roster consisting of three different civilizations: Medieval Knights, Vikings, and Samurais—all of which play and feel different. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t your typical button masher but one that requires patience and strategy. For one the camera plays a big role as characters aren’t pitted in a 2D plane, but one that can be moved around freely, leaving room for some versatility. Engaging the opponent by holding the left trigger (R2) locks you in combat mode and as Anakin Skywalker once said, in a somewhat decent Star Wars sequel, “This is where the fun begins”.
Fighting consists of two attacks (heavy and light). Dealing light damage is quicker and helps chains combos easier while heavy deals, well, the heavy blows. Aside from that you have a button to dodge as well a charge to temporarily disable your opponent’s defense. Using the right analog stick in the three directions determines the stance your character takes which helps in deflecting attacks as well as parrying your opponent. The D-pad consists of boosts which can either give you health or slightly increase your defense/damage. Finally, if things get heated, a “Revenge” meter will fill up allowing your character to unleash a furry of attacks without worrying too much on losing your stamina. Should the stamina meter deplete your character will enter a sort stagger state making him/her move slowly giving your opponent a huge advantage.
Now saying all this may sound complicated and it somewhat does when you tall all the elements into perspective, but it’s surprisingly simple to get into and also surprisingly deep. As mentioned earlier this isn’t your Soul Caliber type of fighting game but one that feels heavier. But just like any good fighting game, it relies on timing. Knowing when to defend is as important as attacking. And because of challenge each win feels rewarding. This is particularly highlighted in the game’s close quarter battles which consist of 2v2 (my favorite) or 1v1. Granted it does get messier when two opponents attack which is where the dodge or parrying comes into better play.
Dominion is possibly the game’s highlight. It’s a 4v4 MOBA with the objective being capturing zones and pushing your army forward. Various items on the field can help out such as arrows to slow down your opponent. Its fun with a group but matching randomly with players can get a big hectic especially if there’s no communication happening. Oddly enough the game also uses peer to peer and while I haven’t run into major issues myself, the Steam community have a different say.
For Honor also promised something else that surprised me: a decent campaign mode. I completely forgot there was one and at first I assumed it would be nothing more than recycled maps with mission objectives and text to fill in the plot. Instead I was treated to cutscenes and characters. Wow, thanks Ubisoft.
Seriously though, that was no snarky remark. For Honor does actually offer a robust campaign that takes you through all three civilizations at once. Each perspective feels different with unique classes that includes a diverse selection of weapons. If anything it serves as a great tutorial mode that gives you taste of pretty much all of the game’s weapons and classes so by the end of it you’d know what to pick for multiplayer. If there’s one gripe I do have with it though is the constant teaching as more than half way through the game I’m still getting tutorial prompts. The characters, while some stand out, are vanilla stereotypes that just feel like every other war criminal or hero.
Customization also plays a big role here as everything from the characters armor to the hilt on their sword can be changed. I never imagined such detail would have went into weapon crafting but then again this game is full of surprises.
Sadly it suffers the common curse of every fighting game: momentum. By about 5 matches I started to get bored of the same trope repeated over and over again. You lock on, move the analog stick, and attack. This may sound like a problem all video games face but with For Honor the limited lasting appeal particularly stands out. This of course is somewhat subjective as fighting enthusiasts may feel more engaged, but it’s a gamble.
From a presentation point of view, For Honor nails it. This is by far the prettiest game Ubisoft made to date with amazingly detailed lush worlds, practically the forest and basically any map set in Japan. Even though most of it is linear (especially in the story mode) it still comes off feeling right. Ubisoft also did an admirably PC port with smooth 60 FPS that even ran well on my 970m laptop. Sadly the music department doesn’t seem to have received the same amount of attention as nothing aside from the game’s intro stands out. And that menu music is just awful.
When it comes down to it, For Honor is a game that blew me away with its fighting mechanic. Even though it started feeling old in a few hours it’s still fun and I still think of going back to it. But I’ll probably play it in bursts. Will it catch on with the likes of Street Fighter and see it one day at EVO? Probably not, but I do hope it does. For Honor deserves that kind of attention.