Review: For Honor

About a year ago, when I got my first look at For Honor in an E3 video, I instantly started drooling. Once I’d cleaned up and changed my shirt, however, I gave myself a stern lecture. I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like “temper those expectations, Gareth, remember the Great Alien: Colonial Marines Incident of 2013″ and “seriously, you’ve got to stop drooling like that”. Rational me sat there, arms crossed, fingers stroking my chin, nodding in solemn agreement. Irrational me stopped listening halfway through the word “temper”, and basically jumped straight onto the hype train, drooling, and screaming “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”

I never learn.

Game info
Genre: Action-adventure
Platform/s: PC / XBO / PS4
Reviewed on: PS4
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Distributor: Megarom

The game revolves around a war between three factions – the Knights, the Vikings, and the Samurai- and the eightish-hour campaign (skill level dependent) walks you through a 10-year period in this war that’s now been raging for a thousand years, after a vaguely defined disaster of some necessarily epic proportions started everything. The plot goes on to introduce you to Apollyon, a lady Knight with aspirations of not actually very much, as things turn out, other than causing chaos for the flimsiest of reasons. She carefully manipulates a series of battles to cunningly turn the Vikings against one another, and then the Vikings go after the Samurai because some of their stuff just, like, washed up on their shores. And then, so on. Yes, really. I can’t make this up, people.

And while the voice acting isn’t bad, none of the knights sound English, none of the Vikings sound Scandinavian, and none of the Samurai sound Asian. They all sound American, for some reason. It’s a small thing, but it annoyed me, and it’s another inexplicable design decision on Ubisoft’s part.

Ya’ll gonna die, forsooth.

That’s not to say the campaign is ruined by this. No, instead it’s ruined by the tedious repetition of what is essentially a cycle of “swing, parry, kill, repeat” for every mission until the game ends. The entire campaign plays out like a long tutorial designed to give you a taste of every class available in the game. Each faction has four of these classes, ranging from small and agile to big and tanky, and the saving grace of the game, perhaps, is how surprisingly different each class and faction can play. While the general style is still “swing, parry, kill, repeat”, each class feels unique.

For those that hate complicated combos, For Honor has you covered there too. None of the moves are overly complex, and become fairly effortless to pull off once you’ve done it properly once or twice. Sadly, you don’t get to hang out with any given character for too long, so you never get to really get to grips with any of them during this time. Every time you think you’re getting to a point where you could conquer the world, they toss you a new class and drop you in the deep end for good measure. This mish-mash of character swapping and piss-poor storytelling made the last hour of the game about as exciting as a trip to the dentist. At least the boss fights were mostly great, but one of them involved wolves that I thought were a bit superfluous and, until I finally figured out how to deal with them, extremely frustrating.

I get that Ubisoft has stepped out of its comfort zone with a new IP that doesn’t involve assassins or Tom Clancy’s Next Big Thing, but I honestly feel like they set the bar too low for themselves to really be proud of this tutorial campaign.

Swing, parry, kill me now.

So, the multiplayer. This is where the action was always supposed to be at, anyway, because every video leading up to the release of For Honor focused almost exclusively on it. So, why did they release the game with a peer-to-peer system instead of regular servers? That’s my first gripe.

There are five multiplayer modes to choose from. There’s a 1v1 Duel, for that intimate one-on-one connection, with just you, your opponent, and a string of losses because you got into it a week after everyone else. There are also 2v2 and 4v4 variants, simply called Brawl. It’s the same thing as Duel, just obviously less intimate, and with a longer string of losses (I don’t think I sucked as much as they just, well, didn’t). Then there’s a 4v4 Skirmish mode, which is basically just deathmatch, and a 4v4 mode called Dominion, where you fight for control of a handful of points around various fortresses. Dominion also has a generous number of AI enemies to dip your sword into, though they don’t make any real difference to the battle.

This brings me to my second gripe. I couldn’t find games in any mode other than Duel. I tried for hours, but spent most of my time waiting and watching Tarryn play Torment: Tides of Numenera next to me [THE REVIEW IS COMING SOON, OKAY – Tarryn]. Each mode at least lets you play against AI bots if you’re desperate, but there’s almost no challenge there to speak of. It’s strange because these multiplayer modes all worked just fine in the beta, and by “just fine” I mean I could find games, but the lag ended up besting me nine out of 10 times. The beta also proved that there’s no actual honour in the fighting, with other players rushing across the battlefield to have a hack at my back while I was trying to engage with another player in “honourable” combat. I expect this hasn’t changed.

There’s also a meta game you can participate in called Faction War. After each fight, depending on how well you did, you can deploy war assets to areas around the map. This affects your faction’s ongoing war in the world, which is broken up into, ultimately, seasons that last a couple of months, with rewards at the end depending on how your side performed. Faction War is also cross-platform, so you are, essentially, fighting it against or with everyone else playing the game. It’s kind of interesting, but in the end it comes across like something that was tacked on at the last minute, and feels like a complete waste of time to me.

53The game is a testament to Ubisoft Montreal’s ability to come up with elegant, innovative new melee mechanics that really work, but clearly too many resources were spent on developing this and not a compelling story or a decent multiplayer system. Wait for the sequel.