For Honor is Ubisoft’s answer to the world’s cry for a Deadliest Warrior simulator*. Released on Valentines day 2017, it’s a Vikings vs. Knights vs. Samurai action game with a heavy focus on one-on-one combat. I’ve put about fifteen hours into the game so far, and in that time I feel that I’ve seen the length and breadth of what it has to offer.
The single-player campaign is sparse, with six missions per faction, and serves mostly as an introduction to it’s class-based combat system. The storyline is perfunctory and boils down to the knights hatching plots to ensure the other two stay locked in civil war or fighting with each other because… Well, because that’s the game. It resembles the story in most fighting games in that diplomacy is eschewed until just after everyone’s had a go at knocking everyone else’s teeth out. That lack of care provided to the story sets the tone for the entire solo experience, and there’s an overall absence of polish that’s evident throughout. While the characters and environments are well animated, the cutscenes frequently looked like they were suffering from compression artifacting. The voice acting was actually quite good, but hampered by poor writing (most notably the Vikings coming off as a race of comically stupid people). Despite the enemy AI providing a decent level of challenge, I was most frequently defeated by friendly AI catching me with their attacks and blocking off my escape route by standing directly behind me. These problems add up, and are compounded by the slow pacing of the last set of six missions where you only play as two of the four Samurai classes available. By the end of it I felt like the campaign was a sort of toll that had to be paid to move on to the multiplayer.
But the multiplayer is what this game was made for. For all of the flaws inherent in Ubisoft games, they do provide excellent multiplayer experiences. In that regard, For Honor is no exception. I had decided going into it that I would main the Nobushi, a samurai who wields a poisoned naginata (a Japanese polearm). Her ability to keep an enemy at range while hassling them with swift pokes and unblockable kicks fit my more cautious playstyle and, paired with her passive ability to revive teammates quickly, allows her to play well as a support character. Unfortunately, this did not prevent her from being ground into a fine paste when myself and a group of three other level 1’s were matched up against a team ranging from levels 8 to 20 (the max rank for characters). This problem with matchmaking has reared it’s head several times since, with me being on the other side of the fence now and feeling awful for the newer players. It took another four or five matches before I started to see my k/d tipping over into the positive, but by then I was hooked. It’s an exhilarating feeling when the panic of having your health steadily whittled down by an enemy player turns to smug satisfaction at seeing a friendly heavy charge in from behind and barrel them over with a running tackle. Similarly, the elation at escaping back to your teammates after being cornered by three opposing players is incredibly gratifying. The 4v4 mode follows standard variations of deathmatches, elimination battles and zone control game types, but 1v1 and 2v2 duels offer the chance to hone your skills at an individual level.
The multiplayer experience is an enjoyable one, marred slightly by the usual micro-transactions the plague all Ubisoft games. These offer some cosmetic options, but others provide experience boosts and heightened chances to find better gear and more of it. It’s easy to ignore because at this point it’s par for the course, but it would be remiss of me to not call it out as a further money-grab in a game that already struggles to deliver value for the asking price.
I plan to keep playing For Honor, as I see enough variety in the classes to keep me interested for a while. But, overall, it’s an incomplete package. A tacked-on singleplayer campaign and P2P networking for multiplayer mean that it’s simply not worth the full €60 price tag, so I’d advise waiting until it goes on sale.
*Excluding the Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior that was released in 2013