For Honor is Ubisoft’s latest creation to make its way into gamers’ hands. After the open-beta of the game tapped three million users this past weekend, it was hard not to take notice of visceral brutality and in-your-face violence of For Honor’s hand-to-hand warrior combat. Skillfully crafted, brilliantly thought-out and ultimately rewarding for the most competent fighters out there, For Honor has elevated the hybrid gameplay of real-time strategy and fight-game combat to an entirely new level. Here’s how.
1. The Factions
Ubisoft has chosen three of history’s mightiest brawling cultures to have it out in For Honor. Knights, Vikings and Samurai all wind up on the same battlefield here, ready to pummel each other into burger meat. Each character-type is a badass of legendary proportions. So much so that, when the game first prompts you to choose a side, we sat there way longer than we should have before ultimately choosing to join the Vikings. (It’s cool though; choosing to join the Vikings didn’t prevent us from fighting as a Samurai or Knight class character.)
2. The Minions
Real players take on the role of hulking warriors or crafty, quick rogue-like fighters, but primary game mode, Dominion, opens up king-of-the-hill style gameplay on the battlefield and then litters the zones with lowly, minion soldiers just aching for you to slaughter them four at a time. The one-on-one elements of For Honor are great, but the glee and exhilaration you’ll feel as two armies clash around you is one we haven’t seen in video games before. The scope of the battles and the visceral quality of the combat is amplified by the wise choice to include minions. Gut a half-dozen of them with a single swoop of your battle-axe and you’ll see what we mean.
Brush up on your Sun Tzu, because For Honor rewards those who keep their wits about them and make wise decisions in the heat of battle. That means attacking strategically, and that strategy changes whether you’re dueling 1v1, leading an entire army’s charge or duking it out with your friends by your side. In For Honor, there’s a time to fight, a time to flee and a time to hide around a corner so you can kick your opponent off a bridge to a grisly death below. The key is knowing what to do and when to do it.
4. Environmental Violence
That bridge we just mentioned is only one of the features of For Honor’s levels that’ll give you the upper hand in a pinch. Conspicuously placed spikes, ladders, bridges and canals can all turn the tide of a battle if you know how to use them in conjunction with your chosen character’s abilities. So you’ll want to use your Viking to ram an enemy into a wall of skewers, but you may not want to use that move to knock him off a bridge because you’ll end up tumbling over the edge with him. Getting it right is a satisfying experience and is a good time to use...
Each character class has its own customizable taunts, meant to shine on an incoming attacker or insult a fallen foe. (They can see you standing over their lifeless corpse for a few seconds post-mortem.) The wide variety of taunts — all much classier than Call of Duty’s teabagging — isn’t just meant to show your raw aggression and alpha status; they’re also a useful means of putting your enemies off-kilter in the single and dual combat modes. Unbelievably, online opponents will often charge at you like idiots if you taunt them. Learn how to use that kneejerk reaction to your advantage, and you’ll be rising to the rank of champion in no time.
Clever tricks, taunting opponents and using your environment will only take you so far in For Honor. Like actual open-field, hand-to-hand combat, skill is what determines whether you’ll walk off victorious or wind up as food for crows. For Honor’s paradigm shifts quickly from the all-out army clash to meticulous one-on-one fights once you find another user-controlled enemy in the melee. At that point, For Honor takes on the shape of true fighting game, like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, where attacking, dodging, countering and parrying become essential skills and timing them all is paramount. In fact, there’s even a long list of combo moves for each playable warrior in the game if you’re willing to make the long trudge up For Honor’s learning curve.
Honing your blocking and dodging in combat will leave you with a full power-up meter, what For Honor calls Revenge. Activating Revenge will send your warrior into a murderous frenzy where their damage and health stats will max out and attacks will be unstoppable. It’s a tide-turning ability that’ll give you the upper hand when taking on a foe who would otherwise outclass you, or a great way to fight your way out of a corner or through a situation where you’re heavily outnumbered.
8. Customizable Weaponry
In order to maximize your character’s abilities, the in-game economy rewards you with coins that you can spend to scavenge gear and upgrade your arsenal and armor. Everything is fair game, and all higher-level armor will grant you perks that can do anything from increase the damage you deal, increase the damage you take or even recharge your abilities faster.
Figure all of this out and you’ll be a master of For Honor’s 1v1 gameplay, which will also mean you’re ready to find a group of equally deadly warriors with whom you can share your skills. Almost like an NBA team, For Honor rewards coordination among key players with victory, and ideas like trapping or running picks actually works well in a fight here. Working as a team means making quick work of dismantling your opponent’s team, putting you in the advantageous position of outnumbering the enemy and tag-teaming them to death, earning you all the honors.
All the previous elements culminate to make For Honor the best, most unique war game we’ve ever played... but it might also be the prettiest. The detail of the armor and weapons of each character is wonderfully put together. Levels are equally detailed down to the blades of grass, individual bricks in castle walls and flowing water below bridges. Most importantly, cut-scenes and animations (like when you brutally execute an enemy) all flow seamlessly in fantastic style. We did notice some frame-rate drops when playing in the beta this weekend, but that looks somewhat resolved in the retail version.