During the opening scene of For Honor my Knight character stood on the wall of a castle that was under siege. Catapults fired on the wall, raining balls of doom down upon me. Big battles raged on either side of me and as the castle crumbled, bits of stone falling all around, I felt very much a part of the world. I was a Knight.
That scene reminded me very much of the first scene in the first Prince of Persia game, which is a good thing because I hold that game in high regard. I was quickly introduced to the combat system which I quite liked. It works by using a combination of the bumpers and triggers to use heavy or light attacks, in conjunction with the right stick to decide the direction of which the attack is coming from. The right stick also doubles as your defense and you move the stick in the direction you want to block to guard that direction. There are only three directions which you can attack/defend from, which makes it very much a rock, paper or scissors scenario. Had there been any more, I don’t think the combat would flow as well as it does. It’s fast and fun, easy to figure out but when you get into it, there is actually a lot of tactics involved in defeating your opponent which makes for a great challenge.
The story side of things didn’t do a whole lot for me, although my time with story mode was quite short. It was a fairly typical chapter that ended with my character defeating some big bad dude, then getting Knighted. The voice acting was adequate but due to most of the characters wearing helmets the whole time, I never really developed an attachment to any of them. Although maybe I just didn’t have enough time to.
I hope the Samurai and Viking story lines are a bit more personable, or that the rest of the Knight’s story shows a bit more flavour. The setting was the stand out for me in single player. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it felt like things were happening around me and I was contributing, rather than my character being the center of the action and simply having wave after wave of bad guys rushing me.
The real winner for me was multiplayer, which was incredibly fun and challenging. I played a few rounds of Dominion (For Honor’s take on Domination) and two rounds of Dual (For Honor’s acknowledgement of “1v1 me, bro” mode). Let’s start with Dominion. The easiest way to describe Dominion is to think of your average MOBA style map layout. There is a big lane in the middle, making up a capture point which is guarded by lesser enemies that are easier to defeat than the player controlled characters.
There are two more capture points on either side of the map and controlling the points is as simple as defeating the enemies within the zones. Waves of the lesser enemies spawn and create havoc which gives the player controlled characters a chance to plan their attacks accordingly. Holding the points is interesting because you can see where the enemies are coming from, so defensive players will thrive here. Attacking a point is a matter of timing, you can rush in solo but it’s almost impossible to survive, so it’s best to wait for your team mates and NPC’s to spawn, then coordinate your attacks. If you do rush in and get caught off guard by two or more playable characters, it’s almost impossible to block, even if they aren’t coordinating their attacks.
The best move that my team pulled off was when one enemy rushed the middle lane, ran straight up to me and started attacking. The enemy was playing as a heavy Viking with a big axe and I was taking a beating, trying to defend against their huge attacks and constantly being staggered. It wasn’t until my trusty team mate swooped in from behind and killed the enemy without even knowing they were there. I can see a lot of tactics being formed like this in the way of picking a weaker character to lure in the heavy’s then surprise attacking them, for example.
I can see a lot of potential here for teams to utilise different tactics, plan attacks and generally just work together as a team. MOBA and 3rd person action game fans will feel right at home and once you come to understand the control system, you’ll be able to pull off some pretty cool tactical moves. The game of Dominion I played was set up so that the first team to 1000 points wins, at which point you have to hunt down the remaining heroes of the opposing team and finish them off, which was oddly satisfying. Holding points and killing enemies adds points to your score, there are also multipliers when you are standing in held objective areas, but basically as long as you’re swinging your sword and killing things, you’re earning points. It definitely pays to play it smart and try and hold as many objective areas as possible because that will raise your score even if you’re not attacking.
On to my favourite mode. Duel mode is basically the answer to the age old “who would win?” argument that I’m sure many of you have had. You choose your faction (Samurai, Knight or Viking) and your class (heavy, assassin, all-rounder, etc) and battle it out 1v1. I am a big fan of Japanese culture, so I naturally went with the Samurai, which actually suits my play style quite well, with lots of quick attacks and faster dive rolling than say the heavier Vikings. My opponent chose the Knight and after a quick bow, we were off.
The levels for Duel mode all look like scenes from those epic moments in Hollywood movies where the hero fights it out with the bad guy. My favourite level takes place on a semi-broken bridge, in the rain. The bridge has lots of chunks missing, creating opportunities for one to push, or be pushed off, the edge in an epic finishing move, which actually happened to me and was fantastic. Duel mode is more in your face, more personal and more tense than Dominion. The stakes are high because you know no one is going to help you and the only objective is to survive and kill your opponent. This is where the combat system shines because the scissor, paper, rock mechanic becomes more about faking out your opponent, learning how they play and exploiting weaknesses. I spent about 10 minutes trying to learn how the other player was trying to kill me, but each time I started to get confident, he would switch it up and it became very much a game of wits. I did eventually win a few rounds, but I was definitely not the overall winner which I am looking forward to working on when the game comes out.
All in all I think For Honor has something unique about it. It will appeal to a lot of people for it’s pick up and play approach to sword play, and keep them interested when you realize just how deep the mechanics are. Multiplayer will be great for people who are looking to live out all their Middle Earth-esque battle fantasies and Duel mode will settle many a beef, I’m sure. Although my time was brief with the game, I am looking forward to experiencing the Samurai and Viking story lines as well as getting better with the combat system and taking on more opponents. For now, I will simply say that I definitely enjoyed my day as a Knight.
For Honor is currently in Open Beta and releases on Feb 14 in Australia. The game will be available on PS4, Xbox One and PC.