For Honor Review: No Time for Casuals
In 2016, Ubisoft took control of the end of the year with the release of two big games in Watchdogs 2 and Steep. Now, their first major game of 2017 takes player versus player and melee combat to new heights and extremes as it sets the pace for what seems to be a great year for video games. For Honor is a close-up combat game requiring inhuman reaction times and intense awareness as players have to carefully decide how to aim their blocks and strikes. The combat mechanics alone make this game a worthwhile purchase, but in addition, you get to play as some of history’s most famous and popular warriors: Knights, Vikings, and the Samurai. A story mode is present to immerse players into the world and explain why these champions of their eras are in an endless war for superiority. Besides presenting a unique combat mechanic and story, the game does suffer a lot of imbalances between classes along with a very high skill and gear curve that punishes new and casual players.
Competitive multiplayer games have become increasingly prominent with most of the leading titles being first person shooters or MOBAs. For Honor sets the stage for a new generation of PvP with it’s intensive aiming system in which players have to use 100% of their focus. Skill is what sets the tone, even in casual play, as you have to be uncanny in strategy and reading your opponent’s style of fighting to counter and overtake their defenses. The Combat system has been compared to a severely difficult match of rock, paper, scissors, where players choose up, left, or right to both swing and defend. Limited to only four versus four matches, For Honor’s mechanics create monumental battles between players, giving the illusion there are more fighters on the battleground. Chaos ensues as players find themselves outnumbered many of times and have to predict not just one but possibly two, three, or even four other players and maintain their cool.
Several faults plague the system, however, as a few classes have completely overwhelming range and defenses that have little to no weaknesses. Another major fault is the cop-out in environmental kills, as they are too easy to execute, since nearly every part of each map is a death trap waiting to be triggered. Many of the classes take hold of that advantage and are usually played to position themselves near spikes or cliffs in order to just throw their opponent to their death at a single mistake, rather than truly battle like a warrior. Feats are given to all classes to help balance against the more powerful classes, but you sacrifice your overall defense against many of the players in hopes of being able to defeat just one. Casual and newer players are punished by veterans, and those with better gear have supreme advantages and can take advantage off of a single slip up; in turn, making you game-rage as you find yourself constantly feeling outclassed. Ubisoft succeeded in creating a new way to PvP, but also left many imbalances and didn’t think about the little guy who wants to play and have fun – as your only chance is to play the story mode on the easiest modes to feel like you are the badass you want to be.
For Honor isn’t solely player versus player, as Ubisoft gives players a small campaign mode that allows you to test out each of the champions without having to spend the in game currency to buy them. The campaign consists of playing each faction separately, starting with the Knights, then the Vikings and, finally, the Samurai. In the campaign, players get to see each champion come to life as they have a significant amount of dialogue and character growth in just the few missions you play them as. Led by Apollyon,, the Blackstone Legion of the Knights faction fight to defend against the Vikings and Samurai as Apollyon tries to recruit the strongest of each to gain power and dominance over all. Unfortunately, the campaign is short and can be beaten in just a couple hours with little effort, depending on the difficulty. Delving into the story is more of a way for players to understand each champion to hone their techniques and strengths, as well as understanding their weaknesses. Creating a campaign was a positive addition to the game, but for players who want more PvE than PvP they are stuck fighting online against computers whose difficulty vary and create frustration once more to those who are more casual and fun friendly-players.
Setting the tone for a new era in competitive PvP, For Honor rewards players of skill with the ability to fight like the warrior they always dreamed of while punishing unskilled players and making them feel as useless as the minions that you fight with. For Honor does give players a plethora of opportunities to practice and hone their skills as they prepare for the gauntlet of endless death online, but even so they will always be behind. Gear increases the gap as players with higher skill advance faster and are able to increase their stats significantly allowing them to slash through enemies with ease. Ubisoft created an enjoyable game, indeed, but only for those who are willing to bare through anger and frustration as they get cut down and work harder than ever to be able to feel viable online. To those who choose to continue onward with purchasing For Honor, be prepared to have to play in tutorials and training against bots more than you expect in order to survive online. As for the story, it is enjoyable despite how short it is, but hopefully Ubisoft seeks to expand with future DLC in order to help bring in new champions to the game.