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For Honor - Review

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Not before now has a game touched my inner primitive sense of being, and never has a game genuinely invoked a true fight or flight feeling. If this is intriguing to you then so should Ubisoft’s latest offering of For Honor. Recently released on all major platforms is the hand to hand combat simulator that not only rivals any games in the genre but I would even go as far to say that it quite possibly defines the genre.

Firstly we need to touch on the narrative or campaign, because it probably makes up the least most sort after aspect of the game. In saying this I do not mean any disrespect, the proof is in the pudding. It contains a story which can be easily followed and lacks convoluted nonsense to cloud the experience and I am not the first person that will describe it as a very well put together and presented tutorial to the multiplayer. You have the opportunity to play with all three factions that For Honor revolves around and classes within the factions. The narrative keeps you involved enough to mask the fact that this is just a tutorial session. It is presented with excellent graphics, sound presentation and voice acting. It is not the longest campaign and not the most enthralling, but storytelling is not where this game was ever intended to shine.
Of course the most sort after aspect of this title is the combat. The “Art of Combat” as it is affectionately known and by now a lot of you are aware of what this is but in a nutshell for those of you not overly sure I will emphasise for you. It is basically a guard positioning of left guard, right guard and top guard. Moves and combo's each have to be assigned a stance before execution and some combos chain with multiple stances. This in its purest form seems quite basic, this is until you have someone who is quite competent with a character comes along and uses them well, that you can actually grasp the concept of how deep the combat actually is.
To add to the versatility of the basic combat there are a few varieties of attacks that change the playing field. All of these have their own visual and sometimes audible cues. These include guard breaks, unblockable strikes, stun blows and bleeding strikes. All these moves combined with light and heavy attacks and various combinations can often have you bamboozled and wondering what direction to try and block or evade or parry or just take what is coming to you. These abilities mixed with a stamina bar that requires constant management makes for a very chess like struggle where anticipation, prediction and execution can often out trump raw skill.

In order to express the depth of the Art of Combat there is one very important aspect that needs to seriously be taken into consideration. This aspect is also one of the high points that For Honor can hang its hat on. That is the vast differences between the factions classes and the fact that each character has their own strengths, weaknesses and individual move sets, each consisting of different variations of combos and abilities.  

These three factions are Knights, Samurai and Vikings and their classes break down like this:

Vanguard:
  • Warden (Knight) – An across the board fighter wielding a two handed sword and very proficient with guard breaks and throws.
  • Kensei (Samurai) – A slower more powerful unit within the Samurai faction also a long blade wielding soldier.
  • Raider (Viking) – A huge slower double handed axe wielding unit with limited but effective range of powerful attacks

Assassins:
  • Peace Keeper (Knight) – Dual blade wielding stealth character with a nifty bleed producing stab counter attack.
  • Orochi (Samurai) – Effective counter attacker with quick movement speed and a deadly ranged ability.
  • Berserker (Viking) – Dual axe wielding agile type character with surprisingly devastating overhead heavy attacks.

Heavy:
  • Conqueror (Knight) – Mace and shield wielding unit with a substantial health pool and devastating heavy attacks
  • Shugoki (Samurai) – Larger than life sumo looking warrior with a heavy reliance on power over speed, stun and heavy attack specialist.
  • Warlord (Viking) – Sword and shield combo with a strong ability to block and take advantage of stamina less foes.

Hybrids:
  • Lawbringer (Knight) – A larger type warrior with a pike style weapon competent in both defence and offence.
  • Nobushi (Samurai) – A quick “zoner” character type with huge ranged poking attacks from a spear type weapon that can cause bleeding.
  • Valkyrie (Vikings) – They have a combination of a shield and a spear making them a ranged nightmare with copious amounts of blocking potential.
Now that it is understood that no two characters are quite the same, I can promote the vast different experiences you can encounter in what may seem like a boring style of multiplayer gameplay. As far as multiplayer is concerned, let’s be honest in saying that this is why 99% of the playing pool is here and most likely the reason you have made it this far into my review. I don’t consider myself excellent by any stretch of the imagination when it comes to any form of competitive multiplayer, but what I do consider myself to be is a good judge of a multiplayer experience. It is with my hand to my heart that I express with the most amount of emotion that a written word can conjure that this is not only a very unique multiplayer experience but one of the best I can recall.

For Honor is making a huge claim to become a professionally competitive multiplayer game, this means throwing its hat in the ring with the likes of Call of Duty, League of Legends, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch and Rainbow 6 Siege. It is with LoL, Overwatch and R6 I believe that For Honor sits. Players not only have to master their chosen character but they have to possess a very savvy understanding of how all the other characters function. The ability to premeditate and counter another player’s strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses is key. With all this being said though I do believe that it is a little ways off due to a few balancing issues and the very evident lack of dedicated servers. I believe that I have only been able to complete about two thirds of games I have started due to a P2P (person to person) multiplayer connection mechanic. This means every time someone (rage) quits or drops out there is a big stress on the connection and more often than not severing connection leading to a non-result.
There are 5 types of game modes in the multiplayer experience, all playable in a PvP (person versus person) or a PvAI (Person versus AI) environment and these game modes consist of:
  • Duel – 1v1 Best of 5
  • Brawl – 2v2 Best of 5
  • Dominion – 4v4 Domination style A, B and C locations that need to be held to score points. After registering 1,000 points you put the enemy team into breaking where they have one life remaining.
  • Skirmish – 4v4 Not unlike Dominion the only real difference is there is no points to hold.
  • Elimination – 4v4 Best of 5 with no respawns

These game modes take place on one of the variations of six different maps. There are two maps dedicated to each faction and this is quite evident by the NPCs inhabiting these areas. Win, draw or lose you will be assigned a certain amount of units to deploy on an overworld map, somewhat in the vein of the game Risk. This brings me to something that needs to be pointed out immediately to make sure this makes sense. Upon starting the game you must align with one of the three factions, thus in turn creating a board like meta game. You can deploy units you generate after a match to either defend a zone you control or attack a neighbouring zone to try and take control of it. Every seven hours the map updates and this is known as a "turn". These turns generate rounds and there are five rounds to a season (approx. three months). One of the coolest aspects at play here is the fact that no matter what platform you play on (Xbox, PS4 or PC) everyone contributes to the one map. This generates boasting rights for said factions at the end of a season.
These seasons align themselves with the DLC drops. It is Ubisoft’s plan to drop DLC in the form of “free” content every three months for at least a year. When saying it's free, this means it is applicable to every player, the maps will all be free without effort but each new hero will require payment via in game currency, very much in the vein of Ubisoft’s other big multiplayer game Rainbow 6 Siege. This has proven to be a successful delivery method because it does not segment the player base. Although additional content will be available for no extra cost, there is a season pass available where new troops will be available to the player immediately and a week earlier than those using in game currency. There are also a lot of vanity items available for each character and these also rely on the consumption of in game currency and the fact that this is earnt at a slowed rate there are top up packs (micro transactions) available from the store. This may also help subsidise the important content being free.

The real low point of this release has been its unreliable network connection and the amount of disconnection errors that my playing group and I have suffered is almost game breaking but it is the quality of gameplay and the excitement it generates that has kept this negativity at bay. It is hard to put in words the amount of different emotions that can run through you in a single play session of For Honor. I really hope, but also suspect that with constant management and maintenance this will be a successful title in the foreseeable future. There is nothing really to rival it in this genre.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

Positives:
  • Brilliant Art of Combat mechanic
  • So much variety of characteristics with each character
  • Free DLC
Negatives:               
  • A lot of disconnections
  • No dedicated servers
  • Drip fed in game currency
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Genre:  3rd Person Action Multiplayer
Initial Release: 14/2/2017
Developer:  Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

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Aussie Gamers Express
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