This past weekend was Ubisoft’s For Honor closed beta and I got a chance to jump in and play several hours. This is a game chock full of bloody action in a universe where factions of vikings, knights and samurai battle to the death.
Of course you have to have the obligatory face-off screen before the battle begins.
If you have ever played the PlayStation 1 hit Bushido Blade, For Honor will definitely score some nostalgia points with you. The fighting is all third person, and you charge into battle with a combination of high attacks, side attacks, dodges, rolls and counters. You can also throw opponents by breaking their guard and parry attacks with a well-timed swing of your own weapon as an enemy tries to crush your skull. For Honor also sports a revenge mechanic that gets triggered quite quickly if you are exceptionally skilled at blocking, which causes you to go into this temporary battle rage. If you finish off an opponent with a heavy attack you’ll be given the option to execute the playe–honorably, of course–which has the added bonus of healing you. Be warned, you can be attacked while going through the execution animation, so use this wisely when enemies are near! Between the vikings, knights and samurai you have a well balanced roster of long, intermediate and short reach warriors ranging from slow tanky brawlers to highly mobile and tricky assassins. There is definitely a warrior for every player’s style packed in here.
For Honor is a little bit of a genre-bender across its various game modes. On display during the beta was 1v1 Duel Mode, which felt like a fighting game, 2v2 Brawl which felt like a small map team deathmatch with swords, and 4v4 Dominion Mode which was a combination of capture the point and push the objective. Dominion was by far the weakest of the game modes as tactical and methodical combat went out the window. There are three points, A, B and C, with each team starting in close proximity to either A or C. Predictably, these are the first two points to get taken, and then everyone either starts to clump up at B or run circles around the map capturing A and C interchangeably. In every map, point B is a more dynamic point to capture as friendly and enemy units are spawning and running to the line to fight against each other in a battle of NPC attrition. When you march in to contest point B it reminds me of Dynasty Warriors as you plow through large groups of fodder with your powerful character. Once you kill enough of the enemy’s minions, you’ll advance the line and claim B for your team. The problem here in practice is the minions, both friendly and enemy, get in your way, which makes it hard to engage and disengage. Unfortunately, point B for both teams turns into a “run around and stab wildly and then run away before you die” type strategy, or more often than not getting stuck in a pile of minions only to get ganked by the enemy team.
If you’re looking for less of an emphasis on memorizing combos, timing blocks and honing your combat skills and just want to have fun, Dominion is your mode. But if you like a more methodical and strategic weapon combat, Duel Mode and Brawl are where this game really shines. There is nothing more gratifying than getting in a good block or dodge and punishing the enemy for their misstep. The game’s pace slows way down in these modes as you and your enemy cycle between stances and attacks trying to bait and goad your enemy into making the wrong move.
Feats are similar to kill streak bonuses and perks you find in first person shooters. The main difference is as you unlock feats during the round, they remain usable for the rest of the match even after death. To balance their use, all feats are on refresh timers instead.
In terms of replayability and development, each warrior will level up as you play which will unlock new feats. Feats are triggered in game by building your renown bar which steadily rises as you kill and capture points. You are also able to spend in-game currency to scavenge for equipment which will change different attributes of your character, and as you level, you will find increasingly more powerful equipment. Thankfully the game is forward-thinking and has a salvage mechanic which you can use to convert items into resources to upgrade existing equipment to the next level. This is great for when you get low level and doubles of items you already have. Each faction had three warriors to choose from in the closed beta and reportedly will have four warriors per faction when the game launches.
Each warrior allows for customization of equipment donned on your chest, arms, head and of course your weapon. Equipment has various bonuses, such as increasing damage or increasing the duration of your revenge mode to name a few. Equipment may also decrease stats as a trade off.
I played the closed beta on PC and tried using the keyboard/mouse and an Xbox One controller on my Asus ROG with Windows 10. This is definitely a game best played with a controller so keep that in mind when deciding what platform is best for you. If this game piques your interest, Ubisoft just confirmed on Tuesday that an open beta will be coming February 9-12 so you will have another chance to try before you buy. The open beta will boast additional play modes that were not previously available in the closed beta as an added bonus.
For Honor will officially launch quickly after the open beta February 14, 2017 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.