You’d be forgiven in thinking For Honor (it’ll never feel right spelling that without a ‘u’) is a pure multiplayer medieval action game, but it’s actually a fighting game in quite a convincing disguise.
Ubisoft’s newest IP blends the style of swordsmen, samurai and Viking together into a fighting game that kind of hides the fact that it’s a fighting game, at least at first.
The story mode is bare bones, it gives a general overview of each faction and why they’re fighting one another. But as you’ll see in the intro trailer, it’s all due to a massive almost apocalyptic event, causing the survivors to fight over the remaining resources, combined with an evil woman who is hell bent on making sure they keep fighting.
Playing through the story missions doesn’t benefit your multiplayer characters and so it’s only useful for getting a bit more backstory on the world and to practice before jumping into the multiplayer mode, which is where the meat of the game lies.
There’s a persistent world map, with shifting borders that move depending on how well (or badly) each of the three factions are doing. You join one of the three factions, the Knights, Samurai or Viking and each faction has four classes of fighters, although you can still choose any of them to actually fight as, no matter which faction you’re fighting for.
The game modes are simple enough affairs from 1v1 to 4v4 and a Domination mode, which is basically 4 v 4 with AI soldiers and control points to capture and hold.
The AI soldiers only attack one point and are more of a nuisance than a genuine threat, but they do a decent job of making the battlefield feel somewhat alive.
The strangest thing about the AI soldiers is seeing them literally appear in your spawn, as if being replicated by a computer. This weird, futuristic aspect of the game features everywhere and is very off-putting and at odds with the world itself.
Combat is the main focus of For Honor, and you could dumb it down to a fancy game of rock-paper-scissors in a rush, but there’s a lot more to it than that. You choose your fighting stance, be that left, right or high and your enemy does the same.
The goal is of course to hit your enemy in one of the two stances he or she isn’t defending.
Sounds easy, but between light and heavy attacks, shield bashing, dodges and other special abilities, it can get quite complex pretty quickly. The skill ceiling here is incredibly high and while most players will level off somewhere in the middle, there is room there for the truly devoted to rise to the top and compete on another level altogether – already a competitive For Honor scene has begun to grow.
The combat is rewarding and fun, when you hit enemies you feel like you deserved to win and most of the time when dying, you don’t feel cheated – apart from a few cheap skills in the game, mainly the poisoned blade one of the classes has, it’s very frustrating.
Visually the game looks gorgeous, and the sound design is top notch. I must make give a special mention to the animations, they’re fantastic. Considering you can be mid-swing and get hit, the animations don’t feel clunky or janky, they look so real, especially characters running up and down stairs.
By far the worse visual design choice of the game is the aforementioned futuristic aspects. From the AI soldiers appearing from nowhere to the incredibly ‘gamey’ almost eSports-like HUD and menus. The world screams dirty, violent medieval lands but the entire UI is the opposite, it’s really jarring and immersion breaking.
Ultimately For Honor is a fighting game, for fans of fighting games. There isn’t a deep enough lore to satisfy those looking for a single player experience, and there are only a handful of game modes to play online. It can feel repetitive after a short while and the long loading times don’t help. If you’re looking for a tense, skill-based fighting game and are maybe tired of shooters, For Honor could be for you.