I’ve been playing a fair amount of Ubisoft’s new online fighter For Honor during its beta and it’s a whole lot better than I ever expected. That’s not to say its perfect but, as with most Ubisoft games, it’s a fun yet flawed experience. Here are my impressions on the For Honor beta.
Player vs player combat is where For Honor shines, creating a frantic game of wits that involves skill, reactions and practice to master. Basic combat is very simple boiling down to the ability to attack and block in three directions (high, low left and low right) however, the game has layers on top of this combat with fast and slow attacks, block breaks, dodging and limited stamina to create a brilliantly nuanced combat system. All this means when you come up against a player in an online game you really have to outwit them to win a battle and it is immensely satisfying to do so. This however does not translate so well to the AI opponents that I encountered. They seemed more predictable which meant you have less need to think on the fly and, for me, this took something away from the game. For Honor’s singleplayer campaign stands to lose out most from this but was not on show in the beta so it’s impossible to tell yet.
At the beginning of beta you’re tasked with picking which of the three factions, Vikings, Samurai or Knights, you wish to support. This choice doesn’t affect which hero you can use in-game but instead solidifies your alliance with one of the sides in the faction war, an online struggle for territory between the three factions. While you play online multiplayer (or fight AI bots) you will earn war assets based on your performance. You can place these war assets on a map of the overworld to either defend a territory your faction owns or attack certain enemy territories. Every 6 hours there will be a territory update where the faction with the most war assets on a territory takes (or retains) control of it. At the end of rounds (Every 2 weeks) and seasons (every 10 weeks) Ubisoft is promising free loot for the faction that has the most territory. Whether this ends up being a genuine competition or just an easy win for the faction with the most players we wont know until post launch but for now at least it’s an interesting idea.
Characters and Classes
As an online multiplayer game classes and characters are an integral part of the overall experience and, for the most part, For Honor delivers here too. There are 4 main types of character: Vanguards are all rounders, Assassins are nimble and agile, Heavies are beefy yet slow and, Hybrids mix aspects from the others. These classes for the most part mix well and its possible to beat any person using any class if you know what you’re doing with your own character. The Nobushi, a pole arm wielding samurai, though does feel imbalanced with a special ability to strike without the other person knowing the direction of attack paired alongside a weapon that can attack long before anyone else can get in range he becomes very difficult to overcome. That’s not to say Nobushi is impossible to best it’s just a lot harder than it really should be.
Having played on PS4 pro I experienced no frame rate problems and the game looked stunning. Network connectivity problems however, did sometimes raise their ugly head and this could be worse on launch day in just a few short weeks with more players swamping the servers. There were small frustrations I had with the design choices in the game too such as when I searched for a duel against another player if the game couldn’t find one in time it simply placed me against a bot while I would much rather continue waiting for a human opponent. In addition whilst playing duel (a 1v1 personal combat mode) if you don’t want to continue playing against the same person repeatedly you have to back out of the lobby and head back in. These issues are nothing major but when taken together as one they begin to become more annoying. The beta also only provided 3 modes with only 5 promised for which could be a problem for longevity of the game even if these modes are great at first.
In conclusion then For Honor shows so much promise and I really hope that before release they can iron out the balance and network issues because, at its core, For Honor is a unique and interesting concept.