For Honor is a must-play title for anyone that’s looking for a fresh take on multiplayer; it’s fun, it’s got plenty of depth, and it hits hard.
When For Honor was first announced at E3 2015, the game seemed to be a take on the swords-and-shields multiplayer action of earlier titles like Mount & Blade and Chivalry. However, the finished product takes a great deal of inspiration from another genre known for competitive play — and it’s all the better for it.
Make no mistake, For Honor is a fighting game, through and through. Between its diverse cast of characters, each with their own special moves, to the way its gameplay focuses on reading an opponent and retaliating accordingly, this is a fighting game — albeit one with a few major breaks from the norm. The biggest difference between For Honor and your standard fighting game is its behind-the-back perspective. This camera angle unfortunately means that there’s no split-screen play, but it does allow for team-based multiplayer modes.
The game’s flagship multiplayer mode is Dominion, where two teams of four contest three control points on a battlefield populated by computer-controlled soldiers. It’s an interesting mix of MOBA mechanics, multiplayer FPS fare like perks, and the game’s central combat system, even if it’s more geared toward madcap action than tactical play.
At its best, Dominion calls to mind Star Wars Battlefront II, with human-controlled heroes cutting through swathes of soldiers before engaging in one-on-one duels in key territorial locations. However, it’s more about providing dumb fun than a true test of skill; feats and gear level the playing field, and it’s not uncommon to see three or four members of a team gang up on a single opponent to secure a kill. It’s the spirit of this particular game mode, but it does seem to fly in the face of the more considered pace of combat found in For Honor.
Anyone looking for a more competitive experience will be better suited playing 1v1 Duels or 2v2 Brawls. These modes are where For Honor most resembles a fighting game — rounds are short, combat typically plays out one-on-one, and any time spent working on fundamentals and a character’s combos and special attacks will prove very useful.
Brawl mode feels like For Honor at its best, as players team up with a partner to take on two opponents. Even after notching up one kill, there’s often a few seconds of intrigue while the remaining living combatant draws near. If they’re friendly, then the round is won — but if they’re not, it’s far from over.
Matching wits with another player over a long session of Duels or Brawls is incredibly satisfying. Yes, it feels good to dominate someone five games in a row, but there’s also something to be said for getting beaten down time and time again, only for something to click, swaying the balance.
The game’s roster is obviously a big part of why fighting feels so good. While it’s still very early in the game’s lifespan, there are plenty of viable characters, so there’s a good variety of opponents for online battles. Of course, this could change over time, and some players are already making claims that the Orochi is overpowered.
The combat system is undeniably the star of For Honor. It’s worth going through the game’s ample tutorial content to understand the basics, but once things click, it’s very satisfying indeed. Landing a big hit with a heavy character feels great, as does using a more agile fighter to avoid everything an enemy throws out.
Special credit needs to be given to the game’s environments, also. They’re beautiful, of course, but it’s clear that they’ve been carefully designed to facilitate exciting fights. Even open spaces feature enough obstacles to remain interesting, as players are never too far away from being impaled, set on fire, or thrown from a cliff. These environmental hazards can end a fight instantly, and they add an extra level of importance to situational awareness.
It’s great fun to knock an opponent to their doom and clinch a hard-fought match — even if it feels rather cheap when the shoe is on the other foot. Personal bitterness aside, it’s one more element in a carefully constructed combat system that’s built around the idea of devastating attacks.
There are aspects of the game that aren’t quite as impressive as its core gameplay. The For Honor campaign is a fine timewaster, but it’s not particularly compelling until you try it at higher difficult levels, which can be very punishing.
The game’s overarching multiplayer hooks are tied to a leveling system that dictates what gear can be obtained from random drops known as Crates. The good stuff doesn’t drop until individual characters have been levelled up through 1-20 at least once, which takes several hours at least.
New gear can be used to improve certain traits in certain modes, but these boosts always come at the cost of another stat. It’s an interesting way of implementing progression without offering experienced players too much of an advantage, but it remains to be seen whether it’ll keep things balanced in the long run.
An in-game currency known as Steel is offered as a reward for completing matches and daily tasks, but payouts are relatively small so as not to undercut real-money purchases. Overall, it’s a decent system, but it’s safe to say that the real-money prices of some outfits are completely overblown.
For Honor is great fun, but like any fighting game, it’ll only reach its true potential if players stick around for the long haul. It takes time for experts to develop high-level strategies, and for that knowledge to trickle down to the rest of the community, and as such it’ll be a few months before it’s clear whether or not the game can stand among the current titans of the genre.
However, it’s worth playing For Honor right now, because it’s an experience that’s quite unlike anything out there at the moment. It brings together a variety of different influences, but puts them together to create something quite unique. It’s a melting pot of elements from fighting games, MOBAs, and team-based FPS games, and while there are some rough edges here and there, anyone with an interest in multiplayer should definitely check this one out.
For Honor is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Game Rant was provided with Xbox One code for the purposes of this review.