In our hands-on preview of For Honor‘s single player campaign, the multiplayer-centered title surprised with a varied and interesting solo experience.

Over the past few years of video game development, there’s been a growing sense that single player campaigns are afterthoughts in multiplayer-focused titles. That might not be the sentiment of everyone who plays the juggernaut multiplayer franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield, but it has been the case regardless, with games like the original Titanfall and Star Wars Battlefront eschewing a single-player campaign (in the true sense) entirely to hone their online experiences instead.

2016, however, has seen a resurgence in quality single player experiences in traditionally multiplayer games. Battlefield 1‘s narrative campaign was praised by many as a chilling and gritty take on the horrors of World War 1, while Titanfall 2‘s single player campaign was designed to improve its multiplayer experience at the same time. Suddenly, it appears that the single player campaign is no longer the dressing to the meat of a multiplayer game, and gamers are beginning to take note and expect more from these titles as a result.

Enter For Honor, Ubisoft’s ambitious multiplayer-centered war game that will pit samurais, vikings, and knights against each other in the name of glory. Game Rant recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with a beta version of Ubisoft’s upcoming title, and while the multiplayer experience is something worthy of extended discussion, For Honor‘s single player campaign is where the game unexpectedly over performs.

In one of two single player missions we were able to play through, gamers take on the role of a Knight peacekeeper in a mission called Sabotage. For starters, the world that players are thrust into at the start of the mission is beautiful, as our video demonstrates – the snowy landscape, the small bonfires and the warmth of their glow, and the details of Viking culture that appear all over the map really work to make the mission space noticeably interesting. It might not seem like much, but For Honor is a game with serious cinematic appeal, and it looks like Ubisoft will be executing on that potential in both single player and multiplayer modes.

That cinematic touch isn’t just aesthetic, though. The movements and monologues that stem from the player character in Sabotage help flesh out the meaning behind the Knights’ single player campaign, and although it is intentionally vague, gamers can at least begin to see a story coalescing as their assassin habitually eviscerates Viking warriors with ease. In Sabotage especially, it’s clear that Ubisoft has taken cues from its wildly successful Assassin’s Creed franchise for For Honor‘s single player campaign, which is an encouraging sign for a game that could have just as easily been devoid of any emotion or personality at all.

Yet all the good looks and sound narrative decisions in the world couldn’t salvage a single player campaign that wasn’t fun to play, and luckily For Honor‘s Sabotage mission provides cause for optimism in that regard. The mission alternates between pseudo-stealth gameplay that features assassination drops reminiscent of Ezio’s best and the tense, deep combat that colors both the single player and multiplayer game modes of For Honor. This blend works well, as it helps differentiate the multiplayer experience and the solo campaign, offering gamers a reason to care about the gameplay on their own.

In our experience, the solo campaign’s AI is just difficult enough (at least on Normal mode) to offer a challenge without feeling as though each fight is a slog through the world’s most capable Viking horde. The distinction between lesser enemies, who are far easier to kill, and foes with more health and skill in combat also makes the world of For Honor feel a bit more realistic – when gamers are playing as someone who is supposed to be one of the world’s best assassins, it makes sense that certain enemies would be little more than a nuisance over the course of the game.

The peacekeeper plays exactly the way she does in the multiplayer campaign, which will certainly make those who play her online much more adept at the Sabotage mission, but each class in For Honor is simple enough that they should never become a roadblock to those trying to enjoy the single player missions. We favored a few different classes during our multiplayer experience, but our unfamiliarity with the Knight peacekeeper didn’t hurt our enjoyment or progression through Sabotage, which bodes well for both class balance and level design in For Honor.

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Beyond everything else, though, Sabotage is pure fun, and managed to offer up something new without trading away the incredible terseness that characterizes For Honor‘s multiplayer experiences. There is a tangible feeling of dread that emerges during both the single and multiplayer game modes whenever a particularly large and imposing enemy appears on screen, one that stems from the knowledge that combat is so precise in For Honor that a small slip-up might spell the end of the player in short order. It’s the right blend of fast-paced combat and boss battle feel, and the actual bosses in single player appear as though they will take multiple different stages to take down if our experience is any indication.

That being said, the other gameplay mission, Raiding the Raiders, was distinctly less enjoyable. It was still a fun gameplay experience, but the problem emerged when, mid-way through the mission, we were struck with the sense that it was playing out as though it were just another multiplayer skirmish. The mission redeemed itself with a boss battle that spans a Viking hall battle and a chase on horseback, but it was something to note – if For Honor is to succeed with its single player campaign, it will need to distinguish it from its multiplayer experience in meaningful ways.

Still, For Honor‘s single player showcase has given us reason to give the game the benefit of the doubt, as the development team behind it has clearly prioritized creating something that doesn’t just phone in the narrative campaign. There’s a lot of reason for optimism regarding For Honor, but perhaps the most surprising and refreshing one comes from an unexpectedly engaging and thrilling single player mode. It was an admittedly small sample of an experience that will span multiple different faction campaigns, but given what we have to go on, For Honor will be one of the games to watch in 2017.

For Honor will release for PS4, Xbox One, and PC on February 14, 2017.

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