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For Honor review

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • In-depth combat system
  • Loads to learn
  • Visually strong
  • Online play is thrilling

Cons

  • Campaign is OK but there to teach
  • Hard to get into
  • Initial online matches are punishing

Key Features

  • Available on PS4 (version tested), Xbox One, PC For Honor
  • Release date: 14 February 2017
  • Manufacturer: Ubisoft
  • Review Price: £43.00

Available on PS4, Xbox One (version tested) and PC

For Honor is punishing. Jump into a one-on-one duel online or against an AI bot set above the normal level and you’re going to get beaten. If you’re lucky you’ll just get perhaps pummelled until you hit the ground, but face a particularly brutal foe and you might end up with your back being broken in two under the weight of an enormous club. You’ll desperately want to become the one doing the damage.

Go into Ubisoft’s medieval weapon-based brawler thinking you’re getting a kind of God of War with Knights, Vikings and Samurai warriors and you’ll swiftly be on the end of a battle axe to the face. Ubisoft Montreal has created a nuanced, patient and rewarding fighting game that will take a lot of learning. Accept For Honor for what it is (and going on Beta test numbers a lot of people have) and you may find a new multiplayer obsession.

Watch: For Honor review

There’s no doubt that online play is where the focus is in For Honor. The complex battle mechanics, which use a shared set of basic commands across the Vikings, Knights and Samurai, with variations coming from the chosen character’s speed, abilities, weapons and combos, are ripe for expert-level play. To get there, however, you’ll need to put in a lot of practice. Thankfully Ubisoft has built a campaign (playable alone or with a friend) that teaches you how to play while feeling greater than a glorified tutorial.

The campaign is split into three, with the Vikings, Knights and Samurai each getting a brief three-hour-ish orgy of violence. Each gives the player a taste of various characters and introduces different combat techniques, and is wrapped in a story complete with plenty of dialogue and cutscenes. It’s all nicely done, and gets extremely bloody at points, but at the same time a rather bitty experience.

After each level you’re given a breakdown detailing how you did and what you earned, which couldn’t be more like a post-game lobby if it tried. Any flow the campaigns could have had is completely lost, which is a shame, as what’s here is a step above moving from arena to arena fighting bots. Play areas are large, but this is a linear experience with wandering off the beaten path (albeit slightly) only rewarding you with some collectible items.

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For Honor 7

Level up and you’ll unlock feats (perks) that can be assigned to slots, activated in-game with a press of the D-pad (instant health is the first available and handy when learning) or used passively (such as an increase to attack strength or a health regen when not in combat). Over time you’ll get access to improved versions of each, but there is a surprising lack of customisation of your characters aside from these and some visual tweaks. There’s no skill tree or choice over what you unlock, whereas your online characters can be kitted out with new weapons and armour, and you can upgrade each, which once again makes the campaign seem like the lesser of the modes.

There are some cool moments as you slash your way through waves of enemies and storm into settlements, propel makeshift ramps onto enemy structures or fight on cracking ice, but nothing that will really ‘wow’ you the way you might expect from a campaign. The most interesting moments come in the one-against-one face offs, your skills learnt to that point being put to the test. A properly great campaign appears to have been possible, with For Honor doing a lot of things right, but in the end the focus was clearly on the long term appeal of competitive play.

At least players who tackle the campaign will enter the online arena a little more prepared. With a fighting system that uses an initially fiddly three-stance system – that governs offence and defence – parrying, defence breaks, combos, evasive rolls and more, For Honor isn’t a simple game. In fact, make sure you watch all the training videos and take on bots for a few hours before trying your luck against real people, or else you’ll be dead, then dead again, and again, etc.

Imagine the counter-based combat system in Assassin’s Creed, but if it had been designed by Capcom or Namco’s fighting teams. And they were told to really make the fighting seem authentic. To begin with you’ll want to button mash, because For Honor looks a bit like a game in which that tactic would work (play on the easiest setting and it’s possible but not recommended), yet this is a game about timed attacks and blocks, reading your opponents and knowing that you’re a hulking great warrior, not a nimble ninja. Combat here isn’t sluggish but it is deliberate.

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Fighting against a real person online has a different feel to taking on AI. There’s a level of unpredictability that you just can’t replicate in an offline encounter, meaning it’ll take some time to get your bearings. There’s also the threat of the arenas themselves to deal with, with a push over a ledge being all that’s necessary to end your opponent’s life (or have them end yours). Whether fighting as a team of four against four enemies in the points-based Dominion mode or classic Deathmatch modes, or taking on a player alone in a duel (or two versus two in a brawl), there’s plenty you need to be aware of.

For Honor’s online mode is built around an overarching seasons system, the three warring factions competing against each other to control ground. You can attack or defend territories by sending in war assets, earned through your performance during each online match. Faction Wars are made up of Territory Updates (which occur every six hours), Rounds (which last two weeks), and Seasons (which span 10 weeks). Essentially, the better you play the more help you can give to your faction, which in turn will mean it has a better chance of gaining territory.

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Who controls what ground is determined at the end of each Territory Update, and maps inside each zone are updated visually to reflect the changes in power. Rewards of gear and cosmetic items are handed out to players after each Round and Season, with the quality determined by where your faction stands. Once a Season is over the entire game resets, although Ubisoft has said that the results will have a long term impact on the game – how that plays out won’t be known for a couple of months.

When playing multiplayer matches you can gain more XP and Steel by completing orders – tasks that are either set daily by the game or assigned from a list. Perform 10 honourable kills in Dominion matches, for example, and you’ll earn an extra 1,000 XP and 100 Steel. These orders cover online matches and fights against AI, so there’s something for everyone. Steel and Scavenge (collected items you no longer need can be converted) can be used to upgrade equipment. For Honor does include numerous optional microtransactions, covering Steel and Gear (you don’t know what you’re getting, kind of like FIFA Ultimate Team cards) – the effect this will have on the community remains to be seen.

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You’ll have your eyelids peeled back as you concentrate 100% on what your opponent is doing, making sure you accurately read the on-screen visual aids (the hardest difficulty actually turns all of this off), but look around and For Honor is an impressive looking game. Aside from a frame rate that’s only 30fps on consoles, there's little to dislike, with big chunky character models, detailed environments and some awesome animations.

Verdict

For Honor is a real surprise. In terms of gameplay mechanics it’s top-notch, visually it’s excellent, and there’s a decent if fairly formulaic campaign to play through. It’s in For Honor’s multifaceted multiplayer, however, where Ubisoft has has struck gold. Testing your combat knowledge against real players, either in one-on-one duels or in large conquest-style battles, is both thrilling and unique in the action genre.

Fighting-game fans looking for something new to become fanatical about will find enough depth here to foster a new obsession, while players who usually stick to thrill-a-minute action will appreciate the extreme tension of battle and rewarding gameplay mechanics. Ubisoft should have another online-focused hit on its hands.

Overall Score

8

paul carp

January 6, 2017, 9:31 pm

Good review. Thanks!!

WesBascom

February 5, 2017, 9:10 pm

I have been watching this closely, I was really looking forward to a good single player campaign. I'm not so sure now, will stay on the fence a little longer.

TedTheAtheist

February 6, 2017, 10:42 pm

Do you think this game will be any good?

TheKlot

February 7, 2017, 4:55 pm

I loved the beta experience however there were a few things that bothered me. Whenever you engaged someone and they were losing the duel, they would just flee and come back which made it pretty annoying especially if you were a bigger character. I feel like if your stamina is low, so should your run speed. Which would make running away more challenging. You would have to instead parry or dodge without injury to rebuild your stamina in which only then can you flee. However you must sacrifice health in order to dodge or parry. Kind of like you're losing blood with each strenuous movement. And if you have no health to sacrifice, you can't parry or dodge. It seems silly that someone that is on the near brink of death can sprint like an olympic track star back to safety. Another option would be to give each character one projectile that you can cast to catch or slow down fleeing characters. I also think that bigger characters should run slow at first and then faster as they build momentum and maybe can even barge into a group of people but can't cut side to side quickly. Their stamina is larger thus takes longer to deplete but takes longer to build. Smaller people will be faster and more agile but their stamina depletes faster but builds up faster as well. Small changes like these would make the game much more entertaining. But so far it's been fun!

WesBascom

February 7, 2017, 5:11 pm

It looks great. only time will tell us whether it is or not. Either way I'm waiting for a sale.

common joe

February 10, 2017, 2:26 pm

Nice review. I think this game is a great Beta but for actual purchase is a solid pass. Maybe a good holiday cheap game buy. Just not enough there to keep me wanting to play for any amount of time.

Nick Mann

February 12, 2017, 9:08 pm

i would have loved this game if it was fair or less likely for people to just gang up on you and go in for the easy kill i did like this game at first but as i got more into it i found more people exploiting ledges, running away, and 3v1s i first felt like i had to use skill to beat my opponent but when all your opponent does is run away to go get 2 other guys to brutally execute you it looses that honorable glamour fast this game has a very good mechanic for 1v1s but anything more and it feels like a really bad gang up game where you can't do anything but look at the axe coming to your face if they made ganging up and running away harder then this game would be alot more fun but until then i won't be buying this game

Jake Wiens

February 13, 2017, 3:26 pm

Loved the Beta. It literally took over my life. The game mechanics worked well, and all game modes where enjoyable. As for those complaining about the chaos of the Dominion game type, lets not forget that the battles and tactics these civilizations waged where chaotic, brutal, bloody affairs. Expect the honor to end after 1v1 duels. All is fair in love and war. However, "ganking" is frowned upon in 2v2 brawls. I would actually like to see an 8 v 8 game mode. I do feel like some targeting adjustments need to be made to make 1v2 battles go a little smoother. I often felt like i had the skill win certain situations when out numbered, but couldn't switch targets fast enough. My other battle brothers and sisters felt the same way. Nothing like being an almost corpse and seeing your buddy fight for their life, and almost win, just to be stabbed in the back by an Orochi with one hit bar left.

The detail and depth of the customization feature was my favorite part. They did a great job on adding new and familiar elements to create some BA looking gear. My linebacker sized Viking Raider with Thor's Mjolner as a full chest Tattoo, looked as scary as i felt on the battle field. Th ability to shift your stats to fit your play style through armor drops and upgrades was interesting, and I cant wait to see the full scope of items they have created. No 2 characters looked the same.

As a side note the taunting was hilarious. It added variety to encounters, and a nice way to enrage your foe, or make them easier to kill because they where too busy laughing (hint spam y while locked on, moving slightly, and as the Raider) Overall, i found very little wrong with the game other than minor balancing issues and making out numbered situations more survivable. 5 outa 5.

Erin Herche

February 20, 2017, 5:59 pm

Ok for my 14 yr old? I would love the opinion of any parents or older teens/young adults who have played or have some experience with the game.I'm trying to do a little research to decide if my 14 yr old can buy this game. It's so new I'm having a hard time finding "parental" perspectives. Seriously not a Bible thumping maniac mom, just trying to be a responsible mom and make an informed decision. Thanks!

OD

February 20, 2017, 7:12 pm

I tried the beta. It was OK. I am not a multiplayer kind of guy. All tho I know a lot of gamers who are. With that in mind. I gave this game a rating of 2.5. it to a an OK game if you like to do tutorials all game long. This is how you swing a sword. This is how you roll to the right or left. It got real boring fast. So those of you who like this game. Hope you have fun. For me I will move on.

OD

February 20, 2017, 7:22 pm

I am an old gamer. Like 60 years old. There are a lot of worse games out there. It all depends on what you deem as appropriate for your child. Some parents let there child play games like this and some do not. With that said. If you buy your 14 year old call of duty or battlefield then he should be fine with this game. Also if he/she has lots of friends that play multiplayer. Then it will keep them entertained for a while. My son gives my 9 year old grandson time to play. But he also needs to do homework first. Then he gives game time plus he has to go play with friends outside. So he can have face to face interaction with friends. Trying to keep him well rounded. Hope this helps you.

HypoCheese

February 23, 2017, 8:03 am

Won't do anything but make your child happy. Definitely a must buy! Great graphics, not too bad violence, there are decapitations, but they aren't as gruesome as the Mortal Combat series.

Solar Warden Gaming

February 28, 2017, 9:35 pm

Keep in mind this game is rated as M for mature audiences. It is your discretion as a parent to buy this for your child. What I would do is go to youtube and watch live streams of for honor and use your judgement. I'm glad you are doing research. Remember, a 14 year old brain is not fully developed as an adults and our children are still learning. But again this falls on your decision. Would I buy the game for my 11 year old? No I would not. In fact he is not allowed to be in my office while I play mature games. But that is my decision. Whatever decision you make as a parent is your decision and I support whatever decision you make. I pray you do not take this the wrong way. I am only attempting to help. Anyway, we are happy to lend our support and happy gaming and best wishes.

Malik Thylleman

March 2, 2017, 12:47 pm

Its fucking good and all the people who or scared to be gang bang then you sucks and dont do effort to learn that masterful gameplay..you can fight off gangbangs or run to your teammates or revive them for dummies..and if that not works than go play battelfield1 becouse there is no gang banging..hahahaha..and you dont know who even kill you..Aaaaight..there is no game like FOR HONOR out there and its feels great to have something else then COD en Battelfield..Overwatch and For Honor best multiplayer games on this moment.and thats a fact..see ya

steven

March 8, 2017, 5:24 am

great game shame about connection problems every couple of matches work hard all match just to lose all your rewards due to shitty server connections somewhat kills the game to be honest

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