by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
History has changed
I’m the first to admit I love a good historical drama, especially one with some action. Game of Thrones (yes, I now it is a fantasy, but is still historically based), Vikings and The Last Kingdom are among my current favourite TV shows. So when For Honor was announced some time ago, I was mildly optimistic about the historical themed third person brawler.
For Honor allows the player to take on the role of a Knight, a Viking or a Samurai, who will be squaring off against each other in an historically inaccurate setting. In the game, the three factions are fighting over the same land – something that they never did in real life. But For Honor links them within a semi-plausible story.
The Story Mode or single player campaign (well, there's actually three distinct campaigns - one for each of the three factions) is a heap of fun. In a way, it acts as an elongated tutorial for the multiplayer portion of the game, giving players a chance to work out the intricacies of combat for each of the factions. It also teaches about each of the four unit types that can be selected, each of which has their own specialties. For example, when playing as the Knights, the player can select to play as the Conqueror. He (or she – there is equality in For Honor) has a strong defence and is a heavy hitter, but is much slower than the Peacekeeper, who is fast, and great at counter-attacking, but does not do as much damage. The player will learn a range of defensive and attacking moves as well as special combos that should set them in good stead for the multiplayer combat.
Wielding your sword
The control scheme works remarkably well. Enemies give you warning signs prior to attacking, which should give you enough time to parry their attacks, whilst also giving enough openings to enable your character to slice and dice. The mouse controls when in the Guard stance enable the combat to flow nicely. They are simple and intuitive, with each movement of the mouse feeling like you control the sword (or axe, or other weapon of choice). In a Game of Thrones parlance, battles never feel as though you’re Tyrion Lannister up against Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane. There's a sense that if you get hit in single combat, then it's your own fault and that you weren’t quick enough to defend. More often than not, melee combat is a slower affair, as you watch the opponent’s movements, parry or dodge their attacks and then go in for the kill. Of course, all that moving about and wielding your weapon of choice takes its toll. As expected, heavy attacks will require more stamina to perform and will tire out your character. Stamina can be regained by resting, but you can still defend whilst doing so without major drawbacks.
The only real niggle I have with the combat is the camera angle, especially when there are multiple assailants. When fighting one-on-one in Guard stance, it can be difficult to see if there is anyone coming at you from the side. I was often forced to click out of the Guard stance, have a quick look around to see where other enemies were, move to a safer position, and then click back into Guard stance to complete the combat with my chosen opponent. There are indicators that show you’re about to be flanked, but by then it can be too late.
During and after each completed battle, players will gain XP based on their performance, and in the case of multiplayer, completion of special Orders you have chosen to complete. This XP will enable players to improve the active and passive skills for their Hero. They will also collect loot that can be used to improve their hero’s weapons and armour. And if the collected loot is not what they want, that loot can be dismantled and used to upgrade other weapons and armour that they own.
After playing through the story mode (or at least part of it), you’ll want to put your skills to the test against human opposition. For Honor has three multiplayer modes with which players can compete. Deathmatch has two variations – Elimination is a four-on-four battle where the last team standing wins. Skirmish is the same but opposing AI rather than humans. Duel & Brawl mode is a one-on-one or two-on-two melee battle. Duel is a fun mode as it allows the players to compete in solo combat without distractions of the minor characters or other players stabbing you from the back or side. My favourite mode, though, is the Dominion mode. Dominion is variation on capture the zone where teams of four heroes attempt to capture three points on a map. Armies of AI soldiers also stand in the way, but are about as effective as mannequins. As with any game, newcomers - especially if you’re pitted against those who have already learned their trade and have worked out the intricacies of the maps - may find themselves outplayed until they too learn the skills.
For Honor looks wonderful. There, I've said it. Each of the settings looks realistic with beautiful mountain and forested areas, and huge foreboding castles. But each of the areas has its own look. The Viking strongholds, for instance, are snow covered settings, whilst the Samurai areas are moss covered and shrouded in mist. There are only a reasonably small number of enemy unit types for each faction, so it is fairly easy to distinguish one from another.
Audio is somewhat of a double-edged sword (see what I did there?). On one hand (or edge) the sound effects and background music is superb. The sounds of the medieval battlefield ring throughout with swords clanging, wooden shields being smashed and soldiers roaring in victory or painfully dying. But on the other hand, the voice acting could have used a bit more work. The dialogue is decent enough and the narrator does a great job, but having Vikings that sound like a Clint Eastwood inspired cowboy in a Viking disguise just doesn’t seem right. It might be a bit harsh, but I was just expecting to hear the Vikings sound more like Ragnar Lothbrok (Editor's note: not really a historically accurate point of comparison).
Should I armour-up?
I did have some issues with the game servers early on, but they seem to have been ironed out. And as mentioned, the voice acting and the story mode could have fleshed out a little better. But if you look past those issues, For Honor is a wonderful title. The variation in game modes makes sure that there is something for everyone, and the maps are rotated enough to keep things fresh. The character classes allow you to choose a play style that suits you, whether it is the strength of the Heavy or the speed of the Assassin class. And with controls that are so smooth and optimised, it never seems as though any class or enemy is overpowered. So, if you excuse me, I’m going to don my armour, collect my shield and blade, and head back out to the battlefield... my team needs me.
Combat is simple and intuitive. Lovely settings.
Some of the accents don’t really fit the characters. Early server issues.