So this past weekend was the For Honor closed beta which means myself and several thousand other sword-meeting-face enthusiasts were merrily slaughtering each other for over 48 hours. Now for those of you unlucky enough to not take part (or fortunate enough to have better things to do with your time) or anyone just looking to reminisce on the experience I’ve gathered up my thoughts on the game so far.
On the graphics: Yeah, it’s pretty. I’m not gonna talk too much about that here so if you want FPS details you may have to go elsewhere.
A quick note before we start though; As Ubisoft were at pains to point out what I played was an early version of the game so all of this may be subject to change. Still, here’s things as they stand now.
For Honor is a game first and foremost about duels between heroes from three factions (Vikings, Samurai and Knights) using various medieval weapons to kill eachother in sometimes spectacular ways. Two of the available game modes; 1 v 1 Duel and 2 v 2 Brawl, probably showcase this the best though it’s hard to tell what For Honor sees as its flagpole mode.
The basics of fighting are that you use the right stick to change your stance between left, right and high and try to hit your opponent with light or heavy attacks by moving your weapon to where theirs isn’t. At the same time you try to block their attacks by moving your weapon to intercept theirs. That’s simplifying things quite a lot as there’s also dodges, throws and other tricks you can use but at the heart of the game is this rock/paper/scissors dynamic of stances and for the most part it works extremely well. The controls are tight and mostly easy to master, though I found the layout got awkward when you tried to dodge and then attack as you use A (I was on Xbox 1) to dodge, left stick to pick a direction, right trigger/bumper to attack and right stick to change your stance while swinging. All of that motion made my hand spasm out on me a couple times but other than that I had no complaints.
The next layer of the gameplay comes from Hero choices. No matter which Faction you pick overall you can still access all 9 heroes from across the three nations (a point I’ll come back to later) and each of them has different strengths and weaknesses. For example the Viking Raider is a hulking brute with a two-handed axe that does high damage but swings slowly while the Knights have access to what looks like an armoured up cousin of Ezio Auditore who uses two swords, moves quickly but has difficulty blocking. I mostly stuck with the Viking Warlord, a sword and board fighter who has lots of tricks involving blocking and quick counters and found that, while there were definitely some hero types who were more difficult and others who were easier to face it remained possible to beat any hero as long as your skill (and luck) held.
The final wrinkle comes in the form of the last game mode, 4 v 4 Dominion. This is your basic zone capture game except it now adds in certain MOBA-esque elements in the form of expendable troops who fight over a central zone. You can mow these poor mooks down as a hero, but leave yourself open to one of the other team coming in and backstabbing you if you do (not an instant kill, but any loss of health can be fatal in For Honor). This has been the most heavily advertised mode and is a lot of fun overall, but strangely the majority of challenges (or ‘orders) on the weekend actually focussed on the brawl mode which I think is unfortunate due to one of the slight issues with the game.
There is very little moderation in For Honor over the course of playing I found that you either got completely outclassed by an opponent, completely outclassed them or else found yourself in incredibly tense bouts where the slightest mistake meant falling to an equally wounded foe. This made for some exciting gameplay but can lead to problems in some games, particularly the 2 v 2 Brawl. You see, For Honor is really designed for fighting one enemy hero at a time. It is possible to hold off two fighters but, other then where one fighter was severely wounded, I never saw a single person win against multiple opponents at once. So imagine what it’s like if, in a 2 v 2 match, the dial swings to one of the extremes and someone gets extremely outclassed. No matter how good the other person is, they’re suddenly in a losing predicament. This can also be a problem when you are playing with a randomnly assigned partner against two people in a party or group chat as you can quickly tell as they run past one of you to insta-slaughter the other.
The other thing to touch on from the Beta is the world that For Honor is building. This mostly comes across in the ‘War Map’ which shows a number of provinces that the three factions are fighting over. After each match you are awarded ‘War Resources’ based on your performance and can assign these to either defending a province from enemy attack or else launching an attack of your own to claim more territory. The map updates at the end of a round (about 5-6 hours per round) and then the war continues.
This is kind of a fun mechanic in that it gives you something wider to play for, and has some neat ingame effects. Each game mode is assigned to an area of the map and you fight in arenas that reflect that area. Additionally, you can see the progress of the war in game as territories that have recently been conquered (for example a Knights castle taken over by Vikings) will have the original architecture etc but with banners, symbols and lots of flavour items from the new faction now distributed throughout it. This is pretty cool (even if it is obviously just an over-texture) and helps connect with the war.
Unfortunately, in the demo at least, that’s pretty much the only connection you’re likely to get. As I mentioned before, your faction choice doesn’t actually restrict your hero choices so there isn’t actually a lot linking you to your faction is you don’t want it to. I guess the assumption from Ubisoft was that if people picked a faction they’d favour those heroes but that’s certainly not what I saw.
Additionally, your faction doesn’t seem to translate into what side you fight for in battles. For example at one point the Vikings were attacking Samurai lands and I joined a 4 v 4 match…in which I had to defend a castle against Vikings. It feels kind of weird and breaks the engagement with the wider war effort.
Even worse examples were where battles didn’t even have NPCs from the faction taking part and instead seemed to be locked into one particular matchup (Knights vs Samurai in this case) no matter who owned the territory. Now I’m more willing to forgive this, as it seems likely to be a beta issue with the levels made available but if it does carry on it might be a bit worrying.
Finally, one single thing I have to say:
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, WHY ARE THERE HORNED HELMETS!?!
Ahem, sorry about that. Yes, the big Viking raider has a horned helmet and, despite this having its own section as an ‘ornament’, there’s no option to turn them off. I recognise this won’t be as much of an issue for everyone else, but to me it is super annoying (especially as the AI raiders don’t seem to have them so it’s clearly possible somehow to ditch them).
Well there you have it, did you take part in the beta? Want to fight about it? Hit up the comments!
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