Fantasy brawls between iconic characters and historical empires have long helped fuel late night discussions between friends. For Honor therefore is the next logical step in this obsession, pitting Vikings, Knights, and Samurai together in an eternal war with each other.
But how did these factions end up in the same timeline? The game does explain this in the opening cutscene before allowing access to the main menu, but it is glossed over rather than fully explained; a natural disaster occurred that resulted in lava spewing everywhere and parts of the world lost forever. The lava remains in some areas of the world but really, For Honor isn’t about how this happened, more what happens next and I was all too keen to find out.
The single-player (something which can also be played in co-op) campaign has you take charge of a number of different heroes amongst the three factions. However, rather than it just give you a taste of each character class to then pick your favourite for the multiplayer section, the campaign actually offers a decent experience. It certainly does not feel like a last minute addition and half of the time will have the player fighting enemies within their own faction as each tries to grapple for control of the world.
I was not always sure why this inter-faction brawling was occurring though. The story throughout the single-player is a little bit confusing and this is down to the writing. Too many times in the first few hours we get the excuse “Lost in Time” given for why certain elements of the story are glossed over. It’s annoying because the concept of For Honor is fantastic, but it just comes across as lazy writing; rather than think of a decent plot trigger, it becomes a case that everyone has seemingly forgotten what happened. I guess it is simpler this way.
The main focus of this game however is definitely in the multiplayer. And this is no more apparent than in the main menu where the multiplayer section is, rather unusually, listed above the campaign.
The modes included in the multiplayer are your usual standard fare: Dominion is like your Warzone or Control game modes where players fight for specific areas of the maps scoring points for kills etc. Skirmish is the typical Deathmatch scenario and Elimination ramps up the tension by only giving a player one life. There is also an option for Events, but so far this has remained greyed-out.
There are also a couple of interesting additions though. Duel and Brawl are 1V1 and 2V2 match types respectively. These match types are For Honor at its purest as they remove the additional NPC characters and perks/feats that you can add to your character’s loadouts. This emphasises the twitch-based gameplay and knowing when to attack and defend, as one false move can leave you open to being punished. These game modes should not be overlooked by anyone looking for some fast-paced multiplayer, as most matches are complete within a couple of minutes.
Above all the multiplayer game modes is an exciting meta-game as well. At the start of the game each player chooses a faction to fight for, though this does not limit the heroes available to them. After every multiplayer match played the player earns War Assets, more if they win but less for a loss. These War Assets are used to fight over sections of the world map, much like the board game Risk. They are applied generally across the board, but you can also administer them directly to a certain area to attack or defend. The board is updated every six hours so it doesn’t take long to see how your work has affected the overall feeling and then reset every couple of weeks to keep it fresh. After a season of ten weeks the rewards are given out, but due to that time length, what exactly these entail has yet to be seen.
For Honor brings with it a lot of new mechanics that at first glance may be a bit daunting. Luckily though, Ubisoft are well aware of this and have included tutorials in pretty much every menu. Whether it’s the main screen, pause menu or multiplayer, there is a tutorial-based option not far away. These range from learning the basics to setting up practice matches and for those people looking to get as much out of this game as possible, they will be spending a lot of time in the practice matches fine-tuning every aspect of their Heroes.
The fine-tuning isn’t just limited to new attacks as each Hero has a number of skills and feats to be equipped in their Loadouts. It’s a feature straight from a multiplayer FPS, but to see it in a hack and slash game is a great little feature. There are also a huge number of apparel items that can be earnt through purchasing loot boxes using the in-game currency, Steel.
Steel is earnt in both single-player and multiplayer and is used to purchase apparel, emotes and additional Heroes. It becomes quite a grind to be able to afford the higher tier level items, but there are microtransactions available should you be that way inclined. Rather than use these as an excuse to write negatively about For Honor, I will just point out that the stuff you can buy using paid-for Steel can have a positive effect on your character’s performance online.
As with the rest of the game, the achievements are heavily skewed towards multiplayer, and multiplayer achievements are typically a bit of a grind. For Honor is no exception, but this is only the case for a couple of them rather than the majority. A good example of this is the achievements for winning your first game of one of the different modes, and then for winning 20 of each. This could have easily been 50 or more but 20 is a far more reasonable number. There are also achievements for completing the single-player campaign on different difficulties, which is another reason to not skip over that section.
For Honor is a game that I am not even close to finishing with. Its campaign is big enough to not feel tacked on, but the draw of the multiplayer action keeps dragging me away from finishing it. I can feel my skills improving after every round because it’s a new way to play against other players and that deserves highlighting in a highly saturated section of the market.
Ubisoft may have been receiving criticism recently for their stale open-world offerings, but between this and Steep they have more than proven they can manage without an annual Assassin’s Creed game.