Video Game Review: For Honor hacks and slashes its way to victory

From the beginning, it is immediately apparent that For Honor is a special game. Games of this caliber that not only present intricate and diverse mechanics that allow for fluid moment-to-moment gameplay, but remain addictive and fulfilling at the same time, expecting players to tackle its mechanics with both persistence and patience.  For Honor puts players in the shoes of 3 different factions; The Knights, The Vikings and The Samurai. Players will use these various classes and characters in both single player and multiplayer modes to wage a persistent and evolving online war. Throughout both these modes, it is evident that this is one of the most technically complete combat systems in years.

First and foremost, yes, even though For Honor requires a constant internet connection, there is a dedicated single player story which gives players an opportunity to use all three factions throughout, and brings a little more context to each faction in the process. The story is simple: after a natural disaster destroys the land, three factions must battle over resources, land and the right to survive. Without going into spoilers, the story does develop each faction slightly and are all somewhat well presented. Voice acting across the board ranges from average to fairly good, paired with some decent-looking character models. Environments are varied and lush, presenting players with an array of combat surroundings, paired with scattered collectibles called “breakables” and “observables”, points of interest you observe (duh) in order to bring context to your current mission. These collectibles add only a small amount of depth to your surroundings, but also unlock nifty cosmetic items for you to use in multiplayer.  Character perks and customisation are also present, but these are lacking in comparison its multiplayer counterpart.

During the tutorial phase, the AI will take it fairly easy on you when playing against the Normal difficulty bots. Players that feel they have a good grasp the of mechanics should try harder difficulties for a more satisfying experience, especially the realistic difficulty which removes the player HUD, making combat much more about raw reflexes and less about telegraphing moves based on enemy stance. Coming in at around six to seven hours, the story itself is a passable attempt at getting you acquainted with its mechanics, and making you feel like a beast in the heart of a large scale battle.

Multiplayer on the other hand is a different animal and most definitely the main reason to play For Honor. While the single player is serviceable, it’s the multiplayer that will test your skill and reflexes. As this is a game based solely on its combat mechanics, you are encouraged to take your time, conserve your stamina and make smart choices . Coming up against real players is definitely the most satisfying experience, but it’s also a double-edged sword. The combat against a human enemy is so satisfying that combat elsewhere pales in comparison. NPC enemies go down in one hit and while it looks cool, it soon turns into a button mashing fiesta. To top it all off, perks and character customisation are also present. These provide you with armour and weapon upgrades which can be bought with Steel, For Honors currency system. Steel can be bought purely through micro-transactions, but can also be earned by simply grinding through matches. Any time micro-transactions are optional and not necessary, is definitely a plus.

Modes such as Dominion provide a 4v4 domination-style experience in which two opposing teams battle for portions of a specific map, while modes such as Brawl and Duel revolve around 1v1 and 2v2 player combat respectively. Within the Dominion mode however, fighting AI controlled bots in between real player encounters become repetitive and only strain your fingers through button mashing, similar to the AI soldiers seen in Titanfall 2 as they serve little to no consequence, only there to pad out the maps, making them look busier than they actually are. Battles between real players allow the mechanics (and by extension the game itself) to shine at its brightest. Brawl and Duel modes are based completely around player-versus-player combat, and this is where the game gets fun. Negating all the AI controlled soldiers and objective based gameplay, combat here is pure death match, and allows the player to reap the full benefits of the combat mechanics.

While character progression is made through leveling up, earning you steel and unlocking rewards for customisation, I can’t help but feel the real progression is simply playing and learning the ins and outs of the combat system. Naturally learning and becoming skilled has nothing to do with the armour you acquire or how much Steel you have, enticing you to learn more and master each of the several characters. An issue with these modes is that being outnumbered is ridiculously hard to manage. While not impossible to win, it is clear that whoever gets the upper hand the earliest is most likely to win through strength in numbers. The Revenge system is a perk that allows for extra strength and health when outnumbered, but rarely allows you prevail over two or more enemies. 

Overall, For Honor is an above average game with an exceptional, original and satisfying combat experience. The game expects your patience and time, but the more you give it, the more it gives back. For Honor’s single player or even multiplayer modes prove to be neither original nor a stand out for the action genre, but it’s hard to get mad when it makes combat feel as good as it does. 

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Excellent combat system, multiplayer modes.
Lowlights: Average story, AI enemies dull.
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft PC

Reviewed on PlayStation 4.