For Honor review (PC)

Ubisoft’s eagerly anticipated new title For Honor has arrived, and pits samurai and viking warriors into arenas alongside medieval knights to see who comes out victorious.

We’ll readily admit that for a long time, we had no idea what For Honor was going to turn into. When we first laid eyes on the game, it was at game conventions booths or through flashy pre-rendered trailers. These brief encounters, always showing fierce warriors and dramatic combat, led us to believe we might be dealing with a God of War-esque title in a different setting. That wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but boy were we wrong – For Honor is a different beast altogether.

For Honor is a multiplayer title at its core, and Ubisoft has been doing a great job luring players into the development and gameplay of their recent and upcoming titles through closed and open betas. Partly due to this approach, For Honor has turned into a finely tuned brawling experience that is quite unlike anything we’ve played before. It’s not God of War, but it’s not Samurai Warriors either – the ‘one against many’ dynamic has been replaced with an emphasis on duels here.

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There are a number of variations on these duels as well, such as two on two combat or a four on four death match – as well as a mode where you capture points on a gamemap to claim dominion over it. There’s a lot going on in For Honor, but because one on one combat is so finely balanced it quickly becomes overwhelming when people gang up on you – which is why straight up combat with a single enemy feels most rewarding.

While it’s tempting to just go in and have a go by bashing buttons to try and smash someone else’s head in, the experience is far more rewarding if you take the time to learn the intricacies of the game – and the story campaign is a great starting point for that. It may not be the greatest, or most polished single player adventure ever, but it does a very good job at preparing you for the online battles that await.

The game quickly teaches you that hacking away isn’t the way to success – at least not in most cases. It will quickly wear you out, and will make your moves easy to predict – especially when fighting players online. Strikes can be blocked, and on-screen prompts help you block incoming attacks yourself. A very effective way of abusing this is to fake out an opponent, by performing a feint and then attacking him elsewhere (you can attack using either left, right or high attacks).

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The campaign mode also teaches you about the weaknesses you can exploit in other classes or enemies, which is useful when it comes to changing up your playing style to fit the right enemy. Once you get pretty good at that, you’ll also quickly learn that online players can behave quite differently, or might even switch up styles mid-combat. You might expect an opponent to strike quickly and often, only to see him switch to a more throw-based approach after you block him a few times.

It’s this kind of diversity that really sets For Honor apart from other 1 on 1 fighters (think Street Fighter or Dead or Alive) – the combat here is much slower in terms of pace and allows for a lot of tactical depth for a game of this genre. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect though, because the approach Ubisoft has taken comes with a few shortcomings as well. The game isn’t likely to appeal to those who prefer a game they can quickly jump in and out of, and that might make it difficult to get into the game once the existing player base matures – unless a matchmaking algorithm fixes this somewhere down the road.

The player roster also isn’t as diverse as you might like if you’re used to 2D/3D brawlers, but the game makes up for that by adding a layer of depth and suspense to the combat that you’re not likely to find elsewhere. It might not be a game with mass appeal, but it’s about as good as it could have been in the niche that it’s found for itself, and that makes For Honor a title well worth exploring if the premise sounds intriguing to you.

Score: 7.8/10

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