FOR HONOR ever since it’s reveal at E3 2015 has differentiated itself from the pack by being one of the most distinctive looking Multiplayer games in the market and is by far the most eagerly anticipated Ubisoft property in recent times. Mainly owing to the fact that the developer is stepping out of its comfort zone and launching a new IP. And to boot, one that looks far different than almost anything else out there.
It’s been eagerly anticipated in gaming circles due to it’s promises of delivering a fun, gratifying and yet tactical combat simulator where you partake in large scale battles involving legendary, ancient warrior classes from yore. Namely Vikings, Samurais and Medieval Knights and get to live out your melee combat fantasies in all their glory.
As it nears it February 14th release date, Ubisoft held a closed beta for the game and I was fortunate enough to get access to it and cover it for the website. Here is what I discovered in Ubisoft’s latest gamble:
- Superb Controls: In order to make a game about physical combat, it’s important to get the physical part of it right. And in that aspect, Ubisoft has succeeded. All 3 classes feel weighty and every swing of every weapon seems to have a lot of leverage attached to it. Samurais, Vikings and Knights feel worth of their respective names. You use L2 to lock on to an opponent and the two analog sticks to parry and change combat stances. It is slightly overwhelming at first, but you get used to it. It never feels like a mindless hack and slash and rather more like the tactical combat of DARK SOULS and NINJA GAIDEN. Hitboxes seem fair and square (so far) and if you think a hit will connect, then it probably will.
- Types of Game Modes: The available game modes in the beta were 1v1 duel, 2v2 brawl and a 4v4 dominion with a levelling and upgrade system in place. Most of my time was spent on the large scale bot-filled battlefields of Dominion. Where you have to hold capture points with your army and stop the invasion from the opposing team by murdering them. You will fight both bots and human opponents and battles get really hectic where you have to keep track of a lot of things. Sometimes, it get too overwhelming and it can be hard to keep track of who is doing what. With that said, it can be thrilling when you encounter a human opponent and track him through the legions and murder him/her among them
The combat shines more in 1v1 battles though. With two human opponents trying to outwit each other, it plays like a rock.paper.scissors game where you try and outguess and outwit your opponent. At the time of play, people were really into button mashing (since its early days) and just going for the throat but we’re sure it’ll get smoother as more people get their grips around the combat system.
With that being said, we’re hoping that there are a lot of other game modes besides these as well. (Either in the final product or via free updates). While we enjoy what there were, we felt that content wise, it was a bit sparse.
- Strategic depth: You can deploy ‘war assets’ on the enemy territory when not in the combat screen (which reminded me of aspects of Dragon Age: Inquisition) and there is a decent degree inventory/loadout customization. The leveling up seems to take place at a faster rate so far and it seems like you won’t have to grind too much in the final game to try and reach a competitive build. It also has some ancillary boosts/buffs that are activated using the D-pad, which take aspects of other Ubisoft games like THE DIVISION and apply them here ( Area- specific group heal for example). They seem to work well so far but Jury is still out on whether they will grip for the 100’s of hours Ubisoft hopes players will spend in the game. We hope the final product adds a lot more content in these aspects to make battles more cerebral and varied.
- Balance Issues: As you would expect from a Beta, there are Balance issues. The heavy attack is too damn powerful in my opinion and a lot of people seem to be over relying on it. You can skilfully work around your opponent, doing damage bit by bit and yet a couple of a large swings of his/her sword will bring your health bar in the critical zone. This is especially true in the case of the Samurai class, which both hits hard and moves fast. Also, it feels to me that people who use heavier weapons seem to be at a disadvantage in 1v1. Balance issues are not uncommon in Betas but Ubisoft still needs to fine tune it. It’s not quite there yet. Also, the colour palette needs to be a bit more varied: Dominion during a blue tinged, ice storm level with your characters and corresponding soldiers decked in blue causes a large amount of confusion at times.
- Visuals and Sound: So far, it’s a good-looking, great sounding game. The Japanese battle cries from the samurai sound just as hard-core and authentic as anything in an anime, the hits connecting to flesh sound brutal and you can hear the metal clanking in the armor and the sounds of the wind.
FINAL IMPRESSIONS: While we had a fun time with the Beta, we are still cautiously optimistic. Ubisoft has nailed the combat no doubt but everything around it needs work. If Ubisoft wants the multiplayer to have longevity, they will have to make sure the suite is content rich with game modes, upgrades and has a consistent supply of rewards and updates. This is the sort of game that hack and slash/ fighting game fans can endear themselves to if it makes the right moves. As always, we will find out the bigger picture on Feb 14th when the game releases. But before that, you can get your hands on the Open BETA of the game which starts from 9th FEB and runs till 12th Feb.