Knights, samurai and Vikings. Besides being warriors mythologized in history and culture, they are the main characters of “For Honor,” a video game that pits those three groups against each other. While the reasoning behind the necessity of such a game is questionable, as we’ve gotten so many of these already, what is undeniable is the wonderful amount of fun and excitement this game offers.
Developed by Ubisoft, the game features the previous three factions, The Legion, The Chosen and The Warborn, in a bloody fight for resources after a natural catastrophe. In this depleted medieval setting, a villainous warlord, Apollyon, by manipulating the various factions’ leadership, aims to plunge the factions into unending war to essentially force the strong to prevail over the weak. It’s from this situation that the multiplayer and campaign modes are derived.
The combat and multiplayer gameplays are perhaps the strongest facets of the game. The combat borrows from classic melee titles such as “Dark Souls” while adding its own quirks, and the result is an endlessly replayable experience. Every action one can take in combat, whether it is a light or heavy attack, a guard block or dodge, feels smooth and tight. Plus, the skill ceiling among player vs. player is very high even as the basics are user-friendly, and thus, one gets as much out of the multiplayer as they put in. There are various modes from the one-on-one “Duel” to the four-versus-four “Dominion,” for players who prefer to win either with individual skill or teamwork. The features of “Revenge mode” and feats, which give the player an attack and/or defense boost in various circumstances, add an element of unpredictability to an already fun battle mode.
There are valid complaints, however, about the multiplayer matchmaking, as “For Honor” uses peer-to-peer connections rather than dedicated servers, which means that the game selects a host out of the players in a match to be the server. If the “host” player’s internet connection faces any issues, everyone else in the match can face significant slowdowns and disruptions. As well, this matchmaking mechanic has received numerous complaints for the prolonged wait time between matches.
Nevertheless, the problem isn’t too impactful as the overall game is supremely engaging. The campaign mode offers a unique take on the premise as the player begins as a soldier under Apollyon and gradually comes to evolve and dedicate themselves to changing the chaos in the region after witnessing the warlord’s atrocities and manipulations. Ultimately, the player can play as different characters from each faction, offering numerous looks at the united effort to defeat Apollyon. The story mode, however, ultimately flattens out as predictable and bland, and is somewhat long, especially as the hardest difficulty still turns the game into a mindless hack-and-slash slog.
What the campaign mode does do well is introduce the player to the various hero classes, all of which must be played at some point in the story. Within each faction, there is the balanced Vanguard, the fast but weak Assassin, the defensive yet slow Heavies and the wild card Hybrids. All of the heroes have unique weapons, skills, fighting styles and weaknesses, and the field is relatively balanced, so the player can truly experiment and find a favorite to play with.
When it comes to tone, the graphics of the game are incredibly smooth and realistic, and the violence is gory and gritty without becoming too cartoonish. The soundtrack is fitting and immersive, and it adds to the tense, gritty atmosphere of the game. That’s another thing the game gets right: It has an immersive sense of atmosphere with its chaotic premise and stylish violence.
Ultimately, “For Honor” gets a lot of things right, from the graphics to the combat to the multiplayer (when it’s actually running smoothly). If one can get past the slight annoyances stemming from the slowdowns and wait times and put in the endurance needed to complete the story, “For Honor” will turn out to be a very rewarding, exciting and replayable source of entertainment.