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For Honor Review // For Honor, Glory, and Mediocrity

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Mar
06

It is rare to see such a large studio with so many established AAA IP's take a shot on a brand new IP and concept... unless that studio is Ubisoft. Ubisoft is one of the few studios that still likes to try out a new IP virtually every year. For Honor is a very interesting game; its core concept is so strong, and when it puts you in certain situations it is truly a new exciting combat system that I've never seen; however, most of the time the game doesn't put you in those situations and ends up in the areas of mediocrity far too often.

For Honor hinges everything on its trademark "Art of Battle" system; a combat system where the aggressor picks a direction to attack and the defender has to counter their attack in that same direction. The combat goes deeper with parries, dodging, unblockable attacks, and guard breaks, but the heart of it is reading and blocking your opponents. This system absolutely shines whenever you get into 1v1 combat, but often collapses whenever you end up in battle with more than one opponent. When 1 on 1, every hit feels critical, every second is filled with tension, and every death is a reason for elation. Whenever fighting more than one opponent, most of those feelings evaporate. You are forced onto the defensive, but there aren't enough tools to help you defend, so you're easily overpowered and destroyed. The precision and tension that fill normal encounters turns into anger and frustration; not at your lack of skill, but rather the limited options of handling the opponents. This wouldn't be a huge issue if most of the game's modes didn't revolve around these situations.

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The multiplayer modes available at launch are Duel/Brawl, Deathmatch, and Dominion. All of these modes can be played both with player and AI enemies, but obviously PvP matches have that element of randomness and excitement that AI matches can't compare to. The Duel/Brawl mode tends to be the strongest due to its nature of 1v1 or 2v2 combat. One of the only problems with this mode is the map design. All of the maps have openings where you can grab and throw an opponent off a ledge, which is fine and a natural part of the game, but some maps have almost no space and practically beg you to throw your opponents. The Deathmatch mode, which is a 4v4 mode, often dissolves into 2v1 or 3v1 situations that are infuriating, but there are moments of greatness. Holding off 2 opponents until a friend can join you and fight off your assailants is really cool, but whenever you're left alone you stand practically no chance. The Dominion mode is the wild card here. Ubisoft has promoted this mode as the primary mode and it has been billed in some regards as a "MOBA meets action game." Minions rush down a lane, but instead of trying to make it to the other side, you and your units are trying to capture a point in the center. There are also two points on the side of the main lane to capture. It's a hybrid of King of the Hill and a MOBA which works fairly well most of the time, but you often end up in those 2v1 or 3v1 situations that can get so frustrating. If you have a good team that works well together, it can be a fun and challenging mode, but often it's filled with the frustrations of multiple combatants and minions poking at you while you try to fight the real fights.

However, more annoying than gameplay issues are network issues. For Honor uses a type of Peer to Peer matchmaking system rather than a traditional server system. Whatever the reason for this decision, it is generally to the detriment of the game. The stability of games and even getting into a game largely depends on your other opponents and their connections. Your NAT type also has a large affect on who you can even match with, so if you have a Strict NAT, good luck playing with your friends. There are ways around these issues, and it isn't a huge problem most of the time, but there have been times when it took forever to find a game, matchmaking didn't even work, or I'd get dropped mid game.

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However, unlike many multiplayer games coming out recently, For Honor embraces single player, though not always to the greatest success. The campaign is designed to move you through one central story, while still having you play as all three factions and their various classes. You begin as a member of the knights of the Black Legion under the rule of Apollyon, a ruthless dictator of a leader that slaughters her own men who would beg for mercy. She's a fairly intimidating character and your player character begins to see her brutal ways are wrong. This premise, while fairly tired, works well enough, which is more than you can say for the Vikings or Samurai campaign. The characters in both of those campaigns aren't as interesting as the knight, the Vikings don't play as well as the knight, and even the overall story feels like it is grinding to a halt in those two later campaigns. There are fleeting moments of greatness, but overall the campaign is just serviceable.

Production values throughout the campaign are truly amazing though. The locales are breathtaking, the music awe-inspiring, and the set pieces are truly epic. Watching Vikings storm a beach or watching an army of Samurai storm a Black Legion stronghold are great moments. The worst parts of the campaign generally come in the dialogue and voice acting. Neither of these things are technically bad, they just don't stand out in any discernible way. The dialogue is very "action-movie" style and the voice work on our heroes is as generic as any NPC from another game.

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For Honor is a really cool concept that can often be quite fun. The "Art of Battle" combat system is excellent in 1v1 situations; it's thought provoking, strategic, tense, and rewarding. Whenever the game places you in epic 1v1 duels, whether it be in campaign or in a multiplayer mode, the game excels. Whenever you are forced into battles against multiple opponents though, the combat shows some unfortunate signs of weakness. The average campaign and connection issues also don't help. The basis for greatness is there, but it never really works to the levels that I wish it did. In a world where Overwatch is still updating content regularly, Ubisoft's own Ghost Recon: Wildlands releases today, and massive single player games like Horizon, Zelda, and Mass Effect launch are here or right around the corner, I just don't see a lot of longevity in For Honor.

Final Score: 6.5/10

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