You might be forgiven in thinking that Ubisoft have been playing it safe recently, with existing franchises providing the meat of their releases, but For Honor shows that they’re just as willing to take risks with a new IP and a completely different direction.
Thankfully it seems to have paid off, too. For Honor immediately grabs your attention with its great visuals and a rather intriguing idea of pitting Vikings against Knights and Samurai. How it pulls off this idea is a little cheeky, putting it in the hands of the gods, or one god to be precise, one who loves a little bit of war, but it works, nonetheless and gives us a game where you can force these titans of historical wars to face each other in bloody battle to the death.
If that seems like your cup of tea then you’re probably not alone, variations on the theme have already been tried but For Honor ups the game and provides something with a lot more weight and strategy. This isn’t a game you can walk into and expect to win online by rushing in waving your sword. The nearest thing I can think of is rock, paper, scissors, but where your rival’s choice is highlighted briefly before they make their move. When they raise their sword and swipe to the right, you block, then counter. Unfortunately, if they’re good, they can feint and quickly swap tactics, leaving you open. It’s a little like a fighting game but with a more open environment involved rather than a simple arena.
The single player campaign is where you really need to start as it acts as a tutorial for the game. That’s not to dismiss it completely, at least it explains why the hell three factions from different eras and continents are fighting one another (yes, the god thing) and while it won’t win any awards for storytelling, it’s fairly engaging. What it also does is teach you about the different types of fighter, introducing them one by one, and also about the different tactics needed to overcome them and the perk system that gives you special abilities for a limited time. Speed and agility vs slow but powerful attacks and learning to counter with pushes and counter-attacks are all important if you want to survive online.
Once you do head back online, you’ll have several different modes to choose from; Duel takes you to a one on one standoff while a Brawl ups the odds to two vs two. For bigger battles the Dominion option or more standard Elimination and Skirmish modes can be used and they’ll provide a little more freedom, with armies of cannon fodder to kill alongside your rival team, a bit more like in the campaign mode. These larger games aren’t as strategic and do lose a lot of the finesse, but I actually found them a fun break. Wins are often gained by surprising your enemies and pushing forward to the next area.
All of these modes aim to come together as a whole with the idea of gaining land for your chosen group. Territory is gained or lost based on global results from all platforms every 6 hours, and then summarised every couple of weeks and finally completed in a Season, which is around 10 weeks. Over that time, aesthetics change to match the territory taken and winners will receive items for their work. It’s a great system that ties all the online matches together and also feels like another major goal to work towards as you see the boundary lines change every few weeks.
For Honor, then, is a chance worth taking for Ubisoft and for the player. It’s a brave new set of ideas that should continue to provide hours of fun for both seasoned players in the more intimate modes and those who just want to pit these ultimate fighters against each other in the more hectic Dominion and Skirmish modes.