For Honor made its first appearance at last year’s E3, where the developers showed off a multiplayer demo. This year, the game returned to the big show to present a taste of the single-player campaign. Ubisoft showed a sneak peek of the demo at its annual press briefing, but I was able to play it in its entirety on the show floor.
The Castle Siege
Before I could play as one of the Vikings, I embarked on another mission in order to get reacquainted with the game’s controls and mechanics. This particular mission had me play the role of a mercenary knight. A rival kingdom was attempting to siege the castle in order to take back a person they believed to be a traitor. I had to make sure that the siege was unsuccessful by killing the enemy knights already inside the castle.
The combat in For Honor is unique, to say the least. I could choose from one of three stances with the right analog stick and perform a series of light and heavy attacks. However, the enemy can also use one of the three stances. When a foe attacks, I need to mirror his stance in order to block the blow. There’s an indicator on the enemy’s body that displayed their current stance. If I matched the stance, I blocked the attack. I could also evade the attack by rolling or dodging away, or I could break their defense by charging at them with my shoulder.
It took just a few minutes to get reacquainted with the controls. Then it was just a matter of consistency. My first challenge in this “tutorial” mission was when I faced a small group of enemy knights. I had to keep track of their positions so that I wouldn’t get flanked. When an attack did come, I had to evade it and then land a few a hits on a knight. After the back-and-forth rhythm of dodging/blocking and hitting, I eventually moved to another location in the castle.
As I progressed through the area, I also picked up some feats, or special abilities, that could help in combat. The most widely available feat allowed me to restore a portion of my health. Another temporarily boosted my strength.
With each new encounter, I became more comfortable with the combat system. I could even create a combo attack with two light hits followed by a heavy blow. This idea of combo moves is useful in the next level, but I had the chance to use it on the castle level’s final boss: a duel with an enemy knight, hand-picked by the leader of the opposition.
As we traded blows and blocked hits, I saw an opening to finish him off with the combo attack. By dealing a heavy attack as the killing strike, I could perform one of two execute maneuvers to make his death even more grotesque. After proving my worth as a mercenary, my actions on the battlefield granted me the worthy title of Knight.
The Great Raid
With my skills honed in the castle, it was time to take it to the beaches of a Japanese stronghold. This time around, I controlled a Viking. Along with other minions, I stormed the beach (similar to D-Day, only this time with melee weapons) and attempted to climb the stronghold’s walls.
However, I was stopped by a small group of samurai warriors. Their swords are light and quick compared to the heavy and large swords wielded by medieval knights. As a Viking, my main weapon of choice was an axe. To counteract the rapid-fire hits of the samurai sword, I had to strike back fast with my own light attacks.
The fact that Knights, Samurai and Vikings have different attack speeds based on their weapon is a great addition to the game. It forced me to carefully consider my next move based on the type of opponent I faced. It kept the gameplay interesting, and it made me approach each foe with a different attack based on their faction allegiance.
On top of that, each major faction has a different set of moves. For example, the combo attack of two light hits followed by a heavy blow that worked for the Knight didn’t work for the Viking. Instead, my Viking could execute a heavy attack, followed by a light strike and then a heavy attack once again. With this combo in mind, I eventually made it past the small group of guards to scale the stronghold wall. I fought off a few more enemies before I made my way to a small courtyard to face off with The Kensai, the leader of the Samurai.
Obviously, this was a tougher battle. In addition to the Kensai’s own set of combo moves, he could also execute an attack that I couldn’t block. Instead, I had to roll out of the way in order to avoid death. We traded blows and parries for a while, but then I somehow activated my Revenge mode, which increased the overall power of my strikes. With one hit, I managed to knock the Kensai down on his back, leaving him open to a few more hits. However, that still wasn’t enough to kill him. At one point, the Kensai even managed to activate his own Revenge mode and knock me down for some easy attacks. Eventually, I managed to strike him with my combo attack and executed him with the final heavy blow.
The War Continues
To some, the combat in For Honor might seem repetitive, but the beauty of each encounter is that every enemy acts in a different way, even if they’re from the same faction. Some could start with a combo attack, while others play defense and let me strike first. Depending on their actions, I had to determine whether I could immediately lash out with my own volley of strikes or be patient and wait until they opened for a vulnerable hit.
If there was one critique to the entire experience, it was the opacity of the enemy’s stance display. With all of the chaos surrounding us on the battlefield, it was sometimes hard to see their current stance, which made it difficult to block any sort of attack.
Other than that, the prospect of playing the finished version of For Honor next year still excites me. The market is saturated with so many gun-based competitive multiplayer games. For Honor can stand out from the rest, not just because of its melee-focused gameplay, but also because of its combat system. It’s a refreshing change of pace compared to other games, and it could prove to be a hit when it comes out in February.
|Type||Action, Melee, Third-Person|
|Platforms||PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
|Release Date||February 14, 2017|
|Where To Buy||Uplay Shop|