When I first saw For Honor at the Ubisoft press conference last week, I initially classified it as a MOBA with a medieval twist. It certainly looked the part with four main players on both sides, a horde of computer-controlled soldiers, and certain abilities and zones to conquer throughout the map. It looked interesting, but I didn't think it would capture my attention.
Boy, was I wrong, and the multiplayer demo I played put all my doubts to rest.
Before we started the actual fight, we had to pick our character. The final game will feature three types of warriors — Legions (knights), Chosen (samurai) and Warborns (Vikings), with each group containing classes with different strengths and weaknesses. For this early demo, we could only play as a knight. We were able to choose our gender as well as what the armor on our knight will look like when he or she runs into the battlefield.
We also had to run through a tutorial of how the game works, specifically around its new fighting system that the developers call the Art of Battle. One of the paramount lessons that the game consistently tells you is to always be on your guard. Literally. Holding down the L2 button activates your guard, and using the right analog stick puts your guarding stance in three different positions: left, right, and top.
This also works if you're the attacking fighter. You can choose from the same three positions to attack the opponent. Both sides will briefly see which position the other player has chosen, to give ample time to change the attacking or defensive strategy. The entire thing feels like a shooter in which you get less than a second to predict and determine which side of your opponent to attack or defend.
You only get two kinds of attacks, light and heavy, so using a combination of both while also making sure you don't get hit sounds easy enough, but in practice it becomes very difficult to master. Additionally, bringing the enemy close to his or her death allows you to activate one of two buttons to execute the dying player in a brutal and gory style.
Other portions of the tutorial included mechanics such as taking one of the three zones, breaking an opponent's defense, and rolling away to dodge enemy attacks.
Storm The Castle
The multiplayer mode we played at E3 is called Dominion. Two teams of four players battle it out on a map containing three zones. The goal is to be the first team to reach 1,000 points. When one team reaches that milestone, the opposing team will be labeled as "Broken," which means that if the winning team kills any of the opposing players, they will not respawn.
However, all is not lost for the losing side. Taking back zones while avoiding death and killing enemies can tip the scales in your favor. Either way, the first team to eliminate the opposing four players wins the game.
My team played the role of defense as we tried to defend enemy attacks from multiple angles on the map. Because this was a completely new kind of game to all of us, there wasn't a clear advantage on either team, at least in the beginning. There were instances where one player would try to take an enemy base, but they would immediately be double-teamed by opponents waiting for someone to seize what turned out to be a deceptive opportunity. Each player also had feats or special abilities that they could use to help them out in a pinch, such as calling down arrows or instantly healing a portion of your fight for a second chance at combat.
The meat of the battle was in Zone A, in the middle of the map. The players raged on alongside a battering ram that continued to hammer away at a large gate while catapults and trebuchets fired stones and flaming projectiles. It's reminiscent of movies like Troy or Braveheart where you see large segments of combat with the main characters fighting for their lives in the thick of it.
From time to time, teams would spread out to capture the other two zones, but it always came back to the middle. Even though we all communicated over the headset as to where enemies were located or where we were going, the entire thing was hectic, with players dying left and right. It was a constant tug-of-war between the two teams as the battle continued.
At one point, my team reached 1,000 points, and we were on our way to victory. However, we lost one of our zones and lost the opportunity to permanently kill off one of the other players. Instead, the other team reached 1,000 points, and we were then considered Broken. One by one we were cut down as we tried to regain enemy-claimed zones in the hope of turning back the tide. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.
Completely Turned Around
As disappointed as I was that we lost a very close match, I was still very happy about the entire experience. I went into the demo as a doubter but came out as a believer in For Honor. It takes some time to get used to the gameplay, but once you get the hang of it, it's quite addictive, whether you're fighting online or in single-player mode.
The game is still very early in its development, but judging from what I saw, there's hope in For Honor. Many of today's multiplayer-based games involve modern day weapons, but a title hearkening back to a time when sword and shield ruled the battlefield is a unique take on the genre, and I can't wait to play it again.