Fighting For Honor And Glory In Ubisoft’s Historical Hack & Slash

“Who would win in a fight between… a medieval knight, a Viking and… a samurai?” It’s the kind of question that you’d expect a six or seven year old to mull over in the playground, when they’re not playing tennis ball football or British Bulldog. For some reason, that’s a question that For Honor seeks to answer, with a contrived and utterly fantastical story bringing these three factions from deep in humanity’s warlike history to do battle.

The key to making this fast, fun and accessible is keeping the melee combat fairly simple. The “Art of Battle” system lets you both defend from incoming attacks and launch your own from just three directions. They’re linked, so you can’t block to the left and attack from the right, and it can see a one on one fight turn into a tense stalemate as you mirror each other’s moves and look for an opening to strike.

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There are a number of ways to break such a standoff. You can lock onto your opponent and dodge out of the way, trying to get around their guard, or make use of a block breaking shoulder charge to stagger them and get in an attack before they recover or, you know, push them off a ledge and into a pit to die. There’s both faster light attacks and sweeping heavy attacks that will lop off a more significant chunk of their health bar, but the latter naturally opens you up to take damage.

Thankfully, even if you’re reeling from taking a hit, your character is still ready to block in the direction that you’re holding. If you read an enemy’s moves wrong all is not lost, you can still switch up your stance and stop the flow of their chained attacks. Take enough damage, though, and you can enter Revenge mode, gaining a kind of frenzied strength to deal even more damage with your hits.

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Playing the 4v4 multiplayer mode Dominion, it’s easy for these one on one duels to spring up from one moment to the next, only to be swallowed by the general melee. AI grunts swarm the battlefield at times, giving the feel of an Omega Force Warriors game, but they’re mere fodder for you to carve through and can’t be locked onto – not that you’d want to. The bigger worry is other players, who can flank you and take you by surprise. Knowing when you run is pretty important for surviving, but so too is sticking with your teammates.

Of course, Dominion asks you to split up and take control of the three points around the map, which add to your team’s score. There’s a few added twists over the familiar gamemode, where remaining near a point and defending it from attackers will earn you more points over time. The aim is to be the first team to reach 1000 points and trigger the mode’s endgame, breaking the enemy and preventing them from respawning. All you need to do to secure your victory is wipe them out.

There’s still a slim chance to recover for the broken team, by holding points and getting their own score over 1000. It would be a last ditch attempt, as the team in the ascendancy gets to respawn while you try to do so, picking you off one by one. I was luckily on the winning side in my match, but there was a truly valiant effort by a fierce enemy Viking to stay alive, taking two or three of us down before he eventually fell.

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As with any modern multiplayer game, you’re given plenty of ways to make your character feel like your own. For one thing, Ubisoft have used the fantastical story to throw pedantic historical accuracy to the wind, letting you pick your character’s skin colour and gender, in addition to your faction and class, which help to determine how balanced you are between attack and defence. Beyond that, playing as each faction earns experience that goes toward unlocking new abilities like smoke bombs and other feats of combat, new cosmetic items and so on.

With its weighty combat and fanciful setting, For Honor really gets to stand out from the crowds of first person shooters and sports games that are the bread and butter of online gaming. Ubisoft having to ensure there’s a semblance of balance means it won’t really get to answer that childish daydream that served as its inspiration, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun trying.

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3 Comments

  1. Colour me interested. I would actually give it a chance if i had the means to play it. Not many multiplayer hack and slashs out there or not enouh that are known. I can see this giving birth to a rise in MP hack and slash. Although, this is Ubisoft and well, they are fond of Microtransactions. Every bugger is nowadays and sadly, i could see the cosmetic stuff being locked behind it at launch.

    • There’s a whole single player campaign alongside this, I should add.

      • Maybe mentioning it in the article would have been a good idea? ;)

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