Vandenberghe, you brilliant bastard. I knew I could count on you to deliver a banger game, you cane-wielding barbarian, you. You set me on the path of battle, and now, I’m hungr- huh, that’s weird. I got kicked. Ah, well, I’ll just join another then! For Honor’s mechanics are glorious, after all, and I’m willing to wait for another taste of furi- oh. Kicked again. Okay, Vandenberghe, I’ll play your little game, even if it mea- oh come on, man, I didn’t even get in that time. Look, For Honor’s a damn good game, but until these matchmaking issues are sorted out, it’s just not worth the price tag. Damn good game, though.
Lying somewhere between a brawler and a fighting game, For Honor has nailed the tense dance of being locked in combat. The game uses The Art of Battle system, which takes the combos and reflexive mechanics of fighting games and smushes them together with brawler elements like power-ups and hordes of minions. You’ll switch between pushing aside peasants Dynasty Warriors style before turning guard mode on and locking onto your true adversaries for 1-on-1 combat. The minions don’t play a massive role, but the 1-on-1 stuff is where the meat of the game is.
Calling the combat system satisfying would be like saying that Oreos are pretty okay. The central mechanic is the three-directional blocking element, which also acts as a bit of a mind game between you and your opponent. You hit from one of the three directions, but you can only block in one direction too, so you weave around your opponent’s defence to expose an opening. On top of that, there are move sets, unblockables, guard breaks, group mechanics, and a whole slew of intricacies to keep you coming back after the 100th bout. The amazing thing is that it all works together without feeling like anything’s been tacked on, and it’s all executed with the precision of a samurai.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Jason Vandenberghe personally QA’d every section, the game plays so well. The movements are timed almost perfectly, with blocking and parrying demanding just enough skill to keep the game welcoming without being too easy. The UI is helpful without getting in the way, and the game is even moderately well balanced too! There was never a point where I was fighting the controls or felt out geared, only skill dictated whether I won or lost. Well, that and how good my network connectivity was, but that was never good.
For Honor seems like a multiplayer-centric game, but the matchmaking seems to actively try stopping you from playing with other humans. I’d say there was only a 10% chance that I’d successfully join a game, but that also depended on which game mode I tried playing. Duel and Brawl (1v1 and 2v2 respectively) were easier to slip into, but I rarely stayed in the 2v2’s long enough to get a chance to hit my opponent. As much as I’d love to comment on them, I didn’t get to play any Dominion (the 4v4 poster child game mode) and barely made a dent in the game’s progression system. Then there are the lag issues because of the P2P system that the game uses.
Lag is a common repeating problem in the game. In fact, lag is so common that it almost makes the game unplayable. When you’re talking about reflexive gameplay, latency needs to be mitigated, and the best compromise is to use a dedicated server. So, clearly, the logical thing to do was not use dedicated servers and use P2P matchmaking, apparently. There isn’t even LAN support, so all but one player is a broken, stuttering mess to watch and impossible to meaningfully fight against. The multiplayer is broken, simple as that, and while you might find solace in fighting the overly simple bots, the campaign won’t make you feel any better.
I’m hoping no one is buying For Honor for the campaign, because it’s less of a campaign and more of a collection of inconsequential parables. There is an overarching story that goes nowhere, the characters are just archetypes without characterisation, and the ending is so cliché that it dishonours all those who worked towards it. You do get to fight the occasional boss along the way, but there’s barely any context for who they are, why they matter or why I should care. The whole thing is an entirely forgettable journey into what could have been a fascinating world of war and, you know, honour. On the plus side, the game does look very nice.
I can’t deny that the game looks gorgeous. The character designs are on point, with each faction being thematically strong and suitably badass for a game about being badasses on a battlefield. The environments are where the fantastical parts of the world are hammered home, with some levels offering up geysers next to lava pits. It would be nice to able to enjoy them more fully in multiplayer, though, but as it stands, I can only wander through the levels with a bot trailing me, which just isn’t the same.
For Honor is a great game that has the multiplayer capabilities of something from 1991. It’d be nice to give Dominion a go and give a fuller review on things like the progression system, but the inability to even join multiplayer matches ruined that plan. Still, the game itself is marvellous, blending a variety of mechanics into a cohesive product that’s satisfying and enjoyable. Just pray that Ubisoft honours us with better multiplayer support soon.