For Valhalla! – For Honor Review

Ubisoft’s hack-and-slash game, For Honor, was finally released on Valentines Day. With two successful betas, did the game live up to the hype, or did Ubisoft let us down again? And after playing countless hours on it, I can honestly say that I’m…pleasantly surprised.
The campaign of For Honor was actually pretty fun. For Honor is, more or less, a multiplayer-focused game. The devs put a lot of emphasis on making sure the multiplayer was as good as can be (more on how well they did later), and we didn’t really hear much about the campaign. So, basing my opinion on past experiences with multiplayer games that had a campaign stapled on, and Ubisoft’s track record, I expected the worst. But what we got was pretty good. It’s definitely not on par with actual singleplayer games, of course, but it’s not bad. The story follows the three different factions – Vikings, Samurai and Knights – as the mysterious woman Apollyon pits the three factions against each other in an endless war. They seem like three separate storylines at first, but eventually they all tie in together, linking your characters in some way, shape or form. Each mission adds something unique to it; whether you’re taking part in a siege on an enemy fort, storming a bridge as the enemy army crashes down on you, or pitted against your fellow Samurai in a Hunger Games style fight to the death, each mission is fun and keeps you interested. Of course, there are negatives, as with everything. One is that the campaign is INCREDIBLY short. Even on Realistic difficulty, you can pump it out in a day. I understand that For Honor IS a multiplayer game, but even The Division had a longer campaign than that. Despite that, the campaign was a lot of fun, and managed to entertain me throughout.

The gameplay is what makes For Honor stand out. The combat is unique, tactical and requires you to stay focused at all times. When fighting, players can block using the right stick, by pointing it in the direction of the enemy’s swing. The same stick also controls what direction you attack in, meaning you need to concentrate on blocking the attack while also trying to hit the enemy in the direction he isn’t blocking. It’s a steep learning curve at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find yourself swinging one way then instantly blocking in the other, and constantly changing up your direction. But it goes deeper than just beating on each other until one falls over. Much like fighting games, you have to pick a character and focus on learning moveset, their strengths and weaknesses, etc. You have to determine which game mode your character is best suited to, and which combos are best for catching an enemy off-guard. It’s very tactical, and requires you to not only think ahead for your plans, but try and read the enemy to see what they’re going to do before they even know. It’s a lot of fun and very intense, and each fight (each REAL fight that doesn’t end with someone being tossed off a cliff) keeps you on the edge of your seat and your heart in your mouth.
However, as usual with Ubisoft games, there are bugs. The biggest bug that many players are seeing is where the counter guard break (when the enemy tries to stun you, but you turn it back on them) just doesn’t work, and is impossible for you to pull off, while the AI players can spam it easily. Ubisoft are aware of this and planning to fix it in the next update (according to this post on the for honor subreddit), but as of right now, it’s a pain to deal with.

Now let’s get to the bread and butter of For Honor; the multiplayer. When you begin the game, you have to choose between which faction you want to represent (you can change later on, but will lose the rewards for that round – read on for that), then design an emblem for your “coat of arms”. Then you’re shown a large map, which coloured regions representing the territories owned by the three factions. The multiplayer is divided into seasons, then rounds, then turns. Each turn lasts a small amount of time, and as you play the multiplayer modes, you’ll get war assets to place in a region your faction is fighting for. At the end of each turn, the game tallies up the total war assets placed by everyone in the game, and determines who it goes to. Once the turn is over, you’ll be shown the updated map, with the territories changing colour. At the end of each round, you’ll receive rewards based on how well your faction did, with five rounds per season. It adds an RTS element to the game, which makes it all the more interesting. You begin to feel very competitive too, as you watch your faction either gain territories, or drastically lose them. For example, yesterday the Vikings (my faction) were dominating the others, owning the most territories of all. However, when I logged in today, I found that we’d been massively shoved back by the Knights and Samurai, causing my heart to sink. The whole Faction War makes the multiplayer feel important, and each match makes you feel like you’re really a part of this ongoing war for domination, which is a feature I love.

There are five game modes in total; Duel (1v1), Brawl (a 2v2 Duel), Skirmish (Essentially Team Deathmatch), Elimination (like Duel but with four players on either team), and Dominion (like Conquest from other games, such as Battlefield). All can be played with either other players or bots, and the game gives you “orders”, which are challenges, to take part in both AI and PvP matches. This, however, leads me to my big problem with multiplayer, and that’s the AI. I’m unsure whether they intentionally did this or accidentally went too far, but the AI far outclass any player I’ve faced. They’re incredibly quick, react instantly and often spam unblockable attacks or guard breaks, meaning that you sometimes don’t even land one hit on them. This isn’t something I’m going to score against the game, because this is more of a pet peeve than an actual issue. It just bugs me (stop calling me a scrub in the comments dammit). Despite my problems with fighting AI, the modes are a lot of fun. My personal favourite is Dominion, because of the moments it creates. The two AI armies (these ones aren’t the issue, they die in one hit. They’re mostly in there to make it feel like a real battle) charged against each other, fighting for control of the centre map. I joined them, slicing through enemy soldiers like they were ants, when I see an enemy Warden with his army, and he saw me. So we charge at one another and have an intense and epic battle in the middle of these two armies, as steel clashes against steel and battle cries are heard all around us. The battle ended with me decapitating the Warden, and I was hooked from that point. I’ll give it to Ubisoft; they know how to create an amazing moment in their games.

Now, onto one of the other massive issues with the game; it’s connectivity. For Honor uses P2P (Peer To Peer) to host games; one person is picked as the host, and everyone relies on their Internet speed to run the game smoothly. Which is a massive mistake on Ubisoft’s part. This means that if the host leaves, or has slow Internet, then the game will pause while it finds a new host or tries to reconnect to the host. This then results in two things happening – either it reconnects successfully, but loads up the moment of the last secure speed, essentially rewinding the game and bringing dead players back to life, or it just boots everyone from the game, no questions asked. For Honor would have massively benefitted from dedicated servers, but instead they chose this method. Sure, it means that the servers can’t go down if they don’t exist, but it also means that if a host has bad Internet, good luck playing the game. Big mistake on the part of Ubisoft, in my opinion.

Despite these big issues. Ubisoft have surprised me and released a fun and decent game. While the story is nothing to write home about, and has many connectivity issues, the multiplayer and the whole RTS idea behind it makes for a fun game to play. In a world that’s populated by FPS’ (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing), it’s nice to have something different that changes the scene. Therefore, For Honor scores 80%.

Gamer Pantheon Score – 78%
Pros – 

• Decent storyline

• Intense multiplayer

• RTS style mechanics within multiplayer 

• Creates epic moments

• Well designed gameplay

Cons – 

• Broken counter guard break

• P2P connection not good enough for this style of game

• Campaign is very short

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