For Honor – Thoughts and Impressions

Among the gaming community, developer Ubisoft has something of a checkered past with regard to the quality of titles both at release (Assassin’s Creed: Unity) as well as follow-up longevity coverage (Tom Clancy’s The Division), so with two big titles on the horizon (For Honor and the forthcoming Ghost Recon: Wildlands) many gamers including myself find hesitance in getting excited about their releases. While Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate felt like a giant leap in the proper direction, it’s difficult to forget the past misdeeds and subsequent disappointment that they brought with them.  With For Honor however, Ubisoft may find themselves having a bit of a Renaissance; if not an upswing in quality at the very least.

Blood and Thunder

For Honor is split into two very distinct modes of play: the single-player Story Mode campaign and the online multiplayer.  First we’ll discuss the campaign and then move on to the multiplayer.

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The story campaign introduces us to the three factions currently engaged in an anachronistic war: the Vikings, the Knights, and the Samurai.  Each faction gets it’s own chapter and has a story specific to their own but woven together by the machinations of Apollyon, who essentially serves as the main antagonist for the story.  Telling much more about the content of the story would be doing it a disservice, but it’s not that complicated to understand either.  Essentially each faction finds itself poised to take control of more land than it has, and this places it at odds with the other two factions.  Enter Apollyon, who believes the natural state of humanity is constant and unyielding war.  Turning factions inward against one another and subsequently outward against the others, Apollyon seeks to drive them toward unending conflict.

What’s really special about this campaign is that it does teach you to play the game pretty well, and the difficulty can either provide an easy ride or a harsh learning curve; each mode provides rewards to use for customization in the multiplayer as well, in addition to collectibles and currency usable for multiplayer.  It’s clear that Ubisoft want you to play through the story and then dust up against other players in the multiplayer mode.

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There are a nice variety of activities present in the campaign, and some very cinematic fights against “bosses”; such examples include a fight on the surface of a frozen lake as it’s bombarded by catapults, and facing off against a Viking leader that calls wolves to his service.  These moments set it apart from simply being a solo version of the online component, and perhaps some of these things will present themselves in the multiplayer future.

Conquer Thy Neighbor

The real selling point with regards to longevity here is the multiplayer component of the game.  All three factions are represented here with four classes a piece that specialize in a specific style of fighting.  You have heavy hitters that wield gigantic weapons, spry assassins that prefer to engage from behind, and jack-of-all-trade characters that are good at everything but great at nothing.  I felt like there was a pretty wide variety and great distinction between these classes, and Ubisoft seem interested in keeping them balanced as well.  I personally feel that the balance effort will be directly related to the popularity of the online mode specifically with regards to tournament scenes, but we’ll see what happens.

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You’re able to customize practically every facet of your online warrior’s arsenal, from equippable weapons and armor that offer different stat advantages (feat cooldown reduction, greater exhaustion recovery) as well as different appearances, to the paint and designs featured on their armor and heraldry.  Loot is typically found at the end of a match, though loot boxes are purchasable for the in-game currency Steel, which you get from playing and is also purchasable in the store.

Upgrading your loot will no doubt be key in providing combat advantages to you, and I’m interested to see what kinds of builds people manage to come up with in the future.  The customization options were pretty broad and impressive, and they really allow you to make a visually distinctive character that can perform in very different ways, depending on preference.

Cry Havoc

The other component of the online multiplayer is the Faction War, a persistent competition between the three factions.  When you begin your online adventures you may pledge yourself to one of the three factions, though this in no way limits your choice or use of characters in the multiplayer.  At the conclusion of matches, you gain “war assets” that you may deploy on the Faction War map.  Each faction has a predetermined stronghold with land around it, and that land is constantly up for grabs and changing hands.  The Faction War is split up into rounds and seasons, and the faction with the most controlled land at the end of it all gets special rewards for their entire faction, as well as special rewards based on contribution.

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I think this is a pretty interesting side game and will probably keep players interested and invested in what happens online.  Each style of online game controls a different portion of the map, so you’ll probably want to play a variety of game modes and defend your turf.  There are also contracts that award experience points and Steel, so they’re definitely worth looking at too.