For Honor review

Our Games Editor reviews one of 2017's most hotly anticipated releases.

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For Honor has been one of 2016’s most anticipated and hyped games, presumably because it seems like a grown-up version of Deadliest Warrior. Though the big brother certainly lacks some of the unintentional humour that made Warrior a cult classic, it seems that the internet hype for For Honor was mostly justified.

For Honour is simple in concept: Knights, Vikings and Samurai are fighting. It makes no sense, and though through the study of history one may find numerous reasons as to why these ‘factions’ spoke different languages, wore different armour, used different tactics (etc. etc.) in real life, in For Honor this is left entirely to the suspension of disbelief. While it may bother some more pedantic players, personally I found it paradoxically honest; the game developers have made no secret of their desire to bring to life the kind of childhood fantasy where you happened to have completely random models or Lego figurines or whatever, and you made stories about them anyway. The forgettable campaign mode makes some attempt to explain what’s happening, but mostly it functions as an appreciated tutorial and introduction into all of the main classes, preparing you for online game modes. The very fact that they attempt to have a story mode in this day and age of gaming is wonderful in and of itself, even if the writing is quite stale (though to be fair you can totally see where they were going with it; it is very realistic – unfortunately Viking raids for the sole purpose of stealing potatoes just aren’t thrilling gaming fare.)

Gameplay is likewise simple at surface level. Rather than button mashing, you use the mouse or your right analogue stick to hold your weapon (be it a greatsword, dual axes or a katana) in a certain direction – whether you are defending or attacking is down to holding one button. Facing off against an opponent, you therefore enter a game of bluff and double-bluff. That’s the real nuts and bolts of it, though, and fights quickly become incredibly intense and tactic-heavy. Thrown into the mix are attack combos, guard-breakers, parries, heavy and light attacks, sweeping attacks, throws, special class-defined moves, and revenge mode, which lets you unleash your righteous indignation with unblockable attacks, improved health and stamina recovery and a knockback effect. It’s a beautifully cinematic, Rocky style of fighting, meaning it’s possible to awesomely survive a 2 or 3 against 1 scenario.

For Honor is primarily a multiplayer game. Players have to have an internet connection at all times, but there is a reason. At the start of each player’s experience, you will be asked to which faction you pledge your allegiance. This is to represent the ongoing war between the factions. You can still play as any character you want, meaning you could be fighting for the Knights Faction and play one match as a knight, then the next decide you want to play as a spear-wielding Viking, but you’ll still be fighting for the Knights. The point is that there’s a meta-game. Each fight that you win will grant points to your faction, and at the end of each season the winning faction will be rewarded with loot. In fact, each fight takes place on an actual battlefield which is part of the global map, meaning that if you take part in a casual dominion match and win, you will also advance the territory of your chosen faction. This seems to be the developers’ main ploy for longevity, attempting to turn the game into an intrinsically designed Esport. A massive problem with this could end up being the lack of any dedicated servers, which causes horrific problems with lagging – for a game which relies so heavily on strategy and quick thinking, this is unacceptable, and must be remedied in future patches.

Aside from that, the game is stunningly beautiful, with fantastic customisation options for each hero. There are hundreds upon hundreds of armour, weapon and colour palate options, meaning everyone can make their own unique avatar. The one thing I really like, however, is that everything can be unlocked through gameplay; while you can pay real money for a season pass, giving you free and early access to everything, if you don’t want to do this you can be just as powerful and look just as badass as everyone else, given time and dedication. Additionally, expansions – including new heroes and maps at the end of every season – will be available to everyone for free. For Honor is very nearly the game I wanted it to be, and I think the developers should be commended for what they’ve achieved. What I really appreciate is that they’ve tried to do everything right, even if they sometimes miss the mark – hopefully we’ll start to see more games with the same good intentions soon.

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