As a fan of Dynasty Warriors and fighting games set in a historic environment, Ubisoft’s latest IP, For Honour, had me excited at the thought of a well designed tactical game that would shake up the continuous triple-A sequels. You get to play as one of the Samurai, Viking or Knight fractions, with specific characters who are pitted against other players or AI opponents in the traditional deathmatch/domination scenarios. Although early footage showed much promise for this franchise, I was left rather displeased after spending 5 hours on the beta, due to the repetitiveness of combat and inherent grinding system that fails to deliver on a long-lasting impression.
Positive Aspects To the game
Before I discuss the various reasons why this game is lackluster, I will try to elaborate some of the core mechanics and more positive elements of the game thus far.
First, the game is basically a cross between Dark Souls and Dynasty Warriors where the core combat mechanics involves blocking, hitting and dodging. Much of the focus of the game revolves around its key mechanic dubbed the ‘Art of Battle’, where players choose how to position their weapons from three directions (above, the right, and the left trigger) when they are attacking and blocking their enemies. It’s a bit like a cat-and-mouse game where you are constantly trying to follow what your opponent is going to do, whilst you are also simultaneously trying to flick the direction you want to land a hit. There is also a stamina bar which prevents you from just spamming attacks or dodging the whole time. This is by far the most interesting aspect of the game, as you the player are constantly in intense combat and are trying to land a hit or block the upcoming attack.
For Honour heavily borrows from Ubisoft’s previous title, Rainbow 6 Siege, which draws upon much of the character parts that made the game worked. Players in the beta can select up to 3 heroes from each of the fractions who all have unique weapons, skills and fighting styles. This is matched with a very comprehensive customization system that includes modifying your character’s appearance and stats through attainable loot/gear. These items are randomly generated at the end of each match or can be bought through random boxes through the currency steel earned after – hence setting up the grinding system. Unlike Rainbow 6 Siege though, For Honour has a leveling up system for its characters which unlocks certain abilities they can use during combat. These usually consist of either some sort of range attack, healing or buff ability that never feel game-breaking and are generally well balanced. Like any RPG, the system keeps the game satisfying to play and something to keep unlocking in the long run.
The final positive element I found with For Honour was the meta-game surrounding each of the fractions. When you first start the game, you get to choose one of the fractions (Viking, Knights or Samurai) where every match won will add some sort of points to the territories conquered by other players in the world for your fraction. After a certain period of time, the game shows how well globally your fraction has done against the other fractions and rewards you with coins/loot for being with that team. Again this is a well-designed system that adds more gravitas to every match won and actually rewards the players for it.
What the game does wrong
Despite the promising gameplay I had fun with for the first 3 hours, it became apparent that the game had many persisting flaws that lasted throughout my experience. The main offender of this was the repetitive gameplay that became a problem. Although the tactical ‘Art of Battle’ is intriguing and keeps a player honest, it soon loses it appeal because you fall into a rhythm on how to execute your moves. Despite having a variety of heroes and fight moves to execute, most of this became redundant when you realized spamming light attacks was often the most efficient route to winning your battles. There was never a true sense that executing a combo had any satisfying gravitas due to lack of visual cue that makes fighting combos usually satisfying to perform. Perhaps this realism was well-intended at first, but when you play this game for an extended period of time, the repeated dullness of combat and guarding made the game feel very lackluster indeed. For Honour fails to deliver the tactical nuance that it claims to have, whereupon repeat battles often feel like lethargic rhythmic exercises. Part of the problem is that the game is always finely balanced so that even when you have the stronger character on paper, there are noticeable trade-offs within your upgrades meaning you never feel like you got stronger despite you getting more upgrades and leveling up.
Unlike Rainbow Six Siege which found its appeal in its intense strategic cat-and-mouse scenarios, the team play in For Honour never materializes. Players could play co-op or verse other players, but because the map design is very small and limited, most of these so-called ‘battles’ end up having all the party members bunched up in one area performing an attack orgy. Rounds are overly short and the game modes are very stock standard. The combination of these points made the game less appealing over time.
Graphics and Visual
Oh boy, Ubisoft has done it again with the visual downgrading of its games. That is not to say that this game looks ugly by any means, but given the extent of the game consists of small maps and minimal need for texture rendering, it does beg the question to why the graphics here looks like a poor man’s version of the Witcher 3, regarding the fact the Witcher was a massive open world RPG. There is certainly no excuse as to why For Honour shouldn’t be Ubisoft’s best-looking title thus far. I usually don’t mind how graphics turn out to be, but For Honour’s graphics was definitely a sore thumb throughout the beta and I suppose the more zealous gamers will see this as a major problem.
Another problem with the visuals is that having the realism in the game makes most of the environment and character models a visual turn-off. During the beta playthrough, most of the models and colour pattern were very dull, making enemy heroes hard to distinguish from when trapped in a crowd of AI squishy. This often resulted in visual pollution of the migraine variety that was very unpleasant to look at for any extended period of time.
Sadly to no one surprise, it turns out For Honour is a constant online game only. This basically means if for some reason you happen to be a poor pleb that have net issues, be prepared to not be able to play the game at all and have it constantly disconnected for no reason at all just, so your progress can be wiped out during a match.Every time I tried to play against other players in 4 v 4 matches on dominion or brawl, it would disconnect me from the game. Perhaps Ubisoft doesn’t like Oceania, but the overall matchmaking experience was such a disaster that it made this probably the biggest reason why I will not be picking up a copy on day one. Not only was the matchmaking terrible, the general frame rate drops during the game was unpleasant with poor connectivity across the board. Players will come and go, making it feel like the equivalent to a gaming brothel.
Need I say more?
Loot System and Currency
Like with Rainbow Six Siege, For Honour employs an in-game currency (called steel) that players can gain at the end of each match (or at the end of each season) to unlock things. The cumulation of steel means you can buy random loot crates that generate items. One thing I noticed from each match was that the chance of generating any item was very low. After 7 matches playing the Nobushi class, I only manage to unlock 3 pieces of gear for my character. It’s not clear how this is generated at all but to think you only have approximately 40% chance of a reward, suggests this game is unfortunately gearing towards for people to buy their shit. The loot/gear unlocked for one class cannot be used for another, so ultimately this game is going to be a grind fest.
Map Design + AI
Needless to say, the map design for this game is arguably one of the laziest and most generic of all titles combined. Dominion mode was perhaps the most played on mode during the beta, and each of the map consists of an A, B and C point for players to capture and hold. During this mode, your AI companion would only push point B whilst the human players would likely need to capture A and C respectively. This offers no tactical nuance as the map is practically one giant lane, meaning most of the combat just takes place on one of these points. I can only recall one environmental interaction on any of the maps, where on one of the bridges, you can press a nail ceiling to collapse on an adjacent side bridge which no one ever used – I’m sure these game designers were thinking this was going to revolutionize multiplayer forever.
Not only are the game maps poorly executed, the lack of intelligence or difficulty with the AI minions suggest little thought to how the game should flow from the developers. The AI are basically
bullet sword sponges and serve as more of a nuisance than anything else.
I don’t think they even bothered here.
Is there potential to this game? Possibly. Much like Rainbow Six Siege, that game got better over time due to Ubisoft constant support and the free DLC that encompassed the game. However, part of the success can be attributed to its excellent core gameplay which is clearly not the case here with For Honour. I think For Honour would end up like The Division where most people got fairly bored after a wee while. It’s a shame that with the recent announcement that Ubisoft is unlikely to release new IP for the foreseeable future, it surprises no one why this is the case. Even when something like Ghost Recon Wildlands look very average, new IPs are things we gamers should be constantly be paying attention to. But when gameplay is poorly executed with countless flaws in its designs, it makes it very hard for gamers to buy into any of the new IPs due to the fatigue of being shit on for so long. To quote the great Jim Sterling himself – Oh Ubisoft.
You fucked it up again.
5/10 – Less than average.