Many moons ago, in the simpler times of 2017, Ubisoft delivered a fantastical game that sought to bring a close to the question all historians have argued for centuries: Who would win in a fight between a viking, a samurai, and a knight?
I was extremely hyped at launch for the game. In all honesty, I’ve only been hyped up about one other game since For Honor, and it seems to have faded into oblivion at this point. But at the time, I was living, breathing, and dreaming about For Honor. I played it fairly religiously every night. Eventually, though, it slipped into the past, and I had decided to let it remain there… until I noticed a recent update to the game in my Steam library.
I couldn’t believe Ubisoft was still putting any amount of effort into this game, much less enough to post about a balance update and even a terminology guide for newer players. I’ve been itching for some straight-up, face bashing PvP again, so I equipped my full plate armor, grabbed my ōdachi, and boarded my Karve to set sail to find out how much For Honor has changed in these last four years.
Tons of features for MMO enthusiasts
First, For Honor is not an MMORPG. But I’m someone who still hasn’t played more than a handful of hours in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (because every moment I thought to myself, “Why am I crafting/fighting/doing this here offline when I could be in an MMO?”), and I still find that For Honor fills in many gaps in a PvP MMO gamer’s playlist.
Obviously, we’re online facing off against other players – a key point in any PvP game of choice. But not only are we fighting PvP fights, we get the choice of which faction we want to represent. So after every fight you can contribute points to your faction to push it toward winning the season. The winning factions get a certain amount of perks, like extra currency and the like. The whole faction concept really gives you some sense of community and makes it feel a little more like you’re playing in a world with other people even if it isn’t one you can explore.
The classes in the game offer up a ton of customization and the ability to make your hero your own. Visually speaking the game has a lot of different ways to change your characters cosmetics. We have costumes, which are nice, but they honestly usually bore me. I just like being able to mix and match to actually feel as if I own the character. You can do that here as well. It even functions like an MMO’s wardrobe. You can take any piece of gear and change its look to something else you’ve acquired. On top of that, not only can you gain better gear through playing matches, but you can also upgrade gear you already have.
While the character’s move sets are restricted to whatever combos the designers built for each class, there are a number of “feats” or skills you can set to either be active or passives, further customizing your character for your playstyle.
Honestly, there’s so much here that just checks off so many MMO staples that I wouldn’t blame you if you wondered whether this wasn’t an actual MMO. In a lot of ways it really is a PvP MMO – but only if you boiled an MMO down to just the PvP arenas, which is not what most of us would do. It’s not everything we want, but it does give us something to work with.
Combat blends muscle memory combos with twitchy reaction speed
Since the game is several years old now, I want to give a rundown of how the combat works in For Honor because its mechanics are pretty unique.
In your typical fighting game while facing your opponent, you will hold the back button to block attacks, and when you find an opening, you’ll unleash your highly choreographed series of attacks (or as I tend to perform them, “button-mashing”) to obliterate the enemy.
Combat in For Honor requires a bit more finesse. You won’t get lucky in For Honor without knowing what you’re doing. In the absolutely simplest terms, you can think of the combat as an elaborate, advanced version of rock, paper, scissors.
When locked into a fight with someone, your character typically is fighting in one of three stances: high, left, or right. You can visually tell which stance your opponent is in either by the way he is holding his weapon or by using the icon that hovers over the center of him (if you want to be really fancy, you can turn off the UI indicator and be a true combat master!). If your enemy attacks from your left and you are defending from the left – good work! You blocked the attack. Pretty simple, right? It is, except that now we add into that combat fast and slow attacks, grapples, dodges, feints, parries, unblockable attacks, and combos for maximum DPS.
Now, the combos in For Honor are less about memorizing a long list of specific key presses and more about precise timing and reacting to your enemy. Each class in For Honor has its own unique set of combos, but they mostly don’t venture into five or six long key presses. Instead, they rely on timing a parry into a light attack and finishing with a heavy attack that is unblockable. Usually the unblockable effect of an attack is a bit of a bonus you receive by successfully completing the run up moves of the combo – in this case, the parry plus the light attack. This one is just an example, but they all tend to play off a similar theme.
So, it is a lot to keep up with and is more complicated than just rock, paper, scissors, but the idea I wanted to get across is that the combat is all about reading your opponent and successfully countering his maneuvers. Personally, I really enjoy the tactical element to the combat. It becomes quite the mind game, wondering what attack is coming next and how to trick them so you can land your attacks. I spent my fair share of childhood allowance at the local Blockbuster checking out Street Fighter and Tekken, playing all weekend long and enjoying every minute of it. And while those games have a certain tactical element to them as well, a well-timed dodge into a killing blow in For Honor is just a much more satisfying experience for me.
Game modes and the ‘new’ PvE arcade mode
As any respectable PvP game would, For Honor has a whole host of different game modes to choose from. Nearly all of these are familiar to any MMO gamer:
- The classic three-point control conquest mode in For Honor is called Dominion. We all know it. We somewhat love it. The first team to 1000 points and a full wipe of the enemy party wins.
- The Skirmish mode is similar to the conquest mode, but it includes NPCs to mow down in addition to other players, and you don’t have to sit on the circle to hold it.
- Elimination modes are a favorite of mine. No objectives. No cheap moves and running around. Just straight up you versus me. For Honor has a version for just about all team makeups from one-on-one up to a full party. It’s a game of best-of-five.
Now, I think all of those modes were included with the original game. The rest are new to me – at least as far as I can remember. Among the newer ones is Tribute, which is a capture-the-flag mode. Teams grab an artifact and take it to their base for points and bonuses.
The most interesting mode of the PvP variety to me, though, must be the Breach map. This is an invasion sort of mode, where one team is defending a castle and the other is attacking it. It gives off Battle of Helms Deep vibes for me.
Finally, we come to the PvE mode eloquently named Arcade. Now, I haven’t had the chance to jump into this mode yet, as it’s part of an expansion that launched back in 2018, but it sounds pretty fun. It appears to be a neverending dungeon that can be tackled solo or duo. I always like the option of having a PvE mode to practice and play in when I’m not interested in grinding my teeth in an actual fight against other opponents.
All in all, For Honor is a game that might be past its prime, but at a minimum we know that one developer over at Ubisoft is still spending some time on it. And as long as you know it hasn’t been fully abandoned – I’d say it’s worth checking out.