Ubisoft's For Honor recently hosted a closed beta, running from January 26–29, to which I was fortunate enough to nab an invite. And I must say I really enjoyed being tested! I like to think I've played a lot of games, and I appreciate a number of genres. But #ForHonor has seriously thrown me for a loop.
As you log in to the beta, you're asked to pick one of three different classic warrior factions — Medieval Knights, Samurai or Vikings. This selection, while not limiting which of the nine champions you can play, does tie in to a seasonal challenge that is sure to keep people entertained.
As you fight (and win) games in the various modes, you earn resources that can be used to pressure certain zones, of which there appear to be many. By attacking an enemy-controlled zone, or defending a friendly one, the zone controls shift. This particular type of zone control requires a higher level of thinking than is typical in multiplayer online battle arena games of this ilk. A shrewd tactician's mind is necessary to optimize, which in turn leads to better faction-wide rewards.
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What I was not surprised by was a number of factors around the dueling gameplay. The basic battle system is what #Ubisoft is calling "the art of battle," which is a free-flowing series of attacks and guards and is dependent on player reactions and combos.
As demonstrated the combat is intense, at times heartbreaking, but always exhilarating. This is the first time that I personally have seen such a combat system, but the combination of acting and reacting continuously is awesome and I hope we see more combat systems like this in the future.
Beyond the combat system, however, comes the way that players actually approach it. Contrary to the title, there is little honor in player versus player combat. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the game has a built-in mechanic for dealing with double teaming, and I highly doubt that on the battlefields of the past groups of knights would wait patiently to fight an enemy one at a time. Nevertheless, it can be frustrating to be seconds away from beating a foe, when suddenly three of their buddies show up.
Ultimately, it's important to reiterate that this was the #beta weekend, and so balance changes are guaranteed to happen to at least some aspects of the game. So perhaps there will be other mechanics to encourage honorable gameplay in For Honor. Additionally, there is always Player vs. A.I. mode, which can reduce anxiety.
Tying It All In
So, we have a faction-wide combat system in the faction battles, and we have the one vs. one (theoretically) combat system. What about a match?
This is where the genre line gets blurry. The dueling is somewhat like an over-the-shoulder version of #Tekken or Street Fighter, but then suddenly there's minions all over the place and a leveling system for each player. That's right, For Honor's Domination mode is like a small-scale #MOBA.
The goal of Domination is, well, to dominate. You do this by capturing up to three control points, killing enemy soldiers, and executing enemy champions. As each player fulfills objectives and gets kills, they gain experience and eventually level up. As they level up, they gain access to feats, which empower the champion and champions around them.
The aspect of having a complex, fast-paced combat system tied in with the map awareness necessary to win a MOBA is a great new area of focus required in a game. While it can be tiring, and sometimes frustrating, it provides players with a new way of playing that's not been utilized before.
While I was playing this game, I couldn't help but feel that a new and fast-paced genre was emerging in which players would be expected to have the tactics to win a MOBA and the player skill to outthink and out-duel other players.
I hope that Ubisoft continues to balance and update the game as the community begins to develop, to ensure that the game doesn't turn into a single set of champions becoming the best in the meta — or worse, letting the community drift away. I am curious to see how well the various aspects of the game will play into each other.
I love the spot that For Honor is in now, and I can only imagine where it will go in the future! For honor will be hitting shelves on February 14. Check out the trailer below and tell us what you're most looking forward to about this fresh take on the hack 'n' slash.