Video games are often unapologetically stupid. They give us control of a plumber and tell us we need mushrooms in order to help him save his lady friend. They tell us that plummeting off a 100-story building into a conveniently placed haystack will not result in the knees of the protagonist rupturing through their shoulders. They tell us that Pomeranians can take on raptors in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo and win—seriously.
This tradition of stupidity has been lovingly propagated by the latest game from French developer/publisher Ubisoft, For Honor. But I felt that #ForHonor embraced its own nonsensical nature in such a bold manner that I had to talk about it. Cause, you know, this sh*t is ridiculous.
'For Honor' Brutally Decapitates All Traces Of Sense
In a game that boasts knights, samurai and vikings engaging in a good old-fashioned round of my-weapon-can-puncture-your-stomach-faster-than-your-pathetic-phallic-symbol-mate, there's not much room for sense. But I thought I'd actually address that chore (core or chore?) idea first because, by its very design, For Honor doesn't make any.
The Whole Samurai vs Vikings vs Knights Thing
Let's start with the greatest badasses in the game: the samurai. Why are they the most badassest?
These Japanese warriors roamed the beautiful island of the Rising Sun from around 1185-1868. That's a damn long time—longer than I'm likely to live anyway. But, what with Japan being all shut off from the rest of the world (like, seriously, it's really far out at sea) the samurai mostly kept to themselves. Why wouldn't they with all that great food? So the idea they ran into this lot...
...is absurd! I mean, the Age of the Scandinavian Vikings ranged from the 790s until the Norman conquest of England in 1066; samurai wouldn't be around for another hundred years! And, while I don't mean to knock the ship-building talents of this bearded lot, I don't think they could have made it that far. Never mind having set upon the shores of these dapper lads:
While the ships could have and did make their way to the home of the tin can wearers, the knights simply weren't there. At least not the Orders of Knights that For Honor features. They were first established in 1099 and lasted until sometime in the 1200s. Vikings missed them by some 30 years. Damn shame.
So yeah, For Honor has no respect for history. But it did take a stab (so witty) at explaining how samurai, vikings and knights all ended up in the same place trying to decapitate one another, and it's really f***ing stupid.
They Were Earthquaked Together
For Honor's intro cinematic kicks off with a lady telling us that "There were no signs, it came without warning. Doom came to us all." With her sultry tones ringing in our ears, we watch an earthquake ravage the land. It tears apart the knights' homes. It tears apart the vikings' homes. It tears apart the... you get it.
So, from the get go, the game makes no attempt to explain why these three warrior types were alive at the same, or how they all existed on the same land mass, or how they forged completely alternative cultures, weaponry and fighting styles while sharing said land mass, or why "The Cataclysm", which appears to have decimated the very fabric of our planet, came about:
So far so dumb, right? It gets better.
Once this "Cataclysm" takes a break and everything quietens down, the world is pretty messed up. That's if, we assume, it's still the same world. Maybe everyone who survived plummeted into some alternate dimension that united the different time periods. Or maybe the writers just said, "earthquake" and went home early. In any case, it's all wonderfully subtle.
So, in this new formed land we see a viking out for a stroll. He happens upon a little stream of water, tries to drink from it and some asshole samurai tries to cut his head off. Then a knight shows up and they all dance around the pathetic stream waiting to attack one another 'cause this makes sense.
Rather than asking why these lads still chose to wear their respective bits of armor after being devastated by an earthquake, or why they didn't simply take turns drinking from the ever-flowing stream, For Honor opts for a simpler question: "Can a stream of water result in a millennium of conflict?" The narrator replies, "So began a millennium of conflict." Okay then.
So the samurai, vikings and knights are thrust into a never-ending battle because a viking got thirsty at the wrong place at the wrong time (I still don't know how these guys managed to walk to the same place; Japan is F***ING LIGHTYEARS AWAY ON FOOT). And rather than one of them dying on the spot during this three-way bout, they all apparently got a bit tired, wandered off, rebuilt their civilizations and told their kids and grandkids that the other warriors sucked in order to ensure the prejudice was incessantly maintained for generations.
But they're not all that bad. Sometimes the grandkids have their doubts when the bodies start piling up. A little late perhaps, but at least they try! You can see them checking themselves above and pondering the nonsensical slaughter (can I also point out that this stream is still flowing after a millennium; they still could have just taken turns). But then the viking takes an arrow to the knee.
Shoulder... We learn that the arrow was released from the malevolent bow of Appolyon—who, in a surprising turn of events, turns out to be the sultry-voiced narrator—she declares, "I bring war."
"Appolyon" is the direct translation of the Greek "Abaddon”, which means Angel of Death (there's that subtle writing again). She essentially wants to ensure that the knights, vikings and samurai keep killing each other while she watches because... she gets off on it? I dono, the cinematic abruptly ends after this and the campaign does little to shed additional light on her motivations. She likes war and watching all these burly lads fight. Which, coincidentally, so do we!
For Honor is ridiculous. And a ton of fun. Despite the narrative reasoning behind the bringing together of knights, vikings and samurai being as wafer thin as the piece of paper the script was crayoned onto, I love how Ubisoft seemed to just want to get that sh** out of the way and get on with the murder. Which, based on my time with the campaign, so will you.
For Honor's campaign is nothing to write home about (but it's good enough to write a whole article on, huh, Ken?). The focus is on its multiplayer, and I must say, there's a lot of fun to be had in that post-Cataclysm world. Did I mention the game has great AI taunts?
Will you be checking out For Honor? Have any other ridiculous video game narratives you'd like to discuss? Let us know in the comments!