I’m in two minds about Ubisoft’s upcoming melee game, For Honor. One side of me loves the meatiness of its brutal yet thought-provoking combat, its representation of a real battle between clans in Dominion and the strategic teamwork that can be found in it. The other side, however, makes me wary of the frustrations For Honor can cause a gamer like me. If you were lucky enough to get yourself a code for the Closed Beta of For Honor, you’ll be able to see first hand what I mean.
Within the game modes Duel and Brawl, things are simple, one on one or two versus two battles with no rules, just kill and be the last man standing for best of five rounds. They were brief encounters yet displayed the strategies of For Honor’s “duelling” system perfectly. Each player has three combat stances controlled by the left thumb stick when locked on: left, right and high. Matching these up with your opponent when they attack will block it, same goes for you if you attack. If your opponent is on the defensive waiting for you to make a mistake, you can hit square (on PS4) or X (on Xbox One) to execute a guard-breaking attack which smashes through the enemy’s defence leaving them unguarded for a second or two. They can counter this by hitting the same button to try and gain the upper hand. This combat system works wonders. It’s a thought-provoking mechanic that prevents the age-old cheap trait of button mashing to victory.
Frustrations come with For Honor’s other mode, Dominion. This mode is similar to Conquest in Battlefield, requiring your team to capture and hold zones on the map and fight to keep them. Aside from the other players, the map is filled with soldiers from your faction and the enemy’s faction. These are mere grunts who fight bravely but are ultimately fodder providing enough distraction to players for you to get some cheap shots in. The frustrations begin with ganging up. It’s hard not to notice that the “dueling” systems are only made for one on one encounters, so if numbers stack against you, you’re screwed, as you can only focus on one enemy player at a time. To swap your lock-on between enemies, you need to release the lock-on button, face the other player then press it down again. It’s fiddly and painstaking as these situations caused me a lot of grief. I knew that every time another player entered my duel with his partner, I was destined for death.
Health is meant to recover when you’re standing in a zone controlled by your team, but this doesn’t work so well. During situations as described above, retreat was my only option, and the game tells you that standing in a zone controlled by your team recovers lost health. It didn’t. I was lost at how to recover health unless I had a hero character with a healing perk.
Speaking of perks, they are earned rewards that can be activated during play. Ranging from healing, sprinting faster, unleashing barrages of rocks or arrows at an area, they were great and very helpful. The slow rate at which these perks regenerate though further emphasizes For Honor’s focus on pure melee combat.
The heroes were nicely varied too. The Knight, Viking and Samurai classes were very different with regards to movement speed, perk refresh rate, strength and other attributes which are sure to cater to any playstyle. The Raider, my personal favorite, is the starting hero of the Viking faction who is slow but versatile and can inflict serious damage with his two-handed axe.
Aside from some frustrating encounters in Dominion mode, my time with the For Honor Closed Beta was well received. I had tremendous fun with it and couldn’t wait to play another match. I’m definitely stoked for when it hits shelves on 14th February.