STAFF REVIEW of For Honor (Xbox One)

Monday, February 20, 2017.
by Brent Roberts

For Honor Box art When you get a major publisher like Ubisoft to put its might behind trying to perfect the ultimate "Rock, Paper, Scissor" experience, and you throw in the some of the biggest names in war, you get a rough idea of the foundation of For Honor. Recently released, For Honor is Ubisoft's attempt to innovate the hack and slash genre, because let's face it, that's all you do. Hack and Slash. So, is this simplistic button masher just another generic slasher with a pretty skin, or does For Honor provide depth that will entertain you for months on end and hone your blade work?

Upon starting For Honor you're presented with numerous options for finding and creating games. However, none of this matters until you create your first character and choose which faction of three you want to fight for. You can then customize your shield, which is a simple layer system with limited available options for icons, but never the less, you can get pretty crazy with your choices, and I ended up personally spending a lengthy bit of time trying to get my emblems just right. I did note however that there are some items that can be unlocked through Ubisoft's Club, but when I saw that some were 50 Club points, I said forget that. I could understand maybe an armor design that would fit the Assassin's Creed world, or some other cosmetic change to your weaponry such as items like Excalibur, but only offering shield customization icons seems pretty weak, and charging you for them is even weaker. A small gripe, but none the less a gripe.

Having selected my character, the game automatically throws you right into the training sequence where I strongly recommend that you spend some time to learn the small intricacies of the game itself. The Left Trigger will be your best friend because that will not only help you focus on an enemy so you don't get overwhelmed, but it will also allow you to use the Right Stick to decide which angle you are going to block from. There are three possible zones to defend: Top, Left, and Right. This upside down triangle is going to be your saving grace as you will have to keep the Left Trigger held down, but move the Right Stick to the proper section to make sure you block the incoming attack. Failure to do so will ultimately result in your character taking damage, so make sure you practice blocking or go play something else, because you won't last long.

Just as the blocking is broken down into three sections for defense, those same sections apply to your offense as well. Utilizing the Right Bumper for light attacks and the Right Trigger for heavy attacks, you will quickly learn that the right time to strike is right after a successful block. The key though is that if you try to follow up a block with a heavy attack, make sure that the opponent doesn't interrupt the slow, heavy swing and land some more hits, so balancing your offense is also a paramount key to victory. The training continues to teach you proper techniques for breaking the block of your opponent by pressing X, and then following up with a throw by pressing X again, then you're sent out on your own to stake your claim against the warriors around the world, that is if you can find a stable server connection, but we'll get to that later.

From here you can choose to dive right into multiplayer, which will lead to your demise incredibly quickly, or you can go through the game's campaign. The premise of For Honor is military might and pure dominance for supremacy over the field of battle, so what better way than to experience it through the eyes of the different factions so you gain a perspective of the entire war instead of one narrow aspect. This will take you through about 18 levels and will task you to run through large, linear levels, clearing checkpoints, all the while hacking down everyone that isn't your same faction. Once you get to the end, there's always some dramatic scene that involves a fight to the death and then it's onto the next level, or chapter, in the story.

As you begin, the actions you complete within the campaign help level up your character and develop your skills by unlocking abilities that can help you in your gravest hours. To help expedite the process you can select various difficulties which all provide a corresponding XP boost; however, take note that the hardest difficulty is called Realistic, and it's called that for a reason. You can always replay missions on harder difficulties to earn more XP, but another thing that will help rapidly level up your character is the completion of side objectives, such as breakable items and scanned viewpoints. Now, throughout the missions there are breakable objects (because you have to have breakable pots in a war game right?) and when you break them you can uncover various items that will help your character overall, and then we have the viewpoints to observe.

The viewpoints really feel out of place as it requires you to be looking at a various random spots, such as up on a wall or down a hall in a side room by a door, and then you'll hear a voice describe the visual entry you just scanned. This is also a bit disorienting when you have armies charging you, flaming arrows flying past your head, and/or swords clashing all around you, yet here you are looking at the wall of a castle. Another gripe I will make about the gameplay is that the final execution window is microscopic in size. Once you land a final blow to your enemy that is a heavy attack, you will queue up an execution window where you have about a split second to hit either X or Y to execute. Doing this will replenish some of your lost health as well.

It goes without saying that the gameplay is ridiculously simplistic in terms of what to do and how to control it, but thankfully that gives you less to mess up and can lead to a more enjoyable gaming experience. Sometimes you don't need 40 buttons and 300 analog stick moves to have a good time gaming. By keeping the control and campaign simple Ubisoft allows you to essentially train repeatedly to prepare you for the heart and soul of For Honor, the multiplayer.

The multiplayer mode is comprised of many aspects you'll see throughout the campaign. For instance, Dominion will put you right at home with AI allies and it's just kill everything that's against your team while finishing some objectives till you amass about 1,000 points, then rinse and repeat. The Skirmish and Elimination modes both have issues, but Skirmish is a basically a 4v4 deathmatch, whereas Elimination essentially is last man standing. Now the common fault that they both share is that there's no way to individually single out one game mode over another. So basically when you pick Deathmatch, you have a 50/50 shot as to what game mode you get to play.

The other two modes of multiplayer focus solely on human opponents and are subsequently titled Duel and Brawl. In Duel, it's just what the title says; It's you versus one other person. The winner is the one left standing. This is where you want to go if you want to prove your worth. No teammate to blame, no evasion, just the outright skill versus skill of opponents, or what I like to call, the purest combat. Brawl is similar to Duel except that instead of 1v1, it's 2v2. This mode can get intense when you start to mix and match different character styles and different move sets. Without question you will find both your hardest challenges here as well as your greatest sense of victory and domination.

Another major victory has to come with the graphics of For Honor, because they are strikingly detailed. Every detail in the environments to those found in your character is brought to life in a way that does a sensational job immersing you into the life of the warrior. Alongside the stunning graphics is a dynamic soundtrack and voice overs that remind me a lot of the opening voice of The Lord of the Rings movies. It's little touches like this that can turn a regular hack and slash game into a truly grand adventure full of wonderment and excitement.

While all this incredible joy is being showered all over, now sadly comes the time when the hammer drops and some ugly truths are revealed. It comes with tremendous displeasure to announce that microtransactions are a huge part of For Honor. If you want to purchase a new character for instance, you'll need to have about 500 scrap (which is primarily found by destroying the breakable objects), and when scavenging for scrap this will take you an insane amount of time, so you pretty much have to engage in microtransactions just to get the character and design you want. I'm sorry, but this is something I strongly oppose and feel is a major weakness in the armor of this game. You would think that would be the worst of it, but sadly it's not.

The multiplayer aspect of For Honor involves peer-to-peer networking and not everyone is sitting on an open NAT with a 1GB fiber optic line. In fact, you'll find a vast amount of moderate and closed NAT types (how they ever enjoy multiplayer experiences is beyond me), and when that happens, the multiplayer of For Honor seems to develop tremendous lag and latency problems, which logically, will impact and have a negative effect on your gameplay experience. This is severely disappointing due to the simple fact that For Honor's heart and soul resides within the multiplayer, and if this suffers such a negative impact, I think it won't be surprising to see a community up and vanish from the game itself. So, if this issue isn't addressed, then For Honor's sustaining community will vanish and what is a social game without the social aspect?

Overall, For Honor does a great job trying to find a new way of telling a very old and very familiar story. It accomplishes so much that it does provide an entertaining way to push you through the repetition of a hack and slash game. However, when you least expect it, you get impaled right through the heart by a broken multiplayer experience where the fragments of microtransactions and more splinter through the game, and while the blow isn't fatal now, if the connection issues aren't addressed, it will be.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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