For Honor Closed Alpha Impressions
For Honor was one of the games that stood out every time I saw gameplay displayed. Focusing on third person melee combat, Ubisoft’s new journey into a deep multiplayer experience seems to be heading in the right direction. Recently I participated in the closed alpha which focused on the dueling mechanics of the combat and the resulting experience was stunning!
First things first. For Honor is gorgeous. Played on the PS4 during my time on their multiplayer servers, For Honor has an amazing amount of polish and style. The three factions called the Vikings, the Knights, and the Samurai each had gritty and stylish animations, customizations, and abilities that really pulled you into the action. Every execution, special move, block, and thrust really looked fantastic as the third person perspective brilliantly made you feel as if you were in a chaotic melee battle. The sounds of dying soldiers, steel against steel, and cheers of victory are constantly heard to immerse you in the experience.
Thankfully, the mechanics of this swingfest are far from button mashing. One viewer in my Twitch feed likened the controls to Dark Souls where the left trigger/bumper were for blocking and the right trigger/bumper were for attacking. The other buttons were for dodging and other actions. What kind of separates For Honor from Dark Souls is that each block and attack is directional. The grid has up, left, and right portions to every attack and block. The square button utilized a block breaking strike and combos were lurking around every corner of this structure. Each of the different heroes provided had different combos and their attack styles and preferences were each different enough to not consider any hero similar to another between the factions. Toss in feats that are gained almost like killstreaks and you have even more to worry about while defending or attacking on these battlefields.
While I was unable to master the combos, I was able to pull off a few of them for my favorite faction of heroes called the samurai. Eventually, I got the hang of the Orochi (assassins) and the Kensai (long reach katana) with their fluid and dance-like attacks. The Orochi were counter attack speedsters. Their best combos were initiated after a special block queued just before the attacker strikes. The result was a beautiful animation of grinding steel that signified you were supposed to quickly launch the Orochi trademark attacks that were quite quick and very deadly. The Kensai on the other hand were armed with long reaching katanas that kept foes at bay with kind of slow but damaging combos. I was in love with samurai in my D&D days and this game certainly lets me live out the effectiveness of their style. In this alpha, there are only two of the 4 heroes that will be featured in each faction. The two provided are just samples of what’s to come.
My second favorite faction was the Vikings. Their heroes were the easiest to use due to their high damage and visceral attacks. In particular, the Raider’s tackle (block breaking attack) was the most entertaining and effective. Landing the tackle into a wall would queue a wall slam coupled with a vicious knee to the face that made you cringe EVERY time you landed it. Land the tackle next to a cliff or drop and watch your foe get tossed into oblivion with an instant kill! This was a particularly effect maneuver in duels. Of course, all heroes had a pushing attack but none so pleasing to the warrior in you than the Raider’s tackle!
The knights took a bit of getting used to but were certainly no slouches. The Warden’s broadsword had reach and ridiculous impact while the onslaught of the Conqueror’s flail and shield attacks were often hard to parry. Both had balance stealing attacks that often got the upper hand in duels that I was in.
The alpha was quite effective in displaying this amazing combat structure and how it plays online as well as off. The three modes available were Duel (1 vs 1), Brawl (2 vs 2), and Dominion (4 vs 4). Each of these modes could be player vs player or player vs AI. This allowed for you to get comfortable with the controls before jumping into the chaos that is PvP battles. As usual, I regularly fell to more seasoned foes who excelled at utilizing one particular special move or combo as I hunted for my favorite fighting style. In duels, I regularly either got trounced or managed to find a quick sequence to make a comeback with. In the unpredictable larger battles with AI bots and all called Dominion, I mainly fought to take flans (as is done in CoD Domination mode) or I assisted a fellow teammate in felling a more skilled foe. This often meant I would jump into a duel to save a friend or I was foolishly seeing if I had the skill to take on two foes until a friend could jump in (which almost never worked!).
Regardless which mode I played, the appeal of the combat was always on full display. One hit kill strikes were infrequent but believable as I was often taken down from behind by a crafty foe. Other times I fell to an execution which is similar to gruesome Mortal Kombat fatalities only without the over the top unrealistic feel. Pulling one off was quite satisfying as actually pulling off a kill of any sort felt like a major accomplishment. The battle ‘rush’ of adrenaline was certainly official here.
Still, the whole ordeal spawned a host of questions. Since there is supposed to be a story campaign (possibly for each faction), how or will the progression tie into your multiplayer character? Once multiplayer is live, aside from the obvious equipment upgrades and loot, will there be anything interesting regarding playing AND WINNING for a particular faction? Sure, the idea of progression in levels for each of the heroes is appealing, but feeling as if your actual victories in battle actually mean something would but the multiplayer of this game head and shoulders above the rest. It is there, along with the amazing duel sequences that result in the gameplay, that For Honor looks to become a standout amongst all others.
Given that there are bosses within the game, I also wonder if they will show up somehow in the multiplayer modes somehow. Could there be a ‘boss level feat’ upgrade that could be usable for high performers? Or will there be a mad dash for the powerup as a random spawn on the map as is done with Star Wars Battlefront (which is very effective by the way).
Also, I hope that the DLC content is composed of single player only content as forcing the player to pay for multiplayer content only limits how many players will partake in the new maps and offerings. We’ve all seen how free multiplayer DLC only adds to the fever of the community with GTA Online as well as Halo 5. Also, we all know how cheap paying for multiplayer maps as DLC feels. However, if the paid DLC includes a new faction to play as in both single AND multiplayer, THEN you may have something.
Despite the similarities in controls with Dark Souls, I can think of no other game (on consoles at least) that has the feel that For Honor does. The cinematic duels within the battles will certainly make this game EXTREMELY watchable considering there is little strategy or explanation needed for what is happening to common viewers. Skill and lack of skill are very apparent from the get go and watching the result of one who is skilled is a sight to behold.
This game will undoubtedly be on the minds of many as the beta comes out later this fall and the full effort drops on February 14th, 2017.
For a few more videos of gameplay, check out the Heed Magazine Geekswagg Youtube Channel.