Geekswagg Plays: For Honor Closed Beta Impressions
As a proud Nobushi warrior, you and your fellow lords rush into battle against the Viking vanguard. With siege ordinance blasting portions of the bridge away, you carefully gauge your advances through the carnage. Screaming for your men to advance you charge ahead. Taking the high road, you secure a vantage point that looks down upon a raging battle upon a bridge that is the mainstay of your offensive push. Seeing your forces clash, you notice that your men and one of your Kensai brethren are having a tough time as a massive two handed axe wielding Raider and a dual axe wielding Berzerker are whittling down their defenses quickly. Leaping down a recently damaged portion of the wall, you move as fast as you can through your footsoldiers and their bothersome hesitation to assist, yet you are too late. Your brother in katana-thrusting arms brutally receives a devastating hack from the powerful arms of the Raider and falls to his knees.
Using that opening and the broad reach of your naginata, you us a broad swing to push back the nearby Berzerker and land a deep gash in the shoulder of the Raider. As you do so, you notice the Raider barely even noticed the skillful blow as he dislodges his axe from his fresh kill and turns his mighty attacks swiftly to you. The Berzerker and the Raider commence to unleash unthinkably powerful swipes and hacks your way as you deflect each one to the best of your ability. With the hopes of receiving assistance from the other lords nearby, you unleash a commendable flurry of blocks and dodges. As each deflection occurs, the recent scene of your fallen foe’s demise stings your focus as a blinding rage builds. Suddenly, as if the chi of your ancestors has pooled within in one moment, you unleash a blood-curdling battle cry that staggers your assailants in mid swing. Your naginata meets both of their strikes and with a strength you didn’t know you had, push them back with enough force to knock them both to their backs. Slowly and powerfully, you hone in one the much larger Raider and leap with a finishing blow that land deep into his chest and into the ground beneath him.
Suddenly, your hands release from your legendary blade and your legs quiver until you fall to your knees as you feel a wicked thud upon your kabuto (helmet). Darkness quickly rushes in as gaze into the eyes of the Raider you fell. Seeing a disturbing grin materialize on his bearded maw, he mouths “To Valhalla”. With your last breath through the continued clangs of steel, you whisper, “For honor…”
Ubisoft Montreal has provided the gaming masses with a beta that is worth pre-order consideration without a doubt. It is rare to find a melee focused game the encompasses the grittiness, the skill, the power, and the tension of what sword wielding battle may have been like. For Honor, without a doubt, allows you the ability to unsheathe a katana, rush into battle against 3 other foes, and manage to leave the encounter as skilled victor. As I played the beta, I remembered learning during the alpha the importance of learning each character’s unblockable attack as well as their many combos. Each hero of each faction has a style of combat based upon the weapon that they use. Of the 9 that were offered, I stuck with the Kensai and the Nobushi of the Samurai faction. Each fitted with weapons that have good reach, I learned to keep more powerful or quicker foes at bay by stabbing and lunging. The Kensai had some excellent dodging and parrying strikes that I learned while the Nobushi had attacks that caused bleeding that often fell retreating foes.
Thankfully, the controls for these combos and attacks are relatively simple. You don’t really have to learn Street Fighter style movesets to be able to pull off these attacks. Even once learned, knowing when to use each combo or attack is key. With different attack speeds and ranges for each, being able to know when to block, when to dodge, and when to counter or mount an offensive flurry is the difference between victory and defeat. Throw in some truly wicked executions to cap off a successful barrage and you have a feeling of satisfaction that I personally have a hard time matching in other player vs player games.
As witnessed by the alpha, Ubisoft Montreal continued to amaze with high production value of the deadly dance these battles enact. The characters are highly detailed and even have customizable gear that is randomized as loot aside from the character variations that are possible. Throw in the possibility of 12 different heroes throughout 3 factions and you have quite the bit of variety of gameplay to master.
New for this trial was the mode called Faction War. Between battles (whether loss or victory) you are awarded ‘assets’ of a numerical value. Those assets are then either distributed equally across the battlefront or you can look at various sectors and either attack or defend a neighboring sector. Every 6 hours, the changes on the map take place and rewards are distributed to the participants in the way of loot boxes. The gear given can either be equipped, kept, or broken down into parts needed to upgrade existing gear. Each piece of gear upgrades and downgrades certain values in attack and defense based upon the style you enjoy playing. Maybe you want your Revenge mode to be high in defense rather than attack. Maybe you want your attacks to deliver a bit more damage even if your foe blocks your attack. You could also have armor that allows you to sprint (and retreat) faster than normal. These different strategies could help or harm you in each of the different modes as each mode requires you to fight a bit differently. Duel mode is 1v1. Brawl mode is 2v2, Dominion mode is 4v4 with a bunch of AI fodder bots battling over the center sector as the ‘main battlefield’. Each mode feels and plays a bit different. Each has different maps as well.
As usual, when a game has good hype and performs well during the beta, questions arise. What will the DLC be for (multiplayer or single player)? Will it add new factions with new heroes to master or will it be lackluster map additions? Will there be free content updates that do more that rebalance or correct bugs? How long will the single player be and will it affect your status in multiplayer?
Once the final version of For Honor is released, the usual question of whether or not this title has staying power will be answered very quickly. You either enjoy the strategic attack AND defense skill required to win in For Honor or you don’t. Even if you don’t feel good enough to battle players in PvP, each mode in multiplayer has the option to be filled with AI bots that are nothing to sneeze at as well. The rewards are reduced but the progress is still recognized in money and experience bonuses. It should also be interesting to see how long the single player campaign is as well. Those without the affinity for PvP regardless of the game will be quite interested in the length of the campaign and it will be interesting to see if the player vs. AI portion of the multiplayer is enough ‘endgame content’ to warrant those types of players to continue playing.
When it comes to my digital bloodthirst however, that glorious moment in battle when I can best 3 other players by myself thanks to a well-timed revenge mode activation is all I need to keep me coming back for more. Again, and again, and again, and again…