Video Games

What makes For Honor’s gameplay so good?

Depth. Let’s look at the simplest example: 1v1 duel.

I’m a Berserker, and 100’ away from me is a Lawbringer. I’m excited and even a little nervous. This guy is 1st prestige with a gear level of 50. He’s experienced. The simple spin-to-win approach probably won’t work. We’re fighting in an open area with a cliff to one side. The Lawbringer is much stronger at repositioning me than I him; I need to stay away from that cliff. The match begins.

Normally I’d charge straight at my opponent and launch a Boar Rush or Zone Attack, but I know this guy has an unblockable impaling charge with much longer reach than my own attacks. I’ll roll past him on the left, away from the cliff. Sure enough, he does his charge move, but it whistles harmlessly over head as I tumble by. Jumping to my feet, I lock on and launch a Head Crusher.

My attack connects and interrupts the attack he had started. Seeking to press the advantage, I Spin Chop to the right, but he isn’t fooled. He shifts his guard in time to block my attack. He follows quickly with a Guard Break and The Long Arm move, flipping me over and knocking me down dangerously close to the cliff. While getting up, I shift my guard to block his incoming top heavy attack, which I know will stun me, and likely end with me at the bottom of the cliff. With that attack blocked, I dodge away. Keeping my distance, I circle away from the cliff. The fight is reset.

Safely away from the cliff, I approach him cautiously. I shift my stance to the right and start a heavy attack I have no intention of finishing. He shifts his stance to block—my feint worked. I cancel out of my heavy right attack by dodging left into a Spin Chop. It connects and I flow immediately into a Bear Mauler. He manages to block the last part of the Bear Mauler combo and follows up with his unblockable shove, sending me backwards onto my ass.

The last time he had me in this position he went for the top heavy attack, this time he comes with a light attack from the left, catching me by surprise. Stunlocked and disoriented, I fail to defend against his following heavy attack. Now I realize the unblockable finisher to his Judge, Jury and Executioner combo is about to come. Anticipating this, I’m able to parry it and land a heavy attack of my own. He’s almost down. I dodge straight back and expecting him to lash out in desperation, I immediately jump into a Head Crusher. He manages to hit me, and even though I’m almost down myself, I know the fight is over. My attack is uninterruptible and he can’t recover from his own attack in time to do anything about it. Since my attack is heavy, it’ll trigger an execution, allowing me to get some health back before going in search of my next opponent.

It was a good fight.

Video Games

For Honor game review

I already reviewed the beta and talked a bit about what For Honor is. So for this post I’m just going to summarize my final thoughts.

First off, let’s get Story Mode out of the way. It is, in a word, an abomination. To say it’s a glorified tutorial is a slap in the face of good tutorials. It’s a disjointed, nonsensical, poorly written mess covered in cheese sauce. I have not a single positive thing to say about it except that it’s blessedly short—which is the only reason I was able to power through it.

For Honor is a multiplayer game. Buy it for the multiplayer and only for the multiplayer, lest you be forced to ask yourself how the hell a viking berserker with two axes at hand was jailed in a cage made of wood and rope.

The multiplayer on the other hand, is really, really good. The centerpiece of it all is the “Art of Battle” combat system. It is fun, innovative, challenging, deep, and rewards both twitch skill and tactical thinking. Each of the twelve playable characters feels unique and requires a significant investment of time to properly learn. This along with the many customization options and gear upgrades is what gives For Honor its long term playability.

One of the biggest things that stands out to me as compared to other PvP games is how each and every engagement with another player feels significant. It almost doesn’t matter what game mode you play. Whether it’s 1v1, 2v2, or 4v4 deathmatch or dominion, the gameplay always comes back to individual engagements. Sure, some teammates may join the fray now and then, but you’re still always locked onto one opponent, trying to win that duel in the moment, regardless of whatever else is going on.

Despite all the goodness on offer, a few issues dampen the experience. Sometimes play is very smooth, other times it feels laggy and unresponsive. Parrying is incredibly inconsistent. Matchmaking often results in poorly balanced teams. The maps all feel samey same and the servers have been flaky.

If you like competitive play and melee combat, For Honor is an absolute must. I’m not a fan of PvP and even I enjoyed it. That said, it has pretty much run its course with me. The more time goes on, the more people who excel at this sort of game pull away from the rest of us. PvP matches seem to get harder by day. Pile on the technical problems and I suddenly want to throw my controller at the wall. A sure sign it’s time to move on.

Video Games

For Honor: An old Berserker’s lament

I’m a very introspective type of person, and that extends even to gaming. I think about the reasons why I like, or am good at, certain things. I use that knowledge to inform decisions I make about what games to buy and in the case of For Honor, what class to use.

As a player, I know that I have shitty reaction time and I’m impatient. Based on that, the Berserker has come to be my go to class in For Honor. She’s fast and agile, able to cover ground quickly and stay in the action. She also has several uninterruptible attacks that can be incorporated into dodges. This allows me to dance around a target, constantly dodging and mixing in attacks. I remove shitty reaction time as a limitation by not attempting to parry or block incoming attacks. I simply stay in constant motion.

Sadly, the Berserker isn’t a great all-around class, and thus my lament. I fear I’m only going to be able to go so far with this class before hitting the ceiling. So I continue to have this internal argument over whether I should spend my time honing my Berserking skills or trying to break out and learn a different character. If only the Berserker was a bit more durable… If only the Berserker had a health recovery feat… If only…

Alas, such is not the case. So I need to live with mediocrity or bust out of my comfort zone. Assuming there will never be a playlist for the elderly, what combination of class and strategy can help a 41 year old with slow hands succeed in For Honor?

Damn kids

Video Games

What is For Honor like?

A buddy asked me that question, and while I’m still an utter noob, I think I can answer in very general terms.

For Honor is an intense, intimate, over the shoulder, medieval, online, PvP, melee, battle arena. K? Let us work through that mouthful back to front, Pulp Fiction style.

Battle Arena

Gameplay takes place on small, relatively confined maps. By confined, I mean they don’t have a lot of separate, enclosed buildings or areas. Everyone is confined to the same general play space. There is no hiding or pew pewing from range. You are combatants in a ring, duke it out.

Melee

For Honor is all melee all the time, and it uses a novel system dubbed the “Art of Battle”. You know how some things are easy to do but difficult to master? Yeah well that doesn’t apply here. The mechanics are difficult to start with and nigh impossible to master. Make no mistake, this is a skill based game where a deep understanding of the mechanics is paramount. Twitch skill will help you a great deal, but by itself, it’s not going to get you very far.

Online PvP

There is a ‘Story Mode’ that is basically a glorified tutorial. You should not buy For Honor for the campaign, and if you never play it, you’re not missing much. It’s all about one on one player versus player battles. Though the second player in that equation can be either a bot or human—your choice. There are offline practice modes, but you will not earn any XP. This game requires you to be online for it to have any real value.

Medieval

Sort of. There are medieval, viking, and samurai elements to represent the three factions. The main point though is that the technology level is such that you fight with swords, axes, shields etc. The setting would be considered low fantasy maybe?

Over the Shoulder

This should be fairly self-explanatory. In free roam the view is third-person, as you can swing the camera around 360°. As soon as you lock on for combat though, it’s strictly over the shoulder.

Intense and Intimate

For Honor has a handful of game modes that feature 1v1, 2v2, and 4v4 configurations. That said, the vast majority of encounters are 1v1, which is why I say it’s intimate. Furthermore, each and every encounter feels significant. They aren’t fleeting as in shooters; you don’t suddenly die to a killstreak or stray grenade. Each match is a series of meaningful duels where several blows are exchanged before the result is decided—hence, intense.

That’s For Honor in a nutshell. You fight as a knight, viking, or samurai using an innovative melee combat system. You do this to rank up, unlock more options, and earn better gear. Each faction has a variety of warriors to choose from  with unique skills, moves, and customization options. There is no shortage of things to unlock or purchase with ‘Steel’, a currency you earn by simply playing. The depth of the game is in its mechanics and customization options; if you’re looking for story or lore, look elsewhere.

Video Games

For Honor beta review

I was able to spend some time this weekend with the For Honor beta, or rather, pre-release demo, seeing as it’s a bit late for testing. The game drops in two days. Beta testing semantics aside, I was pleasantly surprised with the game.

The things that stand out the most to me are how beautiful the game looks and the depth of its combat and customization systems. At the most basic level, For Honor is all about thrilling melee combat. Its unique system, dubbed the “Art of Battle”, delivers on that in spades. This game is the complete opposite of a button masher. The best way I can think of to describe the combat system is that it’s like a tactical dance.

You must move in time with your adversary to block their attacks, or take the lead to launch a successful attack of your own. You can block attacks, dodge them, or parry them. You can attempt to attack around your enemy’s guard, break their guard, or if you have the right ability, attack through their guard. It is one of the most innovative takes on melee combat I’ve seen, and it’s outstanding.

The beta has nine playable characters—three from each faction. Each character has a unique set of abilities, feats, and combos. Some of these are fixed, but many can be swapped out with different options that you unlock over time. The way these special abilities interact with the combat system makes each character play very differently. I can definitely see that to be successful, you’ll want to find a character that suits your style and master their nuances. Jumping around from one to another isn’t going to get you very far.

As far as customization goes, you have a number of options to make each character your own. You can change out armor pieces. You can change the patterns on each shoulder, your back and chest, your leggings, and left arm. You can change your color scheme or add custom ornamentation. You can also add symbols and images to create a theme for your warrior. To be completely honest, visual customization is not generally something I give a shit about, but in this game, where the character models are large enough to see the details in play, and you’re typically locked in in 1v1 encounters, the customization really does add something.

On the technical side, the beta played fine. I was able to join matches and group with a friend. I didn’t notice any significant lag or framerate drops. Loading times are quite long, but that’s not something that bothers me a great deal. You can set up private matches with friends, solo with bots, or a combination thereof, which is an absolutely fantastic feature given the learning curve of the game’s systems.

So I’ll be jumping all over this game, right? Eh, probably not. While I can appreciate what it has to offer, the focus is clearly on multiplayer PvP, which is not generally something I enjoy. There was no story mode to try out, so whether it has a strong single player campaign remains to be seen. If my friends go wild for it, I may pick it up; if not, I have plenty to keep me busy until Horizon Zero Dawn comes out.