In a gaming landscape that, at times, can feel muddled with countless titles that all offer similar multiplayer gameplay, it can often be hard to come by games that offer any rewarding and truly unique moments. For Honor has these in spades, with a game that’s taken 1-on-1 combat and built around it an enjoyable and challenging combat system. Unfortunately, the game does struggle to find its footing in most areas.
The first thing that you’ll notice when you start For Honor is that the combat is highly unlike games you might be familiar with. Where games like Chivalry: Medieval Warfare deliver a more straightforward combat experience, For Honor serves as a master class on how to build around the thrills of solo combat. While combat in the game may seem simple at first, mastering it and becoming a truly skillful player requires a large helping of patience. The game gives players 12 heroes to choose from, each of whom has their own unique fighting styles and gear, with each character having their own distinct strengths and weaknesses that are only fully found out through playing as more frequently.
As is the case with any game, For Honor rewards players for using patience and discipline. Fights against human players are oftentimes slowly paced, demanding that you be aware of not only your surroundings but the way your opponent is striking as well. Attacks can be made in various stances and from various positions, and learning when and where to strike is key to survival. The game’s most enjoyable aspect by far is finally finding a hero you are accustomed to fighting with and learning how to properly fight with them.
For many players, the quickest path to learning how to play is in the game’s single player mode. Essentially, it serves as a long-form tutorial for combat, with certain stages giving players hints as to how different heroes might be played and how their abilities can be utilized. While this serves its purpose as a tutorial, it severely lacks anything else in regards to a narrative. When I first started the game, I thought the story might focus on warriors that have been fighting for so long, they’ve now forgotten what they’re fighting for and are instead just fighting because it’s custom (as the intro would have you think).
However, the story is much more boilerplate than that; a warlord named Apollyon wants to keep a war ongoing for all eternity, and you, a member of her group, slowly become disinterested in the idea. Apollyon has no real motivation for her plans and doesn’t come across as any true entertaining threat. Instead, anything that happens simply happens to move the story along, and continue to teach the player until they’re ready to head off into online play, which is disappointing, as a game that features such variety in characters could have offered a bit more in terms of a single player experience.
For all the errors that the single player experience provides, Ubisoft has managed to make up for that in the multiplayer. Offering a variety of different modes to dive into, each game you play seemingly always manages to deliver an incredible moment or two for players. Whether it be overcoming a 2-on-1 disadvantage and turning the tides of battle to just simply sprinting into a group of AI and fighting them to feel like a true warrior, For Honor serves up some great online memories for players. The game’s Elimination mode -which offers a 4v4 face-off experience – however, proves to be the cream of the crop in terms of gameplay. This mode serves as the culmination of what every fight has been leading towards; not only is it solely up to you and your teammates to win, but it also acts as a litmus test for just how much you’ve absorbed when fighting. Learning how to time opponents and react properly comes in crucial here, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of taking down an opponent and reveling in your victory.
At its best, For Honor is a game that crafts a near perfect way for players to battle against each other in a 1-on-1 environment. At its worst, the game is a slowly paced experience that never reaches the pinnacles that it hopes to. My experience was somewhere in the middle, and I firmly believe if you do put the time into it, you will be rewarded with some of the best and most satisfying melee combat that you’ve had in your entire gaming history.
This review is based on a digital copy of For Honor for the PlayStation 4 provided by Ubisoft.