For Honor Beta & Gameplay Impressions

WHAT UP INTERNET?!

For Honor is a title which had not been on my radar until recently. My brother-in-law participated in the closed beta and sung great praises of the title-naturally, I had to spend as much time as humanly possible in the open beta this past weekend. It’s a unique 3rd person combat title which favors strategy and timing above anything else and combines traditional RPG-style elements such as player skills/attributes customization and a plethora of customization options. After a few hours with the various multiplayer components, I feel confident saying this is an inventive and fresh title which will make players feel both tactical and (at times) frustrated.

Gameplay

The Art of Battle combat system is what makes For Honor truly feel unique. Essentially, when using a primary attack, players have the option to strike (and block) from either the left, the top, or the right. Although it did take some time for me to get accustomed with the Art of Battle system (approximately an hour of playing against AI-controlled opponents), once you get the gist of the system balancing attacking, blocking, being aware of both friendly and enemy locations and balancing stamina becomes incredibly intuitive. While there are more advanced tactics player can utilize such as dodging, character-specific skills, guard-breaking and throws, the true inventiveness-and I would argue, best moments-of the title lies with one-on-one dueling.

A flashing red notification alerts you which direction an enemy strike is coming from, and as long as you are not in the process of using a skill or attacking you can quickly defend in the same direction and deflect the blow. The beauty of the title lies in constantly trying to strike a balance between defending and looking for counterstrike opportunities, opting to use quick, heavy strikes or a combination of the two and deciding when to use the character-specific skills which can be unlocked after earning points throughout the course of each match. The unpredictability of your opponents, coupled with the fact each character has unique combinations at their disposal makes each duel encounter unique, and For Honor truly shines during these encounters.

Game Modes

There are a multitude of game modes, all of which can be played in either PvP or PvE with real-life or AI-controlled compatriots and/or adversaries. There are options to participate in a 1v1 Duel, a 2v2 Brawl, a 4v4 Skirmish, Elimination or Dominion match. Skirmish was not available to play during the open beta, however all game modes with the exception of Dominion are essentially hero vs hero (player vs player or player vs AI), although some game modes have power ups littered throughout the environment which restore HP or bolster attack power or defense. Games modes allow for players to revive fallen compatriots, provided these players were not executed (an option available after killing a character with a heavy strike) or killed via the environment (players can push their adversaries off certain portions of the map via a throw or heavy strike, a la Soul Calibur).

My personal favorite game mode is Dominion, where two teams of four heroes square off against one another with two armies of non-player controlled characters vie for control of three points throughout the map-think King of the Hill-esque game modes. These non-player controlled characters are struck down by a hero with one strike, regardless of the hit is a quick or heavy attack. Mowing through hordes of non-player controlled heroes not only assists your team is taking control of the map, but it also adds to your score and really helps set the atmosphere for the title. Players feel as if they are participating in a large scale assault, complete with quick encounters with other heroes, two armies constantly battling for control of the center of the map and random explosions throughout the map.

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Customization

There are three different base character classes, Vanguard, Heavy and Assassin. The Vanguard is a standard character, with no glaring weaknesses or strengths. The Assassin is agile and a great counter-attacker, however they cannot absorb much damage. The Heavy is a strong striker with solid defense, however these are easily the slowest characters. Each of these characters have unique attack combinations and skills available to them, encouraging players to experiment and find an option which best fits their playstyle.

Additionally, after each match players can find various weapons and armor pieces to customize each character even further. These various options impact character stats and allow players the opportunity to create specific character builds which are catered to their specific predilections. Each item has a specific stat opportunity cost associated with it, and more rare gear items have even bigger tradeoffs, adding a high risk-reward element to gear customization which is already present when dueling. As players rank up each character, additional aesthetic customization options are unlocked, such as new color schemes and patterns.

1-Ups

For Honor contains one of the most unique combat systems I’ve ever played. Timing and strategy are more important than memorizing an incessantly long combination of buttons, meaning the barriers to entry are relatively low in PvP or PvE. The graphics are gorgeous, and the atmosphere created by dueling truly feels as if swordplay has finally been mastered in a video game, something I’ve always yearned for. The elements of customization are deep and encourage players to experiment with different characters and gear combinations.

Buzzkills

The primary source of frustration in the title, which is not covered in this post but is demonstrated at length in the accompanying video, is that “dang numbers game” for those familiar with wrestling vernacular. While the atmosphere created in a one-on-one duel is absolutely enthralling, barring a player with exorbitant amounts of skill coupled with amazing gear, it is practically impossible to take one more than one “hero” opponent at a time. This means most team-based matches (at least when fighting player-controlled opposition) quickly devolve into sprinting matches to find your teammates in order to gain a numerical advantage.

To be fair, I think it makes sense from both an atmosphere and gameplay perspective to have players be extremely competitive in a one-on-one duel, but be completely overwhelmed when attempting to engage more than one opponent. However, pretty much all multiplayer matches quickly delve into attempting to secure a numbers advantage over the opposition, and I don’t see an effective gameplay way to rectify the issue.

Verdict

For Honor is one of the most inventive gameplay experiences I’ve ever played. With a unique combat system, it absolutely nails swordplay in a video game that feels like the first time melee combat has truly been perfected. However, it is not without its balance issues-primarily multiplayer matches quickly devolving into trying to gain a numbers advantage over the opposition. Still, I would not let this deter you from the title, as I for one could not get enough of it. Until next time, Bros!

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