We all make mistakes. And I recently realized I made a pretty big one during my 2017 video game awards earlier this year… I completely snubbed For Honor!
For those who may not remember For Honor (I’m apparently not the only one who forgot about it during award season), it’s a multiplayer deathmatch game released by Ubisoft in which players take control of characters from one of three (soon to be four) factions: Knights, Vikings, and Samurai. Players not only swear allegiance to one of those factions during competitive seasons, but can select classes from any faction during any given match.
For Honor combines its melee combat with game modes usually found in FPSs, while throwing in fighting game-like combos and abilities, and RPG elements to progress the character classes. It’s not a perfect game – with some balancing issues still present – but it is a unique competitive multiplayer game in a time when competitive multiplayer games are a rare breed.
Not only did I fail to list For Honor in my list of the 10 best games of 2017 (a list it really should have been on), but I also failed to mention it in my award for Best Multiplayer which – looking back on things – it really should have won. Instead, I gave those honors to PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, a game that’s fun and engrossing and started the current battle royal crave, but one that’s a lot more flawed and shallow than For Honor is.
I’ve recently started playing For Honor again with my friends, and it’s better than ever (dedicated servers now!), whereas in PUBG’s case, I played it for a while, but don’t feel the urge to go back to it, especially now that Fortnite has more or less supplanted it as everyone’s go-to battle royal title. Meanwhile, For Honor’s mixture of genres still feels fresh and original well over a year later. There’s nothing else quite like it…warts and all.
Long story short, For Honor should have been my Best Multiplayer winner of 2017, and deserved to be named among my top 10 games of last year. Better late than never.
Imagine if the knights of medieval England, the samurai of ancient Japan, and the seafaring Norse vikings were all brought together by a massive Earthquake. That may sound like the build-up to a bad joke, but it’s also the foundation of For Honor, a team-based player vs. player title that is one of the more original and fun multiplayer games of recent years.
From the get-go, players assign their profile to one of the three factions, which enables them to contribute to the community of said faction, in hopes of reaping the benefits by securing victories for your team during For Honor’s gameplay seasons.
Thankfully, pledging allegiance to one faction places no restrictions on which characters you can play as. Players have one character from each group from the start, but you can unlock three additional characters for each team by purchasing them with in-game currency. Better still, during gameplay – which pits two teams of four against one another – players aren’t restricted to picking characters from a specific side. You can have any combination of samurai, knights and vikings you want, even repeat characters.
As you might expect, each character is unique with their own weapons and abilities. The knights’ Lawbringer wields a powerful halberd that can throw enemies around (in the most violent way possible), while the samurai’s Nobushi uses a long spear and poisons against enemies. On their own, the characters all have a great sense of variety, but what makes this class-based system deeper than most multiplayer games of its kind is the ability to level up each character class individually.
Not only does the player level up their standing with their chosen faction, but the more they play as specific characters, the more they can level up that character, resulting in learning new moves, combos and passive abilities. It definitely gives players more incentive to try out the different play styles, and to strengthen the ones they take to.
There’s yet another layer to this customization, as in-between matches, you have the opportunity to win additional weapons and armor, which aren’t simply cosmetic changes, but even alter a characters stats when equipped. Though the ability to alter the characters’ weapons and armor is a nice touch, it does come with a couple of caveats. Namely, the items you receive between matches are random (you often don’t get them at all). This wouldn’t be too bad, except that even repeat items don’t have the same stats, so you might have equipped a particular weapon that adds a good bonus to one stat, but doesn’t improve another, then you might find the same item that adds to the lacking stat, but greatly takes away from the previously-stronger stat. Granted, your stats are only as good as the weapons and armor you have equipped, but the randomness of receiving items does take something away from the experience.
With that said, it still is possible to better an opponent who may have gotten luckier with their item pick-ups, should you master the parries and counters well enough, it’s just a lot more difficult.
The good news is that the core gameplay is incredibly entertaining. For Honor is a team-based competitive multiplayer title, akin to many first-person shooters. But it plays more like a cross between a hack-n-slash and a fighter. Each character has a list of combos, which are performed similarly to those from fighting games (each class even has their own finishing moves). The player characters work like captains, with each team also having armies of easily-disposed-of AI soldiers.
The gameplay itself is a lot of fun, and much like the characters, is given a good deal of variety through its differing modes. Standard games have the teams trying to claim the most points by eliminating members of the opposing team, and Dominion sees the teams trying to claim specific control points. Duels prove to be some of the most fun, eliminating the AI soldiers and simply pitting one player from each team against another from the start, with the players able to aide their teammates after eliminating their initial opponent (or by running away and hoping your opponent doesn’t catch up).
For Honor is an exceptional multiplayer experience, though some of its online features prevent it from reaching the same level as something like Overwatch. Notably, For Honor doesn’t use dedicated servers, and uses the more dated method of using players as hosts, resulting in many connection errors and slow-ups. The game also has questionable matchmaking, as you’ll frequently find yourself pitted against opponents far beyond (or below) your level.
As fun and original as the core gameplay is, the server issues and inconsistent matchmaking do show a lack of polish in the online features, which is a pretty big deal considering For Honor is predominantly an online multiplayer game. There is a single player campaign that can provide some fun, but it mainly serves as a tutorial for the game’s different classes.
For Honor is one of the more engaging multiplayer experiences of recent years. With a strong variety of characters, gameplay modes, and levels (each with their own hazards for players to take advantage of), and a strong amount of customization, For Honor is a multiplayer title that has no shortage of depth. But if the online functionality were smoother, the matchmaking more balanced, and you didn’t have to rely on luck to improve weapons and armor, and For Honor would have joined the likes of Overwatch, Mario Kart and Team Fortress 2 as one of the all-time greats in multiplayer.