Those of us who signed up for the For Honor closed alpha have had three days to experience the revolutionary game from Ubisoft. Most would be wary to give a Ubi game such an accolade, but after playing nearly an entire day across the weekend, I can safely say that–as far as multiplayer experiences are concerned–For Honor is indeed revolutionary. Read below to find out how.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, let me offer a caveat: the alpha was multiplayer only; we had no option to delve into the single player campaign, so all impressions are based solely on a multiplayer perspective. That being said, at its base, For Honor acts like any other multiplayer. You chill in a lobby, choosing your preferred loadout and await teammates to do the same. The siege begins, as does exactly what sets this game apart from any other multiplayer.
The alpha only contains three modes, dominion (4v4), brawl (2v2) and duel (1v1). While dominion is most fun, the other two modes do assist in grasping the combat. It is necessary, because the combat is most certainly different. In a way, it almost plays like Skate, where the right stick acts as the board’s (or in For Honor’s case, sword, spear, flail, etc) direction. That is where the similarities and the easy concept go out the window. The combat is much deeper than what it seems and is very tactical.
Combos can be strung together, but only if you fool your opponent by feinting and timing your blows properly. Each class has specific movesets that greatly differentiate them on the battlefield. I have played only four of the six available in the alpha and of those, the warden, kensei and orochi are my favorites. While the viking raiders look great, and play the tank role well, their movesets were too slow for my taste.
The wardens are your adaptable, all-around, Knight’s Templar warriors, equipped with longswords, shields, flails, and spears. Their movesets are balanced between offensive and defensive. The kensei are also an adaptive class, but are slightly more specialized than the warden, making their movesets a mix between offensive blows and defensive counter attacks, rather than straight defense. The orochi (my most favorite) are the assassins of the samurai and are much harder to master than their predecessors. They specialize in fast, offensive attacks and even quicker counter attacks.
Parrying is possible, but timing has to be absolutely perfect and it is not easy to do, in any sense, especially if you’re surrounded. Two on one is a frightening situation, though with much skill, both opponents can be defeated. Three on one, however, forget it. The combat is simply refreshing and very deep. It’s not just point and shoot and hope your network holds out. Skill and tactics are actually needed to survive battles and speaking as someone who isn’t very good at multiplayer staples like Call of Duty and Battlefield, I am actually a force to be reckoned with, thanks to the tactical combat. And a little proof, if you need:
One of my most favorite parts of combat are the executions. They are brutal.
I will say however, the only BAD thing about the combat, is lack of vibration on hits. I did not see any setting to toggle vibration, but I do hope it makes it into the final game. While light and heavy attacks do simulate as such through their animation, it would be nice to literally feel how hard each blow is through vibration.
Combat isn’t the only thing that helps For Honor rise above the echelon; it has a surprisingly deep customization system. Literally every piece of armor is allowed to be customized. Vambraces, greaves, helms, spaulders, and chest pieces can all be swapped, all with their own stats and buffs and a multitude of colors, emblems, symbols, and even engravings.
You create your own coat of arms at the start and can use the symbol on your armor. Weapons can also be customized. Hilt, crossguard, blade, and any accouterments may be added. The best part is these options are much more than aesthetic; they have stats and specific duties in battle.
For example, I outfitted my kensei with a hilt that aided stamina regeneration and a crossguard that raised my defense stat by two. It didn’t seem much looking at it, but it actually really helped in battle. You can also customize your feats, which are skills that unlock by completing–you guessed it–feats, like smoke grenade (yes, smoke grenades did exist then) and a health boost when killing mob soldiers.
The graphical quality is very smooth, but I play on a 4K display, so my resolution is upscaled a little bit. That being said, you can see how much time the team took with the saturation and color gamut in the screen below. Note, the resolution of the image has been compressed through uploading and does not reflect resolution in-game.
What’s more, is the score. I absolutely love the menu music. In fact, I sat listening to it for a few minutes before even delving into the guts of the alpha. Since there isn’t an exact period as far as setting is concerned, I can’t say the score matched its setting, but it is still nevertheless immersive and very well done.
Now that I have the good out of the way, I did run into a few snags. Of course, it’s an alpha test, I expect them. But I also expect them to disappear come launch. There weren’t many instances of this, but some screen tearing did occur when I was backed against walls, or any kind of blockade. I also ran into this black, almost static-like stutter that enveloped both sides of my screen for a couple seconds. These were minuscule, however, to the number of times the server dropped, or migrated hosts. Multiple times per every match, the network connection would be interrupted–and I am hardwired to my network, so it was not on my end–or it would migrate completely and force us to restart our match.
That being said, we are still a long time from launch and Ubi has ample opportunity to fix these issues, and apart from them, I had an absolute blast. And that’s huge for me, since I play mostly single-player campaigns. My first impressions are in high hopes for the future release, and I cannot wait to see what else the game has in store.