For Honor: catchup review

With the release of the Marching Fire expansion just on the horizon, it’s worth digging into For Honor and what’s good and not so good about it. Over time it’s shown itself to be much closer to a traditional fighting game than the hectic team combat can make it look, but that is both where it shines and where it falls apart. It ends up being far more fun than it has any right to be, but that doesn’t make its flaws any less blatant.

While there is a single player – or co-op – story mode, it’s basically just there to help you learn the ropes of the unique combat system and maybe help you find a class to use in the multiplayer. It deals a little with the daft coolness of the premise of Vikings, Samurai, Medieval Knights and the like all getting together for a bit of noggin smashing. It kept us busy for a while, but we could’ve done without the tedious boss fights.

The combat is really complex, to the degree that to fully understand what works against what you need to be familiar with most of the heroes and moves. Each character has its own specialised moveset, so where you might usually be able to block or parry one attack, another might always skip past your guard. It can take a while to learn the ins and outs of your favoured warriors, mostly because they play so differently and have specific traits that few others have.

Since launch, they’ve added six new characters on top of the original twelve and (for better or worse) it adds some even more complex characters that have even more strange attacks that are unblockable, uninterruptible, or some other form of ‘able’. They can be earnt in-game for a fairly hefty price, but it beats buying the season pass or forking out for microtransactions.

The hero roster feels like it’s been balanced slightly in favour of the season pass heroes at times. Perhaps that’s because they’ve gotten attack patterns and abilities that set them further from those in the base game, but it might just be that we’ve not sussed out their moves as well as the others.

Unfortunately, balance favours players who’ve played longest. Gear can be rewarded though finishing matches, levelling, and ingame currency purchases. They have small incremental stat increases at first, but you get far larger benefits with high level stuff after you’ve leveled up a character a fair few times. It wouldn’t be so much of an issue if it weren’t for some stat increases being offset by generally far worse stats or the gains not being so huge. Trading a small percentage of damage or defense for massive gains in exhaustion or stamina recovery is an easy choice if you can then offset those against revenge mode stats.

It may only be small increases in some cases, but it tips a fight in the favour of those that put in many, many more hours. It also makes changing from one character to another really jarring at times depending on what you’ve learnt to expect in terms of survivability or recovery rates. However, gear isn’t used in all modes; so you’ve got a fairer fight when playing in those.

Regardless of what gear you’re wearing, you still need a substantial amount of skill to play effectively in any of the game modes. Some heroes have easily repeatable “cheap” moves that newcomers and some *ahem* intermediate players won’t be able to counter or defend against easily until they learn how. These might see you through matches with a decent feeling of having done well, which is great; but the real game lies behind mastery of your stances and combos.

Stances are mapped to the direction that you’re aiming and blocking in while in guard mode; left, right, and forward. Whichever stance you adopt is the direction that you make attacks to and block attacks from. Your stance is always visible to some degree, so opponents will try to react to your actions accordingly. Combos tend to allow any mix of stance but occasionally they require you to switch things up a certain way to keep a chain going, or to end it with some sort of extra effect.

It helps create a sense of proper combat despite the short list in each hero’s moveset. Having many combos feel like they’re created on the fly feels much more tactical as you’re constantly assessing how best not to be blocked, parried, or miss your attacks completely. It adds an element of mind games as you both try to complete specific combos but also keep your opponent guessing.

Higher level play is truly marvelous to watch, but utterly devastating to play against. Skilled players are often terrible human beings and will spam emotes or whatever shoddy sportsmanship they can fart out, which makes it even worse than being outmatched in other fighting games where at least the matches are short. It’s also exacerbated by unlocking abilities during matches based on how well you’re doing. It only makes the strong stronger, helping a team steamroll you even harder.

For Honor has only become better with time; both in the real world (servers) and through learning to play. It can feel impenetrable at first, but we learned to love it because of how well it weaves each hero’s various nuances to make them all feel so very different while also keeping each to a specific theme. Even though it can occasionally be frustrating, the overarching seasons, campaigns, and daily orders keep us coming back to the battlefield day after day.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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