For Honor Beta impressions: A new approach to competitive online play
Only individuals can succeed as a team
For Honor had its closed beta this past weekend in anticipation of its upcoming release in several weeks. We had a chance to test out three of the multiplayer modes in 1v1, 2v2 and 4v4 and check out first hand how the sword fighting techniques were progressing. Technically speaking, For Honor went off without a hitch. A majority of the issues in the game were caused by other players and not the game's setup.
You will need to practice in For Honor.
Most of us routinely skip over "the stupid tutorial", but you won't want to do that with this game. For Honor is one of the most technically advanced games to be released, at least from a controller perspective. Ubisoft has been touting For Honor as the first game to solve the sword fighting problem and they managed to achieve some great sword fighting gameplay. The execution in parrying and counter striking is pretty flawless but it does require practice. Otherwise, you'll pretty much just kill your self-esteem and get killed in less than 10 seconds. Balancing your stamina against blocking and dodging is key, and you'll want to pick an "easy" character to practice with first. It will help you get the mechanics down for use with other, more advanced "medium" and "hard" characters as well as survive against players who have already mastered them.
The strategy involved with blocking and striking was extremely enjoyable in For Honor. The method of learning how to play was stern but fair. Players who just block all day can have their guard broken. Players who attack with reckless abandon can be stunned. Regardless of the playstyle you choose, you will need to be well rounded with skills or your defeat is certain.
As far as multiplayer goes, the scoring system favors the team who plays to the objective. The 4v4 Dominion mode has eight human players along with hordes of AI that need to control three objectives. You earn points for each objective you hold, but bring in double the points if you are actually standing in a control zone. This system actually forced you more toward 1v1 fighting than ganging up your entire team on one player.
In my time playing, teams who tried to go 4v1 or 4v2 on the enemy team lost every time. That's because the team getting ganged up on had their other players chilling in the capture zones not engaging in battle and earning double points. This system was definitely welcome as it forced players to actually learn the game and play the objectives, as well as push players into more individual battles. After all, in a game called For Honor, is there really honor in teaming up four on one?
For Honor doesn't just push into online gameplay after a tutorial either. After you finish the tutorial mode you can choose to get extra practice with any class that you want. There is an advanced practice mode, along with an in-depth move set list for every individual knight, samurai or Viking. Those of you looking for more realistic practice can play AI matches on any difficulty with custom settings suited to your liking. You should definitely play these as you also gain XP, which allows you to level up your character while learning to better prepare for human matches. You can see why this is a benefit when you look at how fast some of the blocking/striking can be
Map knowledge ended up being more of a key than I expected it to be in For Honor. There are several dead ends, cut throughs and short cuts around the maps. Knowing which is which can be the difference between luring an enemy into a trap and running yourself into a battle to the death. In fact, there are two maps you need to study in the game, the regular and mini-map HUD. It's normal to look at the main map in a game as it's bigger and attracts your attention more. There is one little caveat, however, that I really like how Ubisoft implemented. The AI bots in For Honor do not show up on the mini-map HUD. There are only human players. Since the huge mobs of AI bots on the screen attract your attention more than the human players on the mini-map, it makes it easy for a fellow enemy to hide in plain sight. After all, you can be right next to the enemy on the mini-map HUD and not realize it as you're staring at the screen fighting mobs. Next thing you know you get clobbered from behind with mace to the back of the head.
The main issues I had with the beta were caused by other players. Players that constantly tried to spam the match and gang up on other players was pretty annoying. This strategy in For Honor is actually a detriment to your progress. By the time the spammers and gangs figured out their strategy wouldn't work, players who played for the objective had already leveled up enough to get an advantage against them - all by playing in the correct way.
I like Ubisoft games, but I'll admit some have had some issues recently when it comes to online play. For Honor, however, didn't have any of these issues in my time playing. I can't wait to see what changes Ubisoft makes for the full release, as well as the implementation of the single player campaign.
Not only do I think For Honor solved the sword fighting aspect of gaming with its technically advanced setup, but it forces you to change your whole approach to competitive online play. In order to truly succeed at For Honor, you'll need to play as an individual to succeed as a team. It goes against everything we've learned so far in online competitive play, but this new strategy hits the reset button and blends together well in the overall game.
If you're going into For Honor thinking it will just be Call of Duty or Battlefield with swords, you are sorely mistaken. It is a new IP paired with a new way of playing competitive multiplayer and has me excited for what's to come.
For Honor releases on February 14th on Xbox One, PS4, and PC