Samurai and Vikings and Knights, oh my! For Honor Preview

Do you know what kind of creature waits for its own slaughter? Sheep.” -Arguably my new favorite villain ever, Apollyon

In a time and society revolving around war and bloodshed, three factions clash in a battle for territory. No, they are not Valor, Mystic and Instinct.

In For Honor, you choose a side: Vikings, samurai, or knights. Working with players across the world, you can fight for your faction, gain rewards, and reclaim territory in real time. Your every action is a part of a whole.

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the preview event, or the game itself. Part of me expected a Diablo-esque hack and slash with maybe a loose story to string things together just enough to be cohesive. I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of variety the game offered in the time I got to play it.

First, as a female gamer and a history buff, there are a lot of points For Honor hits extremely well. There’s a clear historical influence when designing the warriors that some writers tend to neglect. For Honor’s creative team recognize the existence of shield maidens, onna-bugeisha, and dames, of which Joan of Arc was not as alone (as one might think). Regardless of historical accuracy, given that this is a game that depicts an alternate universe of sorts that simply samples from reality, they nailed representation on the head. The Peacekeeper, is an exclusively female hero, a beautiful and practically designed assassin, meant for agility and stealth. I gravitated to her like a magnet and was surprised at the learning curve of the character.

This leads me to my next point: Even with more difficult heroes, it is not a frustrating venture to learn how to play them. The Peacekeeper, ranked at medium difficulty, took fairly little time to get accustomed to, and thus I had more time to enjoy the game.

Another female character that is a great addition is the villain. Apollyon, donning the reforged armor of a lawbringer responsible for the ultimate destruction of her family and home, means to bring about the age of wolves. To her, war is as essential to society as breathing is to life. In the story campaign, which forges the events of the multiplayer campaign, the three warring factions are settling down, casting aside their weapons in order to build a world of peace. Apollyon isn’t having any of that sheepish nonsense. And thus, chaos ensues.

While I’d love to go on and on about the story campaign and bask in Apollyon’s badassery, the real place where For Honor shines is its vast multiplayer world. Whether you’re on a PlayStation, Xbox or PC, your fight matters in the grand scheme. Divided into six hour “turns,” two-week “rounds,” and ten-week “seasons” rewards are distributed based on the rank of one’s faction. The world of For Honor is permanently affected by the different factions gaining and losing territory, so the constantly changing metagame will keep players coming back to defend their territory.

The territories can change in appearance based on which faction currently holds ground there, the most obvious example being the flags that mark the environment. Each map is affected by the time of day, the season, etc., so no two games are the same. With twelve maps, with four to six variations on each map, that’s already sixty variations of battlegrounds. There are forests that will bloom in the spring and pale with snow in the winter, cathedrals with tapestries of the winning faction’s coat of arms, canyons, river forts, and more. The amount of variety I saw in just a few hours of playing was a surprising and refreshing experience.

Another encouraging thing about the faction war being separated into seasons is that there is a period between seasons where new content rolls out to liven up the war even more. Free new maps, new customization. So in addition to there being no community split, there’s no content paywall either, which is a breath of fresh air in a time when $15 season passes and in-app purchases are the norm.

In addition to the variety and upkeep, there’s also many ways to play multiplayer. Modes include Dominion, Duel, and Brawl. With Dominion, you’re up 4v4, plus your crunchy minions that fight alongside you. The goal is to take over and hold three territories in order to gain points and win. This was my intro to the entire game, which may be why I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. All the chaos and heroes and their minions overloaded me and I ended up doing poorly for most of it. Not to say it was a bad game mode, but not a good one to start off with if you’re unfamiliar with multiplayer or the game.

Duel was the 1v1 mode I’d have liked to have started on because it gave me time to get a feel for whatever hero I happened to be using, as well as practice more strategic combat than blindly cutting through minions. This is also a mode I would most like to see in the tournament scene/

Elimination was probably the most unique mode I played because I had never experienced something like it in any other game, unlike Duel and Dominion. Similar to Dominion there are four against four, but there aren’t any crunchy minions to slice and dice on your way to the other team’s heroes. Elimination starts off pitting one player against another, spreading each pair throughout the map. Now from this point, you can do one of two things: Fight the hero in front of you, or hightail it to an ally and beat down one opponent. There are also boosts one can run over for advantages like speed, durability, stealth, and more. This was a happy medium between Duel and Dominion for me, and it gave the players a lot of freedom to strategize with their team members to fight more effectively.

One last thing to note concerning the Faction War: Whether you prefer to settle into the couch and play on your console or at your desk on your PC, your fight matters. No matter what platform, every battle, win, and loss, will contribute to the same pool of points and territory in the war, so there is no community split.

There’s such an incredible amount of variety and content in this game, both with the story campaign and the multiplayer Faction War.  It’ll take a good bit of time to experience it all, and before you’ve even done that, there will be even more! I look forward to more announcements from Ubisoft and more content for this game.

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