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For Honor Preview – Going Medieval (PS4)

December 14, 2016 Written by Louis Edwards

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Return with me now to the Middle Ages. Long before assault rifles and hand guns ruled the battlefield, hand-to-hand combat was how the majority of battles were either lost or won, and knowing your way around a sword or mace was paramount to your survival. This was a world ruled by the blade and arrow, with battles that made rivers run red with blood and victory was determined by the last faction standing. This is the world of For Honor. An upcoming hack-and-slash game set for release on February 14, 2017. We were recently invited to the Microsoft Loft in San Francisco to try out several of the game modes, including 4 vs. 4 and 1 vs. 1 multiplayer modes, and to learn more about the background events that drives the cross-platform, always online multiplayer world.

Faction Wars

When you first start playing For Honor, you’ll have to choose one of three factions to join: Knights, Vikings or Samurai. This determines who you represent in the overall Faction War, but doesn’t limit you to which characters you can play.  The Faction War itself is a cross-platform, persistent meta-game that displays the constant massive conflict between the three Factions. Every multiplayer battle played across the PS4, the Xbox One and the PC will impact the same world as players deploy War Assets to attack a Territory controlled by another Faction and contested by theirs or to defend a Territory that their Faction owns and is contested by the other Faction(s). This makes the always online aspect a little more understandable.

Faction War is split into three different segments:

  • Turns (every six hours): Faction with the most War Assets on a specific Territory controls it
  • Rounds (Two weeks): Faction with the most Territories wins the Round and rewards are delivered to all players who engaged into at least one MP activity in the said Round. Rewards depend on the rank of the Factions – Rewards include Scavenger Crates and Steel (in-game currency)
  • Seasons (10 weeks): Faction with the most Round wins is declared the winner of the Season and rewards are delivered to players of all Factions (even if they did not play MP during the Season) based on the rank of each Faction

The Faction War also changes the maps that multiplayer modes are played on. The War is happening on the Fronts, and the map and their map variations will differ depending on where each Front is located. For example, if the Dominion Front is located in Valkenheim, land of the Vikings, then all playable Dominion maps will be in one of their Valkenheim variation (snowy, Nordic vegetation and vistas). Then if this Front moves to the Myre, land of the Samurai, then the same maps (or different ones) will be all playable in one of their Myre variation (jungle-like vegetation, humid). With 12 maps and 4-6 variations per map, For Honor multiplayer can be enjoyed across 60 different map variations.

Dominion Multiplayer Mode

For the multiplayer session, we joined a 4 vs. 4 session with everyone playing on high end PCs and using an Xbox One controller. The game had to be running at an ultra setting as it looked incredible. The first mp mode we jumped into was Dominion. There are three control points that you need to capture, with additional soldiers bolstering both sides of the battle. Killing these weaker minions takes little effort, but if enough of them attack you, you can become very vulnerable to an easy death at the hands of one of your opponents. These minions could kill you as well if you aren’t careful, but taking a step back and chopping their heads off isn’t all that hard. A tactical retreat seemed to be all that was needed to take out a swarm of these nuisances.

As you progress through the round, points are accrued for slaughtering the enemy and capturing control points, and once you reach the 1,000 point threshold, the other team “breaks” and all you need to do is kill them all in order to claim an instant victory. Teamwork is key in Dominion, as each control point can become a hectic battlefield with enemies all around you, and your teammates can get hurt by you. We had gaming head phones for everyone playing, and this chatter become key in winning each round. I’m not exactly sure why  our opponents kept falling under our blades, but our team went undefeated in Dominion and the other team even had a developer on it (maybe they were going easy on us).

Elimination Multiplayer Mode

Elimination is another 4 vs. 4 game mode that is straight up kill-or-be-killed gameplay where the last player standing wins the match for their team; much like team deathmatch (TDM). Spread out across the map are boosts. Boosts bring temporary advantages to Heroes such as improved attack or defense, increased movement speed or the immediate unlock of the Level 4 Feat. In Dominion mode re-spawning and reviving are key to being successful, but in Elimination there is no re-spawning and if someone uses the execute move on you, you are done.

When battling an opponent you can lock onto them in order to better target them with your attacks. When you take them down and you are still locked onto them, there is a brief moment where you can use the execute move to finish them off. These moves are brutal and may include decapitation, dismemberment, or just plain running them through with your blade. If this happens to you in Elimination, your round is immediately over. If you are taken down and aren’t executed, your teammates can attempt to revive you, but if the other team is smart, they’ll probably be lying in wait to chop up whoever was dumb enough to attempt the revive. As in Dominion, team work is key so be sure to talk to your teammates.

Duel Multiplayer Mode

The last MP mode we played was Duel. It’s a heads-up, 1 vs. 1 mode that pits you against one other person. While the other modes were fun, they felt more like hack-and-slash games and blocking and parrying wasn’t all that necessary. In a duel, the battle changes drastically. Each character has their own combination move-set and learning these, along with learning to properly block and counter, become paramount to defeating your opponent.

Knowing each character’s strengths and weaknesses are also important in determining what strategy would be best utilized not only in a duel, but in combat in general. The characters range from petite to huge, and their speed and movements reflect that. Just because a Viking is 300 pounds and can squash someone with one drop of his axe doesn’t mean a small petite Samurai in the 100-pound range can’t defeat them.

Single-Player Story Mode

We also got to spend time with the single-player story mode as we were introduced to two different levels each using a different faction. The Vikings mission is called “Raiding the Raiders” and is the first in the Vikings chapter of For Honor’s story mode. One year after being decimated by the Blackstone Legions, Vikings are starving and as planned by Apollyon, instead of uniting they are fighting over the few resources that remain, with some of them not afraid of slaughtering fellow Vikings to monopolize all the food that’s left. The Raider, disgusted by the behavior of some of his kin, decides to come down from his chosen exile in the mountains and to invest the village of Ragnar, a predator-like Raider who has cornered a lot of food. Helped by powerful allies and full of anger, the Raider will first reclaim the hidden resources before confronting Ragnar in a tense duel culminating in a full speed horse chase.

The Knights mission is called “Sabotage” and is taking place close to the end of the Knights chapter. The Knights are now in Valkenheim, land of the Vikings, and Mercy the Peacekeeper is sent by Apollyon to destroy a massive elevator that the enemy uses to transport troops and resources. The mission happens at night in the frozen Vikings countryside and Mercy will need to find and fight her way among many paths and enemies before she finally reaches her final goal, stealthily disposes of the Vikings forces and makes the elevator completely collapse.

Each of these missions gives the game a completely different feel. Where the Viking uses brute force and an open assault on a village, the Knight uses a more stealthy approach and tries to single out each opponent for an easier fight. Where the Knight uses a more round-about path to a given point, the Viking just openly bull-rushes his way to where ever he wants to go. This goes back to knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each character and knowing how to best utilize each one.

For Honor is set to release on February 14, 2017 but there will be a closed beta in January that can earn you Faction rewards for the released game. We will have more information about this as it is announced so stay tuned. War of the Factions will begin with the beta launch and you will be able to follow along online at forhonorgame.com/war once it does.

Ubisoft Montreal’s For Honor is shaping up to be a slashing good time of a title, with gameplay that is as smooth as it is beautiful. If it plays this great on the PS4, action fans should be in for a treat.