For Honor Closed Alpha Impressions – Duels, Brawls, Dominion and Bots (PS4)

As I’m sure you all have heard by now, Ubisoft held a closed alpha for For Honor over the weekend. I honestly don’t know how many people participated in the alpha, but it was enough that Blake and I didn’t have issues finding compatriots and opponents for any match. Yes, I dragged Blake in with me for the alpha, because I figured it was dangerous to go alone. Even though I have played the game twice, once at E3 two years ago and at PAX West, but I still didn’t want to go into the alpha without a buddy. As I said in my PAX West preview, teamwork is key, and it was thanks to Blake and I constantly chatting and communicating with one another our strategies that we didn’t do any worse. I am saying worse, because I’ll never claim we performed well. But we had fun flailing around, even when we lost a match.

Now I’m wishing we had a flail in our arsenal. Oh well. Maybe we can unlock it when the full game releases. 

Introducing Brawls

At PAX West, Ubisoft revealed the Duel mode for multiplayer, which pits players one on one in a very small, confined area. In the closed alpha, a new mode was unlocked for us to sample called “Brawls.” I jumped into this first to see exactly what it was and it didn’t take long before I jumped back out again. Brawls pit two on two, but the players are separated into duels. The idea is that whoever wins the first duel will jump into a second one, or potentially team up on a hapless player fighting for her life. Yeah, that didn’t happen to me or anything.

For Honor Closed Alpha

No other players were in the Brawls mode, and I can see why. While the Duels introduce some unique combat you can play against a friend, such as a Versus Mode in a fighting game, they get a bit stale quickly. Unlike fighting games, players can’t show off incredible new moves that they just learned; it’s about who has honed their combat skills the best. Adding in a second duel that has more potential for a two-on-one beating isn’t any more appealing.

Perhaps it will be enticing and satisfying to a subset, but hardly anyone was in either the Duels or Brawls modes over the weekend, which set me to square off against bots. You’d think that fighting bots would make it easier, but these bots were not of the usual dumb-AI variety. They did not take it easy on me in the slightest. If I beat one, I could not beat the other because my health was way too low. Of course, my bot partner died quickly, so I always had to fight two duels. Sometimes my partner died so quickly, I was ganged up on to hurry along my demise. Since these duels are also in confined spaces, it’s not like I can escape to find a better vantage point. I should have just chosen the Samurai warrior so I could commit my own seppuku at the start of battle.

Battle Bots

Did ya see I mentioned bots? I had a feeling that For Honor would implement bots in the multiplayer, to help fill in teams if there wasn’t going to be enough to make a match, but I did not expect to have a full bot-mode. You can play this multiplayer mode strictly against bots instead of people. Blake and I opted to play a few matches against bots first, so we could test it out and test our own mettle.

The bots were far easier to fight against than the bots in the Brawls and Duels. In fact, once we discovered that the best way to combat the bots was to forget guarding and simply swing away on them, the matches became all too easy. Unfortunately it gave us a bit of confidence that we did not rightly earn, and playing against other people proved to be quite a different foray.

As previously mentioned, the bots would also fill in empty spaces on a team. We did note, however, that if we had bots on our team, the bots of the opposing team would always go after us instead of another bot, even if the bot was standing right in front of them. On two matches, Blake and I were the only live people on the team against four other bots, which greatly required communication and teamwork to survive. When you have no one else fighting off four bots at once, things can get hairy, and we had to be there for one another to avoid getting slaughtered. 

Playing against other people is a different matter entirely, as we expected. We went up against one team who constantly moved as a foursome, making it near impossible to take any of them out and gain ground. Another team worked in pairs, which had a similar effect. When we fought against others, that was when we started to experiment with the three characters available—a Warden, a Raider, and a Kensei—to see which actually worked better for our own fighting style. It turns out that it greatly depends on who you are up against. The Viking Raider moved too slowly for me, but Blake loved him because he was hard to take down and he could kill many minions and players with a swing of his ax. The Warden was a great adaptable character, but her defense was the weakest. The Kensei was a good in-between. Breaking a Kensei’s defense was more difficult due to the Sephiroth-long katana, and the Kensei could deal serious damage if a hit landed. However, the Kensei moved more slowly than the Warden, which left him open for attack.

The only four-on-four multiplayer match-type available was Dominion, which is the same match-type shown at E3 as well as what I played at PAX West. Not much has changed there.

Smooth Performance

Even though this was a closed alpha, it was still an alpha, and Blake and I were both impressed with the smooth game performance. We had problems initially staying together as a party, but once that was set in, we didn’t have issues again. One Dominion match had issues with losing connection to the match, which resulted in some players getting dropped. However, they were instantly replaced with bots so the match moved on without too many hitches. We also noticed that if our four-on-four matches were initially filled with bots, players wanting to join a match were quickly dropped in to replace the bots. Because of this system with the bots, matchmaking was a rather quick affair. We waited maybe thirty seconds once for a match to be made.

We’re optimistic now, but we’ll see what happens when they open the alpha or kick off an open beta.

The only real complaint I had was that I’m eager to see a new type of match. I’ve played Dominion quite a bit, and while it is fun, I want to see at least one other match type before the game launches. 

After seeing the For Honor announcement at E3 2015, I never thought I would be as engrossed or even interested in this game as I am. Just goes to show that playing is believing, and Ubisoft has something unique here over the typical multiplayer titles.