For Honor Beta Preview – Mixed Warfare (PS4)

Ever since For Honor was announced at E3 2015, I’ve been intrigued by Ubisoft’s upcoming action game. As someone who loves history and warfare, I was excited to see three very different types of warriors (knights, vikings and samurai) go at it. Despite my interest, I never really grasped exactly what the gameplay was all about. Thankfully, I got a chance to go hands-on with the closed beta, and I now have a much better understanding on what the game has to offer.

The closed beta offered three different modes: Duel, Brawl, and Dominion. The latter is the game’s main mode, as it’s a four-on-four skirmish where players try to capture points on a battlefield from the other team. It’s a very familiar concept, but the focus on melee combat makes it feel more unique than if it was in a first-person shooter.

While Dominion only features eight player controlled warriors, there are plenty of more in the action. Similar to a MOBA, there are AI-controlled grunts that take up space and will fight whoever is closest to them. These fighters are ridiculously easy to kill, as a single attack will down them immediately, but they do offer enough of an annoyance that they can’t really be ignored. Thus, it’s to the player’s advantage to keep their grunts moving forward and to use them in order to take over the three capture points on the map.

The real fun comes when fighting human characters, as For Honor has a fun combat system that has plenty of depth to it. Players can lock onto foes by holding down the left trigger, and then can position their weapon into three different positions (up, left, and right) by using the right stick. This positioning is used both for offensive strikes and defensive deflections, as the player can counter their foes attacks with a well timed flick of the right analog stick.

On an offensive front, each character has a light and heavy attack that are done by using the right bumper and trigger, respectively. Depending on what type of warrior I picked, the windup time would differ, but I tended to use heavier characters while playing the beta. This meant that my main strategy would be waiting for a counter, get my foe staggered, and then unleash some heavy attacks. While I primarily countered, whenever I was striking first I tended to open up with a quicker weak attack so my enemy didn’t have enough time to deflect.

This combat generally feels great, although things can get very hectic in Dominion mode. Getting ganged up on is almost a guaranteed death, and sometimes there were too many grunts on the screen that it was hard to concentrate on the powerful enemy that was attacking me. It just goes to show that sometimes the best strategy is to flee from a particularly bad situation instead of trying to fight through it.

A Dominion match nears its end once a team reaches 1,000 points, as it then disables respawning for the other team. The mode is ultimately won by wiping out the other team. I thought this was a really smart twist on the point-based mode, as I actually had matches where my team won despite having less overall points (since both teams had reached over 1,000). It makes the final moments to be absolutely thrilling, and it really all comes down to skill.

Let’s Duel

The other modes that were on offer are much more straightforward. Duel, as you can probably guess, is a one-on-one mode that is comprised of two warriors duking it out. I found this to be a blast, as I was able to test my abilities against another player without having to worrying about control points or grunts getting in the way. The battle is settled in a best-of-five contest, so the first player to win three duels wins.

One of the things that I love about round-based mode is how they lend themselves to storytelling. There’s not a more satisfying comeback in gaming than losing the first two rounds of a duel, but slowly catching onto a strategy, and then seeing your opponent blow a lead as if they were the Golden State Warriors. Conversely, it’s also incredibly demoralizing when you’re the one taking an “L,” but there’s always a chance to bounce back (just ask Big Sean).

I wasn’t as hot on the Brawl mode, which is a two-on-two mode. I’m sure it’s more fun if you’re teaming up with a buddy and coming up with strategies, but I found it frustrating having to deal with random teammates. As you can see in the video at the top of the preview, I was once paired up with a sore loser who quit after he got pushed off a ledge. This led to me having to battle two human players with an AI partner, and that is never as fun. I’m going to give the mode another chance once the full game is out, but right now it seems like the weakest link.

Solid Base

I’ve only spent a few hours with For Honor, but I’m pretty impressed with what I’ve seen so far. I do find it a bit strange that multiplayer teams can pick warriors from any of the three factions, as it killed the idea of seeing a whole army of knights fight a group of samurai. Still, it’s probably for the best that players aren’t restricted in what character they can pick, as each has different types of attacks and abilities that can be equipped.

I’m also very curious in seeing how much staying power the game will have. I find the combat to be really rewarding, but the game will need a nice variety of modes to keep my attention. There’s a meta-game called War of the Factions, where players pick one of the three clans and then contribute to them warring by playing online matches, but it didn’t really suck me in. I haven’t really found the carrot on the stick that the best multiplayer games have that will keep me coming back for more. Regardless of these minor worries, I’m more excited than ever for For Honor to release.

For Honor releases February 14, 2017 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. Closed beta code provided by Ubisoft