I’ll fully admit I was skeptical of For Honor…and that’s a big understatement. It looked cool, it looked fun, it looked like something new…but I couldn’t see it working as intended. Every gameplay video I saw didn’t justify what articles claimed it was trying to be. People said the combat was amazing and different, but it still looked like glorified button-mashing to me. Nothing was really selling me on it. I didn’t see the appeal. I just didn’t get it.
Until I was able to play the alpha…now I understand. Now I get it.
I’ll gloss over the basics of the game because I assume you already know them. Instead of most fighting games you simply don’t mash buttons as I prematurely judged. You square up with another player and the game is about matching stances. You can attack from three angles: top, left, or right. On defense, you have to match the attacker’s angle to successfully block. You decide your attackin or blocking direction with the right joystick. You can also break a person’s guard with square (playing on PS4), and if you press it twice, you will kick them or some alternative attack that forces them backward.
I knew all this beforehand and it still didn’t look interesting to me. I understood how squaring off with an opponent could be stressful and exhilarating, but it wouldn’t be enough I thought. If I lost I would just respawn and go at them again. It wouldn’t matter and I assumed most of it was a lot of luck as well.
So I tried to keep an open mind when I started the alpha. I played Dominion first. The big 4v4 that is always talked about. There are three points to fight over and it looked like your pretty typical domination match in multiplayer.
I constantly found myself in 1v3 or 1v4 fights and couldn’t stay alive at all. I was annoyed immediately. Sometimes I found some 2v2 fights or I would fight someone 1v1. I enjoyed those to some extent, but it wasn’t still anything special.
After about thirty minutes ( a few matches) I grew bored. I was already deciding this game wasn’t for me. I kept trying different people but I never liked anyone. I was going to play something else (most likely Siege since I’m addicted) but figured I should at least try another mode.
I selected Duel so I could 1v1 someone without worry of being ambushed. This is where I started to really appreciate the combat.
The round started with us standing on a bridge facing each other. We immediately squared off and started switching our stances. Eventually, I went in for the attack. I got a couple good hits before he broke my guard. He got some powerful hits in. I started blocking and then returning my own strikes. He blocked as well. We stepped back to recover stamina and then went at it again. It was a tough fight. Every attack was blocked and it felt like it wouldn’t end until I countered one of his stronger attacks. I plunged my sword in his gut and he toppled over.
I relaxed and prepared for the next round. This was tense. This took strategy. This would make you pay for a single mistake. This was understanding your opponent. This was fun.
I tried the 2v2 mode and enjoyed that as well. It is essentially two separate 1v1 fights happening simultaneously. Once your battle is over, you can run over to help your friend. I liked that there was already an understanding with most people that if you win your fight first, you don’t immediately go help your ally. You wait until their battle is over. It’s fun standing at the side watching two people duel and it was as intense as watching a sports game from the sidelines. If your ally fell, then you would step up to fight the opponent. I’m not saying this is how everyone plays, but a majority did, and it reminded me of the community understanding in Dark Souls and Bloodborne about dueling.
So I found For Honor to be fun in some regard, but I wasn’t fully convinced that I should spend money on it. Luckily, getting into the alpha I received three codes for my friends. They all downloaded the game and we logged on. We played Dominion so we could all be on a team together. I wasn’t looking forward to playing Dominion again, but I wanted to fight along with my friends.
It was a blast.
I don’t want to blame my teammates earlier, but I never should’ve been in 1v3 or 1v4 fights. My teammates kept dying and leaving me. When I played with my friends we could use teamwork and coordinate. I had people to rely on that wouldn’t leave me stranded. My friend also understood the game better and explained concepts to me (the tutorial is horrible I realized).
When you are fighting multiple opponents, I thought you needed to switch your target to block their attack. It made fighting more than one person almost impossible. My friend kindly informed me that you can block anyone, even if you aren’t locked on, just by flicking your right stick according to the secondary warning on the screen. Once I learned this, I got pretty decent at fighting 1v2. Not bragging by any means, but I wasn’t afraid to hold an objective if I saw two people running at me.
I also learned at the end of Dominion, when one team’s score reaches 1000, the losing team no longer respawns (I knew that part). The part I didn’t know is that it is possible to rally. You need to capture objective points, which causes the enemy team to lose 100 points for every objective they lose. If their score drops below 1,000, your team can come back.
Before, my team was always losing so badly I didn’t even know you could rally. I thought it was game over and this was just a fun little twist at the end like Titanfall where the losing team has to escape. Just a small little mini game at the end of a match. But no, if you’re good enough, one person can rally for the entire team.
I managed to do that very thing. My whole team was dead and I was fighting two people on an objective. If I took that objective, my team would come back. I killed one guy who was already weak, then killed the second just in time before a third came at me. I had my revenge mode active at this point and made quick work of the third guy. The fourth guy was somewhere else not near me so I was able to capture the objective. My friends cheered as they stormed back on the battlefield, ready to try and swing the game.
That’s the feeling I was hoping For Honor would give me. That was what had been missing earlier. The intense feeling of the whole game resting on your shoulders. The ability to fight multiple opponents (something that was my own fault for misunderstanding). It really is an incredible feeling knowing you just rallied against a whole team. It felt great blocking and countering their attacks. Slaying one after another but never really getting a break. Knowing any wrong move could be the last. The pressure of that is what makes the game fun to me.
The revenge mode is what helped a lot. When you are outnumbered, a meter fills as you take damage, attack, and block. Once activated, it gives you the ability to do more damage, take less damage, not get interrupted during attacking, and some other things.
Frankly, I think it’s a little too strong or it should take longer to fill the bar. But, this is the alpha and things will probably need to be balanced as the game goes on. I also think you should get more points for killing an opponent and a few other smaller issues. But I’m not judging For Honor on those aspects yet. I wanted to know why people thought it was fun. I wanted to see why I should give this game the time or day. I wanted to understand what made For Honor special.
Now I understand. I see why.
I also learned how deep the customization was in For Honor. You can decorate each piece of armor with a different pattern, you can unlock colors, different headgears, sword hilts, and plenty more. Not only that, but each piece of equipment comes with stats that true gamers will waste plenty of time comparing after every match. You can dismantle unwanted armor to level up your other armor increasing its stats. Best of all, if you find a piece of armor that you like the look of but its stats are weak (a problem every gamer has experienced). In For Honor you can swap the stats out between pieces of equipment (for a small cost of in-game currency). That way you can always look your best no matter the stats.
I don’t know if I’m going to get this game when it releases just yet, but I already miss it now that the alpha has ended. I miss dueling against a tough opponent. I miss winning a 1v2 battle and turning the tide of the match. I miss communicating with my friends. I miss setting up ambushes or rushing to their aid. I miss dominating the battlefield and I even miss running for my life when my team was losing.
I miss playing For Honor…maybe that tells you everything you need to know.