All you need is a couple of hours with For Honor to realize that a lot of things just feel right. Combat is actually tactical and customization is much deeper than I originally thought. And yet, the more time I spent with the game, the more I questioned whether it has the legs to keep me interested beyond the first couple of weeks after launch, particularly when it comes to the beta's uninspiring map pool and lack of game modes worth caring about.
The feature in For Honor that stood out the most prior to the beta was the game’s combat, specifically the dueling. I am happy to say that in this area, the beta did not disappoint. Dueling other players in For Honor feels just as great as it looks in trailers and demos. It’s more than just mashing the same two buttons to attack and counter like in other games. You can guard and attack in different directions in different ways. You can string together different moves for effective combos. Each playable character even has specific abilities and attacks which add an even deeper layer to the game.
Dueling in For Honor feels like a fighting game in many ways. However, even most fighting games don’t give you the level of control you have in For Honor. And it’s that feeling of freedom that really sets For Honor apart from most other games in that genre.
Still, a game with exemplary combat would be nothing without good maps and modes. This is where For Honor fails to raise the bar, particularly in the game’s lack of game modes. There were three game modes offered in the beta: 1v1, 2v2, and 4v4 Dominion, which is an objective driven mode. The 4v4 and 1v1 game modes were fun to play, but 2v2 fights feel incredibly out of place.
Are you in the mood for a more objective driven game mode? 4v4 Dominion is for you. Are you in the mood for a test of skill? 1v1 is for you. Are you in the mood to die over and over again because your teammate keeps dying early in every round? Then 2v2 is for you.
See, 1v1 and 4v4 each serve a purpose, which is to add some diversity to the game. 2v2 is useless because each round starts off as a 1v1, but neither team really stands a chance once their first player dies. The 2v2 Brawl is one of the only features that feels shoehorned in, which is a shame because I don’t foresee many people enjoying this mode, leaving just two viable modes for players to enjoy. This is just one of the reasons why I still doubt whether For Honor has the legs to entertain players for longer than a few weeks.
Maps are another area in the game where For Honor fails to amaze. The maps are functional for most modes, only really giving an advantage to certain heroes in some duel scenarios. While they might not be anything out of this world, the maps are visually striking and functional. Most people aren’t going to be particularly excited over the map pool, but I doubt players will find them exceptionally bad either.
One thing that I couldn’t help be disappointed by is the network issues with the game during the beta. I’d like to think that this was all just because it was a beta, but these early problems don’t bode well for the game moving forward. I was kicked out of matches multiple times, matches froze often, and sometimes I even had to close the game because I couldn’t connect to anything.
Again, this could have just been a problem with the beta, but it’s something to watch out for when the game launches.
Moving on, there were a few particular elements of For Honor that I genuinely felt were surprisingly good. Those two aspects were customization and the overarching faction war.
First, For Honor’s customization options were a welcome surprise. I went into the beta expecting to play as whichever heroes were available and that would be the end of it. However, each and every hero can be upgraded with new gear as you level them up. You can give some heroes more defensive stats, or make them regain stamina faster, and everything in between. This system helps you feel like you are actually progressing, which might give the game more replay value down the line.
The other pleasant surprise in For Honor was the game’s faction war metagame. When you start up the game, you decide which faction you would like to join; Viking, samurai, or knight. After every match, you can put down troops on a board that shows what territory each faction owns. You can help your faction defend land, or go on the offensive.
However, where you can place troops depends on what game mode you played. This actually encouraged me to play different game modes, depending on where my faction needed troops. Maps also change slightly depending on where the battle is being fought based on the faction war. It’s a simple mechanic, but a nice touch, nonetheless.
For Honor manages to excel in many of the places you would expect it to, like combat, while also throwing in some pleasant surprises, like the faction war metagame and hero customization options. While it might not set the bar very high in some aspects, this beta was still an encouraging sign that Ubisoft might have something special coming up. If Ubisoft treats this game with the same love and care that they did with Rainbow Six: Siege, then I can see For Honor going far. However, it's hard to make a long-term judgement based only on a closed beta that was missing a substantial amount of content.
For reference, the For Honor closed beta only included the game’s multiplayer content. Some multiplayer content was missing, including a few heroes, maps, and game modes. The game will include a campaign, but none of that content was included.
The For Honor Open Beta and Closed Beta was played on PlayStation 4 over the past month. The full game is being reviewed on PS4, and will also be available on Xbox One and PC via UPlay when the game launches on February 14th.