For Honor is one of those games that just chugs along in the background. Every so often, you hear a little bit of news about it and maybe glimpse a new trailer. Other than that, Ubisoft's third-person slasher is content to cater to its sizable fanbase. While I've enjoyed the time I've spent with the game since release, I can't really count myself amongst that group. I'm just don't have the dedication that some of these players obviously do. It should come as no surprise that For Honor's Marching Fire expansion offers plenty of new ways to keep fans happy. You've got new heroes, a complicated new game mode, and an arcade experience. What you don't have is an easy avenue to jump back in if you're a lapsed player. Whether that's good or bad depends on how many hours you're willing to spend sharpening your swords.
Let's focus on the four heroes first. Per usual, buying the expansion will get you instant access to all four members of the new Wu Lin faction. The Shaolin and Jiang Jun are different breeds of staff wielders, each bringing a lot of range to the proceedings. The Tiandi dodges and weaves while striking with a Dao blade, while the Nuxia traps her enemies in with Hookswords. Each warrior feels distinct, both from their fellow faction mates and from the rest of For Honor's roster.
I had the most luck with the Jiang Jun, as he was able to hop around the battlefield despite his immense size. Your primary heavy attack lets you strike and then flip forward to strike again, capturing any escaping foes in your path. It's also easy to wipe out a group of opponents with your Halberd thanks to his generous slashes. He's not great at running away from a fight himself, but he's survivable and fun to use. None of the other characters seemed out of reach either, but each one does take a lot of time to really feel comfortable with.
Even if you're not purchasing the Marching Fire expansion, you'll get access to the Wu Lin faction via in-game currency. Everyone also gets access to Breach mode, the biggest gameplay addition to For Honor so far. This is a massive multi-stage match where you have to push a ram towards enemy gates before facing a commander at the end. I played a match of this at E3, but getting in with live players is a whole different story. The mode holds up conceptually, but it will take a bit of time for everyone to get on board.
Breach is rather complicated by design. There are zones to capture, the concept of pushing the ram, and the need for teamwork in the home stretch. Both attacking and defending are difficult to do with pub players just looking for a good time. It doesn't help that the game has minimal tutorials to get you acclimated to the new way to play. Outside of the standard looping video with text that everything else gets, the game just expects you to learn as you go. This leads to teammates attacking the ram themselves, ignoring the zones entirely and just generally going after kills. There's always going to be unruly players in these types of objective modes, but it's still disheartening to inevitably fall to an organized force as your team goofs around.
Breach also goes on significantly longer than any other For Honor experience. This is necessary, as my time with it reminds me most of one of the newer additions to Heroes of the Storm. The limited lives of the attackers and your need to whittle away a bosses' health all recall a MOBA. There are even side bosses on one map that can grant your team bonuses, letting you "jungle" in a sense. You need to bring together your team to conquer objectives or you'll just be wasting your time. The mode is no doubt fun to play, and I can see myself returning to it regularly. However, in a system where player progress and gaining gear is such a huge motivator, you really don't get that much more for spending time here than you do in Dominion.
The only feature exclusive to paying customers in Marching Fire is the Arcade mode, which is a bafflingly weak offering. You load into a set challenge from the Faction War map and then get a brief text blurb that desperately tries to set the stage. Then, the game plops you onto a tiny map with one or two AI challengers and you fight. Each character (including you) gets random perks to help or hinder the experience. When you defeat several waves of foes on different maps, you get a paltry reward and the mode is over.
As I went through several randomized iterations of Arcade, I kept waiting for the hook to appear. Sadly, it seems like there just isn't much of substance to do. None of these perks are off the wall enough to feel noticeable, and the enemies are all based around a level range you pick going in. You'll know right off the bat if you're too powerful or too weak to take on a set of foes, making the ending to each encounter feel predetermined. The brief encounters with AI are good practice in theory, but they're over so quickly that it's hard to register. Even if you make a bad move and end up dead, there are infinite continues. With no real punishment for losing, I struggle to find reasons to care or keep going.
So, with all that being said, For Honor: Marching Fire is in a weird spot. These are good updates, but I'm not sure it makes sense to shell out for the full package. While the new characters are fun, none of them change the game in such a way as to make them vital. Unless you've absolutely mastered the entire rest of the roster, you'll find plenty to do outside of the premium options. The paid arcade mode seems rushed and undercooked, and most players will forget it exists after just a few runs. The best content by far is Breach mode, and everyone gets that for free. It's disappointing to be sure, and I wish that there was something more interesting at the premium level. On the plus side, at least anyone can still pop in and play, even if they're not neck deep in Viking tattoos.
TechRaptor played For Honor: Marching Fire on Xbox One X with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam and uPlay.