Ubisoft love to do open world games, and at Gamescom we got the chance to play two hours of their new title, For Honor. After many years of overstuffing these games with points of interest and placing towers the player can climb, it's a nice surprise when they make a game that feels so unique. With For Honor, in fact, you can't help but wonder if you've played anything quite like it before.
In a world at war three factions are fighting each other. There are the respected Knights, the brutal Vikings, and the honourable Samurai. Why they are fighting is unclear, but that is something the campaign should explain further. During our time with the game we played a 4v4 match called Dominion and the first thing that hit us during the character selection was that the three factions were able to fight alongside each other, which was a pleasant surprise. During our interview with Game Designer Bio Jade, she told us that it was important for them that players were able to play alongside their friends no matter what faction their friends played as. We understood the logic, although we had still hoped to see a story play out where each faction had their own reasons to hate the other two.
The gameplay trailer made the game look like a beautiful Dynasty Warriors-clone (and sometimes it can feel like it), but when you face off against an enemy opponent, everything changes and the battles get brutal. Defending with L2, you use your left analogue to control where to block with the sword. Where online games like Call of Duty often reward those who attacks first, For Honor is an entirely different proposition. A battle against an opponent in For Honor is an exercise in patience: walking around in a circle, looking your foe up and down, waiting for him or her to make the first move. Moments like these feel wonderfully different than other modern online games on the market today.
The maps are small and compact, meaning you'll never have to run for more than 10 seconds before you see an enemy player or NPC. Also spread across the map are three areas both teams are trying to capture and hold. For Honor is a skill-based game, meaning beginners will struggle and teamwork wins matches. After four games, our team finally saw the strength in keeping together and defend what we had, rather than keep capturing what we were missing. We tried to keep two areas captured at all times, and stood together when the opposing team pushed back, and doing so gave us an advance when the match was nearing its end and "breaking" starts (a countdown screen that suggests that one team is breaking through the enemy's line). When breaking has begun, you're dead for good when you die - unless a teammate manages to revive you. Even if you use teamwork to survive, breaking manages to push the intense feeling up to 11.
Often you will find yourself in situations where you're outnumbered two or three against one, and it's those moments where the new game mechanic really shines. If you're about to die by the hands of multiple opponents, a tap on triangle will start a rage, making you a force to be reckoned with. It's probably not enough to survive, but we often managed to take an opponent with us before we perished. Another satisfying moment during our time with the game was when we managed to hold off three opponents at once for about 30 seconds. It may seem like a hollow victory, but those seconds gave my teammates the opportunity to capture the two remaining areas and score a lot of points, hammering the point home that defence is clearly the best offensive strategy.
We were allowed to try three different heroes during our time with the game: the jack of all trades Vanguard, the slow but strong Heavy, and the fast but weaker Assassin. Another Hero-class is set to be revealed, but unfortunately we weren't able to try it out. Luckily, the three we tried felt different from each other, which is only emphasised by the fact that we were unable to use the Assassin properly but managed to own the battlefield with the Heavy Viking. His long reaching attacks quickly made him our personal favourite.
For Honor is intense and satisfying. The slow, tactical battles make it stand out from a lot of modern online games, and left a serious impression. We went into For Honor expecting a fun, fast ride, but we were greeted by an intelligent, methodological game we can't wait to play again. There are still modes waiting to be announced, and Dominion only made us hungry for more. Bring it on For Honor.