Given the many strong franchises Ubisoft have and that they aren't shy about milking them, it's easy to forget that out of the big publishers Ubisoft may be the ones who are most keen on trying new things and establishing new IPs. It's not always successful, but the last few years have seen them introduce Watch Dogs, The Crew, and announce games like The Division. The next, new big property from Ubisoft is For Honor - a game that offers visceral melee combat between Knights, Vikings, and Samurais.
During E3 we were treated to a bit of hands-on with a domination style mode (called Dominion) where four players on each team contested points on the map. An interesting touch is the inclusion of AI grunts on each side. Much like in Titanfall these AI soldiers are mainly a distraction and easily disposed off, but they nevertheless add to the atmosphere. Compared to other similar medieval themed combat games For Honor feels more cinematic and grander in scale even if the maps are fairly small and the player count is limited.
While we only got hands-on with the Knights, generic ones at that, the final game will feature named heroes (male and female) in each of the factions, and we expect much of the story will focus on these individuals. For now we got a taste of the combat that sees players change stance to try and score a hit on the enemy. You block by matching the stance of your opponent while pressing the block button. If successful you riposte and a window of opportunity opens for an attack. It's always going to be about getting that first hit in as you'll then be able pounce on your opponent. Strike them down and you've also got an opportunity to pull off an execution move while they're stunned. We're not quite sure if it's just for show or for bonus points, but nevertheless it exposes you to the teammates of your downed foe.
There are also special attacks and you'll fill a super meter of sorts to pull them off. While the game offers no ranged weapons per say, we did note that there was a ranged super. You also have a dodge roll move, but we found it difficult to take advantage of it as we either didn't roll far enough away to avoid an attack or we'd roll so far that we couldn't capitalise on a missed incoming attack. Likely this is something that will take a bit of practice to master.
The map we played featured a castle under siege, there were fires ablaze and the central point of contention was a courtyard, while a forest lined the outskirts of the map. It wasn't a big environment and so you're never far from engaging with the enemy - key given the melee focus of For Honor.
Clearly the game has a lot in common with Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and War of the Roses, but in terms of the mechanics we'd say it resembles War of the Vikings most, without any of the ranged weapons of course.
The dynamics of the four on four action are interesting. At times you'll be outnumbered, but given that friendly fire is always on and that a skilled player is capable of blocking all incoming attacks even when outnumbered there's always an opportunity to be a hero. Naturally there will be moments where one is left with no choice but to try and run down and corner the last remaining enemy.
It's an interesting choice from Ubisoft to show off the multiplayer of For Honor first. It makes us wonder what their plans are for the campaign (or campaigns if each faction has a separate story). We can only speculate on how it will be structured, but even if multiplayer is how Ubisoft opted to show off the game it feels as if the campaign will be significant and perhaps even the main attraction here.
Best case scenario; For Honor will blend the cinematic flair of Crytek's Ryse with the gameplay of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Our interest is piqued.