E3 2016: Fight in a Raging War in For Honor

Today, I got my hands on For Honor, playing two demos including the one we recently saw in the Ubisoft press briefing. The first one, the one not shown on stage, was centered on The Knights faction, one of three in the game. After choosing my female warden, she was placed right in the thick of things. An opposing group, known as the Blackstone, were invading my fortress, and I was tasked with running around, trying to defend it, which of course began with a tutorial.

If you want a first impression of the battle system, the first thing I learned was to block. Rather than offering a shield (which would have been very helpful here), For Honor only lets you block with your sword, which means paying attention to what direction they attack from—left, right, or above. As such, attacking and doing damage depends on where your opponent will be blocking, and depending on your opening, you can pull off a light or heavy attack.

Although this seems par for the course, creating a battle system where even blocking requires your undivided attention is a good way to set combat apart from what was popularized in games like Dark Souls. Like the demo from the press conference, there were moments when I had to navigate through waves of fighting soldiers. It turns out that unless they have little icons on their heads, any attack you use will lay waste to them in a single blow, indicating the strength you wield. Sometimes, you need to help with thinning out the crowd, but other times, you can run right past them. I think it’s interesting in terms of making it look realistic, but it also seems a bit silly.

Both demos ended in a boss fight of sorts. My warden has to fight the second-in-command from the opposing faction, and when she won, she went on to represent them instead. Playing as the Viking raider, plowing through The Samurais, things were a bit more challenging. Kid gloves removed, the enemies here will often attack more than once in succession, and it’s up to you to read their sword swipes on the spot and block. Moreover, they change sword position often, much like Jeb did to fake out his opponents during last year’s demo.

However, the raider has another trick up his sleeve: being able to break defense briefly. When I did this, it created an opening to attack or push my foe into a trap, such as a spiked wall or a wall to knock them down and knee them in the face. Again, defense-breaking is also nothing new, but I’m curious to see how many unique fatality opportunities For Honor will deliver. Variety is the spice of death, after all!

I could not get a ton of information on what the game is really about besides the fact that these factions are at war. As the new cinematic trailer suggests, it’s likely the factions don’t even remember why they’re fighting. What I could suss out is that the primary antagonist, Apoleon, is responsible for this ceaseless war. I saw her pictured around the station in her rather severe armor, but she sadly wasn’t featured anywhere in either demo.

For Honor is not coming out for the Playstation 4 or Xbox One until Valentine’s Day of next year, but the demo I played ran extremely smoothly. The cut-scenes were all in-engine and transitioned smoothly into gameplay with a ton of action going on at any given moment. It was rather convincing as a medieval movie. However, it remains to be seen if this will really set itself apart from lackluster games like Ryse: Son of Rome, especially given that we’ve only glimpsed the multiplayer component, which takes place after the single-player campaign.