For Honor Review In Progress: Crisis Averted

For Honor is finally available to the public in its full and final form, for better or for worse. With all the pre-launch controversy (particularly that thing that rhymes with "fear-to-fear"), I was expecting to go into a game that barely functioned, if at all, when I hopped on.

But, hop on I did, and what I found has been a largely enjoyable, deep and visceral experience unlike anything I've played before. But, is the lack of an all-out crisis enough to push the game to greatness? Let's explore.

Peer-to-peer is a subtle beast. Here's where most people expected the disaster. Peer-to-peer in 2017 is flat-out ridiculous, but, despite some extreme examples of lagging, crashing and five-plus-minute wait times are few and far between. But that doesn't mean For Honor has unlocked the secret to peer-to-peer. It affects your games more subtly. You'll have maybe 30-second wait times, or the host will drop halfway through a game having you to wait for a few moments to find a new one, and once you're back in, you'll find that your position has altered slightly. It's not an all-out disaster, but it's certainly not optimal, either.

PC performance is solid. I've played For Honor at PAX West and during the closed beta, both times on console. So, when I was told I'd be getting the PC version, I was a bit nervous. The last true AAA games I reviewed for the PC were Dishonored 2 and Resident Evil 7, both of which had their own levels of performance issues (I was particularly fortunate to avoid disaster with the former). But, to my surprise, I get decently high framerates with no noticeable graphical bugs or glitches. Cheers to you, Ubisoft.

Immense depth. Look, I may improve, but I'm essentially gutter trash at For Honor, and part of that is because I feel like I'm way over my head with all the depth For Honor has to offer. This is a good thing. I'm still wading through all the possibilities with varies Feats (we'll get there) and weapon/armor pieces I scavenge, and even more. The crazy thing is that I'm playing with only one of 12 different heroes. I shutter to fathom the depth hidden in all those guys and their interactions with one-another.

PC controls are an issue. The PC controls for For Honor are not the best. You pick your guard stance with the mouse (move it left to guard left, up to guard up and so on). But you also use the mouse buttons for light attacks, heavy attacks and guard breaks, so it's really easy to inadvertently shift your guard stance even on the lowest sensitivities. This applies even if you aren't attacking.

I tried mapping the guard stances to buttons instead, which would give me a strong advantage, being able to hit a single button to shift stances, but this doesn't negate the mouse's functionality, which means you can still change your guard stance with the mouse even if you have those stances separately assigned, which is another way of saying "what's the freaking point?"

Console controls have their own problems.  First off, I want to praise For Honor for having native PS4 controller support. The days of DS4Windows are numbered, indeed. However, the controller button mapping has its own disadvantages as compared to mouse and keyboard. It has the opposite problem of the mouse, in that you have to abuse the dang joystick to get guard stances to change.

Also, on the PC, I can change my guard stance, dodge and attack/guardbreak all at the same time, using the motion of my mouse arm, my left hand on the keybord and my the fingers on my mouse arm, respectively. On the controller, all of those are done with the same thumb. So it's basically pick your poison.

Pay-to-win may be a huge issue. For Honor has microtransactions. This has been public knowledge for quite some time, but, as I gain a better understanding of how the game works, it's clear that these can give subtle but important advantages to those with enough money to afford them.

You can both earn and buy in-game currency (though you can buy it a lot faster than you can earn it), and you can spend that currency on new heroes (who are potentially better), new item boxes (that give your hero bonus stats) and upgraded feats. Feats are special abilities you can activate during the course of the game to give you temporary bonus (there are also passive Feats, but whatever). You only get four unique Feats per hero, but you can choose between 12, as long as you have all of them unlocked – and there's the rub. You can unlock them as you level up … or you can just buy them.

The truth, though, is that there's no way to know for sure this early whether I can be completely outclassed by those who have more money than I have time. I just don't like that I have to make that consideration at all, as I'm used to games like Dota 2 and Overwatch where there is no way to earn a competitive advantage through actual money.