E3 2016: For Honor is still an impressively brutal experience when playing alone

5 min read
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Last year at E3, Ubisoft revealed For Honor on stage at their conference to unanimous intrigue. Aside from its enigmatic creative director coming out on stage with the most insane bread around and a rocking cane, For Honor wowed viewers with a deep dive into three distinct melee fighting eras, within a universe that would creatively mix them all in a no holds barred, classic bout. This year Ubisoft showed off a little more gameplay on stage, specifically targeting single-player. It was great, but playing it was far better.

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At E3 2015, For Honor was my personal Game of the Show. Having sit down to play a few games of multiplayer, the sword-fighting action title impressed me with its unique approach to intense duelling. For Honor uses a simple yet elegant three stance system, where two opponents switch between them using the right stick. Attacking an opponent with the same directional stance as you results in a block, while anything else lands a massive blow on your foe – with all the blood and weight attributed to it.

That’s an extremely high level view of a game system that reveals itself to be much deeper as it introduces more elements into the mix, but it was only this one mechanic that featured in my playtime this year. Trading up multiplayer for single-player, I stepped into what seems to be For Honor’s tutorial opening. I was still playing in the Crusader arc of the story, quickly picking my hulking Brianne of Tarth-like character (yes, you can be a woman too), and heading you into an invading force head first.

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One thing you might have seen in the on-stage demo was how distinct different enemies are. Your character has their power represented by their size, to the point where you just dwarf “regular” foot soldiers. These are the ones that For Honor encourages you to just blast through. Massive swings of my broadsword decimated groups of these poor souls, establishing their pace at sword fodder and filler more than anything.

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Not too long into the demo I encountered the real challenge that For Honor will probably frequently throw at you. Online your biggest threat are other player-controlled knights, and in the single-player this is no different. These are the ones you’ll need to engage with in duel-mode, choosing your stances, bringing down the pace and making you think fast more than mindlessly slash your weapon. These encounters aren’t brief either, and my first few lasted a while as I accustomed myself to the style of thinking For Honor requires from you.

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The opening segments didn’t throw both of these sets of enemies at me at once, but the more I progressed and the more I became comfortable with the game’s mechanics, the more steadily it started testing me. Before long I found myself on a rather open battlefield just in front of the large drawbridge to the castle I was defending. A mix of massive knights and smaller grunts litter the space, and it made me think more about how to approach combat.

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While it was easy to wide swing to take out the annoying fodder, focusing exclusively on them meant I became an easily target for a hidden knight. The reverse was true too, where the grunts would break my duelling stance at the exact wrong time if I engaged a knight without dealing with them. There were cases were they would do the classic Assassin’s Creed thing and literally wait until I was done to interfere, but I feel like this is something that could easily be remedied if it’s seen as too much of a problem.

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The demo ended with a rather exhilarating fight against what seems like the first boss of the game, which tested my speed as well as all the lessons I had just learnt to succeed. Future ones would test the game’s mechanics that hadn’t been introduced but were present in the multiplayer, like guard blocks and special abilities specific to the class you’re playing. I didn’t get access to playing the other two that For Honor will ship with, but you can expect their relative speeds and overall feel to change as you jump between the three during the campaign.

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There’s still so many little things about For Honor that manage to continually stand out too. The game looks great, it runs great right now and its fights are brutally satisfying (I personally love one move where your character grabs the opponent’s end of their blade and hammers an enemy with the hilt). For Honor year on year still feels like the most interesting game that Ubisoft is currently working on, even if its hands-off showing don’t do a great job on selling you that it’s a very different type of game to the genre it’s being clumped in. I’m certainly not moving my focus from it.

Last Updated: June 20, 2016

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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