Ubisoft’s For Honor is a mixed bag. On one hand, players have been handed one gaming’s most intriguing settings: a world where Knights, Vikings, and Samurai are all seemingly at odds with one another. On the other hand, a lot of gamers, eager to get into that setting have been met with long load times, inconsistent match connectivity and just down right downtime. However, the question that remains is this: do the bouts of connectivity issues detract from the overall experience packaged with For Honor?
For Honor is, first and foremost, a game about combat. The system in play is one of the best I’ve seen in any fighting game in how it’s laid out and simple enough in theory to understand. But, like all great systems, the underlying meta to learn is robust and complex. The combat uses a directional attack system – left, up and right – and the job of your opponent is to match their block with the direction of your attack. At its most basic, For Honor is a game of guessing. Most classes show you the direction their attacks are coming from before it happens, though there are some classes where it’s a mystery until the last moment – such as the Orochi for the Samurai.
The classes are where For Honor really stand out as well. Each faction has four classes, classified as either Vanguard, Heavy, Hybrid or Assassin.The Hybrid for the Vikings is the Valkyrie, and she plays completely different than the Samurai’s Nobushi – even though both essentially use Polearms (Nobushi’s Naginata versus Valkyrie’s Spear). The Orochi is quick, fast and deals in countering their opponent’s move, while the Berserker or Peacemaker excel in overwhelming and deliberate bleed damage, respectively. The Shugoki pouts his way to victory, showing a nimbleness you’d not expect from a massively heavy attacker. Each is distinct – each has a purpose – and mastering your class’s full range of abilities will give you a decided edge on the battlefield.
However, the most basic pillars of its combat are only one part of For Honor’s gameplay. Each of the twelve classes all handle distinctly from one another, so learning the skill set of your preferred class – as well as the skill set of your opponent – could mean the difference between a hard fought match or a easy win for your opponent. Throw in Guard Breaks, unblockable moves, and some of the combos in the game, each one on one fight can be summed up as a chess match: a practice in feinting and counter-feinting your opponent into making a mistake.
The problem lies in the matchmaking. For Honor uses a peer-to-peer matchmaking system, which means the whole endeavor is at the whim of the host’s connection and their willingness to actually stay in the game. This has lead to times where the game takes minutes to load (even on PC) into a match – only to have the whole match falter because the host rage quit and the game couldn’t correctly migrate the host to another player. Additionally, keeping a connection has been an issue itself, with many matches kicking players out — and disbanding groups when it happens.
It’s sad because at its core For Honor is legitimately a lot of fun. But with the main focus being its multiplayer aspect (there is a single player campaign, but multiplayer is obviously where the game is at its best), it’s an embarrassment to see the level of connection issues we have with For Honor, even almost two weeks removed from its launch. For Honor is also subject to Ubisoft’s always online DRM, meaning if the servers go down completely (as they did yesterday), players can’t even log in to play the single player modes, or to practice against bots until the game is online again. It’s an absolute shame that the state of For Honor’s wholly depends on the reliability of both a host sticking with a full match and the connectivity of Ubisoft’s servers. It casts a long shadow over what is possibly one of the best gaming experiences this year.
For Honor could very well be a game that may never remove the stigma of its connectivity issues. Thanks to the lack of dedicated servers, we are at the whim of the host and the games ability to adapt when that host quits to continue onward. And it’s tragic because the game underneath, with its bevy of game modes and replayability is absolutely lost as a result. For Honor – when it works – is one of the more innovative skill-based games I’ve played in a long time. But until these connection issues are resolved, that caveat will always be associated with Ubisoft’s brawler.
When it works.
[Featured Image by Ubisoft]