For Honor, Ubisoft’s new historical MOBA/fighting/hack and slash/etc. game, received an open beta this weekend ahead of its release on Tuesday, February 14. Combining traditional elements of a MOBA with detailed fighting mechanics more at home in the likes of Tekken, For Honor tries to carve out a fun new experience but often left me simply frustrated.
The core gameplay loop centers on the interaction of the game’s heroes, great warriors that have grown up within one of the three factions (Samurai, Vikings, or Knights) who fight in an endless battle for territory and, well, honor. Matches are 4v4 but the battlefield is supplemented with weak AI minions that effectively exist to gain in-game levels for your skills.
In an ideal battle, players will be locked into a dual (LT focuses you on a hero) where you’ll engage in a back-and-forth of attacking and defending. Introducing a more nuanced fighting scheme, you have to defend against your opponents’ direction of attack: top, left, and right. Success means you’ll block while failure will result in taking damage. Time the parry perfectly and you’ll knock them back.
But in actuality most of the fights devolve into an Dark Souls-lite frustrating mess of missed blocks, unnecessary de-buffs, and a feeling that a single misstep is fatal with no way to fight back that feels more at home in a game like Dark Souls. In particular, one character is able to slow all of their enemies making it effectively impossible to block or attack until you’re able to get away or you get lucky and manage to be defending the direction they’re attacking from.
Compounding that is a sluggishness in character movement that compounds the gameplay issues. Disengaging is nearly impossible when your character feels like he or she is permanently stumbling. Additionally, when you do manage to escape, your attackers will sometimes magically glide across 10-15 feet of ground in an instant to land another blow.
Finally, and almost fatally, the camera regularly is like a 5th enemy that you have to fight. I often tried to lock onto a hero only for the targeting to pick a hero further away that was out of range. During a frantic fight with two heroes it would regularly bounce between the two making it nearly impossible to anticipate where attacks were coming from.
In one instance I attempted to lock onto an enemy who was attempting to revive their teammate. A simple attack with would interrupt them and prevent the revive. However, the camera locked onto an enemy behind them and I wasn’t able to land a hit. They revived their teammate and I lost the subsequent 2v1. For a game that’s so demanding of its players, the camera will let them down every time.
In other areas, For Honor does some interesting things. Character customization is a rabbit hole I can see players getting lost in. Just about every piece of armor (swords alone have three pieces that can be swapped) can be upgraded or swapped out providing a wide range of stat changes. However, every stat increase seems to come at the expense of a decrease elsewhere. A new sword blade will increase your attack power but you’ll lose some of your defense ability.
Graphically the game looks fine but it won’t blow anyone away. Hero characters are richly detailed with layers of armor and plenty of detail work. But on the other hand the minions are, unsurprisingly, bland. The arenas run the gamut but the different weather conditions can have a big impact. “Citadel Gate” in the rain looks gorgeous but washed out when it’s snowing.
With only two days remaining until launch I don’t anticipate much will change after the beta. The gameplay won’t be changed much and the camera will still be a significant issue. What will be interesting to see is if For Honor follows in the footsteps of its cousin, Rainbow Six: Siege, which was unimpressive in its beta/launch window but improved steadily or if the issues will prove so ingrained in its DNA that they can’t be solved.
At this point it’s hard to justify For Honor’s $60 asking price in addition to the micro-transactions that almost felt required to upgrade your character.