A few months ago, I played the alpha build of For Honor, Ubisoft’s multiplayer-centric knights-versus-Vikings-versus-samurai dueling game. I mostly loved it for its authentic-looking visual design and deceptively deep combat engine, but had some concerns regarding its accessibility and barrier to mastery.

With For Honor’s full release only a couple of weeks away, the beta build that I played this weekend (January 26-29) is likely an accurate representation of what the finished game will look like, and I’m happy to say that Ubisoft has addressed my key complaint. Since Brad and Steven have already laid out the basics of how For Honor works, I wanted to use this space to discuss why I’m newly confident that this game will help me stay competitive in its online environment.

For Honor offers nine “heroes” to choose from (an upgrade from the six available in the alpha), and they all host major differences, from basics stats to unique movesets. The alpha, however, did nothing to explain what those differences were, and failed to teach players how to utilize character-exclusive maneuvers. At the time, I felt that the solution would be to either offer class-specific tutorials or at least give us a threat-free practice zone so we can experiment with each hero and learn their attacks ourselves.

I’m pleased to say that the beta offers both. The menu’s “how to play” section now presents both a practice duel mode against bots (with adjustable levels of aggression) as well as a series of tutorial videos covering basic and advanced techniques for every hero. Each character’s customization menu also contains a full moveset for quick reference. In the alpha, I grew impatient with the fact that the only way to train myself was to experiment on real players, and that’s no longer the case.

I originally gravitated towards the “Orochi” character, because I dig the samurai aesthetic and tend to favor nimbler characters who sacrifice power for agility. (For Honor refers to Orochi as a “harasser,” which fills me with delight.) In the alpha, though, I always saw other Orochi players using a powerful charge attack that I had no avenue to learning myself.

In the beta, the info I needed was only a few button presses away. It’s called “Storm Rush,” and it’s activated by performing a single backwards dodge and then holding R2. Most players don’t know how to counter it, and mastering it has made me a considerably more valuable asset. Killing a player with that move even gives me the option to perform an execution, which prevents the victim from being revived by a teammate. That’s a good thing to know during sudden death scenarios, when respawns are prohibited.

So that’s a big step forward for this game, and it makes me far more eager to jump into the full release even when I’ve already settled on a favorite class. If I ever want to switch it up and toy with a different character, it’s reassuring to know that I’ll have the tools to get decent.

The game modes are still the same that we saw in the alpha – the stripped-down 1v1 Duel showcases the complexity of the combat (which plays like a 3D version of Nidhogg, more focused on movement and mind games than dialing combos) while 4v4 Dominion expands the scale with point-capturing and a Dynasty Warriors-esque ongoing conflict between two AI-controlled armies. 2v2 Brawl doesn’t really work for me, as it’s usually over when the first player falls, but I’ve enjoyed the other two modes enough that I’m content to ignore it.

The beta also introduces us to the Faction War, For Honor‘s metagame portion. When first booting up, players are asked to pledge allegiance to one of the three warrior types (though they can still play as any character), and throughout each “season,” each faction will be engaged in an ongoing struggle for territory. Since the beta only spanned for a weekend, it’s difficult to visualize how this will play out on the long term, but it sounds neat.

I still haven’t had the opportunity to try the game’s campaign mode, so I can’t say how much value For Honor will hold for players looking for solo thrills. However, both the alpha and beta periods have ended long before I’d lost interest in playing, so I expect the finished product to have some serious legs, provided Ubisoft doesn’t soil everything with excessive microtransactions. We’ll find out on February 14.

Mike Suskie
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