Ubisoft was recently kind enough to invite GameCritics to take a look at their upcoming knights vs. vikings vs. ninjas brawler For Honor. I was able to get my hands on a few missions from the campaign, and also went a few rounds in the multiplayer arenas. This was my first time ever playing the game, and it clearly showed as For Honor requires more than button mashing to master.

It would be easy to confuse For Honor with games that have a simpler control scheme such as Dynasty Warriors, but don’t make that mistake. I did, and was repeatedly outclassed by others who had more experience under their belts. By no means is it as complex or nuanced as a traditional fighting game, but I had to think about what I was doing when it came to combat in For Honor. Knowing how to block, when to attack, and when to run when you’re outmatched are all extremely important to success.

Both offense and defense focus on three locations on the body — overhead, left, and right.

Blocking is simple enough, just tilt the stick in the direction of the location I wanted to protect. The problem is that it leaves the other two open. Basic attacks follow the same idea — move the controls either up, left, or right in the direction you want to swing.  It sounds extremely mundane, but in practice it’s intensely satisfying, and the combat was fast and nerve-wracking as I tried to keep up with the movements of my far more experienced opponents.

Additional grapples, unblockable power attacks, parries, and combos are all tossed in the mix as well. This makes the fighting system in For Honor far deeper than I first expected it to be. In fact, it might be a bit too deep for people looking for a quick new game in hop into. I’m hardly a neophyte, and I repeatedly got destroyed in multiplayer. I mention this not as a defense of my own poor skills at playing, but to highlight that there is far more to the combat than at first blush.

Make no mistake, this is not the fault of the game, it’s just that For Honor’s mechanics require more practice than a three minute tutorial can offer. I would highly recommend looking at the moveset of each class and getting at least ten minutes of game time in with each of them before hitting the multiplayer proper.

Putting aside the fact that I was as green as green could be, I was able to take part in three multiplayer modes.

The first, a 4v4 area control map. Traditional fare here with three points — two at opposite ends and one in the middle being fought over by two NPC armies. It’s a concept we’ve all seen before: capture the locations and hold them long enough to win. There are a few twists thrown in for good measure, however.  One, the NPC armies in the middle of the map make taking the center point a flurry of steel and blood. Two, there isn’t a set number the combatants have to hit to win. Instead, when one team hits enough points to cause the other side to ‘break’, the losing side loses their ability to respawn. The floundering team gets a chance to recover, but if they all go down for good, that’s it.

Another mode was a 4v4 deathmatch. The team starts separated, facing down someone from the other side. You can stand and fight, or try to run and meet up with your allies — more often than not, this was the better option. Being alone in For Honor is a quick way to wind up dead as 2v1 fights go poorly for the lone wolf. Respawns are turned off in this mode, but you can revive downed teammates as long as they weren’t executed. Apparently there’s no pulling someone back to their feet if they don’t have a head.

Finally, there was a 1v1, best of five duel mode. Given what I’ve already said about my skills in For Honor, the best thing I can say is that three rounds goes mercifully quick.

Rounding out my time with the game were a few levels from the singleplayer campaign. I’m not going to discuss story here to prevent spoilers, but there wasn’t much that stood out. It could be because I was playing these latter missions in a vacuum without the opening acts to give context as to what was going on, but they felt generic overall. I’m withholding judgement until I’m able to view the entire campaign, but what little I did play felt like an afterthought when compared alongside the excellent multiplayer — it could end up being something tacked on because it’s expected in a triple-A release, or because another bullet point was needed on the back of the box.

As frustrating as it was, I’m looking forward to getting back into For Honor’s multiplayer. What I played ran extremely well and never once did I feel the game killed me due to lag or control issues — my deaths were solely due to my own lack of experience. I want to learn the systems, take the time to master a class or two, and see how different the game feels to me when it launches on Valentine’s Day of 2017.

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