For Honor was first shown off at E3 2015, and at the time it appeared to be a multiplayer-only spectacle that had knights fighting samurai fighting vikings. The game merged melee gameplay with online functionality, but we felt that it would be better with a single-player campaign.
It appears that Ubisoft has been listening, because at E3 2016 we were treated to a fantastic demo of the game’s single-player campaign, which hinted that there was going to be a lot more in the game than initially met the eye. We checked out one of For Honor’s missions at the Indian Games Expo 2016 and came back rather surprised.
Our time with the demo showed off a mission featuring knights under siege from another faction of, well, knights. There were a few unskippable cutscenes along the way, and while a few seemed to just drone on, these did a good enough job of exposition. Infighting between the knights has snowballed into a bloody battle, and your job is to stem the tide - mostly by turning your enemies into a messy pulp.
From a visual standpoint, For Honor is quite striking, particularly in motion. It doesn’t have the chunky, shiny feel of Ryse: Son of Rome, instead going for a more "worn" aesthetic with realistically proportioned characters. It serves For Honor well, as does smart use of colour options, allowing you to single out an opponent with minimal fuss. Though its cover art might resemble the love child of Skyrim, Crusader Kings, and Total War Shogun, For Honor is much more competent graphically.
The gameplay itself appears simple. You can target enemies, slice them down with heavy and light attacks, and block them as well. The big differentiator is how you block. Rather than being a simple tap of the button, you've also got to pick a direction. Get that wrong often enough, and you’ll find yourself dying. Timing also plays a crucial role in getting in as many hits as possible, reducing an opponent’s health to zero.
Some enemy types don’t even have health bars, going down in a single blow. That has one drawback, as you don't really pick up the art of blocking when you're faced with an infinite number of disposable knights to defeat. It got to the point where picking up health items (or feats, as the game calls them), was an afterthought. Luckily, there are other enemies, particularly bosses, who are worth your respect - and they schooled us in blocking, and patiently timing our attacks. Luckily, feats aren’t just for healing. You will be able to use them to call in artillery strikes, and rally your allies too. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out when the full game hits the shelves early next year, particularly with For Honor shipping with missions that let you play as warriors in its two other factions - Vikings and Samurai.
While the demo only showcased a sliver of gameplay possibilities, we won’t put it past Ubisoft to add more combat options to the mix. The controls felt responsive and coupled with relatively smooth animations, we're hopeful that there’s more to expect in the months leading up to its release.
Our time with For Honor was well spent. However our biggest take away was how honest a representation it was, from Ubisoft. In the past, the company has drawn criticism for showing off ridiculously good looking games that the final product did not live up to. This was the case with the first Watch Dogs and The Division, among others. The demo of For Honor that we saw looked all the more promising because it was running on a PS4, and not on a souped up PC as has been the case in its previous public showings. This makes us believe that what we saw is pretty much what we'll get when the game hits on 14 February, 2017.