For Honor Hands-On Preview [E3 2016]


Although details were scarce at the time, Ubisoft got people talking when it announced For Honor during last year’s E3 press conference. Now, a year later, we’ve been able to go hands-on with what has become one of gamers’ more anticipated projects.

Mixing human history with fictional fantasy, For Honor fills a void that has existed within the triple-A gaming space for quite some time now. It does that by delivering an experience that is based around epic swordfighting, and one that centres upon more than just one faction. In fact, it combines three incredibly unique and badass factions into one campaign, with those being the ruthless Vikings, honour-bound Samurai and armour-clad Knights. Each army contains its own strengths, weaknesses, weapons and special abilities, and learning how to effectively use them will be key to your success.

While multiplayer is just as much of a focus as the noted co-op campaign is, we were only given a chance to go hands-on with two single player stages when we went behind closed doors at Ubisoft’s E3 2016 booth. It was definitely an eye opener, though, as I honestly wasn’t expecting to like the game as much as I did. My suspicion was that it would simply be too slow, methodical and fantastical for me, but now that I’ve spent thirty minutes with it, my mind has been completely changed.

To put it bluntly, For Honor is a badass and epic feeling game, which is sure to make a lot of people happy when it’s released in the somewhat near future. It won’t be for everyone, though, because it’s both methodical and challenging, as well as a bit slow in comparison to your average action game. That’s not exactly a bad thing, though; at least, not in this case.

My developer guided demo started off with an early level that acted as a tutorial of sorts. In it, I was a Knight who had betrayed another, and was forced to defend my castle from an incoming onslaught prior to engaging in a duel. The result of that one-on-one battle was important, because it set up future narrative elements that will likely play an integral part in the full game. My main focus, though, was on learning the game’s controls and getting used to its directional swordfighting.

If you’ve yet to see any gameplay footage, For Honor uses a combat system that utilizes three different directions: up, left and right. By watching your enemies’ stances and on-screen visual indicators, you must keep an eye on and react to the direction in which they’re attacking from. Failure to do so, and not moving your sword accordingly in order to block, will result in damage. Some attacks aren’t blockable, though, so that must also be taken into consideration. That said, if you time your button presses properly, then you’ll also be able to pull off similarly devastating moves.

Controlling your chosen avatar is handled by the left joystick, in typical third-person action/adventure form. However, one-on-one combat requires you to hold the left trigger to lock on and use of both the right joystick (for direction swapping) and the two right shoulder buttons for attacking. If you press R1, the result will be a light hit, whereas pressing R2 will allow for a heavy attack. The latter type is obviously stronger and more damaging, but it’s also slower and takes more out of you. Combo chains can be pulled off, but timing is key, and pressing square to stun your enemy also helps. Two presses of the same button will sometimes result in a more effective stun, or the ability to rush, push and then impale an individual enemy on environmental spikes.

Not all combat situations are one-on-one, though, as that could make for a boring game. There’s plenty of group combat to be found here where you don’t need to be as methodical. Grunts can be taken out in just one or two hits, and area of effect attacks are helpful in getting rid of them. Captains and those with heavier armor will require you to lock on and watch for indicators, else you’ll quickly perish. That said, if you do end up depleting a captain’s health bar with a heavy attack, a timed execution attack will become available through the triangle and square buttons. They’re pretty visceral, to say the least.

Jams will be inevitable, and so will the odd death. It’s possible to heal onesself by picking up health items, but doing well in combat can also provide additional health. Healing items aren’t the only buffs, though, as there are other types, including a frenzy power-up.

I won’t go into too much detail about the second mission I played, as everything that I saw and demoed was shown at the Ubisoft press conference and I also didn’t have time to completely finish it as I was running late.

Needless to say though, I’m glad that I got a chance to play Ubisoft’s For Honor at this year’s Expo, because by giving it a chance I learned that I’d been too quick to judge the game. Instead of being a boring and methodical slog like I expected it to be, it turned out to be a beautiful-looking, detailed and fun take on historical combat scenarios, one that I’m very excited to play in full when it finally releases next year.