For Honor hands-on at E3 2015: Ubisoft Challenges Chivalry

For Honor Preview

Game PreviewJun 19, 2015 at 6:43a PSTby Krystian Smoszna

For Honor hands-on at E3 2015: Ubisoft Challenges Chivalry

For Honor is a big surprise of this year's E3. Ubisoft is trying to enter the turf so far dominated by titles such as Chivalry and Mount & Blade. What's in store for us? Multiplayer battles set in the Middle Ages.

In the recent years Ubisoft has accustomed us to the fact that their conferences at E3 wrap up with a presentation of a yet unannounced game, but it seems that no-one expected that there would be so many of them this time. In addition to Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands and South Park: The Fractured but Whole, the French company also showcased a game called For Honor. This production came to E3 in a playable form, so we seized the opportunity to see what kind of potential lies in the brutal fighting game from the studio that brought us Assassin's Creed. It should be noted at this point that this work is rather unusual for the Montreal-based studio. It's not a complex sandbox but rather a sword-fighting "simulator" set on small maps.

For Honor E3 2015 - trailer

For Honor E3 2015 - trailer [2:40]

For Honor will appeal not only to the enthusiasts of Tomasz Baginski and his team from Platige Image, the authors of the amazing trailer presented at Ubisoft's conference. The game should also be of interest to the fans of Ryse: Son of Rome because of its high dose of violence and the specific style of gameplay, and Mount & Blade as it features quite similar combat mechanics. Above all, one has to be a multiplayer mode maniac, because it's the online rivalry that is the driving force behind this production.

The bloody struggle involves two teams composed of four knights, though we could see other types of warriors in the aformentioned trailer. Apart from them, the battlefield will be filled with ordinary, AI-controlled soldiers, but it is not them we should worry about in the heat of the battle. The key to winning the Dominion mode (which is the only one that we could try out at E3; the rest will be revealed later) is the effective elimination of the heroes, as they are far more poweful than the cannon fodder running around.

The game has quite interesting combat mechanics, reminiscent in some respects of what we saw earlier in Mount & Blade. It's not enough to hold down the block button to feel safe; we also have to set the sword in a correct position. Each knight has three types of blocks used to counter enemy's blows, as well as some additional skills such as jumping away (far less effective than in the third Witcher, though helpful in certain situations) and hitting the opponent with one’s shoulder, which throws him off balance and makes him vulnerable to potential counterattack. Mastering the defensive posture is absolutely necessary to survive any clash with even a mediocre enemy so as not to reduce the forces of our team. Correct control over the right analog stick requires a bit of training, but I'm living proof that in a fairly short period of time one can figure out how it all works without breaking a sweat.

In the aforementioned Dominion mode our goal is to collect at least one thousand points by taking over three checkpoints. Holding the two easternmost and westernmost outlets B and C becomes necessary, because if we control at least one such territory we will additionally regenerate our health at a fast pace. The point located at the center of the arena does not bring any soild benefits, but it doesn't come as a surprise, being the place where the computer-controlled opponents try to beat each other to a pulp. When one of the parties to the conflict exceeds the limit of points specified at the beginning of the struggle, the members of the weaker team will lose the chance to respawn, which will increase the risk of losing. The team forced to defend itself will still have an opportunity to retaliate, but the chances that anything will change are close to none. This is exactly what happened to me and my brave comrades, so we can say that at least four people experienced a crushing defeat in their first session with For Honor.

For Honor E3 2015 - gameplay with dev commentary

For Honor E3 2015 - gameplay with dev commentary [4:50]

The game isn’t simply about blocking blows and delivering successful counterattacks. We can also assist in the confrontation by using special powers gathered during the fight, such as immediate healing. For Honor also provides a simple customization panel, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the more time we spend in the game, the more interesting are the abilities we have at our disposal. What will they be like? So far, we don't know. With the title in development for quite some time now, the authors are still not eager to shed light on game modes and other features. We have to remain patient.

The highly dynamic clashes are without a doubt a great asset of the production. The tiny arenas won't allow us to find a quiet corner to catch our breath. We have to be alert all the time, otherwise we’ll get whacked when we least expect it. The ability to keep track of what is happening on the battlefield is a must-have. If we notice that the enemies are focused on a struggle in one place, it might be a good idea to recover the areas that are not currently protected, if only to gain health regeneration. Seizing an area only takes a few seconds. Afterwards, everything depends on how effective our defence against the attackers is.

As of now, For Honor seems to be more of an enjoyable experiment than a full-fledged product that has the potential to conquer the market. One game mode and a small map are definitely not enough to draw even preliminary conclusions about this it. If the Montreal-based studio decides to implement interesting, more complex combat modes and bigger maps, as well as work on the character development system, the game might become something solid. It's also rather obvious that Ubisoft's production is begging for a decent campaign for solo players, but so far nothing seems to indicate that there will be one. Full-fledged adventures of a medieval knight or a tough Viking could attract many gamers, especially since the genre For Honor represents has been lacking anything remarkable lately. However, this is up to the developers. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed and wait for further news from the Canadian studio.