The past weekend, Ubisoft hosted a closed beta for their upcoming ‘fighting’ game For Honor. The good news for those that couldn’t get a code is that you will be able to experience the battle between the Vikings, Knights and Samurai in an open beta that kicks off on 9 February and runs to 12 February. The game then arrives fully on 14 February 2017, making it a pretty handy Valentine’s Day gift…

If you’re wondering if you should pre-order the game (and have other things to do during the open beta period), we put in some time with the title during the closed beta and felt compelled to give you our thoughts on Ubisoft’s new IP.

It’s a fighting game, but not

If you have been caught by the phrase ‘fighting’ game you may have been a little misled. This is not simply a fighting game with swords like SoulCalibur. If anything, it feels a little more like playing Dark Souls without throwing the controller through the TV screen. It’s also not really like that at all, but it is a third person action game with swords and the further addition of a guarding system and multiplayer modes not unfamiliar to competitive first-person shooter fans. So it’s basically Gears of War with swords…

OK. It’s not, however this difficulty to pigeonhole the game is exactly the reason it deserves your attention.

Get started the right way

If you are still to experience the game, do yourself a favour and ensure you play through the tutorial. It might seem laborious at first but learning the game’s basics such as guarding (in multiple directions), light and heavy attacks (in multiple directions) and general evasion tactics will prepare you for the rather serious combat to follow. Jumping head first into the action may leave you resorting to Dark Souls-like rage quitting.

This will be a game that grows on you or will see you give up on it within the first ten minutes. I would suggest persevering as it offers plenty based on the beta.

Our very own Chris ‘SargonDota2’ House went out of his way to show how not listening in class never gets you a pass mark when he decided to take on the game’s AI. It hurt him quite a bit. (PS. Chris uses a swear word or two, so don’t play loudly in the office).

A battle rages

The beta offered three modes to taste-test. For the duelists there was a 1v1 option, while those wanting to partner up a little had the 2v2 brawl as an option and the teams could go all in with the 4v4 Dominion mode. The latter is essentially a capture mode and features AI minions to smash through alongside the need to balance strategy. It’s also a mode that needs teams to work together as no individual wants to be facing two or more sword-wielding enemies solo. It will end in tears.

The competive edge

ACGL co-owner Nick ‘HoldenZA’ Holden took a closer look at the game’s potential as a competitive title and what might be needed to really elevate the game into a top player in the scene. Over the course of the closed beta weekend, a 1v1 tournament was hosted.

A solid combat system

While the For Honor Beta was rather short lived, it highlighted some competitive features that got me excited and others that left me wanting more. The first being the combat system, albeit relatively basic to grasp, there are enough intricacies that allow the game to have variation in each fight. The variety in the nine characters was rather impressive in that you rarely felt that one was a copy and paste of the other. That alteration in the combat style of  each character played a crucial role, as it allows a skill gap to widen between your experienced and new players. Even more so when you take into consideration the strategic alterations that you need to make based on your oppositions character selection.

Ranking system needed

That said, there is very little to reward players that play at a higher standard, which leads me to the second point – a ranking system. There is currently a very basic ranking system in the game, which allows you to level up a certain character which, it turn, unlocks more gear and cosmetics. The ranking system, however, doesn’t compare true skill but instead paves a straight forward path of level progression.

It would be great to know what skill tier of fighter you are playing against, or at least see their win/loss ratio before the battle kicks off. A true ranking system that is based on wins and losses or an ELO system would bring an element of competition that would feel rewarding to players.

The problem with the premise of the Faction War

The narrative of the game is seemingly based around the faction war, Samurai vs Knights vs Vikings. While I think that it is a novel idea, the implementation of the war on the player is rather meaningless. After completing fights, you rarely see much change on the top down view of three territories which display faction dominance. What transpires is that there is a disconnect between players and and what is happening in the general ‘war’.

What I think may change that up however, is if mini in-game tournaments are implemented. Where representatives of factions battle against one another. If you get knocked out, that’s it you progress no further. That said, if you wish to watch the next battle of the higher tier of the tournament, then a spectator mode should be implemented.

I feel if Ubisoft took that approach, that players will feel more connected to their role in the war and also be able to see exactly which faction dominates the war.  

I think For Honor has huge potential as a competitive title, but whether or not it lives up to it remains to be seen.

In closing

It would be unfair to comment and overly criticise things like the game’s graphics (which looked pretty great) and the connectivity (which had some issues) as a beta is a beta, and that’s why it exists.

However, For Honor shows plenty of promise and based on my time with the beta is now fully on the ‘to-buy’ list.

Some more gameplay from the closed beta by Chris ‘SargonDota2’ House. You can subscribe to his YouTube channel here.

You can pre-order For Honor from our affiliate here.