Medieval brawler For Honor is out today, but we don’t have a review for you yet. We only received code from Ubisoft yesterday afternoon, and the servers didn’t go live until later that evening. But I’ve been playing it fairly solidly since they switched them on, and here’s what I think of the game so far.
It’s set in a world locked in a state of perpetual war, where preposterously burly medieval knights, vikings, and samurai spend their days battering each other with variously shaped bits of metal. Trying to determine why these three historically distinct armies are fighting, or what they’re even fighting for, isn’t worth thinking about. The setting is ultimately unimportant.
It’s because watching a knight, a samurai, and a viking having a fight is cool. Albeit the sort of thing a teenage boy would draw in the margins of his biology homework. It’s a shamelessly dumb flight of fantasy that’s as good an excuse as any to engage in some weighty, brutal melee battles.
There’s a mode called Dominion where you capture territory on a map, which reminds me vaguely of Dynasty Warriors, but I haven’t spent much time with it yet. I’ve been too busy with the multiplayer duels, which are equal parts entertaining and frustrating. They pit you against a single opponent and strip the game down to its barest essential: the combat.
Fighting is why For Honor exists, and there’s a satisfying heft to every swing of your sword and poke of your spear. You really do feel like you’re lamping someone with a heavy, lethal object, although this comes at the expense of some fluidity. It’s a slow, lumbering game, which I suppose makes sense given that the characters are all enormous, armoured beefcakes.
You can attack and block in three directions: left, right, and high. Every fight boils down to knowing which direction your opponent is going to take, second-guessing them, then quickly countering it. There’s a palpable tension to circling an enemy, carefully watching their sword arm, and anticipating their next move. And successfully blocking a flurry of strikes, which feels almost like a rhythm-action game, is enormously satisfying. Especially when they exhaust themselves and you manage to retaliate with a perfectly-timed killing blow.