For Honor Hands-on Preview – Samurai, Vikings, and Knights, Oh My!

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If there was one particular game at E3 that I was determined to get my hands on, it was For Honor. I’ve been excited for the game since they announced it, as good melee weapon-based combat is surprisingly hard to come by these days.

For Honor’s combat design hooked me pretty much the moment it was shown, and I’ve been interested in the game since. With the revelations about the game that came from this E3 with the introduction of a campaign and single-player modes, I’ve ended up more interested than before.

Of course, with the big single-player campaign announcement this year, Ubisoft’s For Honor booth was showcasing the single player instead of the competitive multiplayer this year. I was brought back to Ubisoft’s ‘VIP’ area to play the game, so as a disclaimer, the demo I played may have been different than the one on the floor.

To begin with, the demo dropped me into a simple castle siege as a Knight first, followed by the beach-landing siege shown in their conference as a Viking. Together, the demo took me a little over a half hour to clear with minimal deaths (I don’t recall the exact number, but it was 3 or less). My first impression when the game loaded up was immediately favorable.

While it’s unlikely to be a final menu, the design was very clear and easy to navigate, and when I moved into the game, there were options to edit your character to your liking. While the edits were far from extensive here, the development team member that was helping me through the demo assured me there would be more in the full game.

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Once I was dropped into the game and dug into the combat a bit, I was surprised at the depth there was to it. Despite being interested in the game, I hadn’t done too much research into what the combat was like beyond the general systems, so some things surprised me.

The button layout was simple – R1 and R2 were weak and heavy attacks respectively. L2 was your guard / lock-on, and was what brought up your stance and kept you locked-on during a bout with an enemy that wasn’t just a grunt.

You moved with the left stick, while the right was camera control or it controlled your stance when locked on. Square was a guard break, and X functioned as a dodge. Everything was pretty simple, but it was how these different things interacted that gave the combat depth.

The basics of For Honor’s combat is incredibly simple, but also intense. With the right stick, you control your guard into one of three positions – a high, left or right guard – and the combat is built around hitting your opponent where they aren’t guarding (obviously).

While I suspect this adds a significant layer of mind games to multiplayer, in single player it’s quite different than how I’d imagine fighting people goes. Mostly, you’re set if you hold your guard where the enemy’s guard is and just switch at the last second to attack. Of course, the combat gets a lot more in depth than that.

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For starters, combos are a thing. Each individual unit type have different combos to learn, too, so it’s not just a once and done type of system. The Knight’s combos were vastly different from the Viking I played (The Knight mixed light and heavy a lot, where the Viking was more focused on repeated lights or heavies), and that seemed to even be the case for enemies as well. Some enemies came at me with fast, multi-hit combos where others went for more dangerous heavy ones, and everything in between.

The dodge and guard breaks also put a deeper spin on things. While, yes, you could just use the guard break to interrupt a particularly stubborn block, or the dodge to move away from an attack, there were more to them.

For example, as the Viking, if you dodged forward and hit the guard break, you would tackle the enemy and pick them up with a bull rush, as seen in the gameplay video from E3. It’s an awesome little thing and I’m excited to see what sort of special abilities like it other classes have.

And the last big thing was the parry system. If you block in the correct direction and use a strong attack as your opponent’s attack comes at you, you can parry it and leave them open for a moment to strike. Abusing this made getting through the single-player campaign missions a breeze, but I suspect it won’t be so easy against other players. Still though, if you react well, you’ll be able to fend off even the most dangerous attackers this way.

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Getting the chance to sit down with For Honor really just made me want the game more than ever before, and it was a clear winner for my personal game of E3. Everything about the game clicked when I was playing, and I can’t wait to see what the full product has to offer.

For Honor is set for release next year on February 14th on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

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I'm a pretty chill guy. Huge video game fan, but a bigger anime fan. I also love to write - obviously.

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