For Honor’ review: You’ll need skill to survive this online fighter

For Honor’ review: You’ll need skill to survive this online fighter

Online fighter : In the two weeks I’ve been playing Ubisoft’s “For Honor,” I’ve vacillated between absolutely loving the online fighting game and wanting to throw my controller through the window in frustration.

That’s not a knock on Ubisoft’s effort, either. In fact, if anything, it’s a compliment.

Online fighter : “For Honor” is unlike any online fighting game I’ve played before. It marries the kind of familiar battle modes found in shooters like “Call of Duty” — Deathmatch, Skirmish, etc. — with an up-close and personal fighting system that forces you to think strategically about every single button press you make.

When everything comes together in your favor and you manage to knock off a handful of opponents with some well-timed blows and blocks, it’s a beautiful experience. But when you mistime your moves, you pay hard.  And then you throw your controller through the window.

It’s that moment-to-moment exhilaration, the sense that every battle can change in an instant, that makes “For Honor” such an exceptional game. It’s got some problems — there are a few control issues and a distinct lack of satisfying player rewards for completing matches — but give “For Honor” enough time and this deep multiplayer combat games will give you plenty in return.For Honor' review: You'll need skill to survive this online fighter

The art of battle

“For Honor’s” combat revolves around what Ubisoft calls its “Art of Battle” system. Press the lock-on button, and a three-piece shield appears on screen representing the directions you’re guarding against or attacking from.

Hold the lock-on button and move the right stick to the left, for instance, and your character will get in position to block incoming attacks or swing from the left. There are only two kind of attacks, light and heavy. Seems simple enough, right?

For Honor 1-on-1 fight.
If you’re going to button mash in ‘For Honor’ you’re going to get wrecked.

When you get into real-time combat, though, you quickly realize that the tutorial was tee ball and you’re now in the majors. Other players change their stances in the middle of attacks, chain different moves together and force you to react in kind or be cut down in seconds. Sure, you can button mash and get lucky a few times, but this fighting system actually takes skill to use.

At times, though, I noticed my moves didn’t translate to any on-screen action, which resulted in my untimely decapitation. My first few online matches with “For Honor” were awful. That’s because most online games I play include some kind of shooting, which means there’s not much to learn beyond a character’s basic qualities. But “For Honor” forces you to not only learn new characters — there are 12 different “Heroes” to choose from — but a completely new gameplay style, too.

Suffice to say, after about a half hour of playing, I was getting annoyed. But then things started to click. I began to catch up with the other players, and like that, I was carving people up with glee.

TL;DR: there’s a steep learning curve here, but it’s well worth it.

Vikings, samurai and knights, oh my

Three factions populate the world of “For Honor”: Vikings, Knights and Samurai. Does it make sense? No. Does it matter? Not a bit. A decent single-player experience pitting you against different warlords and their one-shot-kill minions adds context, but this isn’t “Titanfall 2.” You’re not missing anything if you pass on the campaign.

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