Ubisoft announced it’s brand new IP For Honor at last year’s E3 with an exciting albeit highly scripted gameplay trailer. Part Dynasty Warriors, part Chivalry, with a slight pinch of Dark Souls, the trailer shows off a zone-capture mode unlike most: a large and detailed castle battleground packed with NPC footsoldiers, a zone-control activated battering ram, and a one-on-one dueling system developers modestly deem “innovative.”
The “Art of Battle” dueling system has two or more players block, attack, and counter from three different stances, all controlled by the right control stick. It’s a fluid, skill-oriented system characterized by it’s simplicity, not dissimilar to that of Nidhogg: as you can only hold a single stance at a time, players must vigilantly anticipate and react to their opponent’s tells, equally embracing risk, reflex, and luck. Characters are heavy, move slowly, and capable of bone-shattering attacks that to live up to their simulated weightiness. Noticeably lacking amid the chaos is the lack of stamina management. While player-vs-player contests are maintained by Art of Battle, player controlled characters can tank through NPCs, eating blows without any sign of attack interruption à la Dynasty Warriors. Third-person, melee action often sees stamina as a buffer against spamming attacks and blocks. It’ll be interesting to see how the flow online balances without it.
In the E3 example, Zone Capture mode has one team of knights laying siege to the opposing samurai’s fortress. The zone-based battering ram suggests a dynamic sequence to the mode, perhaps involving multiple stages to each battle or objective based victories. We also see players take advantage of the large environment, packed with overlooks, ladders, and alternate paths, in order to discover a point of vantage and flank the enemy.
Despite Ubisoft’s widely-acknowledged reputation of over-hyping their titles and falsely previewing graphical fidelity – for example, 2014’s Watch Dogs was seemingly subject to a major graphics downgrade between it’s E3 2012 announcement and final version not completely unlike how 2014’s GDC presentation of the Snowdrop Engine misrepresented this year’s The Division (meticulously examined in MarcoStyle’s popular analysis); For Honor looks good but doesn’t showcase visuals beyond what we’ve already seen accomplished by previous current-gen titles: lighting is overall flat and lacking in nuance, the trailer dips below 30fps regularly, and particle effects remain within reason. Yes, what we have is Alpha build so results may vary; however, we may also be witness to Ubisoft’s first steps toward transparent promotion that may very well value the trust of its customers and pride of its developers. Who knows, the final product could run even better than what we’ve already seen. One can dream.
The Warborn, the Legions, and the Chosen, aka Vikings, Knights, and Samurai, respectively; the title’s three factions look fantastically awesome and will feature distinct weapons, stats, and playstyles. Whether future DLC will bring new variables, game modes, maps or even completely new factions is still unknown. On top of its online 4v4 and coop modes, For Honor is set to feature a full-length, single-player campaign, and split-screen local play. Until told otherwise, hopefully via an E3 2016 announcement, Xbox One, PS4, and PC owners may have to wait til late winter 2016 or even 2017 to get their gauntlets dirty.