(Note: This is a pretty long post and it took me a while to write it and look up the illustrative videos so please set aside some time to read it through when you can. If you don't have much time to read it in the foreseeable future, at least read the last colored paragraph on the second post. It's a shameful personal plea.)
Last weekend I had the chance to test out For Honor in the closed beta. I’d loosely followed the game for a while so I had an idea of what I thought it was about – kind of a Dynasty Warriors meets Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
I played for about 3 hours on Thursday and my preconceptions of what it was about were wrong. It played more like a 3rd person 3D melee fighting game as if Street Fighter and Dark Souls had a baby. I had a lot of fun in that gaming session, tried out a few characters and game modes but overall I wasn’t really impressed – it stroke me as the kind of game that’s fun for a while but lacks depth. Technically the game was impressive – great atmosphere, good visuals, good sound and amazing animations. It was a good “lay” but not something I could see myself “getting into a relationship” with.
Friday night, as I was checking gaming news, I saw that one of my favorite streamers was streaming For Honor and he was RAVING about the game. I chatted with him for a while and he convinced me to take it for a “second date” and delve a bit deeper into the game mechanics. Eleven hours later I was exhausted and completely blown away.
There was SO much more to the core combat mechanics than what I had initially experienced – a glorified click the right button at an UI prompt kind of thing. The somewhat intrusive combat UI is nothing more than a tool to help you read the cues from the actual character animations and stances. And once I realized this, fighting became this fluid and effortless endeavor where instead of struggling to make your character do what you want and guess what your opponent is going to do next, you get into “the zone” where it just flows naturally and you can read your opponent from his character animations and let your own character moves flow naturally from one to the next.
For example, if you just swung your big sword from right to left, it will be much quicker to do a follow up left to right if you time the attack at the right time before the move momentum dies down. By the same token, if you just dodged your opponent as he slashed left to right, you know the more imminent and fastest threat you can receive is a follow up coming from the right so you can make your next move accordingly. Given the vast amount of moves and combos available, standard and character specific, the more you play your character and face different characters and players the deeper it gets. The system is so nuanced that for example, the Conqueror, which is a flail and shield bearing knight, that keeps his flail in a slow spin while in combat stance, will fire up an attack faster top to bottom if you start your attack just as the head of the flail is starting to ascend.
The combat system is by far the best I have ever experienced in a computer game and as much fun as 1v1 dueling is, the game truly shines in Dominium, which is a 4v4 game mode with a nuanced variation of the classic 3-point capture and hold akin to Global Agenda’s Control mode. Not only do you have to keep focused on the rich combat system, but you add a tactical layer on top, where situational awareness rules supreme – knowing where everyone is, knowing when to push, not getting caught off position, where and when to fight, 1v2 and 1v3 fights and using the environment to your advantage – it’s fucking brilliant!
On Sunday, I had the pleasure of grouping up with the aforementioned streamer and two other friends on voice and it was the most fun I’ve had in a really long time on a computer game. As the matchmaking system started to pit us against other pre-made groups, matches were fast and furious and we found ourselves discussing tactics and practicing some techniques for group fighting (the game has “friendly fire” and it’s very easy to get in each other’s way and get an ally killed).
And then the beta ended…
I haven’t been this excited about a game since probably the APB beta years ago. All I could think about after the beta end was how to convince you guys to give this game a go (hence this post). Nothing you can read, nor any videos you can watch will give it justice – you have to feel it for yourself…
… And now you can! Game is going to have an open beta from the 9th to the 12th of February (next weekend) before the official release on the 14th. So get your uPlay sorted out and mumble ready and come join in on the fun. Even if you don’t plan on playing, try and drop by mumble during that time. I’ll be on there as much as I possibly can – I miss you guys!
Open Beta Trailer:
An introduction to all the playable characters:
A first look at the game from someone trying it out for the first time:
Due to the matchmaking system most of what you see above is new players taking their first steps into the game. As you get better, you’ll quickly start facing (and be teamed with) better and better players giving the game a nice learning curve.
Here’s a more advanced player struggling to defeat an opponent and his thought process as he adapts:
Faraaz is a pretty skilled player although he is a purist for the combat system. He hates dominium mode for all the reasons I love it. In 1v1 duels there’s very little pressure to attack – it’s generally much better to wait for your opponent to make a move or feint him to trigger a reaction. In dominium the team that is down in points has a lot of pressure to clear a zone quickly, putting pressure on the players and even if a combat stalemates, it will soon be broken by the arrival of more people. Those long stare contests just don’t happen often – it’s always fast paced and brutal.