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One of many big titles to come out of this year’s E3 that Ubisoft showcased during their conference was a level of For Honor‘s Viking Campaign, further wetting appetites with its trailer, highlighting the prospect of players getting to battle Vikings, Samurai and Knights on the same battlefield, something no one ever knew we needed until we saw that trailer. Suddenly, we all realised what the host of endless fun possibilities of pitting these three warrior classes against each other could provide. It’s Dynasty Warriors meets Dark Souls in a unique reworking of the hack and slash genre, as these three iconic warrior classes wage war in a medieval fantasy.
While the game might not be out until Valentine’s Day 2017, Ubisoft have been offering players who signed up through their “Uplay service” early access to a closed Alpha, building anticipation for its release. But surprisingly, considering that they have been so keen to showcase their single player campaign, the Alpha instead offers players a chance to sample a decent chunk of the multiplayer aspect of the game.
Of these options, Dominion has proven unquestionably to be the most popular, while equally the most exciting to play as players are thrown onto what feels like a living battlefield, with the AI Minions unlike their Dynasty Warriors counterparts not just standing around waiting for you to swipe them down but instead operating independently, engaging with the enemy and adding to the battlefield experience. True, their damage might be minor at best, but watching them actually fighting makes them more enjoyable to either fight alongside or against.
Players have the option of playing against other players or if you’re feeling antisocial, the option is also there to play against AI opponents, who also fill in the gaps of either side if your unable to find enough players online to field two full sides, while cutting out of the frustration of sitting around waiting for the Matchmaking system to find enough players.
While the finished game will boast four classes (Vanguard, Assassins, Heavies and Hybrids) the Alpha only gave us access to two of these classes for each of the three factions. Each class comes with a range of customisable options from their gender through to their armour and markings, with new equipment available to purchase or scavenge from each battlefield, which characters also have the usual option of earning experience to level up their abilities. From the character classes we can access here they all look greatly different from each other as they come with their own strengths meaning that players will want to experiment with each of the classes to find the one which suits their playing style.
What makes For Honor really stand out from the already well-establish Dynasty Warriors franchise is the game’s combat system “Art of Battle”. Here when a player encounters a stronger opponent or in the case of the alpha, another human opponent, the game allows you to lock into a duel mode where you can both attack and defend from either left, right or above while following onscreen hints to block the strikes of your opponent. Players can also choose to barge into their opponent, break blocks and dodge to beat their opponent while combining both quick and heavy attacks to try and outwit their opponent. Of course, when all that fails you can just run away.
Once you defeat your opponent you have the choice of performing one of your characters two fatalities, each assigned its own button while as part of the upgrade options you can also purchase a further two fatalities for your character. These fatalities are more than just a fun piece of gratuitous violence / salt in the wound for your opponent as they also delay their respawn onto the battlefield unless one of their own team can get to their corpse in time and revive them, which perhaps due to the fact I was seemingly playing with a bunch of blood-crazed barbarians didn’t happen much.
This fighting system really brings a level of realism to the game that we really haven’t seen used for a game of this style before, making combat a much more tense and thoughtful process than just pounding buttons. Players can equally gain their advantage over their opponent by teaming up against the same opponent which provides something of a stumble for the game as players being ganged up on will find themselves struggling to battle both opponents at the same time leaving them with the option of either battling to a heroic demise or just running away.
While the Alpha might essentially be a demo for both the training and multiplayer sections of the game (and Ubisoft reminds that the experience does not fully represent the final product), it is still a promising first look, especially when combined with the single-player campaign footage we saw at E3 and providing the game doesn’t under go any dramatic overhaul between now and its Valentine’s day release date this could be easily be one of the must-have titles of 2017!
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Platform(s): Windows, PS4, Xbox One