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For Honor's epic melee combat makes you feel like a medieval badass

Hayden Dingman | July 1, 2015
Never underestimate the importance of selling a feeling.

For Honor is slower and more deliberate than War of the Roses, and thus encourages high-level play. But it's also simple enough in its approach to combat that some of Chivalry's higher-level concepts (i.e. feinting) are immediately accessible. It's basically the type of Chivalry game you'd expect from a big-budget studio--a bit more accessible, a bit more arcade-y, and a lot prettier.

And you know what? That last piece is surprisingly important. I can (and will) continue to decry the whole "For Honor is a brand new genre" thing, because it's not true. But Ubisoft's deep pockets do give For Honor one huge advantage: It's gorgeous. Like, surprisingly close to a Ryse-esque experience at times.

That's kind of important, because this whole medieval hack-n-slash genre is sort of busted. It's just a factor of where video games are at--nobody can quite nail down the feel of melee fighting in the same way we nailed the "Left-Trigger-Right-Trigger" feel of shooters. In singleplayer hack-n-slash games that's fine. Developers work around it by making your attacks pretty much always hit, or at worst you get the shield guy who requires a marginal amount of footwork to defeat.

In a multiplayer game, you need some sort of skill-based aspect. But even so, this whole "three stances" thing is, at best, a rough approximation for sword fighting. At best.

So in order to sell you on the game, the genre's mostly fallen back on its more unique aspects--selling you the idea of being a knight or a Viking warrior or what have you. For Honor does that better than any other game on the market, because battles feel epic and important.

At the beginning of my demo match, both teams were situated on opposite sides of a crumbling castle. When the timer hit zero, the two armies sprinted towards each other before meeting in the middle in a whirlwind of steel. Think Braveheart.

Now, only a dozen or so of these combatants were actually humans. The rest were fodder enemies (a la Dota 2 or League of Legends) which don't even require the stance-switching mechanic for combat--you just hack through them with ease.

But For Honor--at least in my one-game demo--felt more on the size and scale of a real medieval fracas than any Chivalry or War of the Roses match I've ever played. There were soldiers all around me, swords flashing in the sunlight, and when you do meet up with another human player? Even in a virtual environment you can feel them lock eyes with you from across the battlefield, and then you wade through a sea of bodies to match swords. It's an adrenaline rush.

 

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