Despite enduring similar disconnection issues to those outlined by Eurogamer earlier this week, I'm having tremendous fun playing For Honor's multiplayer. When it works, it's absolutely brilliant: A brutal and bloody fighting game that puts you front and center of a medieval battlefield, where it’s kill or be killed.
What I particularly like about the game is that in larger-scale battles, player versus player combat can take a variety of forms. Sometimes you run into an enemy warrior who's on their own, and engage them in a duel. This is For Honor's purest form of fighting – a battle of skill and reflexes in which the players attempt to outwit and outmaneuver one another as they parry, block, and counter-attack their opponent.
Oftentimes, though, fights are asymmetric brawls in which an individual has to take on two or more opponents at once. Whether that's a duel that's interrupted by an additional player, or an organized group working together to deliberately isolate and eliminate their enemies, this aspect of the game can be tough to handle when you're on the receiving end of a multi-opponent drubbing. While the game's revenge mechanic can sometimes make it possible to turn the tide of battle in your favor, much of the time, being outnumbered results in your hero being mercilessly scythed down.
Although this kind of situation can be frustrating, to me, it's simply part and parcel of combat. This is a battle to the death, after all, and I feel that it's perfectly reasonable for players to use everything at their disposal to secure a win, whether that's grouping together and overwhelming opponents using superior numbers, or taking advantage of environmental hazards in a 1:1 showdown to instantly kill an enemy by hurling them off a cliff, or pushing them into a spike trap on a wall.
For some, though, my point of view is controversial. It seems that there are more than a few people who like to play For Honor using a similar kind of Honor Rules system that players adopted while participating in Dark Souls' PvP combat. I'm fascinated by this, and I especially enjoyed reading the back-and-forth in this Reddit post in which the author ztar92 outlines a set of rules for honorable combat. Obviously, all participants involved in the battle would need to agree to this Code of Honor before fighting, but assuming they did, it would certainly make For Honor a very different experience from the chaotic battle it usually is.
What particularly piqued my interest was the debate over environmental hazards. Some feel that they're a cheap and dishonorable means to kill an opponent, while others reckon that it's perfectly fine to use them to your advantage. Not only that, but some argue that certain heroes are designed around countering their opponents with potentially deadly throws, and not being able to use their skillset to their fullest potential would put them at a disadvantage.
Needless to say, I'm of the latter mindset. While being on the receiving end of a deadly throw or shove can be a frustrating way to conclude a fight, I nevertheless feel that environmental hazards can add potential depth to combat that’s all about situational and positional awareness. Understanding this, and knowing which heroes have good throw counters so you can treat them with caution – especially when you confront them in a place that they can exploit – is something that I feel is necessary to playing the game well, and indeed adds to the tension and excitement when battling other players.
Interestingly, Reddit user BroWithTheFr0 created what is ostensibly a counterpoint to the above post, and that set off another very lively discussion. This user feels that Honor Rules have the potential to split the community, and he claims to have been raged at in chat by players who felt that he wasn't playing honorably. I don't know how true that is, but it does seem rather naive for players to expect everyone else to play according to their own self-imposed set of rules.
For Honor isn't Dark Souls, and it's still very early days for the game. Maybe as the community develops, some kind of Honor Code will be established amongst organized players – particularly for 1 vs. 1 duels – but it's going to take a while. And until such a time when that actually occurs, For Honor will continue to be a brutal and unforgiving game in which honor doesn't really have much of a role.
While I find the debate over Honor Rules and environmental hazards salient in highlighting the needs of some of For Honor's player base - perhaps Ubisoft could experiment with a hazard-free, "Honorable" dueling mode in an upcoming content update - I personally feel that half of the fun of the game is its "dishonorable" play. I love sneaky ambushes, catching someone as they round a corner and hurling them off the ramparts, and stepping into a one-on-one duel and helping my teammate best their opponent.
To me, these kinds of things bring a real edge to the battle, and makes the action feel gritty and realistic. As they say - all's fair in love and war.
For Honor is a game of two halves. One is underwhelming; the other is brutal, bloody, and brilliant.
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