The buzz about For Honor is how it’s more akin to a fighting game than the hack and slash game it appears to be. I can sorta see that but I’m in it for the single player experience. The campaign plays like any other action adventure game out there. It is divided into three short chapters, one per faction–knights, vikings and samurai. The game puts you in control of different warrior types during each chapter to give you a taste of each class’s unique strengths and abilities. They all share the same basic moves but have specific traits that cater to particular play styles or tactics.
As one would imagine, For Honor’s story mode is just an excuse to go on a medieval murder spree, and that is fine. The focus of the game is combat, which is extremely satisfying. It’s more than a simple button masher, demanding that you pay close attention to your enemy’s weapon stance (high, left, right) in order to exploit openings or defend against his attacks. Dubbed “Art of Battle,” combat consists of matching the onscreen directional prompts with your analog stick to deflect incoming strikes and to hit the enemy where he’s not defending. The system has been praised for being remarkably nuanced, especially when combined with guard breaks, parries and throws, which can make for intensely cerebral battles. There’s a system of checks and balances here that I don’t think one can fully appreciate unless playing against a human opponent, but the battles I’ve had against the A.I. during the campaign has nonetheless been truly engaging (pun half-intended), even if at times it seems like I’m only randomly swinging my weapon.
For Honor’s combat feels real, at least in the same sense as Lord of the Rings or Gladiator. I like to refer to it as “Hollywood realism.” You’re aware that the action is a bit over-choreographed and probably much more graceful than what real life melee battles would’ve looked like, but you don’t care because it’s convincing enough and entertaining. One thing that in my opinion doesn’t get enough credit are the “minions,” which are the low-level soldiers that serve as fodder for your axe. For Honor’s bread and butter are the one-on-one duels against the officers or bosses, which are typically back and forth affairs that put your sword skills to the test. In contrast, minions pose very little threat as they can’t block (even if they have shields) and go down in literally one hit. However, they round out the experience and add drama to the battlefield. We’ve all seen it in countless films where the hero cuts through hordes of nameless enemies as he makes his way to the the main bad guy for the real showdown. We’ve watched Aragorn and King Arthur do it, now we get to as well, thanks to the minions.
Though the campaign is pretty short, as in Call of Duty short, I find it highly repayable due to how fun the combat is, and I look forward to replaying my favorite sections at higher difficulty levels. Also, if you want to taste the multiplayer modes but don’t feel like dealing with cheesing, cheating players online, you’d be glad to know that For Honor’s multiplayer suite can be played with bots. Most reviews say that For Honor is first and foremost a multiplayer game, which I won’t deny, but there’s still plenty to love for single player gamers.