In most competitive multiplayer games, the moment you lay eyes on an opponent, everything speeds up. You’ve stalked through reeds or crept through corridors, weapon raised, looking for action; when you find it – or it finds you – the winner is the one with the quickest draw, the truest aim, the battle typically over a split-second after it has begun. In For Honor, things couldn’t be more different. You’ll sprint between capture points, merrily cutting swathes through the battlefield of AI grunts. Then you lock eyes with a human-controlled foe, the camera angle shifting ever so slightly to keep them in frame, and the pace plummets.
For Honor’s battles are tense, cautious, and above all, slow. Little wonder, really – you’re not popping
off shots at an enemy’s head from half a map away, but squaring off against a foe standing a few feet from you, each of you trying to find a gap in the other’s defences, probing and poking with bloody big swords. Squeeze the left trigger and you enter battle stance, with nudges of the right stick up, left, or right moving your weapon from eye level to either hip. That dictates both the angle of your attack and your defensive position; you’re looking to attack where your opponent isn’t guarding, and they’ll be trying to do the same to you.
You’ll strut forward with sword held high, then at the last moment flick it to your left and attack. You’ll get a hit in, but your foe moves their sword to block your follow-up. You back off, raise your sword up high again and move back in. You know your opponent is expecting a last-minute switch; do you hold position
and attack high? Should you change stance two times, or three, before attacking? Or risk doing exactly the same as thing before?
It might look sluggish, but these decisions come quick and fast, and while heavy armour and greatswords naturally slow the overall pace, For Honor’s closest mechanical relative is the charmingly lo-fi modern multiplayer classic Nidhogg. There’s a whiff of Dark Souls in the weight and drama of the combat, too. And the design of Dominion, the game’s headline multiplayer mode, draws, oddly enough, on Call Of Duty. As the mode’s name, which riffs on COD’s Domination gametype, should make clear, this is a battle over three capture points. Yet there’s a touch of genius here that is all For Honor’s own.