For Honor should have been a budget game
For Honor is one of the most distinct multiplayer experiences around. It borrows from online shooters, but it's a hack-and-slash game. Even within the confines of its genre it's a special take on the traditional hack-and-slash, featuring a more methodical approach as opposed to the quick action gameplay of Dynasty Warriors and more accessible contols and techniques than Chivalry.
Because the game is so novel, it's actually kind of depressing just how much of a letdown the final product turned out to be. Now, as the game enters its third “season” six months after launch, it's very obvious that For Honor would have been better off as a budget title.
The Start of Something Awesome
I still remember how excited I was to play For Honor for the first time. The idea of team-based battles in a medieval setting where players could use swords, axes, and spears instead of assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols was just really, really cool. I wasn't just gunning dudes down or getting gunned down myself from a distance — no, I had to engage my rivals face-to-face and throw down using melee weapons. It was the type of thing where defeat felt much more brutal than in a first-person shooter, and victory was much sweeter.
At least it should've been. After the initial excitement wore off, I couldn't help but to grow frustrated with the game. Just getting into a match took a long while, and once I actually jumped into a Dominion or Elimination match, there were no guarantees that I'd get to the end. The constantly-connected world we live in these days isn't free of disconnects and server errors, but For Honor manages to take something intriguing — its bold gameplay concept — and completely ruins it with some of the most annoying connectivity issues seen in a multiplayer game all year.
During those early days of For Honor, there were many times when I'd be in the middle of an intense Dominion match, and then I'd get disconnected. I'd engage in incredible back-and-forth battles, only to get kicked from a game by the servers. I was on the verge of coming to the aid of an outnumbered teammate, but then I got the boot.
My enthusiasm and excitement turned to disappointment and annoyance.
Here We Are, Six Months Later
As promising as For Honor is conceptually, those early problems were indicative of a bigger issue: the game was hardly a complete product at launch. Aside from the lousy servers, there was a terrible lack of modes, and online events were underwhelming. Six months later, and nothing's really changed. The servers are still a problem. Extra modes are still sorely lacking. And the online events aren't even worth playing. For Honor is hardly worth its asking price.
I still return to For Honor from time to time, but it's always begrudgingly. I like the idea of the game, but the execution is absolutely abysmal. And with just a few modes to play around with, there's not much in terms of replayibility. If the online matches are exciting enough, I'll play a few rounds here and there before boredom from playing the same thing over and over again kicks in. The moment I'm booted from a game due to server problems, though, I don't even bother trying anymore. At least not for a while.
For Comparison's Sake
I play For Honor online with a friend of mine, and it wasn't long before we both soured on the game. Since then, he's said to me on an almost-daily basis, “Dude, get Overwatch.” While that title may not necessarily be the game for me, I respect what it does. Unlike For Honor, Overwatch offers incredible server support. And its roster invites players to master more than one character. Where Overwatch encourages you to play a few characters so your team is always well-rounded, For Honor just isn't varied enough to warrant that same kind of dedication.
Another game that comes to mind — mostly because I spent a few months playing it and never grew bored of it — is Titanfall 2. Both For Honor and Titanfall 2 include single player campaigns and multiplayer options, but the mech shooter is superior in every single way. Its story mode features some of the most varied gameplay seen in an FPS campaign, and it comes packed with more multiplayer options, too. Oh yeah, and the servers work great.
Killing Floor 2 was free on PlayStation 4 last month, and you can get the game for anywhere between $20 and $40, depending on the platform and where you look. That game has one mode (two if you count the lame player-versus-player), but it's definitely a better value than For Honor, thanks in large part to its incredible servers. The developers used budget pricing, whereas Ubisoft decided that $60 was a good price point for an incomplete game with terrible servers. Both games have worn out their respective welcomes for me, but I never felt ripped off by Killing Floor 2.
Does For Honor Have a Future?
For Honor is an okay game that could've been a great game. It's an incomplete product with a $60 price tag slapped on it, and that's a big problem. There's a reason the player count has dropped so drastically since launch. And anyone who defends the game has to willfully ignore the game's issues, because as much as I like what For Honor tries to do, I know that it failed on almost every level.
It's possible that we'll see a sequel somewhere down the road — I think that's more likely than not, actually. That said, Ubisoft sacrificed a lot of goodwill with this rush job. I know I won't be hurrying out to buy For Honor 2 if and when that game launches. I'll wait and see if there are enough modes to keep me engaged, and I'll keep a watchful eye on those servers. But I sure as hell won't be paying $60 at launch.
As far as this first version of For Honor is concerned, though, I think the dwindling player base speaks volumes. The game's future looks doesn't look bright, and it doesn't look like it'll be a long-lasting future either. But really, it's hard to expect anything else from an unfinished product like this.