There aren’t many problems with For Honor, UbiSoft’s most recent release. The issue with the single problem that the game does have? It’s all-encompassing, and could well decide the fate of the entire genre that the developer is attempting to create.
We all know about MOBAs.
League of Legends gave the genre life. A bunch of heroes buy gear and level up their abilities during the course of player-versus-player and sometimes player-versus-environment encounters while stacking currency to buy upgrades with every success. There are three lanes, a solid goal at either end to attack and regularly spawned and patrolled NPC weakling fodder to dispose of.
It’s match-by-match and though the “summoner” (the player) levels up, consistency between the actual hero the player uses in each game isn’t necessarily proportional. Heroes level to some kind of maximum within the match, and reset every time they are selected.
In For Honor, the hero gains gear and feats which are permanent, and carried across each match and every game mode.
The combat is, simply put, extremely good. Left, right and up are the directions which each player can guard, and can attack one another in. Players must both pick the direction of each attack, and pick the direction to put their “guard,” which registers loosely as the direction from which they will block any attack—any attack from any other direction will land a successful hit.
Each hero has an entire panel of special moves, which center around the directional attacks plus light and strong attacks.
The game supports duels, one on one and two on two, deathmatches which have eight people in teams of four against one another, sometimes with and sometimes without NPC fodder, and a game-mode known as Dominion, which has capturable points and tons of NPC fodder.
All these modes are set across a “world map” which barely makes any sense. Progression on the world map seems to reward players with nothing. This is where For Honor begins to reveal what might be a potentially fatal flaw.
Without having any kind of pervasive, and yes, constrictive system in place, For Honor is actually just a MOBA with a third-person viewpoint instead of an isometric one. Now, don’t get me wrong; MOBAs make an insane amount of money.
The problem with For Honor is therefore more or less the same problem which afflicts every single Massively Multiplayer Online game. They all stink of World of Warcraft, and are measured against it and found lacking. Naturally, a game which dominates its niche on the gaming market is going to be the product that you have to beat to make decent money and retain a playerbase.
For Honor stinks of League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients, but executed without the now-perfected formulae that both of those titles possess.
It’s not unlike trying to compete against an alpine skier who has practiced for decades and won Olympic gold medals when you are a snowboarder who took up the sport last Tuesday. For Honor might be loaded with potential as a snowboarder, but For Honor can’t compete with titles which dominate the genre it is attempting to enter yet.
To do so, it would need to have another mechanic. Something. Anything.
My personal opinion? A pervasive world.
I’m not trying to convince you that For Honor needs to become World of Warcraft instead of slightly modifying League of Legends. What I’m saying is that For Honor needs to become its own game, in its own right. A title which deploys a mechanic that nobody else has tried to use yet, or deploys a mechanic that they have tried to use, but in a different way.
I’m a huge Dark Souls fan.
Here’s something they could do that’s just mildly based on Dark Souls. Imagine a hub. A bunch of questgivers and NPCs which filter through the hub as they follow their own agenda. While you’re between matches, while you’re not doing stuff, maybe you could congregate with others, chat and emote and whatnot, and talk to NPCs about the world, or pick up quests (which are currently known as Orders that are selected from a menu, and upon completion dispense rewards).
Or hell, why not just drop everyone onto a level plain and just allow them to have at it while they wait for matches which bring reward? You don’t incentivize our “limbo” area, you just let people do whatever they want in a free-for-all type setting.
Listen, here’s the digs. The real talk.
Online games aren’t formed around mechanics.
They’re built around discourse. Pageantry. Trust me. I’ve been playing online games since they were text-based. People don’t cling to games. They cling to communities, particularly permanent communities where people can learn their names, and learn about them, and where they can learn about others. People are social, and they need some kind of hub, or central area to combine and chat and talk about things.
Dark Souls had no such mechanic, but the community literally built one out of YouTube channels and wikis and chat groups on reddit.com and everything else you can imagine. Eventually, there came to be a community in a game which actually and totally emphasizes the single player experience.
For Honor needs a way to build that type of superstructure, or it’s going to be just another game trying to ape the success of prior games.
In spite of an amazing combat engine, a totally cool story, and an amazing set of heroes, it needs just a few more bits to become a complete game. I suggest that it emphasizes a community, and makes some attempt to build a place where players can engage in sustained discourse.
Remember, this is a free speech blog! Go VIKINGS (my faction) and let’s #MakeCanadaFun!