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E3 2016: Hands-On with Ubisoft's For Honor - Honour the Sword
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 10:09am 18/06/16 | Comments
We not only went briefly hands-on with Ubisoft Montreal's For Honor, we also had a chat with producer Stephane Cardin, a little of which we've shared here along with our full thoughts. Read on for more...

For Honor is one of those hard games to pitch and sell to an E3 audience. At last year’s E3 it was revealed as a tactically-driven multiplayer melee experience, and this year’s E3 a single-player campaign has been revealed. The differences between the two are actually stark, but it was the campaign mode the publisher and developer focused on most this year.

On paper, it’s every kid who grew up watching sword-fighting epics’ dream. What if we put some of the most disciplined sword-wielders from history into the same story; into the same fight? What would happen? Which discipline would win out? Whose culture had the strongest will to win, and to survive? In fact, History Channel and the like have made entire series around those very questions, but they’re all spoken to, and presented in, a modern dialogue.

Now, sure, I get where your concern lies -- well, videogames are a modern dialogue too, right? Yes, as a medium, but not in what that medium is capable of doing, if put into the right sword hand. For instance, the game’s main driver, Jason Vandenberghe, is a passionate sword person. He was behind Ubsoft’s Red Steel 2 -- one of the first games requiring the Wii MotionPlus add-on controller device which he felt brought unseen fidelity to gaming (if you click that link, bear in mind that was in 2009). Jason’s For Honor producer compatriote Stephane Cardin was also happy to explain that Vandenberghe himself is a student of the sword -- the German broadsword, to be specific. And also that he has been pitching this idea to Ubisoft for more than three years.

“Jason trained in German Broadswaord,” explains Cardin. “So it’s a huge passion for him. The problem [however] is with the [controller analogue] stick -- you lose the true weight of it, and so we sat together with the dev team and we looked at the analogue stick; when you look at all the other genres and the analogue stick, like in racing games, you feel in control of your car; in a shooter -- bang, bang, bang! -- you feel like you’re controlling the guns, and when you go to fighting games you’re doing combos [but in action games] you don’t necessarily feel like you’re in control of your weapon. So for us it was key to work on a new combat system that could provide the true emotion of [handheld weapons] so not only the tangible side, but also the adrenaline -- I need to survive using my skills.”

The combat system he’s talking about -- in the campaign mode showed at this year’s E3 -- sees players matching and opposing the stance of their opponent in an effort to block and attack. It might sound simple in description, but in action it’s actually an on-the-fly adrenaline feast with players attempting to match real-time wits with their opponents. Specifically in attack, as defense can be handled with more patience. The entire game’s combat isn’t reflected in this way, as you tend to play as more Hero-types where facing other heavy enemies results in the more tactical fighting, but the grunt units are easily mowed down.

The story is a bit thin on the ground at the moment, where some magical entity has brought these soldiers together, but there was a taste of the titular in my gameplay session where Honor was awarded to my avatar -- previously a seemingly unknown Knight -- for the bravery and skill I showed. It will be interesting to see how far the team can take this otherwise more perfect multiplayer concept to single-player, but having always been that kid I talked about earlier, tickle me curious in the entire product’s final delivery.

“From the beginning of the project we wanted to do the campaign,” Cardin adds. “Because for us [the] PvP is strong and we found that with that content players want to live the fantasy of the warrior, so that’s why we decided to go with the Knight, Viking and Samurai -- the three factions who have totally different values. But usually when we ask the question “are you Knight, Viking or Samurai?” without giving any context everyone answers that question, and it’s a question they already answered when they were kids”.

For Honor, which is running on a modified version of the Assassin’s Creed ANVIL game engine is beginning to look the part, but as with conflict, you need a storm of perfect ideas to brew well enough together that it can rain final success. It’s a disparate design idea to the masses at the moment, but with both bases covered in campaign and multiplayer, along with a design director who not only fought sword and sword to get his passion-project off the ground, but also practices in the real-thing, there’s a lot of hope there.

Aesthetically, it really is all I’ve ever wanted to see. Kind of like wanting to see our V8 Supercars and drivers traveling and competing in our local vehicles in foreign Touring Car campaigns, just to know if our guys -- and cars -- really are among the best in the world (but let’s be honest, they are). Or Transformers vs Micro Machines, Klingons vs Krogans, Star Wars vs Star Trek, GI Joe vs Dino Riders… the list really goes on. And if you consider how many more famous warriors there have been across history, the livelihood of For Honor could be easily maintained, provided the first product is handled with aplomb, and so far it’s looking very respectable.

We'll also have more from producer Stephane Cardin from the showfloor soon, so stay tuned.

Latest Comments
Posted 09:50pm 19/6/16
You mean German longswords?
Steve Farrelly
Posted 09:18am 20/6/16
That could be, but the exact wording in my interview from Stephane was "German Broadsword"
Posted 11:40am 20/6/16
I dunno, this looked pretty dull in the demo they did in the Ubisoft press conference. Combat didn't feel like it flowed at all, you just button mashed your way through the fodder guys then you'd come to the tougher guys and just play what looked like rock-paper-scissors with them till someone died, felt like it broke up the action and killed the momentum each time.
Posted 09:43am 23/6/16
Yeah I agree. The combat in this does not look very skillful at all. A lot of spam defense and spam offence. After a few attempts at playing skillfully, I think most players will devolve into a button mash style out of frustration.
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