For Honor is bloody and hectic. Each exchange of blows helps you learn how to fight an opponent. Underneath a mess of micro-transactions, For Honor hides the soul of a true fighting game. We take a critical look at it in this video.

Transcript:

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When I first booted up For Honor, I was dismayed. The game seemed awash in ugly and unsatisfying progression systems, the majority of which served to encourage microtransactions. Want some loot? Spend some in game currency for new armor and weapon parts for stat boosts. Eager to unlock all of a character’s skills? Drop a few bucks to instantly have access to every one of them. The alternative was a long and sluggish grind uphill through levels that made you get everything piecemeal. It was awful. Exploitative.

After playing, I realized that’s not the real metric of progress in For Honor. For Honor is a game defined by statistical growth and increasing levels. It’s not about gear acquisition or skill unlocks. Instead, For Honor is a game of iterative skill development. It’s about mastery. For Honor is a slower paced fighting game and not a simple online brawler. The signs of progress are the enemies you defeat and the ever growing ease with which you dispose of them.

In some ways, this is pretty simple. Getting better feels, well, better. You feel in control. You feel confident. For Honor thrives off this feeling of fulfillment in a way I’d never experienced before. It helped me understand why people love fighting games.

My time in For Honor has focused on dueling, where I can more objectively observe growth. Early fights were a matter of chance. A furious combo here or heavy attack there could allow me to essential brute force my way to victory. There was some tactical thinking but I lacked an understanding of my character’s techniques and abilities. I did not understand the crucial mechanics.

But as I fought, I learned. Which does not seem like such a radical notion until we understand that the strength of For Honor over other fighting games is that the slower pace allows for easier analysis than if I was playing Street Fighter or Marvel vs. Capcom. With improved understanding of skills and basic techniques, I was now free to observe opponents and react to their behaviors. I began to read my enemies.

Okay. On our first exchange, my enemy went for a grapple and followed up with two overhead strikes. On our second, they left out the grapple but went for the overhead anyway. I can work with this. His guard is lower at a distance and he’s eager to attack up close. If I dash in, I can set up for my own combo because he’ll be too focused on offense to parry me.

Shit. He switched it up. Attacking from the right. But he always attacks twice so- yes! There it is. Guard, use my own grapple for a big hit. Dash in. If he blocks my first attack, he’ll follow up with an overhead. Dash to side. Get the kill.

These exchanges last no more than twenty or thirty seconds but end up being less about the manual dexterity needed to pull off moves and more about understanding what the best options are in a given moment. Increased experience means a further understanding of the game’s space and an expansion of your options in any potential moment. The more you fight, the more you know what you can do. The more you fight someone, the more you start to understand what you can do specifically against them.

Progression in For Honor comes in the moments where your tactical arsenal grows. Where you’re increasing knowledge finds applicability. It’s in the widening of your possibility space, the expansion your mechanical canvas and a growing knowledge of the tools and movements you can use to paint it red with your enemy’s blood.

This progression heralds maturity as a player as well. Early encounters occur without a fundamental understanding of the rules, Thus, it’s easy to deflect blame to someone else for losses. But as you progress and your understanding improves, you not only begin to understand your own mistakes but you begin to appreciate your enemy’s success.

Loss provides opportunity, victory provides a satisfying confirmation of your knowledge and ability. Sure, you might run into a cheap tactic here or there but moving from less modal forms of fighting to something intuitive and varied is incredibly rewarding.

That’s the secret of For Honor and, perhaps, of all fighting games. Growth is measured in competency and victory. Not in loot boxes, armor sets, and cool emotes. The real progression system is the intangible expansion of knowledge and the growing mastery to use it in a fight. And because For Honor’s entry barrier is relatively low, many players can enjoy that kind of growth.

Not bad, For Honor. Not bad at all.