The Problem With ‘For Honor’: Boss Encounters

The E3 campaign mode reveal of Ubisoft's ambitious project was missing something big. 


Over the past few years Ubisoft has been working diligently on a few separate projects. Most of these projects are ones we’ve come to expect from the company such as the new Watch Dogs 2 and Ghost Recon Wildlands, but among the traditional lineup lies For Honor - a new take on medieval combat in the video game industry.

Set long after a cataclysmic event, For Honor pits the Legion (Knights), the Chosen (Samurai) and the Warborn (Vikings) against each other as they fought to secure resources for their people. These three factions continued to fight for years without reason, caught in an eternal conflict even though the world around them had regrown to its former glory. It appears that war is all they’ve known for countless lifetimes and despite their best efforts to avoid it, a mysterious figure known as Apollyon always steps in to make sure it remains that way.

From a gameplay perspective, For Honor is mixing up the traditional hack-and-slash formula from the video game industry too. In their new system, the Art of Battle, players will be focusing on timing-based combat that revolves around active offensive and defensive strikes. The idea is to put a much larger emphasis on player skill in 1v1 engagements and team oriented tactics in larger battles.


While I’ve yet to play the game myself, the change of pace looks flawless in the footage we’ve seen from the past two years. Players take turns exchanging blows in one of three directions while actively trying to block incoming damage simultaneously, which makes bringing along friends to have your back all the more important in larger engagements.

This year at E3 For Honor announced that the game would also include a campaign mode revolving around the conflict between the three main factions with a demo mission focused on the Vikings. During the demo the development team showed off massive battles, 1v1 engagements with generals and more importantly: revealed how the boss battles would work in the game.

These boss battles are meant to be absolutely epic encounters, with you and your opponent exchanging harsh blows while moving around each other to see who’s the better warrior. During the demo we got to witness the first one between the Viking leader and one of the Samurai’s most powerful warriors – complete with the typical exchange of tough guy dialogue and competitive weapon spinning. The only problem? One the weapons started swinging, the encounter devolved into two typical soldiers swinging their weapons without any of the close calls we expected.


Sure, the combat is skill based and revolves around the Art of Battle system, but it lacks a certain level of authenticity that players should find during boss encounters of the sort. When you miss a deflect, you just take damage, when you land a hit, you just deal damage – there’s no sort of cinematic effect, and that’s something Ubisoft needs to work on before the game lands this coming February.

By adding short cinematic moments For Honor will be able to amplify the intensity of their boss encounters. For example, during the encounter from the demo the player gets knocked down a few times only to stand right back up…which every Game of Thrones fan knows doesn’t happen. By adding an animation that allows you to block an overhead attack designed to finish you off Ubisoft would add to the intensity of the combat, making the boss encounter feel more meaningful and authentic to the genre as a whole.

These moments don’t have to be consistent though, especially not in multiplayer where the thrill of knowing your engaging in combat with another player keeps the adrenaline high. The idea is just to provide a more engaging single player experience that feels epic despite the fact that you’re fighting against A.I. opponents in order to keep the duelist allure of For Honor alive and well.

For Honor releases February 17 on Xbox One, PS4 and PC.