Ubisoft’s For Honor held a closed beta on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this past weekend, letting players don the armor of a Knight, Samurai, or Viking while cutting through their opponents on a set of new battlefields. Instead of simply letting players button-mash their way to victory like most medieval combat titles, For Honor uses a combat system called “The Art of Battle” which requires you to actively attack and block blows from your opponent. The result is intense, skill-based melee engagements that require a ton of practice to master. That is the case if you don’t just plan to toss your opponent over the edge.
Regardless of how you play in For Honor, there are a number of environmental hazards scattered about the map which you can use to instantly kill your opponent. Usually these are spikes nailed into random walls or gigantic pitfalls that you can throw your opponent off if you manage to successfully grab them while up close. Since For Honor’s unique take on melee combat only excels in 1v1 engagements, the goal behind each of these traps seems like it’s to give players an opportunity to get rid of a second opponent while they were already in engaged in battle.
They’re a way to avoid the skill-based combat system, which makes sense in the game’s 4v4 Dominion mode. The hazards work relatively well if multiple players push you while you’re guarding an objective marker or running around the map. But in the 2v2 Brawl and 1v1 Duel modes where the game places a greater emphasis on individual skill and eliminating your opponent directly, these hazards are just plain frustrating.
Many players I faced during the alpha phase in the 2v2 Brawl and 1v1 Duel modes adopted an unspoken code of honor when it came to these environmental hazards: We wouldn’t throw each other off provided the match was even. I wouldn’t toss my enemy off the map in Brawls unless they rushed to the opposite side of the map to annihilate my partner with their teammate, and they wouldn’t throw me directly into spikes unless my partner decided to do the same. In Duels, I would bow to my opponent and navigate to an area of the map without hazards too, where we would fight soldier-on-soldier without any cliffs getting in our way.
This quickly became core to dueling and brawling for seemingly everyone, but come this past weekend’s beta? Many were actually sitting near environmental hazards for the entire match waiting to throw you off the map. In 2v2 Brawls, players would just run to the opposite side of the map to 2v1 your partner with stuns and throws until and environmental hazard left you alone on the battlefield.
Players started to abuse environmental hazards to a point where For Honor felt like a competition about who could throw their opponent off the edge first, which is a completely different direction than the true test of player skill the game’s combat system is so heavily focused on promoting.
While the importance of situational awareness and using traps to your advantage is certainly an element that has a place in For Honor, it doesn’t feel great in the smaller 2v2 Brawl and 1v1 Duel modes. Without the sense of intensity that the active attacks, blocks, and combos provide, For Honor’s smaller game modes just feel like they are rewarding players for pushing folks around instead of mastering each individual character class. If For Honor is all about figuring out how to best shove other players around, it’s succeeding.