A new fighting game, For Honor, is something gamers haven't seen before, thanks to some new thinking and an opportunity to play with convention.
When video-game developers get things right, the entire industry tends to stick to what they got right. It's why first-person shooters tend to have similar control schemes, for example, and why so many games expose a larger narrative world using found objects, like audio recordings.
Every once in a while, developers will take risks and try something new. Ultimately, the range of gamers in the world collectively decide what works and what doesn't. What succeeds finds its way into future games; what fails fades away and is forgotten,
For Honor introduces a new mechanic for melee combat that I expect will become adopted by other developers.
Fighting is divided into three zones, and you block and attack from those three areas. If your opponent is attacking from the right, you need to block there and attack from either left or above.
It's all supplemented by other manoeuvres, like dodging, parrying, chained attacks, and counterattacks. Put it all together and there's some serious combat dancing going on here.
The game was developed and published by Ubisoft, with the Montreal studio leading the charge, as it were. It's available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One.
The combat strategies are poured into three archetypes—knights, samurai, and vikings—and players given the chance to explore what it might be like to wield broadswords, katana, and axes.
There are four types of fighter than you can choose that bring a bit of diversity to the action: vanguards are evenly balanced; heavies use bigger weapons that do more damage but move slowly; assassins are quick and frenzied; and hybrids, which combine elements of the other three types.
There's a story at play here, and you can play through a story campaign to learn about it all and to get a chance to embody each of the three character types. But you might have more fun getting into wide-ranging multiplayer matches, fighting for your faction of choice and changing the balance of power in the world.
Or spend all your time in Duel Mode, which pits player on player in something of a cage match that rages with intensity.
Whichever you prefer, don't think you'll get anywhere by button mashing. Success in For Honor requires timing and finesse.