Ubisoft, Get It Together: For Honor Is a Joke
Well fellow action game fans, despite what Ubisoft wanted us to believe, For Honor is now a joke of the year. Instead of being this new cool exciting competitive game, we're left with...meh. I could hardly count the ways this title let me down.
For Honor is a third-person, hack-and-slash fighter developed and published by Ubisoft for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The game set players in a medieval period where they take on the roles of historical warriors. As Knights, samurai, or and vikings, players duel to win territory and dominance. And it probably would have been a cool game -- if it actually worked.
The game's premise sounded really fun on paper -- and at first, players agreed. The beta period was met with healthy popularity. Then, upon its February release, the title reviewed quite well with critics and players alike. It was also the top selling title of February 2017, according to the NPD.
So what happened to turn this game into a laughing stock? A few things, actually -- the online experience took a dive, players became disenfranchised, and the competitive scene had a pretty big blemish.
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No Multiplayer For You
Let's start with the multiplayer experience. Understandably, this is the game's biggest selling point. But upon release, things were pretty rocky from the start. In fact, the developers had a laundry list of known issues they were aware of.
Players could not reach matchmaking. Players returning from the beta had issues with connecting. There were also connectivity issues between players of mixed regions -- so players within the US and Europe would have issues playing together. The official recommendation for this issue was simply to not play against players of different regions.
Now, where's the fun in an online game when you can't play against your friends in Europe? Or any other part of the world.
Aside from that, the net code in For Honor simply isn't good. Why? Because it uses a peer-to-peer system. Simply put, this means that players must host other players in a match, rather than all players connecting to a centralized server. This puts a lot of strain on most internet connections -- especially for those who don't have the best internet connectivity. This created (and is still creating) a lot of issues with lag and desyncing. Ubisoft plans to have dedicated servers in the future, but it's unlikely that they'll come in time to salvage the damage that's already been done by these problems.
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Bugs and Tournament Controversy
The other concern that arose were bugs. No game is without its far share of glitches post launch, right? Well be that as it may, it's still pretty bad in For Honor's case.
The bugs were bad, but Ubisoft's lack of patching and support was far worse. One massive exploit went so overlooked that it was used to win a tournament with $10,000 on the line. A player named Jakub “Alernakin” Palen was able to win using “unlock tech” that allows Nobushi (Samurai) players attacks to become unparryable -- an obvious advantage in a game that requires parrying to fight fairly.
This player had no shame in showing the bug off in his victories. He even freely admitted he hadn't played the game for nearly two weeks prior.
It would be unfair to say Ubisoft wasn't fixing some of the issues like this that have arisen. The team is acutely aware of pretty much all the game's major bugs, and in some cases have been hard at work to fix them. But the patch that solved the exploit was released after the tournament.
This would have been forgivable if Alernakin had discovered the cheat and kept it all to himself until he hit the tournament stage. But unfortunately that wasn't the case -- many players (and Ubisoft) knew about the bug in the time leading up to the tournament. But there were no rules in place to disqualify a player for using the cheat.
Speaking from a competitive standpoint, this kind of fiasco is essentially a tournament killer. The hard work of many was made null and void by a cheat. A thriving competitive scene can't be predicated on hacks and exploits. And if the first major For Honor tournament was won by cheating, what kind of incentive does that give anyone to bother getting good at the game or participating in a competitive circuit that's already sort of been corrupted by Ubisoft's total disregard for quality and basic functionality?
The irony of that whole tournament brouhaha? It was actually intended to serve as a means to hype up fans for Season 3 of For Honor. But after seeing how easily the game could be exploited and how little Ubisoft was doing to rectify the issue, fans had the opposite reaction.
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The real problem with For Honor isn't so much that these issues happened. Had they cropped up in discrete pieces and been promptly addressed, the game probably could have survived. But these bugs and other problems happened consecutively, persisted due to lack of dev support, then blew up on the eSports scene. It was a perfect storm that turned For Honor from a competitive experience to a laughing stock.
Can Ubisoft take strides to really improve the game and win back the favor of its fans? That's a good question. It's certainly possible, and the dev team is working hard to address a number of issues. 2017 isn't over yet, so there's still time for For Honor to redeem itself.
But frankly, I wouldn't hold my breath.