Ubisoft recently invited me to play the 1v1 PVP Duel Mode in their upcoming multiplayer melee combat game, For Honor. After playing several matches of the 4v4 Dominion mode, I was anxious to see how Ubisoft Montreal would adapt the experience for 1-on-1 fights. I was not disappointed. The For Honor Duel Mode takes the Art of Battle fighting system Ubisoft Montreal is creating specifically for this game and boils it down to its purest form. It’s the ultimate test of your fighting skill and prowess in For Honor. Duel Mode may be my favorite way to play the game when it comes out next February. (And check out the full Duel Mode in action below!)
The Art of Battle
As detailed in my previous look at For Honor, the Art of Battle system is a unique fighting system that lets you control your weapon like never before in any other game. Once you lock on to your opponent with the left trigger, your right stick controls your fighting stance. You can position your weapon for either a right, left, or high guard. Once you're in a certain guard, you'll automatically block attacks coming from that direction. There's also a guard break button that staggers opponents, leaving them open to attack. This discourages players from turtling up and playing too conservatively. Here's how Ubisoft Creative Director Jason VandenBerghe describes the system.
In Duel Mode, the Art of Battle system is on full display. It plays out like the ultimate game of rock-paper-scissors. You're constantly trying to predict which direction your opponent will be attacking from while also trying to string together attacks of your own around their guard, with a few guard breaks thrown in to keep them honest. Unpredictability, quick thinking, and blazing fast reaction times are the name of the game.
We played two best-of-five matches. It was apparent that both my opponents and I were getting better even in that short amount of time. For Honor Duel Mode rewards players who take the time to study their opponent to learn and then exploit their tendencies. It's also a great way to learn your own tendencies and bad habits to try to avoid them for future matches. It's easy to see how the skills learned in Duel Mode can carry over to For Honor's story and other multiplayer modes.
Duel Mode Matchups
I could only select the three different Vanguard heroes in the For Honor Duel Mode demo. These three heroes may all be the same class, but there's enough nuance between them to feel the difference in combat. The Knight Warden is the most balanced of the three. He was definitely slower than the Samurai Kensei, but quicker than the Viking Raider.
The Raider was my favorite to play. While I don't normally opt for heavier, slower builds in fighting games, his more powerful attacks just felt good every time I landed a crushing blow. He also benefits from a special guard break ability that allows him to pick up and carry enemies several yards. If used at the perfect moment near a ledge, this spells instant doom for unwary opponents.
Though the other three hero classes weren't playable in this demo, just the idea of some of these potential matchups is exciting. The Assassins would seem to have the advantage with their enhanced mobility and strong offense. However, it's easy to see how they could just bounce off the Heavy. These tank-like heroes can soak up a ton of damage. The Hybrid is going to be the wildcard in Duel Mode. That class appears to be the toughest to master. The long reach of their polearms will definitely be an advantage in 1-on-1 combat. They just have to be wary of their surroundings and not get pinned in. Close quarters will render their longer weapons useless.
Players will get to see for themselves just how a few of these heroes play in the For Honor Closed Alpha beginning Sept. 15. If you don't manage to get an invite, there are sure to be plenty of other opportunities to play the game prior to its release next year. For Honor will be available Feb. 14, 2017 on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.