I’ve seen a lot of people compare For Honor with fighting games recently, do you have any thoughts on the game?
It’s meh. It’s better than most AAA trash, but it’s kinda simple. Basically, hold LT to lock on and block. You’re always blocking as long as you’re locked on in one of 3 directions, controlled by the right stick. You also attack in the same zone that you’re blocking in. You have light and heavy attacks, heavy attacks are useless unless you’re punishing something with particularly long recovery. You also have a guard break, so you can block, guard break, and light attack. Attacks are slow enough that you can always react and block in the correct zone. Guard breaks are fast but you need to be close. So between these you get the standard rock paper scissors loop: Attack, Guardbreak (throw), Block. Oh, there’s a dodge too, but the dodge sucks. It’s only really useful for dodging out of range if you’re right on the edge of their attack range.
Some characters have longer range than others. Every character has unique special attacks triggered by either doing a sequence of moves, like back dodge and then attack, or pressing a direction on the sticks then attack or something like that. The special moves tend to either be normal attacks that inflict a status effect, or the character rushing forward to do an attack with a status effect, the rush might have super armor too, and the attack might be unblockable.
So the game is kind of like, stand at the edge of their range all the time, don’t let them whiff punish you, and play the samurai who can dodge, then activate a dash forward unblockable attack. If you get hit, you can only really block you can’t attack back faster, you can’t guard break them, you can’t dodge out of the way, so it’s a 50-50 once you get hit between blocking and trying to guard break; because they might guard break you instead of blocking, which opens you up for more damage. Once you block successfully the situation resets to neutral. You can tech guard breaks with a simultaneous guardbreak so guardbreak is really like a throw and after a guardbreak they get briefly stunned so you can either attack them twice for free, or throw them in a direction by pressing guardbreak again.
The big difference between this and a fighting game is that in a fighting game, you have a variety of normal moves with different framedata. In this you only really have 1 normal move (with 3 different animations for different blockzones) and a ton of special moves (with simple chain combos). fighting games have close range moves and longer range pokes. I feel like the game doesn’t really take advantage of the 3d space in the neutral game except that you don’t want to get cornered or thrown into a hazard. So it’s largely a 1 dimensional game. It’s slightly better than multiplayer dark souls combat only in that there’s an unreactable guard break option if you can get in your opponent’s face, so there’s a real rock paper scissors triangle, and actual block zones, but it’s otherwise weaker in of having less viable attack variety.
Seeing your comment on For Honor’s multiplayer combat versus Dark souls’, I don’t think you’ve commented on Soulsborne multiplayer before? Couldn’t find it in your blog. So what are your thoughts on SoulsBorne multiplayer in general?
Soulsborne multiplayer is kinda fucked because there’s no fast way to break guards and no block-zones, so everyone turtles all the time. You have kicking/tackling to break guards, but that’s slow and not a guaranteed guardbreak. If they drop their guard it’s actually less effective than before, because now you’ve just pushed them for no damage instead of dealing stamina damage. That might be good if their back is to a cliff, but otherwise it’s rather useless. In Dark Souls 2 and 3, successfully breaking a guard leads to a crit, so if their guard breaks they die, but this doesn’t result in significantly less turtling.
So beyond that, the trick is to have an element on your weapon, either elemental damage so your attacks chip through shields, or build up poison or bleed. This means the other guy has to attack and make themselves vulnerable, or eventually they’ll get hit too much and die.
So lets pretend the players aren’t currently turtling. Then the trick to winning, much like Chivalry, is to attack slightly before your opponent does (compensating for the relative speeds of your weapons) or attacking slightly after their weapon misses you, or faking them into a roll and hitting them when the roll ends. Weapons have a lot of startup time, so you can’t reliably whiff punish on reaction, you need to already be doing it by the time they whiff. Also because they have so much startup time, it means someone can walk up into your face really easily (so if there was a fast guard break option, it would easily win versus melee attacks, For Honor gets around this by having melee attacks become immune to guard breaks, a trick borrowed from 3d fighters, and by having walk speeds be slow as shit).
So Souls PVP is kind of like a game of chicken. You have this huge safe shield that protects from everything, but if you shield too much you die instantly, you have a hugely risky attack and you want to press attack before they press attack, unless they press it late.
For Honor has the melee attacks work exactly the same way as souls (which is kind of shit honestly) except you only get 1 melee attack instead of 2 (heavy attacks are viable in souls because they’re not that much slower and usually get more range or hit a different area). For Honor also has a real-ass guard break option, so it’s upgraded from chicken to rock paper scissors with strong elements of chicken (mostly because you move so slow relative to weapon ranges, so getting in to throw is tough, resulting in playing the same game of attack chicken as souls).
And For Honor has that 3 block zone system, which makes attacking versus a block more viable than in Dark Souls, because they might not react to what block-zone you’re attacking and you get a hit in. However it’s not as good a system as blocking in fighting games, where you have 2 ways you can block that cover 3 zones. In 2d fighters this is high and low, with both covering mid, and high attacks all being reactable where mids and lows usually aren’t. In 3d fighters blocking high covers high and mid attacks, where blocking low will block lows and make highs miss, allowing mids through. In 3d fighters, lows are slow where the other two regions are unreactable.
Because For Honor has 3 block zones, all attacks need to be reactable so you can block in the right zone, since you can’t just go to one zone by default when you want to block, only switching to the other in reaction to what gets around your default block. This is a large part of why For Honor’s neutral game plays out a lot like a game of chicken. You can always see and counter attacks, but they can walk in and throw you, but you can attack that on reaction too, but they might have just walked in and attacked first, so you don’t want to attack, and it’s safer to just back up for both parties.
You could say they weakened Ate-waza, moves that hit waiting opponents by acting suddenly, like dashing in and attacking with something fast, which is viable in other games. Meanwhile they highly strengthened Oki-waza (preemptively poking to deny the opponent options) and also weakened Sashi-kaeshi (punishing the opponent’s options, since you’re too slow to punish most of the time). Orochi has a stronger Sashi-kaeshi thanks to his dodge back into unblockable, allowing him to play a more balanced and aggressive neutral game, but other characters don’t have as much luck. (I found these terms in this guilty gear guide)
I expect Nioh’s PVP to not be much better than these, except that you have a wider range of moves. Also it has light attacks, which serve an important close range “get off me” function that the other two games lack. If Nioh had a throw that dealt on average less damage than a full combo, but more than a single hit, and was fast but short ranged, not significantly affecting the stamina of either player, then I’d say it would outright be as good as a simpler fighting game. This would totally break single player, but it’s worth considering as territory to explore for future games in a similar style.