For Honor has brought Bushido back to games
February 16, 2017 // 3:53 p.m.
It's two on one, and I'm screwed. My character, the lumbering Raider, is sluggish in my inexperienced hands, capable of beating down the body in front of me with inexpert strikes but not up to the task of fighting two assailants at once.
They start to circle, and I roll backwards, hoping to get some distance between me and the attackers. To my surprise, only one guy follows, the other standing back and watching. I duel the first, a knight that's faster than me but much weaker and surprisingly susceptible to being tossed down the side of a mountain. I take a second to compose myself, waiting for the blade to hit between the shoulder blades and then… nothing.
I turn around. My observer is still there watching. He stands a second longer, and then, when it's clear I'm prepared and ready, he comes in. We fight; he destroys me, but he does it fairly.
For Honor is a weird beast, a game that's probably going to stop being fun in two months when the community still playing it will be unkillable death machines, but for now, the wobbles of a community finding its feet with the rock-hard combat system and these faltering first steps have also given rise to something else: actual, for real, honour.
It reminds me of the e-Bushido that would accompany melee combat games like Star Wars Jedi Knight academy: There, duellists would line up to fight each other, bowing to each other by pivoting their mice to make their character look at their crotch, while instant kills or taking out a player while he's either typing or in a pause menu was frowned upon, dishonourable. This perceived "code of conduct" seemed really silly until you didn't obey it, at which point the chat box would catch fire with admonishments, and admins would threaten server bans if you didn't fit with the herd.
For Honor has captured a little bit of this magic back. There's no mice-pivot bows, and no-one types any more because it's 2017, but this basic sense of honour and that 'e-Bushido' that was so prevalent before seems to be present and correct, at least as far as the 1v1, 2v2, and 4v4 elimination duels are concerned. This means that, as a game, duels involve a fair period of sizing people up, sizing up defences and then, finally, fighting. In the group duels, everyone has to tangle 1v1 at the start of the round, and I've never once been stabbed in the back during one of the group fights.
This isn't any sort of official For Honor review; Rick — a real life sword-fighting master — is working on that presumably as we speak, but it is me publicly praising something cool to come out of the game. I like that people are politely trying to murder me, and I hope that continues as I keep playing.