March was not a great month as far as For Honor was concerned. The game launched with only 12 maps, most of which could only be played in certain game types, meaning the map pool in For Honor is pretty small. But it got smaller when the two viking maps High Fort and River Fort got removed due to “performance issues.” Also during this March patch the balance of certain classes was way off. Some clever researchers tested the attack speed of the lightning quick Peacekeeper against slower characters like the giant Shugoki and found that she could attack faster than any human could be reasonably expected to respond which made her quite unfair against anyone who isn’t the Flash or a robot.
A game touting “Gear Statistics” which seemed designed to allow you to specialize your character how you wished, ultimately ended up as a gateway for the one and only viable PvP option of “Revenge Builds” giving people extra attack and defense and several free hits on their opponents basically whenever they wanted. Needless to say, a sudden boost in attack, defense, and free hits causes a total disruption to the organic flow of combat and feels incredibly cheap to be on the receiving end of. Naturally all of these problems accompany a slew of connection issues, random error messages, and the generally horrible user interface that plagues the game, but you knew all that when you saw the Ubisoft logo on the box. It’s called “branding”; how would you know it’s a Ubisoft game if matchmaking didn’t take 20 minutes and you only got to play three of the nine games you connected to?
What these issues translated to as far as the player experience goes was basically a huge mess. Peacekeepers run wild showing no signs of trying any kind of attack other than their fast spam and bleed effects. Everyone played the same four maps over and over again in 4v4 game modes (4v4 games make up three of the five total game modes available, so anyone playing with friends was stuck in those lobbies.) Gear stat differences and the snail pace at which you unlocked worthwhile gear meant you were committed to your first character choice, since trying a new one meant having low level gear and an almost certain loss at the hands of players better equipped than you.
For Honor was definitely a hard game to enjoy in this state, but the worst of it was the total lack of transparency from Ubisoft. The community is raging, the game needs attention if the players are expected to stay, and the devstream that For Honor’s team generously hosts to talk about the future of their game, got cancelled. The general lack of news and poor state of the game paved the way for the talk of a Blackout event (a community held event where everyone promises to stay off the game for 24 hours in protest.) Only after the reddit post calling for a Blackout hit the 11 thousand upvotes mark, officially surpassing the amount of people actually left playing the game on most platforms, did Ubisoft come forward and finally decide to do something about it.
After keeping the two maps High Fort and River Fort out of the game for longer than they had actually been playable, they finally made their triumphant return last week. Brand new weekly content got introduced in the way of new cosmetics for each of the classes. The slow rate of progression was addressed with players gaining more Steel (the in-game currency of For Honor) for their time, and the daily challenges in-game promising larger rewards. And all of that was just in the days leading up to the actual devstream on March 31st that would be their (unofficial) blackout response.
Bug fixes, including one that allowed assassin type characters to avoid getting knocked down when they should and a quirk of the debuff resistance stat throwing off the grab timing, were addressed on stream. Revenge builds are reportedly getting a nerf. Game modes with map power-ups will see those power-ups take longer to acquire and they will have a delay before being put on the map in an effort to keep those annoying players who run from a fight to get quick boosts in check. Overall, it was amazing for anyone who was still listening to hear what they’ve been waiting for (which was literally any news at all).
It got even better when they started talking about character balance. Peacekeepers are getting their zone attack and dodge attacks nerfed. The Warlord is having his headbutt nerfed in a way that will allow players to dodge it easier and punish him for missing it. The flail and shield wielding Conqueror is getting an unspecified nerf as well. The biggest character balancing news comes for the Lawbringer though. Long thought to be the weakest of the available characters of For Honor, the Lawbringer will be receiving buffs to basically everything he does. Damage and speed increases for most attack chains, heavy attacks will be guaranteed to connect after performing the long arm maneuver (an attack that basically flips your opponent over your head like a giant human pancake.)
The Lawbringer was always a class designed to counter enemies attacks by parrying them and following up on that parry, which he will now do with more success. The impale attack that sticks your enemy in the gut and runs them a short distance is guaranteed to connect after a parry. Likewise his zone attack, a large sweeping motion with the character’s iconic halberd, can be guaranteed to land after performing a parry and grants the Lawbringer with “hyper armor,” an ability that was previously reserved only for the Shugoki class and can be extremely powerful depending on how it gets introduced to the Lawbringer. Basically the weakest class is becoming a battlefield terror as he gets completely reworked.
All of this is definitely a step in the right direction. Sought-after fixes and balances are being implemented and launch-day content is being reintroduced that should have never been removed (how can you not detect “performance issues” during the many alpha and beta tests the game had?) But is it enough to bring the declining population back to the game? And if Ubisoft honestly did give in to the pressure of the traction gained by the notion of a blackout event, will the patch they’re talking about be truly ready for release?
Rainbow Six: Siege, a competitive shooter also published by Ubisoft, has had a struggle lately with each new patch introducing more bugs to the game than they fixed. If For Honor patches are rushed to meet the demands of a diminishing playerbase, will they just end up doing more harm than good? And can the strained numbers and frustrated community take another lackluster month from this game? There’s a lot of pressure on this game and the developers for the month of April, it’ll definitely be worth watching as the patch notes release and go live.
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