Credited to Redditor ‘DMBrandon’
State of the Game: For Honor
Within reason, fighting games generally need to be offensive in nature. Offense is the key to not only a great spectator experience, but a less frustrating experience for players as well. Game design in multiplayer games shouldn’t allow “How does it feel to play” drive the process over “How does it feel to fight against.”
Notorious characters like Sonic in Super Smash Bros, Metaknight in SSBB, Morrigan in Marvel vs Capcom 3, etc don’t allow for a fun experience for the opponent, since the strategy mainly revolves around running away, camping, and overall: defense.
Think about boxing. The boon it saw in the mid 2000’s into the early 2010’s with the welter and lightweight divisions becoming so consistently aggressive. That took a hard stop when Mayweather, the top paid boxer in the world, adopted an overly defensive strategy that resulted in a lot of blocking, a lot of clinching, and small but powerful counter punches. Fans didn’t enjoy the content. Compare boxing to MMA in number of viewers these days and its clear what the fans want.
For Honor is, for the same purpose, heading down that path. Let me be clear: This is no fault of the devs! The devs are not professional players, and for the most part, will likely be unable to push the limits of their game from a skill and breakdown perspective. To date, no company has ever had a developer be able to compete as a top 10 players, until Capcom brought on Combofiend, and even then, one man trying to find flaws on a game millions will play and explore is beyond a tall ask. But as time goes on, in For Honor, we begin to notice a clear trend in defense winning engagements more often than not. Defense should be a viable option, but when it wins significantly more engagements than offense will, it creates a frustrating environment
A quick breakdown of combat would lead to something along these lines:
- Attacking is met by a block, which while damage is smally incurred, the stamina loss puts the attacker on the back foot
- Attacking is met by Parry which will result usually in roughly 1 ½ half bars of damage on average between all classes.
- Attacking is met by sidestep and counter attacked by an opponent equalling to roughly ½ bars of damage
- Guard break attempts is met by a large windowed tech, which can result in the aggressing player falling prey to environmental damage, as well as a stamina loss
While attacks can and will land, the will of the defending player is more likely to play a part in damage taken than the aggressing player. This is because defensive actions are faster start up, require little, if any reads on the opponent, and requires little-to-no stamina to perform. Even in 2v1 examples, omnidirectional blocking from defense against multiple players leads not to a skillful player. And if anything, the offense is somewhat at a similar disadvantage, as a timed revenge results in a hard knockdown that could end the aggressor in an instant. While comeback mechanics are not new to games, I find revenge to be a more frustrating example than most. The system itself is unclear, and there isn’t a way to gauge when you opponent will be able to activate usually before it’s too late, sometimes resulting, again, in the aggressor losing engagements that they should have full control over. Even Xfactor in U/MVC3 allowed the opponent full knowledge of how strong it will be, how long it will last and when it can be used, both offensively and defensively.
Comeback mechcanics aside, my best example of defensive combat hurting a game’s compeitiveness would be Metaknight in Super Smash Bros Brawl. While the game itself was slower than melee, the game was more deliberate in its design, allowing more players the freedom of movement that Melee allowed only the top 1% to achieve. In the beginning, (February 2008), the game was slow, but the players were aggressive, and wanted desperately to compete. Winning meant something, but a few months down the line, the money was all people cared for. The slower version of Smash Bros had left players wanting, and the only thign to keep the scene’s top players going was the premise that money was on the line.
This eventually led to what was the darkest time in Smash’s lifespan: Planking. Players chose to avoid all threat of combat by abusing invulnerability frames, running away, and doing little beyond grabbing ledges and avoiding confrontation to take narrow margin wins.
We’re already seeing this evolve. We’re lucky to be in the summertime of this meta, where players are still willing to haphazardly attack with abandon. But what happens when a player decides to be defensive:
2v2: A deflection to guardbreak results in an environmental kill, then a player attempting to camp a ledge recognizes too late that both his opponents don’t need to achieve a kill to allow their victory. They need only survive. So a strategy of running around in a circle (coupled with many minutes of standing there) wins.
Yes, this is anecdotal evidence, but I implore you instead to see it as a symptom. The ability to use such strategies exist, and I can tell you, from experience, you will see them utilized in professional play when money becomes a factor. Even in one of the biggest sports in the world, the top Boxer chooses defense because his care for the crowd takes a back seat to the want for both the win, and money.
While I think 1v1 and 2v2 are plagued with these mechanics, as I feel the game was designed specifically around dominion, the 4v4 elimination mode will also see running and hiding as a variable some aren’t prepared for, especially with how short and accessible resurrection is.
Though, it’s the defense that’s the worrisome to me. The idea that offense will almost always be at a disadvantage ensures the game will be played more slowly, and eventually, it will require more luck than skill. Striking and pleading for an attack to land. The reason we’re not seeing this yet, is because we’re all still new.
In a few months’ time, players will be able to predict and react far faster than what we’re seeing, as we become more familiar with individual character movement, hit / hurtboxes, range, speed of entry into melee, etc. Players right now are still being caught off guard by simple tactics. When going back to watch clips, it’s easy to recognize faults: “I missed that guardbreak tech, because I was slow” “I didn’t know x class could attack that quickly from that range” etc.
These worries and mistakes will be made less often as players learn more about the game, explore new characters themselves, and become familiar with maps to where environment won’t play as big of a part.
Again, we as players will combat into fruition because it’s fun. Soon, as a community, we will start willing this less and less, and win ratios in ranked become important, or tournament play is introduced.
And as I’m writing, I’m watching iSkys, a notable Warden player. He saw an incoming warden start the shoulder charge, and got baited into getting grabbed, and killed, when both were at low health. His response?
“Nice. Though, I really should dash away every time.”
That future, of dashing away from all threat EVERY TIME, is closer than you might think.