When I reviewed For Honor just over a year and a half ago, I was really impressed by Ubisoft taking a leap of faith on a new IP that was bold enough to innovate on the status quo. With the excellent implementation of the Art of Battle system, For Honor was the thinking man’s multiplayer brawler. To the developer’s credit, they have been constantly updating the title with new characters and balancing, and the latest expansion Marching Fire is a substantial addition to the game that brings sweeping changes. With much of Marching Fire’s offerings being free, it feels like a love letter to the core community that has been keeping the game going, as well as a way of perhaps luring lapsed players back in.
2 spooky 4 honour
In terms of content, Marching Fire expansion’s free offerings are pretty decent. Primarily there is the introduction of four new beasts from the East in the form of the Wu Lin faction. These Chinese warriors bolster the already impressive roster, giving you a whopping 22 heroes to level up and customise. If you don’t pay for Marching Fire then you’ll have to spend in-game currency on buying them, but they’re not prohibitively expensive. A very welcome addition given the influx of new characters is a new training mode where you can enter an arena and practice advanced hero tactics. Bots in these modes are designed to test one particular tactic for a given hero, and handy on-screen prompts will inform you of timing windows and damage output. It’s a great way to acclimatise to these new heroes, or refresh your tactics with old favourites.
There is also a new asymmetric multiplayer mode in the form of Breach, where one team attempts to lay siege to a gated castle while the others defend. The attacking team is responsible for keeping a battering ram in good health as a series of minions push it into position, and the defending team are responsible for not letting that happen. It’s a cool mode, although depending on how many phases the battle goes through matches can tend to drag out, and I don’t see it unseating Dominion as the most popular 4v4 mode any time soon.
Another aspect of the expansion involves a new Arcade mode, but you’re going to have to pay for the privilege to access it. Arcade mode is essentially a series of randomised battles against AI opponents with random modifiers (both positive and negative), and there are guaranteed rewards after their completion. There are a wide range of difficulties to choose from, and the greater the difficulty the greater the rewards. It is by far the best way to compete for high level loot, but the higher level challenges are prohibitively difficult if you don’t have the correct gear score going in. Seeing as this is really the only thing you can’t get for free with this expansion, the asking price of 45 AUD does seem incredibly steep, but it does have a few exclusive cosmetic items if dressing up your ruthless killing machines is a tasty enough carrot on a stick.
Marching Fire also brings with it some sweeping changes to gear, with the abolishing of gear stats in favour of perks. Perks are somewhat less powerful than gear stats, and can only be activated by reaching 600pts in a given perk by equipping the right gear. Better gear allows access to better perks and different heroes have various combinations of perks. In all honesty, the system itself seems a little convoluted (you can find a full description of the changes here), and you’ll probably be scratching your head for a good while wondering what the hell is going on. Given the boons granted by perks don’t necessarily make a massive splash, it’s easy enough to ignore this system and simply go for the gear that makes your character look cool.
Nobushi versus Monkey Magic
Nobushi wins. Fatality
With much of Marching Fire’s offerings being free, it feels like a love letter to the core community that has been keeping the game going, as well as a way of perhaps luring lapsed players back in
The graphics of For Honor have also been given a substantial upgrade, with much better lighting and vastly superior texture work making it quite a beautiful game to behold. The game was already quite visually accomplished, and the graphical overhaul makes every bone-snapping, head-cleaving execution even more satisfying. Additionally, although it isn’t specific to the Marching Fire expansion, it bears mentioning that the introduction of dedicated servers has also done absolute wonders for the game’s stability, which at launch was plagued by host migrations and lost connections due to woeful P2P netcode.
Git gud with advanced hero training
While we are on the subject of networking, there is one rather large factor that should be considered before purchasing the expansion, or dusting off your old copy and getting the free upgrade. As a multiplayer brawler, the game lives and dies by the strength of its community and continuous player counts. As an Australian, the servers feel very barren currently, and matchmaking times are excruciatingly long (we’re talking up to ten minutes here). Some of the less popular game modes like Team Deathmatch are more or less unplayable due to there being low activity, and even finding Breach and Dominion matches was no mean feat. It’s a real pity, as the game as it stands is substantially improved from when it first launched, and deserves to have people playing it.
Marching Fire is extremely generous in terms of its various new content and visual upgrades, to the point where Ubisoft have kind of shot themselves in the foot by offering so much for free. While no one’s likely to complain about that fact, it seems like an odd ploy to essentially charge $45 for one new PvE mode, that isn’t at all central to your enjoyment of For Honor’s main offerings. Given the current low player population in the Oceania region, it’s an extremely hard sell to make with any conviction, but for what it’s worth I have thoroughly enjoyed jumping back into the game. If the gaming gods are just then the game will find a new momentum and perhaps pick up its player count so this innovative IP gets the attention it deserves.