Having had the opportunity to play the game on multiple occasions, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the unique and engaging Art of Battle combat, pitting players in tense duels with cold-steel where thoughtful strikes and movements dictate victory or death.
These solid core mechanics have been complemented by a boasted range of features and options, many of which becoming a rarity in AAA games, such as a carefully crafted offline single-player campaign and split-screen skirmishes for friends to wage war together on one couch.
Well, that was the plan anyways.
Progressively, more and more of these exciting modes have been disappearing.
Back in October, the game’s producer Stephane Cardin revealed in a closed alpha recap video that split-screen would be cut for online multiplayer in order to “polish all the features at the AAA level and make sure that we have the most amazing experience.”
What made this cut so disappointing was the enthusiastic promise for the feature from the team, namely the game’s creative director Jason Vandenburghe, who previously stated in a video interview with Gamespot that “split-screen is absolutely a key feature for us,” and was “super-required” for the game.
Then once more, the game dropped another alluring feature, being able to play it at all offline.
First noted from an “Internet Required” stamp on the box art by Wario64, it was confirmed by Ubisoft Forums Community Representative UbiJurassic that “For Honor is an always online experience,” in a private message to NeoGAF user Gamezone, which was further verified by Gamespot.
“Some elements of progression, which is hosted online, are shared across story and multiplayer modes.
“Players will need to be connected to the Internet at all times to play For Honor.”
Ubisoft has not released any public statement on that matter, with even Vandenburghe avoiding a clear answer to the concerns.
Make no mistake, I am confident in For Honor to be a quality multiplayer landscape, but I fear that much of the game’s critical praise will be lost on potential players due to consumer restrictions, much like the most recent Hitman title that is guilty of the same constant-connectivity necessity.
Players excited to grab a friend or significant other and carve up the battlegrounds in tandem will need another copy of the game – as well as another console and television.
Players interested in conquering a quality single player campaign but lack a reliable – or even existent – network connection are out of luck entirely.
Though, if impressions from Eurogamer are anything to go by, they may not be missing out on much.
It’s not all bad news though, the roadmap for additional content provides players with new maps and modes for free, a contrasting improvement from Ubisoft’s recent release of Steep.
But it’s clear they are focusing on building a multiplayer community and keeping them happy, even if it leaves other potential players at the door.
As new IP that’s yet unproven and lacking loyal user base, these feature cuts don’t help in attracting a diverse range of customers to flesh out that foreseeable community.
Why structure the game this way?
Unfortunately, perhaps it’s not critical slander they are trying to avoid, but instead retain stakeholder confidence.
As much consumer resentment there is towards these types of practices, the implementation provides an easily explainable security against piracy, a scary sounding concern for investors.
In the face of a hostile Vivendi takeover, convincing shareholders to preserve their stocks is likely a top priority for Ubisoft, a factor that could influence the business model for their latest products.
It’s hard to say, Ubisoft has been implementing poor end-user restrictions for a long time now as seen commonly with Uplay, so blaming poor consumer business decisions on company control desperation might be too apologetic.
Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that For Honor’s richness of features and accessibility is being compromised in favour of commercial success.
While it’s nothing new to the AAA industry, it’s a depressing fate to see such a promising game succumb to after over a decade of trying to get off the ground.
Despite my disappointment, For Honor still has my interest for it’s sheer execution of visceral multiplayer skirmishes, but I can admit that my excitement has dropped substantially.
With a beta this January, participating players can decide for themselves if it’s worth taking up arms in For Honor when it releases on February 14, 2017.