When a creator comes up with an idea for a new game, movie, film, etc., it can suddenly take hold of that person’s mind in an almost possessive way. Particularly when you think about an idea for a game, having a thought about what something could be and knowing the enormous journey ahead can all make life seem very daunting.
I can certainly relate to Jason Vandenberghe’s satisfaction of having an idea and finally seeing it come to life. That is what you have in the form of For Honor. Jason’s dreams and maybe even his nightmares are living in this new video game.
For Honor is a brand-new melee-action game that puts players in the shoes of a warrior. The emotions and feelings a soldier feels in combat translates surprisingly well to the player. What is it like to become a killer for good? We Write Things found out when we spoke with For Honor‘s creative director Jason Vandenberghe.
“I’ve been haunted by this game for 15 years, and I wanted to bring the emotional truth of [this style of combat] into gaming. I struggled for a long time to get to the point where someone would say ‘yes’ to the pitch. Getting it to come to life was this huge challenge. My biggest fear during this entire [process] was if I don’t get this built, I may die and I don’t know when the next person to have this idea will come along. For me, the greatest relief is to be able to say it is done,” Vandenberghe said.
The game is inching toward its Feb. 14 release date, and to prepare, Ubisoft is putting on the final touches. What is most striking to me about For Honor is the set of emotions it brings out. The wave of feelings that stir up within you when you are in combat are new for a video game. Vandenberghe elaborated on what makes this dynamic come to life.
“When you’re locked in combat with someone and you’re sparring with them, there are these particular set of emotions at play that are universal. You’ve always got the same set of problems. You have defenses, I have defenses. I have a weapon, you have a weapon. We have distance from each other, reach, position and then I have my momentum. That’s the problem. That set of things is what we both face, and it generates this really specific emotion. My original theory is that core emotion is built into us,” Vandenberghe said.
For Honor’s multiplayer and the metagame of Faction War will keep people playing long after launch. There is a certain amount of ownership players will feel in multiplayer. This will add a different set of emotions to the experience, all of which differentiate For Honor even more. Jason reflected on challenges Ubisoft faced when building the game’s core gameplay.
“We could tell when we were making the game when we [messed] it up. If we created mechanics that were too cerebral, the fun would fall apart. I think the secret sauce to this game is in your lizard brain. What we did to get there was we pulled out everything that wasn’t a root part of those natural emotions in battle,” Vandenberghe said.
Narratively speaking, honor is one of the themes that is greatly present. Ubisoft explores the warrior’s dilemma and asks the player to answer difficult questions. Vandenberghe spoke about what makes For Honor‘s story different from other games.
“Honor is at the heart of the narrative…by the second or third mission, it becomes very, very clear that you’re working for the bad guys. But that’s your boss, this is the role you signed up for. So what do you do? What does it take for a warrior to say, ‘this I won’t do?’
“That theme appears again and again. I’m fascinated by the warrior’s dilemma. ‘I do this horrible thing for a living, yet I’m a good person or I would like to believe I’m a good person.’ Soldiers have to confront that paradox of being a killer for good. It is a difficult place to be,” Vandenberghe said.
Gamers will of course be able to choose what type of warrior they are. There are the Knights, Vikings and Samurai and each of them possesses a very interesting background. Vandenberghe gave some notable background details about each of the three factions.
“Like all war, it is about territory and resources, but that doesn’t tell us much about what [For Honor] is really about. The history of this region generates this unstable state in this place called Ashfeld…The cataclysm happens where the world splits and the bad [stuff] happens. The Vikings are kind of wiped out of this area and this place becomes no man’s land. The Knights come back in and expand. For 1,000 years, the Knights live here and they call it home.
“As we’ve been coming out of this cataclysm, the Vikings come back and say, ‘no, no, no, this is our land. Do you see the statues that are buried in the ground here? Those are Viking statues, these are our people. This is our land and we want it back.’
“Then the Samurai lost their home. They came here searching for a new homeland as their world was falling apart. The Samurai that are here know they are probably the last of their kind and are outnumbered. They have staked out their territory in places where the Knights wouldn’t go, but then the Knights find them [and there’s a conflict]. All three factions have a claim to this place and there’s not enough room. They start bumping up against each other, so there’s natural friction that starts,” Vandenberghe said.
While Ubisoft is not saying if there are other factions in the world, it would make sense. I asked Jason if there are other parts to this world or if this is it. “In this region, those factions are the Knights, Vikings and Samurai, but if you go far enough in different directions, you’ll surely run into some other people.” Perhaps this is a tease for post-launch expansions or DLC?
Some folks may still think For Honor is a multiplayer game, however, it is so much more. Ubisoft’s new IP will feature a deep campaign and a story that will immediately immerse you.
“We are a fully cinematic story campaign in an environment where that is not what people are used to doing these days. I am delighted by our villain Appolyon. Her gender isn’t the point, she is just a badass…We have cameos where you play mainly as the Warden in the Knight’s campaign, but then you have these cameo missions where you get to play as these other characters,” Vandenberghe said.
Appolyon is an interesting character for her motives and actions. I wondered what the inspiration for a villain like her was, and Jason was nice enough to answer. “She probably just came out of my horrible subconscious (laughs). She is an unapologetic warrior who is interested in bringing out the warrior in everyone else.
“I wanted a credible villain. I was inspired by some of The Dark Knight villains like Bane. Those roles aren’t perfect, but those characters do a great job of being credibly dark. They are doing evil things, but they don’t describe themselves as evil. I wanted to create a character where by the end of the game you say, ‘Okay, I understand where she’s coming from. I can see where she went wrong, but she makes a compelling argument,'” Vandenberghe said.
The new IP features some of the most intense action, both in the campaign and multiplayer. Ubisoft is giving players loads of ways to play, both with their friends and on their own. Faction War is a feature that could shakeup multiplayer like never before. Vandenberghe reflected on everything he hopes For Honor will be.
“We have so many ways to play. There is a story mode campaign, that if you just play that, it should be worth the price of admission. You can play those missions with different characters. Gamers can play against bots. Folks can play all the multiplayer stuff against bots with you or just your friends. The Faction Wars will carve the official history of the world. I think there are a lot of people who are still going, ‘Oh yeah, that multiplayer game?’ (laughs) We are a lot more than just that,” Vandenberghe said.
For Honor is set to kick off Ubisoft’s releases in 2017, with Ghost Recon Wildlands to quickly follow behind it. For Honor will be available this coming Feb. 14. The game will launch on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on For Honor. For a look at the game’s multiplayer experience, check out our hands-on impressions.