Wednesday, March 8, 2017

For Honor...or not

que slo mo walk toward the camera
Ubisoft should really consider adding a "no" between the "U" and "play" for their peer-to-peer multiplayer service.  Not just for that service's mandatory installation requirements or the poor net code that comes with it, but because of the borderline insults For Honor waves in the faces of consumers.  It's a full priced video game with microtransactions that introduce pay-to-win elements into certain game modes.  The single player component, aside from being a decent tutorial, is pretty lackluster and the story (as many have already pointed out) is just an excuse to have warriors from vastly different times and places do battle against one another.

Of course the big question on every arm-chair duelist's lips is "who would win such a hypothetical fight?" to which the correct answer is "whichever side does the best job of maximizing their strengths while minimizing their weaknesses."  You can argue and debate forever about whether a katana is better than a bastard sword, or whether harring foes with horseback archers is more effective than a flanking charge with lancers, but the simple truth is you're quibbling over clipped copper pennies when the gold and gems here are the minds and bodies of the people equipped with all that gear.

Teacher, is this going to be on the test?
Take something as basic as sword stances; holding a sword high over the head makes downward cuts a quick way to attack, but it also tips an opponent off to your most likely move.  A middle (guard) stance puts the blade between you and your enemy making it less difficult to parry or defend against a charging attack, but also gives your opponent an easy means of gauging your weapon's reach.  Alternatively, there a low stance in which the sword tip is often aimed downward and away from an opponent.  It's the least used, generally speaking, because it provides none of the advantages of the other two stances.  However, it does make feints and other forms of deception a bit more likely to succeed.

So, which do you use and when?  It depends largely on your capabilities and those of your foe.  If there were a surefire technique everyone would use it, which would mean it's is no longer a guaranteed way to win.  One of the basic axioms of melee combat is "every attack has a counter, and every counter can be countered.

In his treatise "The Art of War," Sun Tzu wrote "all war is based on deception,"  and by extrapolating that and applying it to hand-to-hand combat we can conclude that doing something an opponent isn't able to anticipate might very well be the key to victory.  In other words, you don't become Miyamoto Musashi by doing what's expected.  Turning your back to an opponent, even for a split second is generally considered a bad idea (for obvious reasons), but I've seen more than a few UFC fights won by doing exactly that.  "Amatures!" is what many professional fencers might say not realizing that a lot of the love taps that count as hits in their sport of choice wouldn't even put a dent in the combat effectiveness of a well armored adrenaline-fulled foe.  Sure, powerful attacks are slower than a quick flick or jab, but sooner or later you got to commit; though knowing when is the best time to do so, is the tricky part.

They set us up the bomb?
You said it, pal...
Getting back to electronics entertainment, how well does For Honor do at capturing all this?  Aside from the misleading title, pretty nicely actually....obviously some compromises had to be made for the sake of the medium, it is a video game after all....but, yeah, the dueling system is great.  Too bad the rest of the game is garbage.

Oh well...maybe someday they'll make a sequel that cleans up all the issues that surround, what is at its core, one of the best approximations to date of face-to-face medieval combat.  Maybe they'll even give it a more appropriate sounding name.  Hmmm...I got it - For Justice!    

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