At its core For Honor is more of a fighting game than a hack and slash game. While in free mode there are light attacks, heavy attacks and dodging. Upon entering duel mode the camera shifts to focusing on your target, at this point there are three stances: left, right and up. Each character can also equip four feats, there are three selectable at each tier. Upon leveling up during a match feats unlock, feats could be things like passive health gains from killing soldiers or placing traps. This gives each game a MOBA style feel as you start at level one and level up throughout the match.
Attacks are blocked by simply being in the correct stance, if an attack is coming from the left then a left stance is needed. In outnumbered situations attacks can be blocked by being in the stance that matches the incoming direction of the flanking attack. Attacks can be parried by performing a heavy attack from the correct direction when the attack indicator flashes red. Parrying leaves the opponent open for an attack, but the window is low. Some combos or special attacks require performing parries. One example of this being the Orochi which can perform an unblockable attack via parrying followed by a light attack.
Guard breaks and shoves can also be performed while in duel mode. Some special moves require performing a guard break, one example being the Peacekeeper, she can guard break then follow up with a light attack to cause an opponent to bleed. After doing a guard break, the guard break button can be used again to perform a throw.
The systems in place create a combat system that is fluid and deep, with this game almost being the logical jumping point of fighters into the third dimension. Taking an over the shoulder look and changing guard from low, medium and high to left, right and up. There are four class types Vanguards, Heavy, Assassins and Hybrids, and one of each type for each faction. Attacks must be concise to get around the guard of an opponent, but spacing is key. While this system discourages ganging up on a player, some players will not care and swing wildly. This can lead to frustration unless your team is organized.
Currently, there are the following game types: Duel, Brawl, Dominion, Skirmish and Elimination. Duel is a one versus one fighting mode which is best of five. Brawl is a two versus two fighting mode, again best of five. Elimination is a four vs four fighting mode which is also a best of five game mode. Duel, Brawl and Elimination each have single elimination rounds. The other two game types, Dominion and Skirmish are the full-scale battle types that have soldiers, these modes also have a bit more strategy.
Dominion and Skirmish require reaching one thousand points and then eliminating the opposing team. Dominion maps consist of three control points, capturing and holding the points causes your score to tick up over time. Eliminating players and killing soldiers also increases the score, but by lower amounts. Skirmish is a solely deathmatch mode, killing players score more points than killing soldiers. The soldiers which appear in this mode are similar to creeps from MOBA games. When a game ends experience and steel which is the currency of For Honor is earned, there is also a chance of gear being found.
Heroes can be customized by changing their gear, adding emblems or swapping their color palette. Gear is earned from boxes or can be bought with steel, each character can swap three pieces of armor and three weapon components. This system brings up the largest problem with the game which is the balance, different armor or weapon parts will increase one stat while decreasing another to try to work as a side grade and not a true upgrade. This should work in theory, but in the current implementation, the gains and losses create an unbalance. For example, the Raider could find an axe blade that practically doubles their attack, the drawback is my attacks use about a third more stamina. This will set up a meta with certain stats being preferred for builds, this also means that veterans have a clear gear advantage that will discourage new players. Luckily gear levels are disabled in duel and brawl mode making the game purely about skill.
Ubisoft has also confirmed that season pass DLC will give players champion status which gives bonus experience during its duration and cosmetic items like auras. The goal of the developer is to not split the community the way other games do by making maps or characters for pay only, rather season pass holders will gain early access to characters. All future characters will be obtainable for free via buying them for steel. While steel is currently easy to earn via daily orders and contract orders until the characters are released it’s hard to say how much grinding will be required.