Vienna’s Game City might not challenge gamescom in terms of size and program, but nonetheless Ubisoft made all possible efforts to offer Austrian gaming enthusiasts impressions of their upcoming line-up. For this reason, they invited multiple developers working at Ubisoft studios all around the world, to present the games they are working on. We had the chance to speak to Philipp Sonnefeld, Producer at Ubisoft Blue Byte in Düsseldorf, and ask him about their new IP For Honor.
As we know from the cinematic story trailer, For Honor features three different factions: Vikings, Knights, and Samurai. How will the conflict between those be explained in the story?
So in the campaign you follow the different characters as they progress through the story and basically the idea is, as a player we guide you through the events that led to the war that we find the three factions interlocked in. So as you can see from the story trailer we released for E3 where we presented the campaign for the first time, you find these three factions interlocked in eternal war. And in the story we explain how that came to be.
Why did you specifically chose those three particular factions? Which one is your favourite amongst them, and why?
The factions are a very interesting concept, because what we found is that we can pretty easily pose the question: What are you? Are you a Knight, are you a Viking or a Samurai. And interestingly people always have an immediate connection to one of these three factions, because in people’s minds each of these factions, and that’s what we are trying to enforce, has a set of very particular values. So for me for example it’s the Knight faction. What I find is that being in a leadership position myself as a producer of the PC version, the values of honour, of loyalty, of protection, but also of defending my team basically is what really struck, so I feel most attuned to the Knight faction. At the same time since you were asking, for the factions we wanted to give players this is access to the sword fighting fantasy, that’s what our game is about. So we looked at history or what today seems to be history, as you know it’s not historically accurate, Vikings and Samurai never met on the battlefield and that’s fine by us. What we wanted to deliver to players is the sword fighting fantasy and we used those three factions as quintessential or typical warrior factions, or warrior fantasies, warrior archetypes, right? You have the swift and deadly Samurai, the strong and brutish Viking, the honourable Knights. So that’s how these three factions came to be basically.
Might we see another one in a future update?
Right now we’re really focusing on delivering the story relying on the three faction conflict that we want to emphasize with the story and that we want to deliver the fantasy upon.
What other games did you take influence from, and what was your biggest inspiration during development?
Well, for inspiration, what I would say is that our goal when we made the game and when we let’s say arrived at the innovation core of the game, which is the melee fighting and the emotion of a melee battle. We found that no other game really has delivered this yet. So our goal really is to deliver the sword fighting fantasy, deliver the emotion of melee combat in this believable medieval world really for the first time. We want to say For Honor is sword fighting made right and it’s going to be the first game that does that.
As there will be twelve different characters in the game, can they be customized in any way? How would you explain the differences – do they only differ in terms of attributes and looks?
So the customisation system in For Honor is something that we emphasized from the start. We really wanted to give players the opportunity to customise their character as much as possible. So for us this means first you can customise the equipment, that has effects on the stats, but usually the equipment will give you bonus in one, but malus in another. So it’s really more, let’s say if you want to focus on offense you can do that by equipping certain items that you loot as you progress through the game and as you play and play more you get more and more items. Or if you want to focus on defence for example, then you can do that also. There are going to be items that boost defence, but have less offensive capabilities. And apart from that there is the visual customisation. So if you played the game in our closed alpha maybe you know that there are a lot of different places where you can apply customisation: You have the shoulder pads, the you have the arms, you have the bracers, the centered armor and all of this can be customised with different colours, emblems, symbols, materials. So we really want to give you the ability to make the hero your own. When two heroes of the same type meet on the battlefield, the chances of them looking identical are very very small, because of the excessive amount of customisation that we offer.
For Honor’s combat systems can be described as pretty tactical and slow-paced. How do you intend to keep players from getting ambushed by larger groups?
That’s an excellent question and in fact it was one of the main feedback in one of our very early alpha tests last year, that people felt overwhelmed in outnumbered situations and for the build that we showed at gamescom and we also showed in our recent closed alpha, we added a feature we call the revenge mode. So first of all we improved the visual feedback, so that when you are locked onto one enemy, and a second comes up you will see indicators on the screen that tell you, ‘Oh there is a guy outside of you circle, that is trying to attack you.’ And that gives you the opportunity to block that person even when you are not locked on to them. And then the revenge mode, or rather feature, is basically our way of saying, okay if you can hold your ground, if you can play defensively versus a larger amount of enemies then we are going to reward you. Basically what is happening your revenge meter fills up as you successfully block attacks from one or multiple enemies, for multiple enemies it will obviously fill up much much faster. And then you can activate the revenge mode and that gives you more strength, more armor, you attacks cannot be interrupted , which gives you at least a fighting chance, to turn the battle around or to retreat in safety. Or a favourite tactic of mine is, I like to play defensively, so I lure two or three enemies to me and I hold them off just long enough for my teammates to arrive, a very viable tactic that the revenge mode helps you achieve.
What was your greatest moment during For Honor‘s development so far?
I think my first highlight was when we came on board with project and basically I took my entire team and we went to Montreal and most of them were there for the first time. As the biggest studio inside Ubisoft, you get a sense of scale really, how things are working differently in Montreal, much bigger in terms of organization and in terms of location we are working in. But maybe the biggest things was when we arrived there, to see what is the spirit of the people in Montreal in the team, in For Honor, meeting Jason VandenBerghe for the first time and having him describe what is the story behind the game and what is his vision. And that is something, if you’ve seen his E3 presentations, he can explain very very vividly and it really infected the team in Montreal, that infected our team. This kind of team spirit is really something that is shared now across the Atlantic between Montreal and Düsseldorf.
If you want to know if we enjoyed playing For Honor, you can read about our impressions at gamescom here. The game will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, and is set to release on February 14, 2017.