As the anniversary of the release of For Honor approaches, big changes are afoot that will send ripples through the ongoing war between the Samurai, the Knights, and the Vikings. Season Five is coming. Dubbed Age of Wolves, this free update will arrive on all platforms on February 15 with changes to the fighting system, new customization options, and major gameplay updates to five Heroes aimed at rebalancing the roster. Both the Kensei and the Conqueror will be getting new move-sets, new animations, and more. Significant updates will also roll out for the Nobushi, the Berserker, and the Highlander, with more Heroes targeted for updates in future seasons.
Age of Wolves will also herald the implementation of a dedicated server infrastructure. By changing the way you connect to For Honor matches, the development team is doing away with resyncing, session migrations, and NAT requirements in order to deliver stable connectivity on all platforms. Additionally, new training features are on the way that will give players new ways to refine their skills and become more formidable warriors. Apprentice Trials and Warriors Trials will help aspiring champions learn basic and advanced techniques, and a new Arena mode will allow for practice sessions against specific Heroes and move-sets. Both dedicated servers and the new training features will arrive later in the season, so stay tuned for more information.
On top of these major updates, Season Five will also introduce a new item that boosts XP gain in exchange for salvage, shift the focus of 4v4 Ranked play from Dominion to Tribute, raise the level cap, and add new gear progression.
To get more information on the changes coming as For Honor kicks off its second year, we asked Damien Kieken, For Honor game director, about the Hero updates, dedicated servers, and what’s in store for the future of For Honor.
For Honor is almost a year-old, and you just announced Season Five, which will come in February. Can you talk about what will come with it?
The start of 2018 is going to be all about prioritizing the core player experience by focusing on connectivity, game balance and matchmaking. All this begins with Age of Wolves on February 15, where we will refine five of the existing Heroes at launch and push our dedicated servers following the launch of the Season.
We will also be making a ton of quality of life changes including adjustments to gear progression, converting salvage to XP boosts, Faction War updates, and more. Following the launch of Age of Wolves, we will also be introducing new training modes that will assist with player onboarding.
The implementation of dedicated servers has been long awaited since its announcement last summer. How will that impact the player experience?
The open test we held in December was successful, and it gives us confidence that the infrastructure change will positively impact the player experience. With our new Dedicated Servers architecture, our players will see four key changes to their experience:
- Matches will be more stable leading to better overall match completion in PvP modes
- Matches will be smoother as the game will no longer pause (or even crash) due to leaving players, simulation resyncs or host migration.
- NAT types will no longer restrict or hinder player’s ability to group and matchmake.
- Matchmaking will create sessions more easily leading to better overall matchmaking success.
Of course, changing our online infrastructure while the game is running is a major undertaking and we will closely monitor the situation once the Dedicated Servers are implemented in the live environment. Some of our players may experience new issues that we are not aware of yet. Players’ feedback will be very helpful for us to make the required adjustments and optimize the infrastructure.
When will dedicated servers be implemented?
The new online infrastructure will be introduced during Season Five. We are currently finalizing the rollout plan and will be able to communicate more details shortly.
Another big focus of Season Five is the rework of some of the heroes …
Since launch, we have released balancing changes for Heroes through regular title and live updates. With Season Five, we wanted to start undertaking larger reworks for several Heroes to which we wanted to give additional tools and choices.
Kensei, Berserker, and Conqueror were prioritized because they were some of the lowest-performing Heroes in duel and group fights, and our test builds showed confidence that their improvements would help them improve their efficiency in both situations. In particular, we felt that they needed to be able to perform on offence more successfully, and so we wanted to add improved tools to their core kits to help them defeat defensive-minded players.
The Highlander and the Nobushi’s cases are a little different and required more subtle changes. For instance, the Highlander already had the tools in his move set but needed an overall buff in order to be relevant competitively. Nobushi was already very successful in group fights, and it was more a matter of making her a more balanced character overall by slightly nerfing the power of her Zone Attack while slightly buffing her in other areas.
As a trade-off, Season Five will not introduce any new Hero. How did the decision to prioritize reworking on previous heroes come about?
For us, it was assessing the current state of the game and what needed to be improved in order for us to feel confident with our game mechanics and address community feedback. We then prioritized the key areas we needed to focus on and balancing the current Hero roster was one of them.
After the introduction of six new heroes last year, the current roster features 18 unique warriors each with their own fighting style and flair. Focusing on balancing will allow us to strengthen the base we have built while giving our players more viable character options – and this without releasing new heroes.
Season Five is only the beginning of the process, and we want to bring similar balancing updates to other Heroes in the future.
What impact do you anticipate these changes will have on overall balancing?
The overall intention is to reduce the gap between the top-performing Heroes and the bottom-performing Heroes, generally by buffing and improving the bottom-performing Heroes, while also looking at Heroes such as Nobushi to improve the balance of their kits give them more playstyle options.
The major difference between the top-performing characters (such as Shaman and Gladiator) and the bottom-performing characters (such as Kensei and Highlander), is that the top-performing characters are currently able to launch attacks with a reasonable degree of confidence that the attack will land, while the bottom-performing characters have little confidence that any of their attacks will work against players who are very good at defending.
This is why we want to buff upwards, as players will then have the tools to play offensively or defensively based on the situation and their play-style. This will also continue to distance the gameplay from the overly-dominant defensive play-style that was a hallmark of play in the initial seasons.
What can players expect after Season Five?
With Season Five, we are focusing on the long-term vision in order to put the game in the best place going forward. This why we are investing in massive changes including a full infrastructure change to dedicated servers. We have an extensive team working on the game, and we want to continue supporting the game throughout 2018 and beyond.
For more on For Honor, check out our previous coverage – and stay tuned for all the latest.