The online multiplayer aspect of video games has been a selling point and an ultimately defining pitch for the last ten years. Since the launch of the ‘next generation’ console and its dependency on an internet connection, online multiplayer has arguably become more important to gamers than standard offline single player story modes. So important in fact, games have been released for the sole purpose of an online multiplayer experience such as Titanfall, Star Wars: Battlefront and The Division. Establishing this point highlights just how much effort is going into the development of the multiplayer experience.
So with the addition of beta testing pre-release, sometimes on a huge scale, we are reassured as consumers that the product is being optimized for peak performance upon release to get the ultimate experience of said product right? Wrong. Every so often a massive title is released with that many errors within its multiplayer experience that it is more frustrating than enjoyable. Ubisoft Montreal’s latest release ‘For Honor’ unfortunately falls into that category. Since its launch roughly one month ago, the matchmaking system has failed to impress. Whilst the gameplay and graphics are aesthetically pleasing, the painful process of matchmaking overshadows everything else.
Upon the first week of launch, two of my friends and I set a night aside to immerse ourselves in a world of medieval warfare. A Skype call commences and we’re prepared for battle. So we load up For Honor. Straight away we hit issues trying to invite each other to a party. After a fair few internet and console restarts, we eventually party up. Our next issue was matchmaking. With three of us in the party we are limited to certain game types so we opt for the most populated game mode, Dominion, to ease the process and maximize the potential of us engaging in some actual gameplay. No such luck. Attempt after attempt we got into a game, some already in progress, only for one (if not all) of us to be kicked from the game. This continued for around three hours until we called it a night.
The problem with this is not so much the inability to play, rather more the frustration of waiting painstakingly watching loading screens with little to no stimulation. Up to 5-6 minutes at a time we were forced to watch our characters face off against the opposing team in what can only we described as a ‘swaying stare-off’. This screen makes up around 60% of my game time. After a while it simply becomes frustrating to see your character engage in everything but combat. But it brings to question ‘why the issues?’ The game has been in development for a good while now. I remember seeing it at Ubisoft’s conference at E3 a few years back and being so optimistic for a new dynamic in online console gaming. It was beta tested for bugs and issues a week prior to release (maybe it should have been earlier in the run up to the release date) which asks a further question of ‘what exactly is beta testing used for?’ Has it now simply become a new advertising model for games rather than a test for developers?
It’s not all doom and gloom with ‘For Honor’, if you independently make it past the excruciating loading screens a lot of enjoyment is there to be had. Competitive gameplay and gratifying rewards and when you get round to mastering a specific class a true relationship between you and your ‘hero’. You really are better off playing this game solo on a densely populated online community. Or if you want to be really anti-social, you can even set yourself up a private game playing against A.I. So the options are definitely there for multiplayer, but it just seems to me that this is encouraging an anti-social approach to gaming. In an age where we are more connected to each other than we ever have been, are we actually just trying to seek disconnect?
I’m aware there is little objective in this article, moreover the fact that I just wanted to rant and justify all those wasted hours of unsuccessful gaming (especially after the nine tweets I sent to For Honor’s online Twitter support were ignored). I just want to be able to play with my friends and games to work upon release! I can’t be the only one! Maybe we should all stop subscribing to these games before release in the form of season passes and that way developers have to prove their worth before we all throw our wallets in their direction. Either way, we shouldn’t have to be skeptical pre-release as to whether or not the game will work. Our £45 should stretch as far as a fully functioning and enjoyable experience, or am I asking too much?
Since writing this article, there has been little to no improvement in the matchmaking system. It still takes an absolute age to find a game and even when you do, the likelihood of you finishing that game is doubtful. I have enjoyed the experience that I have had playing For Honor, yet I can’t help but feel that my time was wasted on a poorly developed final product. I more or less forced myself to clock the hours in to justify the money I spent. The customer relations page on Twitter is purely salt in the wound. Still no response from them and I’ve hardly seen them reply to anybody else. After the disappointment of The Division and now For Honor, I think its time we all sat back and let Ubisoft take a good, hard look at themselves before we buy into anymore of their releases.