For Honor gets regular seasonal updates, but none of them have been as big as the one coming in October. Season 8 is called Marching Fire, and not only will it include a new faction, but it will also introduce Breach mode, an ambitious new way to play the game.
Just calling Breach a new mode is underselling it. “Breach mode,” game director Damien Kieken said, “is by far the biggest update we’ve ever done on For Honor, in scale, in the amount of things you can do, and in playtime. We think it’s a good candidate to become the new flagship mode in For Honor.”
Based on a pre-alpha build of the mode, it’s easy to see why. Breach mode isn’t just another way for vikings, knights, samurai, and the new Wu Lin faction to fight each other. It adds a sizable new map and a whole new concept to the game, one that’s much more team-based and strategic than anything that’s come before.
Breach mode has two teams of four players face off at the gates of a castle. One team defends the castle, while the other team tries to break down the gates and kill the king, who’s waiting in a courtyard. Each team has its own goals to accomplish during the match and an army of nameless minions helping their cause. Most matches last between 20 and 30 minutes and are quite unlike anything you can currently do in For Honor.
The main component of the attackers’ offense is a giant battering ram they’re trying to protect as it advances toward the castle. Each match consists of three parts. The first part ends when the attackers break down the castle’s outer gate. Then the attackers must guard their battering ram as it approaches an inner gate. Once that gate falls, the attackers can swarm into the king’s courtyard and hack away at him. He’s an armor-clad warrior controlled by AI, with attacks that are slow but deadly. If the attackers kill the king, they win.
The attackers begin with 25 tickets, or lives. Each time a hero falls on the battlefield and no one saves them in time, they must pay one ticket to respawn. Breaching a door gains the attackers five additional tickets, but once all the lives are gone, it’s game over, and the defenders win.
Breach mode is asymmetrical, so each side has different rules and goals during the match. The defenders don’t have to worry about tickets–they can’t lose until their king is dead. In the meantime, they can try to stop the attackers by fighting them directly in classic For Honor style, or by using the castle’s built-in defenses. On the ramparts is a ballista you can use to one-shot kill attackers. Giant cauldrons can be tipped to rain fire on enemies below. Defenders are also well advised to hold the control points on the ramparts; if you lose them, the attacking army advances further and gains easier access to the defense weapons.
The overall experience is strategic and intense. Each team has a number of ways to put pressure on their enemies. Keiken said the gameplay in Breach Mode “is not based only on reaction to what other players are doing” as it is in For Honor’s other modes. “It’s based on strategy. It’s based on team composition.”
Creative director Roman Campos Oriola agrees with that sentiment. “With [game modes] Dominion and Tribute, even though team play is important, they’re more tactical game modes. You make second-to-second decisions,” he said. Whereas with Breach, “the game mode is longer and has many more ingredients and gameplay loops than in Dominion. The minions, known as pikemen, are much more dangerous in Breach and they can actually kill you. But also, if you’re in danger, you can retreat into your pikemen and they’ll protect you.”
From what I played, it was clear that a well-composed team, with each hero doing their part in the battle, will be able to steamroll an unprepared team. Communication is also important, because each player has so many options for what to do at any given time. If you’re not talking, your strategy is likely to fall apart.
I’ve always found For Honor interesting, but it never really grabbed my attention in the past. Based on what I played of Breach mode, that’s going to change once the Season 8 update launches in October. Laying siege to a castle–and using the medieval tools of warfare to defend it–was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait to do it again.