For Honor Gets Female Armour Right

For Honor's Peacekeeper

In For Honor, it's hard to tell you're fighting a lady until one of you is dead. Helmets and armour are so thick and so full that pausing mid-battle long enough to discern gender clues will probably get you stabbed. Padded leather, full plate, head gear, masks and mud-soaked boots, in the style of medieval warriors, make gender an accessory to combat prowess.

For Honor gets female armour right. Its designs diminish the trappings of femininity, framing female warriors simply as warriors. It means that her armour is just as protective as male fighters'. It means I'm not wondering whether the town armory ran out of iron for their women or why the battalion chief sent in his command, unconcerned by the unarmoured female bodies that would pepper the battlefield. For Honor's armoured women aren't good because they're covered up, but because their design is consistent with male warriors' and the game's medieval tone.

For Honor's nobushi

Exactly half of For Honor's cast of fighters is female. Of the medieval combat game's four samurai, knight and viking heroes, two can be either gender, one of each is female and the other, male. The peacekeeper, valkyrie and nobushi are female-only, smaller in frame than their male counterparts. Their hair is tied back, so it doesn't fall into their face, or is stuffed into their helmets.

It's not uncommon for players to overlook enemies' gender for entire one-on-one matches. The vocalisations of battle may give it away, but the grunts that accompany attacks and low, pained howls of defeat feel neutral -- comparable to the sounds male warriors make, but a small hint nonetheless. In quick fights, I rarely have enough time to concentrate on my enemies' figure or hair length, and it's only dying sounds that betray the small detail of gender.

I enjoy playing terrifying women in video games. In Dishonored 2, villagers gasped and ran when Emily Kaldwin entered the scene. That's a good feeling, that game can accommodate female power fantasies as comfortably as male ones.

In For Honor, the female berserker is a terrifying sight. She's a formidable woman with ruddy cheeks, a braided, long mohawk and a stern frown. Around her waist is a thick, heavy belt, garnished by some grey fur. Her baggy pants are tucked into thick leather boots, which give the impression of sturdiness. Historically, berserkers don't wear much armour, just what they kill and some leather. Ubisoft didn't take that as a cue to wrap her in a bikini, or even slice her shirt in half.

For Honor's female raider

For Honor's female raider does wear a half-shirt, but so does her male counterpart, whose chest armour is just two leather straps. For her part, some grayish cloth covers her breasts under the straps, which are connected by tough shoulder pads. There's a reason why -- defence is sacrificed so she can pursue and charge into enemies, a more mobile strategy than other classes'.

In an interview with GameSpot, For Honor's director Jason VandenBerghe explained that he plays the female warden, a knight protected by metal plates and chain mail. A helmet guards her from projectiles. He explains,

"That's where we start, because this game isn't about us creating characters and imposing them on you. This game is about you. And so what kind of warrior are you, right? You can change the skin colour of your Vikings, too. You want to have a black Viking? Knock yourself out. It's who are you. I want you to be able to be in that game."

Sure, For Honor is a game, and games don't need to reflect reality. Balanced female armour is about giving players equal-terms escapism. Going in, men and women can envision themselves as warriors of equal competence. It gives all players the same opportunity to connect with their fighter, if personal identification is something they want.

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Comments

    Historically, berserkers don't wear much armour, just what they kill and some leather.

    They should have at least given them a bearskin, as that's what they were named after.

    For Honor does a lot of things right. The best thing it does is be an original IP. And it's an original IP in every sense of the word, it doesn't just stand on the shoulders of those who came before like Horizon Zero Dawn seems to have done, it has genuinely new gameplay and creative decisions for a triple A game.

    The gender neutrality doesn't feel forced or coddling like a lot of developers and publishers' reactions to the (sometimes justified, sometimes not) outrage of the internet these days. It just makes sense.

    This whole package seems kind of bizarre coming from present day Ubisoft, to be honest.

      It is literally M&B/Chivalry/WotR meets Tekken, there is nothing new about it other than production values. The game is good, but its not original at any level.

      How can it be seen as bizarre? It took a lot of the best parts of R6Siege and put it in a fighter, if anything it seems like this is what they want a lot of their titles to be going forward. This will either be the start of something very good from a triple A publisher or a fad that only survives a few titles in favour of sandbox low effort jobs.

        Let me guess, you think Destiny isn't original either?

        "It's just all of these disparate elements and genres combined together in a commercially viable product! What's so novel about that??"

          It is literally Chivalry with a locked camera to make it viable, its not original. It is a good game, but it is not original.

          And no Destiny is not original, it is quite literally a revised version of Borderlands. You can throw higher production values on these games, but they are still going to be derivative of what has come before them. Decades of people making games all over the world makes it ridiculously hard to be original these days.

            If you discount the elements that don't fit the narrative, it's easy to make the claim that these things lack originality. Other games might have done the things that contribute to the individual building blocks of these games, but that doesn't make these games unoriginal. Chivalry may have done something similar previously, but it resulted in a niche product with limited commercial appeal. Taking a convoluted idea and simplifying it and honing it to become something that appeals to more than just diehard fans takes creativity and originality.

            Destiny is not just Borderlands. It is a shooter, an MMO, an RPG. It has numerous new ideas and it has the difficult task of combining completely different genres together into something that still functions and more than that, is actually appealing to a wide audience. Things like the raids alone is flat out not an experience you can find anywhere else on console. Borderlands itself is entirely derivative of the loot based RPGs like Diablo its based on. You can't just stop the buck at Borderlands, you need to keep going. What you have then is not a single original idea at all.

            For Honor is original. Destiny is original. Any original IP, even when it takes the parts of things that have come before it, is doing something new. Creativity is about taking separate ideas and combining them into something new. It's as simple as that.

              I get that you like these games, but they are derivative of other titles. They do it well, but they don't really tread new ground.

              Its like baking a chocolate cake and then showering it in almonds, you can call it whatever you want, but its still a chocolate cake.

                It's not about liking them. Destiny gets as much wrong as it does right. But it's because of the risks it takes. You always know an NBA2K game is going to be polished and functional in its mechanics, because it isn't original, it doesn't take risks.

                If you're going to be so reductionist about it you could say you can put all the chocolate you want in cake mix, it's just unflavoured cake. But you'd be both wrong, and also missing the point.

    To be honest, For Honor does many things right - with the exception of some absolutely craptacular matchmaking/connection issues.

    Funny thing is I've never given a shit if the characters are male or female.

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