For Honor’s newest hero, Black Prior, launched in a free update this week, and he is damn good. The very first time I played the hero, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I played them before. Then, I suddenly realized that I (basically) had–as a Warlord main. Black Prior and Warlord may be more similar than any other two heroes in the entire game, and yet the Black Prior seemed so much easier to use, despite the countless hours I had trained with Warlord. To determine who truly is the superior sword-and-shield wielder, I decided to comparatively break down the movesets of the two heroes to see who comes out on top.
Before getting into their uniquely specialized movesets, let’s stack up their most basic attacks. Both heroes can unleash simple two-strike combos made up of light and/or heavy attacks, and both have a Superior Block property on light attacks used as openers, meaning it’ll serve as a simultaneous block and attack. Both heavy attacks also have special properties, with the Warlord’s being uninterruptible and the Black Prior’s being undodgeable. The usefulness of an attack being uninterruptible versus undodgeable is relative based on the scenario in which they’re used, but the Black Prior’s heavy effect does have the mild limitation of requiring it to be a finisher. So let’s give half a point to Warlord.
Warlord: ½ – Black Prior: 0
Zone Attacks, while generally saved for clearing minions, can be crucial anti-hero attacks for certain characters. Warlord has always been one of these heroes, with a quick, lateral slash that’s both hard to predict and boasts an undodgeable effect. Like the heavy attack comparison above, Black Prior’s similarly lateral ZA challenges Warlord’s undodgeable property with its own unblockable property, although it is a bit slower than the Warlord’s quick swipe. This slight advantage would sound like another half-point for Warlord, but Black Prior has a catch that their ZA can start a chain and instantly transition into another attack, giving it a massive advantage in cases of the ZA missing. That’s a hard point for Black Prior.
Warlord: ½ – Black Prior: 1
Now onto comparing the Warlord’s Headbutt to Black Prior’s Tenebris Rising shield bash, which may be the most simplistically reliable actions in their respective heroes’ kits. Both function the same way: dash forward and hit the Guardbreak button to do a quick and unblockable melee attack. Neither does damage, but both will chip away some enemy stamina and leave them open for a follow-up light attack. What puts Black Prior’s move ahead of Warlord’s, however, is two-fold: Firstly, Black Prior can seamlessly follow up the bash with an undodgeable heavy, which would take notably longer for one of Warlord’s uninterruptible heavys, and secondly, Black Prior can slip the shield bash into the middle of an opening heavy attack, effectively serving as an automatic feint-into-stun. Sure, the Warlord’s Headbutt can be part of other combos, but feinting is the best way to trip up an opponent, and attacks with feints already built in are some of the best in the game.
Warlord: ½ – Black Prior: 2
Finally, being able to Full Block is one of the moves that sets heroes with shields apart from everyone else. This generally involves holding down on the right stick which slows or immobilizes the character, but allows them to block from every angle simultaneously. Both Warlord and Black Prior can whip this out, but there are some key differences in how the two moves operate. While the Black Prior is slowed dramatically in Full Block, Warlord can’t move at all, and being able to reposition in a defensive stance is extremely valuable, no matter how slight. As for attacks, we again see a property tradeoff. Warlord can break out of the stance with an undodgeable heavy, whereas Black Prior can do the same with an unblockable, but all of this is rendered moot thanks to Black Prior’s Bulwark Counter.
The Bulwark Counter marks the point at which this comparison game is basically over. This move is activated from Black Prior’s Full Block, also known as Bulwark Stance, and involves countering an enemy attack, flipping them over onto the ground, and clipping them with an instant light attack, all in one motion. And when I say “enemy attack,” think any enemy attack. The only thing that counters the Bulwark Counter is a Guardbreak, but I learned the hard way that this does not include pseudo-grab moves that are similar to Guardbreak, such as the Highlander’s Caber Toss. If you attack with anything that isn’t a honest-to-goodness Guardbreak, your ass is going on the ground.
The only hope players have is that Black Prior can’t Counter-Guardbreak from Bulwark Stance, although watching you creep right up to their face is a dead giveaway. Should Black Prior mistime the Counter, there is a small opening in which they are vulnerable before they can get back in Bulwark Stance, making feints even more valuable, but with only those two options to engage, even a bad Black Prior can predict what’s coming. The closest thing Warlord has to compete with this is his Shield Counter Combo, but this involves parrying, meaning Warlord’s version takes three precisely-timed button presses, whereas Black Prior’s essentially takes just one. All things considered, the Bulwark Counter is the best defensive move in the game, hands down, and just out of bitterness, I’m giving Black Prior two points for it.
Warlord: ½ – Black Prior: 4
If the previous statement didn’t make it clear, yes, I am biased in favor of the Warlord, and yes, this point system is pretty arbitrary. But, with cards on the table, preliminary observations would suggest the Black Prior is superior to the Warlord is almost every way, and it doesn’t seem healthy for a game’s meta to have a new character be an almost exact copy of an old one, just empirically better. There admittedly are a number of factors not covered here, particularly the characters’ exact stats for health, damage, and stamina, but as they are both classified as Heavy fighters, one can reasonably assume that their stats are relatively similar, and it’s their actual moves that are more indicative of their usefulness. Hopefully, the addition of Black Prior is the reason the Warlord is slated for an upcoming rework, but if nothing positive comes from that, Warlord will certainly get left in the dust.