Alright, so we got some early access for Guilty Gear Strive, and unfortunately, I didn’t really have the time or energy to stream my time playing with the beta. But that didn’t mean I didn’t play as much as I could. I even got to play with some people I look up to, with all of us still figuring out the game, outcomes were unpredictable. But we were all sure we were having fun. Let me share some bits of info with you that’ll help set your expectations a bit. As I’m sure we’re all excited to try out the incoming public beta of this game.
Also, please don’t take this as the full review of the game, clearly, it’s a beta, and there’s still a ton of stuff that’s yet to be released, like my favorite character Anji. This is what I’ve seen so far on the game in terms of how it’s playing.
Rollback netcode is glorious
I was mightily impressed with the online experience with the game. This may change when the lobbies are open to the public and the servers are truly put to the test, but this was hands down, the best online experience I’ve ever had with fighting games.
The indicators on top are telling us how much lag there really is in the game and how many frames are being used as rollback. Note that it’s not the same as delay based net code, as you’ll see that Giovanna players can still execute their combos without much issue. Even with the worst possible settings I was able to play stably with players in America, which is on the other side of the world, and we pretty much everyone was on the Japanese server. The best connection I had had around 20-30ms of ping where the worst would float at around 150-200ms, however no games I played were unplayable. There are still cases of some connections simply not going through, where we simply can’t match up. But when I got a game, it was great. Considering that network play isn’t really all that great where I’m from, this is a miracle.
Axl’s Time Stop isn’t game breaking
I’m sure many avid players are either amazed or horrified by Axls ability to stop time, and I’ve used a good amount of my time to figure out how far it goes and its limitations. Here’s how it works:
First, it needs to be charged, which needs to 50% tension to do. Next, it needs to be activated by repeating the same command. You can cancel into this from either a normal or a special. It’s really meant to be used like a unique type of roman cancel. The regular cancel won’t work for him since he blasts people away, making it impossible to have anything done with it offensively.
What happens on activation is something like Venom Web from Marvel vs Capcom 1. Where basically the entire stage is hit with the time stop attack. I called it an attack because a. It can be blocked or b. dodged with invincibility frames.
When you successfully hit the enemy with time stop, they can’t burst out of it or cancel their action with RC to guard. Much like how a player can’t do anything while they’re being hit by any super in the game. They’ll default to a frame where they’re hurt, so you can’t use grab attacks.
So how does one fight against it? There’s actually a bit of start-up before the move triggers, so it’s possible to stop it if you’re in his face. The other way is simply to wait it out, as the charge expires after maybe seven seconds. It’s unstoppable if done as a part of a combo though.
The lobby didn’t really change
While the netcode is hands down amazing, the thing everyone critiqued back in the last beta barely changed if at all. And that’s the lobby, it’s as if the lobby is the price you pay for the great netcode. Because you have to go through it for the good matches. Yeah, we can model ourselves as each character now and that’s great. But who wants to cosplay their favorite character in 8bit 3D? It’s got some novelty, but it’s not really fun to look at after maybe 30 seconds.
There doesn’t appear to be other activities you can do as a bunch of avatars playing around on a 2D stage, so I’m not sure why they had to make matching up harder than it has to be. Their previous implementation of lobbies was already pretty great, particularly for GBVS and Blazblue. I’m really not sure why they decided to go with this, dig their heels on it, even. If they can maybe provide stations or get the menu-style matching to work properly, I would find this more tolerable. But ultimately what makes any of this worth getting through is playing some enjoyable matches with people all over the world.
Damage feels reasonable now
Back in the previous beta, it felt like you can evaporate even Potemkin’s life bar in maybe 3 combos or two overdrives. However, it feels like they’ve tweaked damage values so that the last half of life bar is actually a lot tougher to finish off than the first. Fights feel long enough, satisfying to play, and don’t feel like they’re decided by some random lucky hits.
With the exception of maybe the overdrives, some still feel like they can deal ridiculous amounts of damage. But they’re also very punishable and cost half a bar of meter, so they feel like reasonable gambles. It’s fair enough and maybe we’re all eating overdrives because we’re still feeling out the game, but in general damage is around the level of GBVS and I think that’s reasonable, at the very least.
Gatling is more or less gone
Here’s another issue that ArcSystemWorks has decidedly stuck with. Not putting gatling back. In previous entries to the Guilty Gear series, it was possible to make all sorts of combo routes with your character normals as most lighter moves can cancel into the stronger or heavier ones. This isn’t the case anymore. While it’s possible to do some combos, what you can combo with is very specific.
Back then it was possible to tap a punch or a kick then begin a combo from there, but now those buttons are really more used as tools to either poke out of pressure or just link some specific moves together. Gone are the days where you can improvise a combo so long as you got a hit in. This also means that you can’t just keep wailing at your opponent until they eventually open up.
Every move you commit will now have some form of risk to it. While we lose the ability to execute customized combos, I believe this makes for more constant, meaningful exchanges between players. This also lowers the skill floor for beginners to be able to capably play the game.
Everyone is revamped
This is definitely a brand-new game from our beloved developers, where pretty much only the basics that you know from the game applies to it. Everyone except maybe Ky has enormous changes to how their attacks work and how they can form a strategy with it.
Here’s a few things that really change how the characters work.
Axl doesn’t have capture attacks, or even a reversal attack, but can stop time.
Chipp doesn’t have teleport, but his Alpha Blade kind of allows him to do that.
Ramlethal is generally revamped, maybe she kept one Overdrive, that’s about it.
Sol has a lunging overdrive, making him a threat even at a distance.
Faust, well, actually feels quite similar to his past versions, except rather than funny, he’s very creepy now.
All of these returning characters still feel familiar enough, but you really can’t use what you’ve learned about them from before and expect it to work like how you want it to.
Now is a good time to pick up the game
That being said, for those of you who were afraid of getting into a fighting game because everyone would just destroy you or just generally feel you’re playing like a one-sided fight all the time, this is pretty much a game that aims to put everyone on even ground.
Of course, those with experience with fighters will have some advantage over those who don’t. But getting to a level that you can fight evenly with older players is much more accessible than ever before.
On top of that, this is the game that has demonstrated how much better an online fighting game experience can be with the application of rollback net code.
Even the move sets are simplified and made more uniform to make it easy to explore other characters when you feel like it’s time to change up your roster.
And of course, the last reason is that the game looks and sounds amazing, character designs are beautiful, stages are impressive and well-detailed, animations are crisp and easy to follow. Each BGM is a banger. While it’s true that I’ll continue to whine about the lobby, there’s just too much good stuff going for Guilty Gear Strive to pass up on. I’ve been a fan of this series since the PS1 age, and I continue to think that gives the best experience in terms of fighting games, particularly of the anime genre. And so far, I’m happy with where they’re taking this.