This past weekend ArcSystem works held a global closed beta test (CBT) for their upcoming game: Guilty Gear -Strive-.
We managed to get a spot through the global online lottery, and after playing through most of the runtime we present to you our first hand-on impressions of both the game and the online experience.
The CBT was divided in three sections: an offline vs. COM on day 1, two online sessions on day 2 and one last online session on day 3. There were seven available characters to test: Sol, Ky, May, Potemkin, Axl, Chipp and Faust. The online enviroment was set in the new lobby system. Here are our impressions.
- Gameplay: first and foremost the gameplay feels like Guilty Gear at it core. The essence of the series is still there in spite of being very different from the Xrd versions. The game is notably more ground based, but the high damage makes it a fast and explosive experience. The characters are all different, without losing their personalities and they all feel powerful in their own way. The wallbreak mechanic looks cool but its intention seems more inclined to control the pressure in the corner rather than a fancy stage transition (which in context is not a bad thing); combos are shorter but as mentioned with the high damage, feel impactful.
- Visuals: The game is simply beautiful to look at and the characters are no different. The game seems to have adopted a more mature look, paired with oustanding renders and animations make both the characters and background eye candy.
- Audio: this is a controversial one, especially for the main theme, but the music is as top notch as a Guilty Gear game can offer, although this may change for people depending on their taste.
- Gameplay: I feel that the gatling system being reduced to S and HS buttons rather than P, K, S, HS, and given that ArcSys has mentioned that they want this game to reach broader and more unfamiliar or inexperienced audiences (regarding Guilty Gear and fighting games in general) this decision is confusing at best. Seems that the ability to have a simple 4 button combo would be more newbie friendly but as it stands and given that we had no training room option, the P and K buttons’ usefullness was not very clear.
- Visuals: Just to be clear, no part of the ingame visual could be defined as bad design. However, there were some issues, the first being the already addressed UI during a fight. It is still very plain, although it has some elements which did make it look better. I didn’t mind the round counter, although I would personally prefer it below the health bars, which brings me to the next point: the moving portraits along the health bars are just a confusing decision that does not help the game be better neither as a player nor a viewer. Traditionally, fighting games have had these portaits in one fixed place and that’s were all people look for information; having his information moving around just ocnfuses the player and the spectator.
The character and overall menu design although is not bad, however it lacks the personality of a Guilty Gear game.
- Lobby system: at first glance the lobby system was, confusing. It is divided by floors related to the apparent skill of the player, and each floor has different players allocated in them. Winning or losing matches could take you up or down floors, essentially kicking you of your current lobby to put you into another one. The matchmaking had some issues day 1 which were somewhat solved for days 2 and 3 but it was still a very unpractical one (your avatar draws a weapon and you then wait to get matched with somene instead of directly challenging opponents like Xrd’s lobbies). There was no rematch option after a match and usually matchmaking took a big deal of time taking into account that a game could last less than 3 minutes given how explosive it is.
Our mixed feelings
- Online gameplay: Overall 7 out 10 matches would be fairly decent to play, with the rest of them having various degrees of lag due to the netcode. It should be clarified that this test was not using rollback netcode but the original delay based netcode intended for the game, so take this with a grain of salt. The loadscreens were surprisingly fast for fighting game standards, but given all the issues with the lobby system and the fact that this is not the final version of the online structure, we cannot state for sure if the online gameplay was good or bad. It ran how you would expect for a beta test with delay based netcode.
In conclusion, Guilty Gear – Strive- is a fun new interpretation of an old classic series. It carries the essence of the series while being notably different than its predecessors, specially the Xrd series. The UI and the lobby systems need major improvements, and we should wait and see if the rollback netcode implementation brings the online experience to a greater level.
If you participated in the CBT please remember that you have until April 24 to fill the online survey with your experience. This will only help to make this game a better product.
For more on Guilty Gear, check out our previous coverage.