A newbie’s perspective on the Guilty Gear Strive beta

As someone who has very little experience with the Guilty Gear franchise, or fighting games in general, Guilty Gear Strive seemed like the perfect entry point for me. A new release with simplified mechanics, a solid roster, and the promise of good online play made me want to check out last month’s open beta ahead of the game’s launch.

I’ll preface my impressions of the open beta by saying that I wasn’t able to play for a significant amount of time. Server issues caused it to be down for a while, leaving me unable to try out the beta during the main days I was free. Nevertheless, what I did play has left me with a few key thoughts.

Learning the ropes

Guilty Gear Strive Tutorial

I’ll start off with something that was obvious to anyone that tried out the open beta: the tutorial was awful. It boiled down to “Here’s the basic button layout. Have fun lol”. While it was neat to see the tutorial tied to Guilty Gear Strive’s story, it didn’t do much to explain things that you could probably figure out in a couple of minutes on your own.

On its own, this wouldn’t be so bad. You could use the short tutorial as a quick button check, before moving on to a more comprehensive learning mode. But in the open beta, the only other place to try and learn the game before heading online was training mode. The full game is going to feature a mission mode, which looks to include some actually useful advice, though I had to look elsewhere during the beta.

Thankfully, there were at least a few ways to get better in the limited time I had. The Arc System Works YouTube account uploaded a few starter guides, including one that actually went over every basic action in Strive. I’m not sure why the tutorial didn’t mention some of the stuff included in this video — especially Roman Cancels — though this did at least let me get to grips with the basics.

Training mode was also a helpful learning tool, thanks to the extensive command list. Not only does it cover each move a character can use (with accompanying videos), but it also lists every other universal action. I may not have used every mechanic while trying out the game’s cast, but it was nice to actually get a full rundown of how Strive actually works.

Honestly, training mode was where I spent a good chunk of my time overall. Changing characters was quick, and it was simple enough for a beginner like me to use while also seemingly having a lot of options for veteran fighting game players. After checking out each character, I settled on Leo. He has some strong moves in Strive, and his basic combos were easy to pick up.

Online play was fun, with some caveats

Guilty Gear Strive Lobbies

After choosing which character to main for the beta, it seemed like a good time to head online. Playing against AI can be an OK way to learn, but fighting against others is usually the quickest way to improve. Before this point, what I’d played was decent, though I couldn’t really say whether I enjoyed Guilty Gear Strive until I got into a proper match.

This is where I encountered the awful lobby system, which I’d already seen complaints about from early beta impressions and comments on previous gameplay trailers. And yup, those people weren’t wrong about how ugly and clunky lobbies are. After quickly rushing through online avatar creation, I was thrown into an AI match. Turns out, this is how the game initially determines which “floor” you start on — floors being Guilty Gear Strive’s unnecessary replacement for ranks.

I was initially placed on floor six (out of ten regular floors), which seemed a little high considering my lack of experience. I did at least have the option of using “park” lobbies, areas that ignore ranking and allow for more casual play.

Guilty Gear Strive Gameplay screenshot

Playing online was where I could finally get a good grasp on Guilty Gear Strive’s gameplay, along with its rollback netcode. And honestly… the game is fun. I wasn’t able to pull off any crazy combos, but sticking with Leo most of the time meant that it didn’t really matter. Matches are generally quick, due to a combination of low health and players (including me) often mashing buttons instead of trying to play conservatively.

Having only spent a short amount of time with the Guilty Gear series before Strive, I can’t accurately state the differences in this latest version, but from footage I’ve seen of XX and Xrd, it does seem slightly slower. It’s not overly sluggish or anything, but keeping track of everything happening felt a little easier.

Whether I was getting blown up or actually managing to hold my own, the quality of online matches was always excellent — when the servers were working, anyway. Playing with people in the UK was buttery smooth, with matches against overseas players lacking the stuttering and noticeable lag that you’d encounter in other peer-to-peer games.

What I’d like to see in the full game

Obviously I’d like to see some in-depth tutorials for beginners, so that I don’t have to turn to outside help for everything. The mission mode will ideally cover this, but we’ll have to wait until Guilty Gear Strive’s release to find out.

A good amount of single-player content in general would be nice too. Mission mode may again be the solution to this depending on how fleshed out it is, but many fighting games die due to not catering for offline or more casual players. Arcade mode wont be enough to keep people engaged if they’re not going to play online all the time.

The other main change I’d like to see that would apply to players of all skill levels is an improved (or even reworked) online lobby system. Currently, getting into matches is more trouble than necessary via lobbies. Since the beta didn’t even include a way to easily play against friends, the rank-less park lobbies were the simplest place to go. Having player avatars isn’t a good enough replacement for quick matchmaking, especially when they’re this ugly.

Guilty Gear Strive motion blur

As for minor tweaks, I’d like to see some visual effects toned down. Guilty Gear Strive looks amazing (especially on PS5), but the aggressive motion blur on some actions really ruins the style it’s going for. Smear frames and meaty sound effects already give attacks impact, so motion blur just seems unnecessary.

Guilty Gear Strive’s open beta was a good time, outside of the lobbies and server problems. I only really scratched the surface during my limited playtime, so I’m definitely interested in checking out the full game in June.

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Isaac Todd
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