SoulCalibur VI: Impressions from the online Network Test

By on October 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm
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I feel like I’ve made this clear before in the past, but let’s reiterate: As SRK’s main 3D-dude, I am hopelessly biased to the SoulCalibur series. I try hard to be as objective as possible, but my love for the SC makes me unsure sometimes as to whether or not I’m falling into the trap of Nostalgia. I never want to do that.

To the point: this weekend, I am certain I had fun. I experienced the emotion of “fun” playing SoulCalibur VI. It was just a network beta, sure, and I certainly would have enjoyed things like a Training Mode a lot more, but I got a lot more out of my experience this weekend than I genuinely thought I would.

soulcalibur vi logo black

Connection Quality

Online gaming means you’re occasionally going to run into horrible monsters torturing you with their wi-fi, so I feel no need to address the worst connections other than to say — Namco has no magic cure for that guy. Outside of that, though: I was genuinely shocked at how good the overall quality of the online connection.

A Geralt 1A traveled from Europe to my doorstep and I was able to block it. I’m an old man and that’s a new move sailing across an ocean, so even if “Snake Edge”-like sweeps have something of a generic feel that makes them easier to block on reaction, the fact I was able to do this against an international delivery felt great. I don’t know how I’m supposed to write anything negative here, frankly. I had incredibly low expectations and Namco far exceeded them. (Full disclosure — my connection is typically 200/20, so your mileage may have varied.)

Geralt of Rivia reveal for Soulcalibur VI featured image

Frequency of Matchmaking

If there’s any single thing Namco should consider addressing publicly, it’s the frequency with which you get matches.

I got to play intermittently every day of the beta, and it always felt like a gamble as to whether I would quickly get matches or have to wait up to 20-30 minutes for a connection. Setting combinations didn’t seem to impact this — I was just as likely to random get someone on “All Bars – All Regions” type settings as I was on limiting what type of connection quality I wanted. For a time it felt like I could get matches quicker if I exited to the main menu and went back in to Ranked, but I am suspecting this is probably a placebo effect.

It’s funny — I think, in a pre-Twitch world, this complaint might not exist. It’s a beta, after-all! But in 2018, with the ability to go on the internet and see that there’s a tidal wave of gamers sitting on the waiting screen not getting matched with each other, there’s something of a worry to be had. I’m optimistic that this was just a careful throttling on Namco’s part to see how much traffic their servers could take. This might also explain why I magically had amazing connections with players overseas — who knows, this might be the last time I’ll get to have that experience once the flood gates are open.

Revisiting Reversal Edge

I was harsh about RE in my initial impressions at TX Showdown and I still don’t like this weird Phone-Game take on SoulCalibur after three days of playing with it. It doesn’t ruin the game for me, because stepping the charge startup of unsuccessful REs is quite easy, and I actually like it a lot more now that I see there are characters with unique actions from it.

For example: Talim being able to Wind Sault during her charge, or Taki being able to “backdash” out of her’s. More of that, please. Let Mitsurugi go into Relic Stance from his. Let Yoshimitsu meditate. Giving REs a character-specific stance synergy is a great idea and makes it more interesting than it otherwise would be. There’s not too many stanceless characters in the Calibur universe so I’m actually a little baffled we don’t see more of this. Giving players creative things to do is fun. Keep doing this, Namco.

The way RE halts the pace of the match and forces me to play a Mobile Game is just so tiring, though, particularly when you get clashes that extend your time in it. It probably doesn’t help any that most people getting to try SoulCalibur for the first time constantly mashed B+G, so dealing with RE became at least half of the online experience at some point. Not fun, and I really can’t blame new players for that. I also, more than once, had situations where the buffer window was so big that it counted what I was doing prior to the RE as my decision. Online problem only? Probably, but it’s still frustrating.

Overall: Eh. I’ll get over it.

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Character Specifics

So I went into the Beta with the goal of trying out as many characters as possible — a decision I think I regret considering how hard it was to actually get matches. Still, I got to spend some quality time with a few of a few characters and had a blast, so I felt like it was worth it to talk about the three I spent the most time with.

These are just my early impressions and not really a guide. There’s an excellent resource for hard data on the full cast that you can find here.

Zasalamel

Zasalamel’s new “Time Stop” mechanic isn’t just one of the best reinventions of a character in SoulCalibur. It’s one of Namco’s best designed concepts in their fighting game library, period.

In short: Zasalamel has a select list of moves (mostly punches- things like 3K, 6K, etc) that put a purple orb stack on the opponent if they hit (and in rare cases, on block.) Once applied, he gets to “stop time” very briefly on certain moves, which gives him additional frame advantage and consumes the orbs. The more orbs applied, the longer Time Stop lasts. The moves that stop time are clearly synergized around this mechanic — 46B and 1B is his mid/low mix-up with this tool, for example, and both gain new combos on hit and additional safety/frame advantage on block when Time Stop triggers.

Speaking nothing of its effectiveness (the game’s not out yet, after all), Zasalamel’s Time Stop is fresh, fun, and allows for considerable creativity from both the player and the opponent. Zasalamel has received the short end of the scythe fairly frequently in past games, so to get such a wild new tool should make players of this character very happy.

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Voldo

I feel bad for Voldo players. Not because I think he’s bad or anything, but just because I imagine this sort of character is probably incredibly frustrating to learn in the environment of a beta. Good on you if you stuck with this guy this weekend.

The last time I played as the Money Pit Monster was in SCII, so a lot of his changes (no manual BT transition, mostly) were either foreign to me and likely occurred somewhere between III and V, or I just plain forgot about. Once I got my bearings, I fell in love with the changes to his Mantis Crawl. MC 66 becomes a lethal hit when you’re head-towards — but only if they stand block. So this creates this weird situation where your opponent mashing or stepping doesn’t give you a full combo, but respectfully stand-blocking does. This will make players of all skill levels cry for a while and I love it. MC A gives him a new horizontal slash that switches whether you’re head/feet first in the Crawl. MC B starts combos. Between these three tools Mantis Crawl is an effective and disorienting stance to deal with — as it should be.

voldo sc6

Ivy

And here’s where I feel I might be stepping into a hornet’s nest.

Few characters came out of the beta with as many complaints as Ivy did (purely from her opponents, mind you), and I’m torn on how I personally feel about her. She is very, very, VERY strong at mid/long range right now, and her new tools are giving people a lot of trouble in the pre-training mode environment. Let’s quickly lay these down:

66[A] — this long range step-killer lethal hits crouching opponents, pushes out, and resets ranges for Ivy. As a move on its own it is simply “very good”, but its synergy with the moves below push it over the top in the vocal player base’s eyes. It has its own weaknesses that are worth noting — namely, a dead zone in the middle of the two hits.

2/3A+G — A long range low attack (emphasis on attack — this is blockable) that turns into a throw on hit. Can ring out, start wall combos, does high damage. Its ring out game is massive, and if you hear complaints about anything from Ivy opponents, it will be this. You’re supposed to step this move, but sometimes its large hitbox will catch you anyway.

2/3B+K — A long range vertical mid designed specifically to mixup with 2A+G. Lethal hits on crouchers and can be faked.

These three moves work together to make a new zoning game that most players are simply not comfortable dealing with right now. Technically, you can GI theย  2A+G/B+K mix-up… except she has a fake, too. This is all clearly by design, supported by the fact Ivy has been made unusually weaker than she normally is up close. For example: her 2A, what at one time was one of the best pokes of SCII, is now at disadvantage on hit.

Now, to make myself a target… Personally? I like this.

I like that Namco is trying a new zoning idea and while I think it’s a little unfortunate that 2A+G does almost everything you could want a move to do (were it my hand guiding it, I’d either make its hitbox smaller — its size seems a little excessive considering it’s designed to lose to step — or just remove its RO ability all together) I also think it’s going to be something feared a lot less as people get used to these animations/lab against it. Running forward towards the 66A deadzone effectively beats all these options clean, as does GI, Yoshi Teleport, as does Taki’s command vault, on and on… you get the picture. At that point Ivy would have to start dipping into her mid-range library of tools (3B, 6B, 3A, etc) in an effort to keep you out and that range probably feels a lot more familiar to players.

Hey, remember how I said RE > Stance would be a good idea to universally apply, Namco? I’m assuming you gave RE > Wind Sault to Talim specifically so this match-up wouldn’t be 9-1 in Ivy’s favor. It’s a thought…

Now it’s also possible that this game can come out and this set of three moves really does just dominate the world. The reward on all these options are surprisingly high and they change the pace of a match to something I imagine a lot of players don’t expect from Soul Calibur. This is just one of those avenues that only time can deiced. Since I played her a lot and heard a lot of complaints about this character, I felt like I couldn’t write this without talking about her.

In short: I don’t think she’s the best character in the beta, but she’s absolutely the best at making you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing at long range. I also don’t think this zoning game even remotely compares to any of the actual broken stuff from SCIII – SCV, so perhaps I’m just numb to it.

Ivy SoulCalibur VI


Overall, this was the best impression I’ve had from the game thus far, both playing and observing. For me, SCVI is moving in a great direction, but it feels like it’s a house of cards. If it launches with the 20-minute match wait times online, that will unnecessarily and needlessly kill this game in a lot of people’s eyes, regardless of how well the connection is with people in France.

Three weeks also feels like a claustrophobic time frame to fix a networking issue. Good luck with that, Namco.


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Hey, I'm just a 3D-head in a 2D-world. I like pretty much all FGC stuff, and I really like hearing about the way people think about games.