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July 2, 2017 / Jett

The ARMS Struggle is Real


During the Global Testpunch, I thought ARMS was going to be a walk in the park. I was throwing hands like Kimbo Slice, dropping almost every opponent in sight while collecting 100+ coins during each hourly interval. Figured that I would waltz my way to the top of the rankings in no time.

It didn’t take long for reality to smack me in the face with fists powered by springy arms. Everything past rank 6 has been a struggle. I touched rank 10, only to be beat down dozens of times in a row and fall back down to Earth. Just like every other fighting game out there, I’m gonna have to earn it just like everyone else.

Underneath the game’s vibrant colours and whimsical art style is a fighting game engine with depth. The core combat has been designed with with the core tenants of fighting game design in mind, making for a game where players are rewarded for having a competency in fighting game fundamentals. If you understand such concepts as the attack triangle, whiff punishing, hit confirming, and defense, your skills will shine in ARMS.

My prior experience with other fighters helped me plow through most of my competition in the Global Testpunch and the lower ranks. Now that I’ve moved up though, fighting game fundamentals can only get me so far. It’s incredibly frustrating to lose so many matches in a row, but I think the beatdowns have highlighted a few flaws in my current approach:

  1. I don’t have a grasp on the game’s minutiae
    There are so many unique wrinkles to the combat that I’ve yet to come to grips with. Everything from how specific gloves work, to punishing specific tactics, all the way down to accurately landing punches in a scramble situation. Until I do the homework to improve, I will continue to get beat down by players using tactics that I can’t reverse engineer.

  2. The current metagame leans heavily towards defensive play
    My fighting style across all fighting games is the furthest thing from turtling. I love to hit buttons, get into my opponent’s face and force them into oppressive situations until they’re knocked out. At higher levels of play, aggressive play styles are very hard to execute due to how good defense is. Blocking is easy and defenders take a minimal penalty for using it. Better yet, the evasive maneuvers of many members in the case make it such that defending players can avoid most attacks entirely.

    As for the attacker, pretty much every initial attack is a high-risk proposition. Unless you’re at max distance, the person who throws the first punch is at a disadvantage, where the defender then has the opportunity to punish accordingly. This leads to matches that mostly consist of players circling each other, waiting for the other to overcommit.

    While I would like to see more proofs of concept that offensive play styles can work in this game, it definitely leans in favour of the defender. Due to my style of play being more aggressive in nature, I’m almost always playing into my opponent’s favour.

At this point in the game’s life, if I want to progress as a good ARMS player, I need to adapt. I need to better understand how the game works. I need to better understand how to counter my opponents’ tactics. I also need to figure out how to mount an offense that won’t end with me getting repeatedly punched in the face.

Should I choose not to, that’s fine as well. I’ve certainly played my money’s worth of the title already, and I would be happy to play many more casual matches while learning at my own pace. If anything, this experience has once again reminded me that nothing in the world of competitive gaming is given, regardless of what advantages you may have had going in.

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