Defense is your lifeblood. Without strong defense, you will never overcome strong opponents, at least not with any consistency.
The following details generally seem to be of interest to people during these tests, but the information is often scattered so I’ve consolidated some details based off previous tests. Each test is a little different, so some of these points may no longer be entirely accurate. Nevertheless they present a good starting point. A few of the points I raise might be false, based off of mistaken observations or misinformation that has made it’s way to my ears. Skepticism is healthy, take everything below as theory and confirm or debunk them yourself.
You have a dedicated Guard Break button. Your platform and input device will decide what that button is, you should be able to figure it out on your own. Performing a Guard Break costs Stamina, countering a Guard Break costs no Stamina.
All characters can perform Guard Breaks, but each character’s Guard Break is different in terms of the speed at which it is executed, as well as the range of their Guard Break. The method and timing to counter a Guard Break as the defender is always very similar, with very few and minor differences owing to character specifics.
When an aggressor initiates a Guard Break, a red broken shield icon immediately appears over the center of the aggressor’s character model. The aggressor’s character will then step forward and try to bat the victim’s weapon aside and thus “break” the victim’s guard. As the Guard Break makes contact with the victim, the red broken shield icon will appear on the center of the victim’s character model. The victim’s character will begin a transition to a dopey-looking stance with their chest forward, arms pushed aside and head tilted back. However if the victim successfully counters, then before the dopey-stance animation finishes it will instead cancel into an animation of the victim shoving the aggressor away.
A blue Kensei initiates a Guard Break against the orange Kensei
The orange Kensei does not counter the Guard Break.
The blue Kensei follows-up by Throwing the orange Kensei away from him.
Note that the Kensei‘s Throws cause Daze: The opponent’s screen flashes white and their HUD temporarily disappears.
The primary purpose of a Guard Break is to attempt to get past an opponent’s ability to Block. Guard Breaks are quick and present a good way to punish an opponent for being careless as they often lead to more damage than could otherwise be secured in the small window of vulnerability that follows a mistake. They are also vital to slower characters who may have a difficult time getting meaningful punishes otherwise. For quicker characters they provide an extra option to mix-up their offense to try and overwhelm opponents. Finally, they are the main way that most characters can directly affect the positioning of their opponents via Throws.
If a Guard Break connects, the victim’s character model will transition to the aforementioned dopey-looking stance. If the victim misses the counter window, the aggressor then has a follow-up window in which to try to attack or Throw the victim. All characters can guarantee a Throw, but not every character can guarantee all of their attacks will hit.
- An Orochi will be able to hit with a basic heavy attack before their victim can recover from Guard Break and Block.
- A Raider by contrast will not be able to guarantee a heavy attack from a Guard Break as their victim will recover from Guard Break and be able to attempt to Block before the heavy attack connects. The Raider can only guarantee a light attack from a Guard Break.
- A Warden can guarantee a side heavy attack will hit before their victim can recover from Guard Break and Block, but they cannot guarantee a top heavy will hit because the Warden‘s top heavy attack is slower than his side heavies, the victim will recover in time to attempt to Block a top heavy.
The take-away is that the follow-ups to a Guard Break are all character specific
Special note on Throw:
If a character is Thrown into any solid object such as a wall, a post, a rock, a wooden cart or anything that doesn’t kill you or light you on fire that character will enter the Wall Stun state. When in the Wall Stun state a character cannot perform any action or defend themselves in any way. Wall Stun lasts much longer than any Guard Break, and virtually every Hero in the game can guarantee landing their slowest, hardest-hitting basic attack against an opponent in the Wall Stun state. (Referring to the earlier example, a Raider will be able to guarantee a hit with a heavy attack if they Throw their victim into a wall to put their victim into a Wall Stun state)
This guarantee has a caveat for many characters: guard direction. Since changing guard direction has a slight delay, you may need to place your guard in the direction of your heaviest attack immediately after you Throw your opponent into a wall (maybe even before you Guard Break them) For example the Warden can guarantee a basic top heavy after a Wall Stun, but only if he puts his guard direction to the top immediately after the Throw, the window is very tight. If you can move your guard to the top direction before Throwing your opponent into the wall then it is a little easier.
Clarification: In many popular games (MOBAs, Fighting games, RPGs) Stun refers to situations in which a character is fully disabled and unable to perform any action, hence the use of the term Wall Stun.
However in For Honor the movelist for characters that have access to it use Stun to identify the mechanic that causes the victim’s screen to flash white and to temporarily lose their HUD. I will not refer to that mechanic as Stun because it is very confusing for players coming from other popular games. Instead I will refer to this mechanic as Daze. This guide doesn’t cover the Daze mechanic, I make this distinction only to clarify that when I use the term Wall Stun that it has nothing to do with causing the victim’s screen to flash white and lose HUD.
Let’s make this clear:
Reliably countering Guard Breaks is a skill that they will develop over the course of weeks, if not months, of play post-release. Only a small subset of players will be able to quickly learn to reliably counter, or they may already possess good reaction times under pressure (for example from playing fighting games for years)
Guard Breaks can be countered by pressing Guard Break in response. The timing for counters is fairly strict, but most fighting games have much shorter counter windows and also provide no special visual indicator to let you know that you need to counter. (i.e. no red broken shield icon flashing on screen)
An Orochi repeatedly attempts to Guard Break a Conqueror
The Conqueror presses Guard Break (M5 in the gif above) as the Orochi makes contact
The counter causes the Conqueror to shove the Orochi away, this costs the Conqueror no Stamina.
Conversely, the Orochi spends all of his Stamina on failed Guard Break attempts.
The same sequence at 1/5th speed
The Conqueror glows white during the counter, indicating he has gained Uninterruptible status (attacks will not Stagger him).
For the first two counters, Guard Break is pressed twice. The extra press is harmless if the first press was correctly timed.
If the first press is eaten by the collision animation, then the second press could counter the Guard Break.
The most common question I see is:
Strictly speaking: To counter a Guard Break the victim should press Guard Break the moment the aggressor’s Guard Break makes contact with the victim. (see this GIF in the spoiler tag above) This is roughly the same time that the red broken shield icon begins to appear on the victim. (By the time the icon has fully appeared, most of the counter window has already passed)
Occasionally: A Guard Break counter can be achieved by pressing Guard Break a little earlier, essentially the moment an aggressor initiates a Guard Break and the red broken shield icon appears over the aggressor’s character model. If the aggressor hasn’t yet made contact then the victim will actually initiate their own offensive Guard Break.
If two characters offensive Guard Breaks collide, they both meet in the middle and sometimes shove off the other. This is rather inconsistent, often one player’s Guard Break may simply win out. I have not been able to determine if there’s a consistent rule concerning who gets pushed away and who holds their ground at the meeting point. Note that if your character initiates their own offensive Guard Break it will cost Stamina, even if the end result is only a counter.
In order to counter an opponent’s Guard Break some people advise simply mashing the Guard Break button as soon as you see the opponent’s Guard Break coming. While I do not personally agree, if it works for you then by all means go for it. Personally I often double-tap Guard Break when I counter.
Finally, some people will tell you that you cannot counter Guard Breaks on reaction. They will tell you that you have to anticipate the Guard Break, that you have to know it’s coming. These people might even absurdly tell you that you need to press your Guard Break counter button BEFORE the enemy initiates the offensive Guard Break.
They are wrong.
I also advise against specifically “anticipating that your opponent will Guard Break” at a particular given moment.
You should always be anticipating a Guard Break. You can maybe relax when your opponent is clearly out of range for a Guard Break, or when they are in the middle of attacking. Even this is dangerous as several characters can perform lunging Guard Breaks, and an attacker could potentially start a heavy attack in order to make you concentrate on Blocking, cancel the heavy attack with a Feint and then try to Guard Break you (this is a common trick).
Special notes on Guard Break:
The Guard Break window is much shorter than the animation might imply. Sometimes a victim will be Guard Broken, and they will stand in their dopey-looking stance for a full second or more. If the aggressor never pushes a follow-up attack or Throw, the two characters will simply stare at each other for a moment. Eventually once the aggressor’s follow-up window expires the victim will automatically perform a Guard Break counter and push the aggressor away.
Do not be confused, if you reach this little stare down moment then you have already missed the window in which to counter a Guard Break. You can mash the button all you want… it won’t do anything. The game isn’t broken, it’s not that countering isn’t working; You missed the counter window.
There is a brief window at the beginning of most regular attacks which are vulnerable to Guard Break.
However once attacks reach a certain stage they are no longer vulnerable to Guard Break. Any Guard Break that makes contact after this point will simply cause the character performing the Guard Break to bounce off.
The Guard Break vulnerable window of an attack seems to be tied to the speed of the attack, which explains why light attacks almost never get interrupted by Guard Break, while for heavy attacks it is not uncommon to catch someone during the startup and land an Uncounterable Guard Break.
A Raider lands a Guard Break against a Warden during the start of the Warden‘s heavy attack
This Guard Break is Uncounterable.
The Viking Assassin:
The Berserker possesses a special Guard Break.
After successfully performing a Deflect the Berserker can follow-up with a quick “mini”-Guard Break.
I refer to it with “mini” because while the Berserker will still be able to Throw his victim, the window of time in which the Berserker can try to hit the victim with a basic attack before the victim can recover and Block is greatly reduced.
This mini-Guard Break will bypass all of the regular rules for Guard Breaks:
- It will always connect, regardless of distance (the Berserker just sort of slides towards his victim)
- It will interrupt any attack, regardless of how late into the attack the victim is
- It is Uncounterable (Guard Break countering will NOT work)
In rare cases the victim’s last attack will hit the Berserker just as the Deflect’s mini-Guard Break connects, causing a “trade” where the Berserker will Stagger, and usually letting the victim recover from the mini-Guard Break before the Berserker is able to follow-up with any action.
In general, a character is briefly unable to counter a Guard Break if:
- They are recovering from whiffing an offensive maneuver. This includes:
> Whiffing an offensive Guard Break (ex: Victim is out of range, victim is immune to Guard Breaks)
> Whiffing a special move (ex: If a Raider misses their running grab)
> Whiffing a very slow attack
- Their attack is countered by a Parry
- They are Guard Broken while recovering from a Dodge or Roll
> Note that some characters can perform Dodge-attacks which are immune to Guard Breaks (because of their status as attacks)
- They are guard broken during the startup of a basic attack
> There may also be an extended window of vulnerability when canceling a basic heavy attack with a Feint which renders a character unable to counter Guard Breaks. This extended window might not actually exist, I may simply be confusing this with the startup of heavy attacks
Special note on Uncounterable Guard Break:
A character in Revenge Mode can interrupt attacks with their Guard Break regardless of how far into the attack their victim is, the victim cannot counter the Guard Break because the game considers them to be occupied with their attack.
Guard Breaks refer to the general Guard Break available to all characters (and often to the Berserker‘s Deflect mini-Guard Break as well)
Grabs refer to special moves that pick-up opponents such as the Raider‘s running carry (both the Guard Break follow-up version as well as the version initiated from a full sprint), another Grab example is the Shugoki‘s over-the-shoulder bear hug.
Attempting to Guard Break a character with Guard Break immunity will cause the aggressor to bounce off.
A character is immune to Grabs and Guard Breaks:
- While they are already in a Guard Break or Grab
> During offensive Guard Breaks (during the counter window, the follow-up window and while executing the follow-up)
> During defensive Guard Breaks (during the counter window, the follow-up window and while being struck by the follow-up)
> While being carried by Raider or Shugoki special Grab moves (or any other character’s special Grabs)
- While they are in the startup of performing a Roll
- While they are in a Knockdown state
- While they are in a Stagger state
> Characters Stagger when they are struck by an attack (including some Feats like projectiles or explosives)
> Characters Stagger as they are Thrown by an opponent’s Guard Break
> Characters Stagger when an opponent Blocks their light attacks
> Characters Stagger when they block an opponent’s heavy attack
> Characters Stagger when an opponent with Superior Block Blocks their heavy attack
- While they are in a Wall Stun state
> Reminder: Being Thrown into any solid surface that does not kill or set a character on fire causes Wall Stun
- While they are actively Blocking or Parrying
> Referring only to the window of time in which all three guard directions are active, details below in the multiple attackers section
Note about attacks:
While a character is in the middle of performing an attack:
- The character is immune to Guard Breaks
- Most Grabs will still interrupt their attack and connect against the victim
Note that if that attack strikes the character performing the Grab that Grab could be interrupted. In some cases the two characters will “trade” causing the Grab victim to Stagger briefly while the Grab initiator Staggers from being hit.
You must be in lock-on mode to Block. You Block by matching your guard with the direction of your opponent’s attacks. You typically control the direction of your guard during lock-on mode using either the right-stick of your controller or your mouse. You should already know this.
Changing guard direction is not instantaneous. Different characters appear to take different amounts of time to transition from one guard direction to another. This difference is sometimes minor, other times it was a more noticeable delay.
When attacking, multiple hits can be Chained to perform more rapid attack sequences. Take for example the following Chain:
The second and third light attacks will typically be faster and use different animations than any individual light attack performed outside of a Chain. This is true for most attack Chains, even Chains that contain heavy attacks or special moves.
Blocking light attacks typically* stops the aggressor from continuing their attack Chain, causing their next attack to use the timing and animation of a non-Chain attack (or the first attack of their chain).
Blocking heavy attacks typically* allows the aggressor to continue their attack Chain, which lets them keep up their offensive pressure.
*At least one character in the game can continue his attack Chains when his light attacks are blocked. Some characters have abilities which grant Superior Block which interrupt attack Chains even when they Block a heavy attack. More detailed information about these is a topic for a separate post about those specific characters, not here.
A Parry is performed by matching the direction of an incoming attack, the same as when Blocking, then pressing heavy attack as the opponent’s attack is about to connect. The timing is given by the incoming attack indicator, which flashes during the Parry window. (it seems that if an incoming attack is out of range, the incoming attack indicator will never flash, instead it will remain solid red)
If successful the defender will briefly lock blades with the attacker. The defender then pushes back the attacker, rendering the attacker vulnerable to a follow-up punish.
- A Parry causes a large amount of the attacker’s Stamina to be drained
- Parrying a light attack will leave the attacker vulnerable for significantly longer than Parrying a heavy attack
After Parrying a light attack, the defender will have more follow-up options for more damage and/or better positioning.
- If the attacker is Exhausted (out of stamina) then a Parry will Knockdown the attacker.
- If the defender is in Revenge Mode then a Parry will Knockdown the attacker.
An Orochi counters a Warden‘s attack with a Parry
The Parry renders the Warden vulnerable to a follow-up.
The Warden is briefly unable to move, attack, Block, Parry, Dodge or counter Guard Breaks.
The Orochi takes advantage of the Warden‘s follow-up vulnerability to strike with a top double light combo.
Special note on Parry:
Since a Parry is performed by using a basic heavy attack it is possible to Feint a Parry if for any reason it did not connect and you were not struck by the attack you intended to Parry.
For example you might try to Parry the attack of an opponent who misjudged their range and whiffs at the air in front of you. Often this means your Parry attempt will simply become an unintentional heavy attack that could hit them while they are recovering from their whiff. In some cases they might recover from their whiff quickly enough to Block, Dodge or Parry your unintentional heavy attack. If it seems like they might be able to recover in time to defend it might be wise to use a Feint to cancel your unintentional heavy attack.
A more complex example would be an opponent canceling their heavy attack with a Feint and then performing a second attack from a different guard direction. If you go for a Parry against the first attack, it will simply come out as a heavy, meaning you could Feint and either Dodge or change your guard in an attempt to Block or Parry the second attack. Be aware that if they Feint and go for a Guard Break you could potentially be the victim of a Guard Break during the startup of your heavy attack which, as mentioned earlier, leads to an Uncounterable Guard Break.
In all of the the above situations that caused a character
- To be unable to counter Guard Break
- To become immune to Guard Break and Grab
That character is unable to Block. Except the one about actively Blocking or Parrying (obviously)
Here’s a quick recap, but if you want details then scroll back up to the earlier sections.
A character cannot Block when:
- They are performing an attack or special move
- Recovering from a whiffed offensive maneuver
- Recovering from getting their attack countered by a Parry
- Recovering from a Dodge or Roll
Characters seem to regain the ability to Block slightly before their Dodge finishes recovering, but they cannot change guard direction until they have fully recovered.
- They are in a Stagger state
If they are in the Stagger state as a result of Blocking, then their Block will continue as it normally does
- They are in a Wall Stun state
- They are in a Knockdown state
- They are in a Guard Break
- They are in a Grab
Some moves are Unblockable, these can be identified by orange glows or orange particle effects. A small icon may also appear on your HUD when you are on the receiving end of an Unblockable. During the Alpha this small icon resembled a lightning bolt, it was already changed by the next test.
A Kensei performs his top heavy finisher against an Orochi
The Kensei‘s final attack is Unblockable.
Unblockables generally come in three varieties:
> (ex: The Raider‘s running pick-up carry, the Shugoki‘s over-the-shoulder bear hug)
> [NOT the Raider’s Guard Break follow-up carry, as any Guard Break is implicitly unblockable]
> (ex: The Kensei‘s top heavy finisher, The Raider‘s Zone Attack)
> (ex: The Warden‘s shoulder charge, the Conqueror‘s shield bash, the Orochi‘s Deflect follow-ups)
As the name implies, Unblockables cannot be Blocked. Instead they are typically dealt with via one of three methods:
- Interrupting the Unblockable
> By striking, Guard Breaking or Grabbing the character performing the Unblockable before it is unleashed
- Evading the Unblockable
> Dodge the Unblockable
> Roll away from the Unblockable
> Otherwise managing to get out of range of the Unblockable
- Parrying the Unblockable
> Only applicable to attack-based Unblockables
Different Unblockables require different methods to deal with. For example you cannot Parry a shoulder bash and some Unblockables are too fast to interrupt or are Uninterruptible.
Note about Blocking and Parrying multiple attackers:
This game has an external attacker system which simplifies the guard direction for enemies other than your lock-on target. You will still need to Block your lock-on target normally (top, left, right) but external attackers will simply need to be Blocked based on their relative position to you. (i.e. an external attacker standing on your left will need to be Blocked using your left guard, even if they use an attack that would normally require Blocking on the top or right side)
When you successfully Block, you briefly auto-Block in all directions. This can be seen in any gameplay footage, when a player Blocks all three guard directions briefly light up. Any attacks that connect during this time will also be Blocked. This mechanic is largely responsible for making defending against multiple near-simultaneous attacks possible. You must place your guard to Block the first attack that will hit you, the rest will be auto-Blocked if they follow closely after the first impact.
Attack-based Unblockables will still penetrate this auto-Block. While auto-Blocking you will also be unable to perform a Parry. If many attacks are coming at nearly the same time and one of them is an Unblockable, then in order to Parry the Unblockable attack you must Parry the first attack to hit you, even if that first attack is not an Unblockable. Your three guard indicators will light up but each will act as a Parry.
A Kensei defends himself from three attackers with a single Parry
Because the incoming attacks are near-simultaneous, Parrying the first attack caused the other two to be auto-parried.
Because the Kensei was in Revenge Mode, the Parry caused Knockdown to all three attackers.
If the quality were better, you’d be able to tell that that Kensei is me!
This section to be improved
You have a dedicated button for performing Dodges and Rolls, this same button is also used to slide down ladders to save time and knock off anyone below you. Find this button yourself (you Dodge in the direction you are moving, so you probably need to be moving to perform a Dodge or Roll and discover the button)
Dodge (also called Dash) refers to when a character in lock-on mode performs a quick burst of movement.
Dodges can be performed in four directions:
Forward Dodge is usually used to close the distance with an opponent, or as a component of a special move.
- ex: Berserker and Warlord‘s leaping overhead attacks are performed by pressing forward Dodge and heavy attack
- ex: The Kensei can perform a forward Dodge and press Guard Break for a longer range Guard Break
With the exception of the forward Dodge, all of the Dodges provide a window of limited invulnerability.
In many games this is often referred to as invulnerable-frames, or simply i-frames.
The amount of invulnerable frames for each Dodge seem to be character specific.
In order to successfully Dodge attacks, you typically want your character to be in the beginning or middle of their Dodge as the opponent is swinging. Too early and you may use up the limited invulnerability before the attack completes. Too late and… well you just get hit because you never Dodged.
A character performing a Dodge with limited invulnerability will be able to pass through most attacks untouched.
However if the attack is still making contact with a character as the window of limited invulnerability ends they will still be struck.
Dodges are not immune to Guard Breaks, but if a defender Dodges away then enough distance could be created that an attacker’s Guard Break may whiff. The attacker’s ability to Guard Break on reaction to the defender’s Dodge will often be deciding factor here. In other cases the character match-up will heavily influence whether or not it is reasonable to reliably land a Guard Break punish against an opponent who is attempting to Dodge out of range. (For example a character with a particularly slow and short range Guard Break will have a difficult time catching a character with a fast and long distance Dodge)
Dodges will avoid projectiles.
- Samurai longbow Feat
- Orochi kunai throwing Feat
- Berserker axe throwing Feat
Dodges will not prevent damage from explosives, traps or any artillery Feats.
- Knight or Viking grenade/bomb Feats
- Viking or Samurai trap Feats
- Knight catapult Feat, Samurai arrow storm Feat
In general attacks coming from the top guard direction are most reliably avoided by a left or right Dodge.
A backwards Dodge often won’t take you far enough to avoid the hit after the limited invulnerability window ends.
In general attacks coming from one of the side guard directions are most easily avoided with a Dodge directly into the attack. (If an attack is coming from your left, you should Dodge left to avoid it)
Listen; its a video game, animations are tough sometimes. Assume that every Dodge contains a ducking motion where your character ducks under the incoming swing (If the attack sweeps along the floor, pretend the Dodge contains a hopping motion where you hop over the swing)
A Berserker evades an Orochi‘s attack from the left guard with a left Dodge
Against short ranged attacks backwards Dodges are often effective.
However against many of the slower attacks with longer range you will still get hit at your new position once the limited invulnerability window ends.
If you happen to be playing a character with an exceptionally far traveling backwards Dodge, you might be able to simply backwards Dodge to evade the majority of attacks. (This is quite infuriating to your opponent… also I hate you)
If you are already a short distance away from your opponent, then a backwards Dodge will usually take you out of range of most long range attacks.
Rolls are very similar to Dodges.
Rolls are performed by pressing the same button as Dodge while not in lock-on mode.
Rolls can also be performed by pressing the Dodge button twice while locked on if the second press is timed just as the first Dodge ends (this might only apply to backwards Dodges and Rolls)
Similar to Dodges:
- Rolls also have a limited invulnerability window.
- As mentioned earlier, a character that is the victim of a Guard Break while recovering from a Roll will be unable to counter Guard Breaks.
Unlike a Dodge::
- Rolls cost Stamina to perform
- A character cannot Roll when they are Exhausted (out of stamina)
- As mentioned earlier, the startup of a Roll renders the rolling character immune to Guard Breaks
(an attacker attempting to Guard Break will bounce off)
It is my personal opinion that Rolls generally have a slightly longer window of limited invulnerability, but recover more slowly than Dodges. I have based this on personal observation, it may not be correct. It could quite likely be the result of comparing the different Dodges and Rolls across many characters.
This section to be expanded and improved
- Use Feints to bait parries and then Parry the unintentional heavy attack
- Use Feints to change direction and attack from a different direction unexpectedly
- Use Feints to go for a Guard Break while your opponent is concentrating on Blocking
- Use Feints when you realize you’re taking a bad swing and should just Block, Parry or Dodge instead