The Kensei commands the warriors of the Samurai faction. Wielding the Nodachi, the Kensei cuts through their enemies with skill and discipline using their mastery of combat to adapt to any situation and any opponent. Lead your fellow Samurai and show the Legion and the Warborn that the Chosen are not to be trifled with!
Able to attack from afar, or wade right into the thick of things, the Kensei’s true strength lies in their adaptability. They can be highly elusive—dodging attacks left and right—or they can be a juggernaut—throwing out powerful but slow hits—and can finish you off with their special Unblockable power attack. They can mix up their strikes to throw down with the Warden and then completely change their tactics to fight a Raider and use their speed and mobility to cut them down.
The Kensei is tough to get the hang of because their playstyle can change at the drop of a hat but a skilled Kensei is incredibly difficult to beat because of this reason. The Kensei will pressure you from all sides and from great range and the best Kensei’s will push you to your limits on your reaction times. It will take a lot of practice before you can fully understand all their nuances but once you do the other classes won’t stand a chance.
A difficult hero to master, the Kensei requires an understanding of timing and spacing, as they are key aspects to the Kensei’s playstyle. With relatively slow attacks, and a majority of the Kensei’s power comes from their combo finishers, you will need to play smart, be patient, and think about your moves if you are to be successful.
While able to fight close quarters, the Kensei does best at a mid range where the length of their weapon will shine. This is because a fighter like the Warden is able to execute attacks much faster and most of the Wardens combos rely on them being close to their opponent. Utilizing your range is key and characters who excel at being face to face will have an advantage over you.
As mentioned, the Kensei’s attacks are slow compared to the other Vanguards, making them less than ideal for slugfests. While their combo chains are generally more flexible than the others, most of their damage will come from their heavy attacks and combos which, if used too often, can result in being parried.
Light attacks – While possessing good range on their light attacks, they lack speed compared to the other Vanguards. They are easy to block and very susceptible to parrying (if one knows how to parry light attacks). That being said the light attacks are excellent for poking the enemy, specifically the overhead light attack.
The only exception is the Kensei’s second light attack in a chain. This attack is excellent as a follow-up attack because it is a thrust, which can be used on all sides and is fairly fast. The other attacks are simple slashes and are both slow and easy to block.
If you watch this GIF closely you can see that the Kensei starts with a guard break and then follows that guard break up with two light attacks. The attack after the guard break being the thrust in question.
Heavy attacks – The Kensei’s heavy attacks are slow but have very long reach and can be chained to extend your reach further, meaning that you can start your attacks from out of melee range and by the second or third attack you will have closed the distance between yourself and your opponent.
This can catch a lot of people off guard, as not only will they be surprised by the width of the attacks, but also by how quickly you can close the distance. However, attacking at range like this can be risky as your attacks will be telegraphed, and as such will be slightly easier for the enemy to dodge unless they are unprepared for the reach and speed.
The heavy attacks are also what link into some of the special abilities of the Kensei and most of their power comes from these special abilities, however, what special ability you get depends on what side you are attacking from during the third part of the chain.
Kensei combo chain – The Kensei’s primary special skill is their ability to link any of their attacks into a special three-hit chain. This chain is always three attacks, with the third being a special ability so long as the last attack in the chain is a heavy attack. Understanding of this is essential.
What makes this so interesting is how the Kensei can initiate this special attack chain in a multitude of ways. For example, the Kensei could start his chain with a guard break then initiate a throw (which is done by pressing guard break a second time in any direction after you have landed the first guard break) which then allows you to link into a third attack like the Unblockable to finish off the chain. You could also do a guard break into a heavy attack into a special ability attack. You could also do 2 light attacks and then as long as the third attack is a heavy attack it will be a special ability attack. You can, however, do a simple light attack as the third hit if you want but it will not be a special attack if you do so.
Light attacks, Heavy attacks, and guard breaks all count as part of the three-hit chain and being able to mix these up and time these properly will separate the good Kensei’s from the great Kensei’s.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the special abilities which you will be using as your third heavy attack in your three-hit combo chain and also the other special abilities the Kensei has.
Unblockable top power attack – This is the Kensei’s highest damaging special ability and as such it carries significant risk but the payoff is well worth it. This is done by having your guard stance in the top position and doing an overhead heavy attack as the third attack in a combo chain.
1. This attack is very slow as evidenced by the GIF above, this ability has a significant wind-up time and is easily dodged.
2. The attack (if you do not land the attack) has a significant recovery time which is long enough for your opponent to completely capitalize.
3. This attack eats a lot of stamina and as such trying to spam this is not recommended.
4. This attack cannot be blocked or deflected. It can, however, be parried (Parry is incredibly risky because a mistime means a ton of damage taken)
This is your most powerful move, but it is not without risk. This risk can be mitigated, however, by the wall stun combo. A wall stun is done when you guard break an opponent and use your throw to hurl them into a nearby wall. This not only staggers them for a second or two but if you remember the Kensei combo chain explanation earlier, then you should remember that your guard breaks into throws count as two attacks in the combo chain; therefore, if you do an overhead heavy attack it will automatically become the Unblockable power attack, which, if timed right against a wall stunned enemy, will be a guaranteed hit.
One interesting aspect of the Unblockable attack is that it can also be easily feinted.
A normal feint occurs when you do a heavy attack and press the cancel button (B for Xbox and Circle on PS4) almost immediately after pressing the heavy attack button. This causes the attack animation to begin but stops it before it follows through, allowing you to quickly launch another attack from another direction. This allows you to fake out your opponent in hopes of catching them off guard with an attack or a guard break.
The Unblockable is feinted differently, however. You can still feint it through the cancel button, but you can also feint it by quickly switching your guard to a side stance and pressing either heavy attack again or light attack. This will cause the attack to feint from the Unblockable into the side heavy special attack (more on that in a moment) or a normal light attack, allowing you to easily catch your opponents off guard.
Uninterruptible side heavy – The second of the Kensei’s special combo chain attacks, the Uninterruptible is done by having your guard stance on either side and initiating a heavy attack as your third attack in the chain. This attack is special because it has something known as “Super Armour” which in the fighting community is used to describe an attack that has the ability to shrug off enemy attacks so that the attack can go through uninterrupted, hence the ‘Uninterruptible side heavy’. This does not mean that you don’t take damage, it simply means even if you get hit during the attack animation you will not be staggered and your attack will continue.
While this attack can easily be blocked, deflected, or parried, it can be feinted into from the Unblockable by switching your guard into a side stance and pressing the heavy attack button similar to what the GIF above shows, allowing you to keep an opponent guessing.
However, there are certain very specific mechanics can bypass the super armour of the uninterruptible nature of this attack. The details are, unfortunately, currently under NDA. This guide will be updated once such information is public.
Dash attacks – The Kensei is one of the few classes that has access to these dash attacks, which can be used both offensively and defensively. There is 2 different kind of dash attacks which we will go over now.
The first is the forward dashing top light attack, which is probably one of the fastest attacks in the game, and because of the nature of the Kensei’s weapon it also has excellent reach. Its damage, however, is very low, and will primarily be used to poke the enemy, and can force them to adopt a top guard stance at all times because of its speed and the distance it can hit.
The second is the dashing side attacks, which allow you to combine the defensive nature of dodges with the offensive nature of light attacks. They allow you to simultaneously attack and defend at the same time and are key to keeping your opponent on their toes. They are both safe to use and contribute to your 3 hit combo chain as an opening attack
Guard break stun – This one is a bit confusing so let’s take a look at the GIF below.
As you can see, the enemy Kensei lands a guard break and then initiates a forward throw. The screen flashes goes blurry, and the HUD disappears for a second. This Ladies and Gentleman, Is a stun.
At the time of this writing, the Kensei is the only known character who has a guaranteed stun on a throw. This effect happens no matter what direction you throw an enemy. Despite the disorientation—and as the GIF above indicates—a stunned opponent is still able to attack (and defend), so do not take this minor advantage as an excuse to drop your guard.
To talk about the Kensei’s defense we need to first talk about their dashes.
As mentioned before, the Kensei’s dashes are used for both offense and defense. Defensively speaking, their dashes are very quick, and someone with a good reaction time would be better off dodging enemy attacks rather than simply blocking them. The reason for this is that a good Kensei who can properly dodge can not only avoid damage altogether but can quickly switch between defense and offense.
Remember those dashing side attacks I talked about earlier? If you can properly utilize your dashes to dodge attacks then you can also use the dashing attacks as a sort of counter-attack, which can be used to your advantage to keep your enemies on the defensive. Keep in mind, though, that while this strategy can help aid in your defense, this won’t always work against every player or every attack.
You also need to be fully aware of the spacing between you and your opponent. This may be a Melee only game but that does not mean range does not play a factor. The other Vanguards want to be right in your face when they fight, and the Kensei wants to hang back and be able to hit from mid-range. Going toe to toe with a Raider or Warden is a poor decision, as most of their combos are designed to be used in close quarters, and they have the speed to capitalize on this range, which has the ability to force you to stay on the defensive should they close the distance.
Before going any further, let me get this out of the way. The Kensei is a very difficult class.
Among the classes that I have played, he is by far the most difficult. Whereas a Warden is very straight forward and can blitz an enemy should they choose, a Kensei will get killed very quickly with such a strategy. You have neither the health nor the speed that a Raider or Warden has to have an extended brawl. You need to pick and choose when and how you attack. You can’t go out and swing wildly because you will get blocked, or worse, run the risk of being parried.
Above, I mentioned the Kensei’s three-hit chain. Here, I will go over how I personally use these combos to my advantage.
The first thing that you need to understand is that you will not always be able to get all three hits of this combo off. Sometimes it is better to only perform one or two strikes and then back off. As a Kensei player, you need to understand that you are squishy, so sometimes your best option is to poke the enemy down, rather than trying to keep pressure on them.
Instead, you should focus on keeping yourself at a distance where you can quickly dash in and get a forward dash light attack in. A lot of times this will force players to adopt the top guard stance for the majority of the time. Despite it doing very little damage it has the benefit of being difficult to punish and should you connect with your attack, you can quickly dash backward before the enemy can recover from the stagger, making the possibility of retaliation almost nonexistent. If you are feeling bold, you can even combo this light attack dash with a second light attack but in my experience, most players will be able to block the second attack.
The dashing side attacks are amazing at keeping the opponent on their toes, and I find a ton of opponents begin to struggle when they are pressured so hard from both sides so often. Combining the dashing side attacks with the forward dashing light attack is a great way to completely force your opponents into a difficult defensive position, and I personally like to do a dashing side attack and follow it up with a second light attack immediately after. This catches some people off guard, and if I land the second attack, I can go right into the third attack, which will usually be the Uninterruptible side. The overhead Unblockable is far too risky to use frivolously, and more often than not will result in a miss—worst case scenario is that the enemy parries it. Comparatively, the Uninterruptible is pretty safe to use, and should the enemy try and attack you out of the animation then they will take a huge chunk of damage.
Speaking of the side Uninterruptible attack, certain characters have the ability to counter attack immediately after a block, interrupting attack chains by counter attacking and forcing the character into a stagger. The Uninterruptible, by its very nature, will prevent these characters from being as effective against the Kensei, because the super armour will ignore the stagger and force the attack to go through. This is great for when you fight these characters as it allows you to push through and trade with them, usually with the Kensei coming out on top. This also works against Raiders and their Unblockable attack.
Remember, also, to utilize your guard break. A single guard break gives you enough time to land one overhead heavy attack and this, in turn, will allow you to do a few things. You could continue to attack by doing an overhead Unblockable, or you could do the Uninterruptible side heavy. Alternatively, you could back off to give yourself some breathing room and reset your positioning to get back into more favorable spacing.
You could also eschew the heavy attack and use a throw instead. A throw may allow you to get off a quick light attack (due to the stun), or it may allow you to reposition your opponent into a poor position or throw them off a ledge. It can also stagger them into a wall, which will allow you to fully capitalize and deliver a guaranteed overhead Unblockable, which will result in heavy damage. I highly recommend anytime you have the chance to throw an enemy into the wall that you use this attack.
Instrumental in your success is properly making use of Feints. I mentioned before that the Kensei has feints-made-easy. Despite that, the feints are still just as effective as normal feints, and learning how to properly feint your Unblockable will be pivotal in determining whether you win or lose. Do not forget that your Unblockable can be feinted into the Uninterruptible side heavy or a side light attack. Use this variability often.
A smart Kensei will be able to mix up their attacks and will change playstyles on the fly to help them deal with any situation, whether that is getting in your enemies face or attacking in small quick jabs from a distance. Either way, the Kensei has the tools to adapt and having and using this knowledge is what will separate the good Kensei from the great Kensei.