Balancing Parries for Single Player

How are parries treated in fighting games? Specifically in comparison to single player games where once you get the timings down, it can trivialize enemies.

It depends on the fighting game, but I largely covered this in my last article on parries. Parries in fighting games can be beaten, unlike parries in single player games. In 3rd strike, you have to parry high or low, and the two zones are more separated and exclusive from one another than blocking (so moves that you normally could block crouch blocking might have different parry zones). In other games parries usually have a recovery time. In practically all fighting games, parries can be thrown.

This means parries have weaknesses, they can be mixed up, either with timing, or by choosing options that beat parry. In a single player game, this isn’t really feasible. Everything needs to be reactable in order to be fair, which means if everything is parryable, then every problem can be solved with parries. Some measures you can throw in to prevent this are having unparryable attacks, force the player to respond differently to those. You could have different parry zones too, so they need to parry differently depending on the incoming attack, but this amounts to basically just giving the player shit instead of solving the core problem, which is that parries hand players a difficult but simple solution to any problem where they are applicable. It’s not a question of, “would it be better to attack or defend now?” It’s just “If I can do it, parrying is best.” And you might have different types of parries or unparryable attacks, so players have a bit more trouble reacting, but the fundamental problem is still there in a way that it isn’t for parries in multiplayer games. Parrying isn’t the best solution to scenarios in 3rd strike all the time, since it’s not always rewarding (parry into throw) and requires commitment for the number of parries you’re gonna attempt and the followup. It is in Guilty Gear, but it also costs meter in Guilty Gear, which is a limited and precious shared resource.

Oh yeah, maybe that’s the answer. Bloodborne limits parrying by tying it to bullets, but that just restricts the amount of times you can parry, bullets aren’t really used for much else of consequence. Imagine if parrying in dark souls cost you literally your entire stamina bar, requiring the bar to be full first, and you don’t get it back after a successful riposte. Hell, make stamina a bit negative even afterwards. Perhaps you could balance parrying by limiting the conditions for it, and having it cost you significantly otherwise, so you can only use it occasionally, and by sacrificing something else important.

4 thoughts on “Balancing Parries for Single Player

  1. C.J.Geringer March 20, 2018 / 1:42 pm

    “Everything needs to be reactable in order to be fair, which means if everything is parryable, then every problem can be solved with parries.”

    While I get your point, I don´t think this is a 100% true.

    For example in “Garouden: Fist or Twist” there are many different parry types, but the basic one available to all characters has the following properties:

    1: It is quick, but not quicker than the basic blocks.

    2: It can parry any strike (all zones), but no grabs.

    3: The attack immediately after a parry has a powerfull hitstun, and is a guaranteed interrupt.

    4: It has a recovery time

    5: It does not interrupt or alter the enemy´s movement in any way.

    This means that every strike can be parried however in some situations the parry is not the best possible action.

    Firstly sometimes the players can´t parry in time but can block (for example if they are recovering from an attack or hitstun).

    Secondly, if the player parries a strike that is not the last of a combo, the enemy´s follow up can strike the player before the player recovers from the parry. (In fact, starting but not finishing combos is a good way of baiting parries).

    If we keep in mind that many single players game have fights against multiple enemies (like your Bloodborne example), it shouldn´t be hard to design a parry system where parrying is often not the best decision, since another enemy can hit the player before the player can benefit from the parry´s follow up. If we adopt Nioh´s mechanic of showing the player the enemy´s stamina bar, it also forces the player to evaluate whether the enemy has enough stamina to hit the player after the player´s parry.

    Moreover there are other aspects of combat we can use to balance our parry, for example, a parry (even a successful one) might diminish a character´s poise/stability, or reposition him witch might be situationally advantageous or disadvantageous.


  2. MaaraMori July 2, 2018 / 4:41 am

    What do you think about DMC3 parries with Royal Guard? They have decision making built in them so you can parry right away or charge your parries for future use


  3. starlabassistant August 17, 2019 / 6:23 pm

    I can’t say that I agree that parrying needs to be quite costly. For an example there is Dishonored’s sword fighting system, where blocking/ parrying only works on melee attacks and the player cannot instantly switch to an attack. This means the player has to stay mobile, dodging projectiles, and they can be attacked in between ending the parry and attacking an enemy. In addition, as CJ Geringer said, multiple enemies means that you can be flanked, as the parry doesn’t work to the side or back.
    If you really want a game that makes blocking overpowered, look to Star Wars Episode 3. In it blocks defend a circle around the player, so you can’t flank and can be maintained for indefinitely. That, and the quick transition from block to attack means that you can spend the entire time you are not attacking blocking with the only effect of enemy attacks being a push away from them.


    • Chris Wagar September 19, 2019 / 8:35 pm

      Enemies are supposed to be flimsy in dishonored, so making parries strong doesn’t really upset the balance of anything. That and if they can’t attack out of a parry, then it’s not really a parry (even if the game calls it that) it’s just a timed block.

      This article is assuming that a parry is a type of perfect block that can nullify any type of attack and result in a big punish, such that parries can beat practically anything, and they overwhelm the other defensive options (dark souls, DMC). Obviously a too-good block is also bad (God of War 1, dark souls), but that’s not as common.


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