Since we're drawing to a close for the EXCEED Kickstarter this week, here's an overview of the Normal Attacks (those that are shared among all the fighters) and how they interact with one another.
Building up the selection of Normal Attacks in EXCEED was one of the most challenging parts of designing the game. Normals are the cards shared by every fighter, and which form the foundation of the ongoing metagame that takes place during a battle. We spent many versions going back and forth over these cards, trying to figure out the optimal combination of Attacks and Boost effects to make the game play smoothly.
In order to balance the effects of the Normals, we divided them up into four different groups: Fast, Utility, Anchor, and Safety.
The Anchor attacks are a class of safe, high-yielding attacks that give great results when they hit opponents. These attacks should be considered your "Plan A" if you don't have any better options at any given moment.
Sweep is the strongest normal attack, and its gravity establishes a foundation that defines the value of the other attacks in the game. Most cards can establish their value in terms of how well or poorly they fare against it, and the simplicity of this consideration makes the Normal Attack metagame easy for players to understand and start playing it quickly. The “knockdown” effect of discarding a card makes Sweep a costly attack to block. The Light boost on Sweep allows you to sacrifice it in order to commit to Speed if you’re worried about something breaking your defenses.
The other Anchor-class Attack, Focus, sacrifices some of Sweep’s power for Armor (damage reduction), making it an even safer. While the range on Focus is slimmer, it also protects your position, and gives you a free draw, whether or not you hit the opponent. While Sweep is a very effective card for all-around attacking, Focus is superior for breaking out of corners and reversing a tempo disadvantage. The boost on focus, Reading, is one of the most powerful and disruptive in the game, when used correctly.
These three attacks are collectively called the Fast Attacks. They’re ‘fast’ because they rely on speed and mobility as their primary strategic advantages. By being faster, the player using the attack has a fairly certain way to deal damage. Use these attacks to build up your gauge, dodge an anticipated attack, or reposition yourself.
Each of these attacks has a positional effect, so together they form the bulk of the player’s mobility. Grasp, the fastest of all, is effective only at Range 1, while Cross, the next fastest, works at both ranges 1 and 2. Assault, the slowest of these, is viable all the way out at range 3.
These cards are highly mobile both in terms of their attack effects and their boosts. With the Run and Backstep boosts, these allow players to move quickly around the field, and should be used carefully, as they are powerful resources. The Fierce boost on Grasp gives +2 Power, letting players forfeit a commitment to high speed in order to land a more damaging hit.
Utility Attacks are a class that are designed to round out character kits and help in a matchup-dependent way. These attacks have middling Power and Speed, but are useful as specific counters, and are primarily valued for their utility over their stats. These should be considered a "Plan B". They're not as easy to land, but they provide specific hard counters to the Anchor attacks and to Guard, and can turn a good read into an excellent exchange.
Dive is a medium-speed move that has a dodge effect, allowing it to beat any slower attack effectively. In can be used in a corner against an aggressive Sweep or Focus attack, and works well against some slower ranged attacks. Bolstering Dive with range, power, speed, or defense makes it an extremely solid attack. Its Tech boost is also extremely useful in matchups with fighters that rely on their boosts rather than range to get advantage.
Spike is a hard counter to defensive effects like Sweep, Focus, and Guard, and also has a little bit of defense itself, though it doesn’t perform well against the Fast attacks. The existence of Spike keeps opponents from feeling too safe about using their heavy defensive attacks in the early game. If you choose not to break through your opponent's defenses, you can build up your own instead: The Defend boost gives Fast attacks the stats to trade up against other fast attacks, and can make your Anchor attacks capable of some extremely favorable trades.
Guard forms its own class of Safety Attacks. While Dive’s dodge effect lets it do a little duty in this realm, Guard is the only card among Normal Attacks that is focused entirely on survivability. Guard allows you to spend away your cards in hand (and your Gauge too if you wish), in order to absorb the brunt of an opponent’s attack. Additionally, its after effect adds it to your Gauge, which can put you ahead on building up to Ultra Attacks and Exceed.
Guard also has one of the strongest boosts in the game, Parry, which allows you to check your opponent’s hand for a card you’re worried about, and discard it if you find it. It’s not a boost that’s useful on your first or second game, but in skilled hands it can be very threatening. Even novice players can use Parry to check for a Sweep or a Grasp, the two hardest attacks to beat with conventional methods.