Dead or Alive 6 is only four months away, and a lot has changed since we first played the game at E3 2018. We recently got our hands on the Tokyo Game Show build of DOA6 and spent some intimate time with the game to find out how things have evolved. While some things remain the same as the original E3 build, there’s enough change to warrant a new breakdown of how DOA6 plays and what competitive and casual players will have to adjust to when the game releases in February 2019. So let’s take a closer look in our in-depth preview of DOA6 gameplay from the TGS 2018 build.

Refreshed Move Lists

Most of the people who played DOA6 at E3 2018 or even the updated build at Evo 2018, found that the legacy characters retained almost all of their old attacks. The game felt very familiar despite the new mechanics that are in place to shake things up. However, after spending some time with the TGS build, it was very clear that at least some characters would see significant changes to their move list.

In previous DOA games, we mained Helena, Mila and Lisa. Of those three, only Helena was playable in the TGS build, despite Mila being confirmed at the event, and Lisa being all but confirmed thanks to a recent tease from Team Ninja. Almost all of Helena’s primary attacks and combo strings have been adjusted in some way.

Helena has several new attacks, one of which is 236P (quarter-circle forward + punch). However, she didn’t lose her old 236P attack string. Instead, it has changed to 9P (up-forward + punch), but she didn’t lose her old 9P because that’s now 3P (down-forward + punch), and her old 3P is now 6P (forward + punch), with her old 6P changing to 46P (back, forward + punch). At first glance it seems as though series veterans will just have to re-learn some attack notations, but once you start diving a bit deeper, you’ll notice that not everything has made it into the new game.

One of Helena’s trademark attacks is her 33P, which is now limited to her Bokuho Stance. She can no longer perform 33P from a neutral stance. Other characters have had similar changes, such as Jann Lee losing his 214P (quarter-circle back + punch), but gaining a new back-turned launcher. We didn’t have enough time to go through every single character, but you get the idea. Characters didn’t retain all of their DOA4 moves in DOA5, but these changes seem more drastic than what most DOA fans may be accustomed to. That’s not a bad thing, but it will take some time to adjust to all of the new and changed attacks.

Guaranteed Damage is King

Something that a lot of competitive fighting game players would like to see changed in Dead or Alive, is guaranteed damage. In previous titles, once a character was stunned, the guessing game began. A character could easily counter out of a stun and not only avoid further damage, but inflict significant damage to the aggressor in the process. That has changed somewhat in Dead or Alive 6.

We already talked about the Fatal Rush and Fatal Stun system in our E3 breakdown of the game. With the removal of the Slow Escape system as another way to reduce or escape stuns, this opens up the game for a lot more guaranteed damage. Against most characters, two guesses is all you’ll get before the damage becomes guaranteed. A typical combo string in DOA6 will likely consist of an attack that stuns, followed by an attack that causes a Fatal Stun or Sitdown Stun, then a launcher.

  • Typical Combo Series: Normal Stun > Unholdable Stun > Launcher

In the TGS build, a well-time Break Hold (which requires half a bar of meter) will get you out of a Fatal Stun (which is caused by a Fatal Rush attack). However, there’s no way out of a Sitdown Stun now that Slow Escape has been removed. While we wouldn’t be surprised to see this change before the game ships next year, at present this is a great way to guarantee damage.

An opponent will have one chance to counter the first attack, which initially stuns them. Once the opponent is stunned, they will have a second chance to use a counter  hold to stop the Fatal Rush attack or whatever attack you use to cause a Sitdown Stun. If you opt for a Fatal Rush attack, the opponent can use a Break Hold (if they have meter), but without meter the Fatal Rush attack guarantees a launcher or Break Blow, and a Sitdown also offers guaranteed damage since a Break Hold cannot be used during a Sitdown Stun.

To add another layer to the guaranteed damage, if you have full meter, you can use a Break Blow in the middle of your combo (even if the opponent is in the air), then Free Cancel the Break Blow (resulting in another Fatal Stun) and continue your combo. At this point, the opponent can use a Break Hold if they have meter, but if not, this is another unholdable stun that offers guaranteed damage.

  • Advanced Combo Series: Normal Stun > Unholdable Stun > Launcher > Juggle > Break Blow > Free Cancel (Unholdable Stun) > Launcher > Juggle

Without meter for a Break Blow, 40 percent combos were easily achievable. If you had meter, 50 percent seemed to be the average with a bread and butter combo. If you had good stage position for environmental damage, it wasn’t overly difficult to get 60 percent damage or more. All of these options limit the opponent to a mere two chances to use a counter hold to escape, or as many as four chances depending on how much meter they have at the time.

Things get even more interesting when you add short stuns into the mix. For example, Jann Lee’s P6P (punch, forward + punch) attack string places the opponent in a short stun that doesn’t last very long. In DOA5 it was possible to use Slow Escape to block any potential follow-up attack after P6P. With Slow Escape gone in DOA6, that stun now forces an opponent to use a counter hold if they want to avoid a follow-up attack.

Evasion is the New Meta

One of the big changes from the E3 build to the Evo build was the sidestep. At E3 there wasn’t a standalone sidestep. When performing the sidestep command your character automatically followed the sidestep with an attack. This changed in the Evo build, allowing a standalone sidestep and the ability to input the sidestep attack at any time during the sidestep animation. This remains the case in the TGS build, and it’s something DOA players are going to have to learn to play around.

At Evo many veteran players were complaining that the new sidestep was too strong. However, we played a number of matches against former DOA professional player, Emmanuel “MASTER” Rodriguez during the recent event, and found that it isn’t a matter of sidestep being too strong, but simply the fact that this kind of evasive sidestep is new to DOA, and thus many DOA players are not accustomed to dealing with it.

The new sidestep evades all linear attacks, but gets interrupt by tracking attacks. In addition, in most cases a throw will connect with hi-counter damage if the opponent is sidestepping. If the throw is timed correctly, it will even beat out the sidestep attack. With this new evasive sidestep, players will have to focus on attacks that track, or simply be more patient with their offense. Like most attacks in DOA, the sidestep attack is unsafe if blocked, and can be punished accordingly. While this is something we’d like to see changed, given that the attack does not stun or lead to a combo unless you’re near a wall, at the very least, it weakens the argument that the current sidestep is too powerful.

With the evasive sidestep, how good a character is will now also have to factor in how good their tracking attacks are. Characters like Hayabusa, who have a lot of useful tracking attacks, won’t have to worry as much about the new sidestep. However, characters like Helena (in which most of her attacks are both linear and a mid punch of some sort) will have a much harder time dealing with the new sidestep.

Frame Advantage Still Limited

In an interview at Evo 2018, DOA6 director, Yohei Shimbori remarked that most characters will have at least +1 frame advantage for a few attacks. When we asked him if there would be more than +1, since that doesn’t have a significant benefit in DOA compared to many other fighting games, we were told that +1 would not be the limit and at least one character had attacks that granted +3 frame advantage when blocked. Having +3 frame advantage still isn’t significant in a game with counter holds that execute much faster than that, but it’s a step in the right direction.

At Evo 2018, one of the big talking points among DOA players was the new character, Diego. He seemed to have more frame advantage than most other characters in the roster, with people especially concerned about his 1PP (down-back + punch, punch). This consists of a low attack followed by a shoulder charge. Many people complained it was too powerful because the shoulder charge was guaranteed if the low was a counter hit, and even if you blocked the shoulder charge, Diego had frame advantage.

In the Tokyo Game Show build, this seems to have changed a bit. Since we weren’t personally at Evo to confirm the properties of this attack, it may be a change, or it may have simply not been tested properly at Evo. In the TGS build, if the low attack connects as a normal hit (not counter hit), you can sidestep the follow-up shoulder and punish Diego. Even if you block the shoulder, Diego is -1 and does not have frame advantage, despite the guard break animation from blocking the attack. So while frame advantage on block will be more prevalent in DOA6, it won’t be as big a factor as it is in other fighting games.

With all of these changes, it’s hard to say how the competitive meta will evolve over time after the game releases, but at the very least it’s safe to say high-level DOA6 will be played considerably different than previous games in the series, and that’s refreshing.

Stay tuned to Prima Games as we offer more insight into DOA6 over the coming weeks and months as the February 15, 2019 release date swiftly approaches.