Mastering Blade Symphony: part two

Blade 1

Welcome to part two of our Mastering Blade Symphony diary. In case you missed it, here's part one.

This diary series was written for the UK magazine last summer: issues 268 and 269, to be precise. The game has been updated several times since then, so long-term Blade Symphony players may notice a few discrepancies.

Previously: Having crashed my Blade Symphony rating, I picked up my rapier and began my attempt to reach the Master rank—occupied by the top 1% of players. After a few initial defeats, I climbed out of Steel and gained a place in the Diamond league.

Two other Phalanx foilists are duelling in The Street, a rainy stretch of road in some unnamed Far East city. One is Diamond league, the other Steel—but the lower-ranked player is dominant. I duel him once, and lose both rounds. He simply makes far fewer mistakes than me. I overreach with each of my combos, trying to land one more hit than I need to and get punished for it with aggressive balanced lunges and sideways heavy sweeps.

Then I duel his previous opponent, the Diamond league foilist. I’m 653rd in the world, he’s 691st. It’s as closely matched a fight as I’ve ever had, and it’ll determine whether or not I climb any higher.

Blade 2

I go aggressive, landing a few forward jabs before receiving the same in return. Then I overextend, leaving myself open for a heavy lunge that hits me right in the chest. He follows up with a full fast string and the first round is over.

I’m cagier at the beginning of the second match. I evade his lunge but fail to connect with a sideways parry and run right into his ‘washing machine’—the twirling blade attack that can follow a balanced lunge. There’s a window to counter so I take it, landing a full fast string of attacks.

He comes back with the lunge, and I walk into it again. Then he leaps into an aerial attack that I don’t expect, right back into fast stance, and it’s over. I’ve been soundly beaten by somebody on my own level.

It’s a huge blow to my confidence. I consider blaming the time of day, the amount of coffee and practice I’ve had. I consider quitting the server and going to find another Diamond to fight. For whatever reason, I stay in the duel queue.

I find myself facing him again after he defeats the Steel-ranked foilist, who subsequently switches out for Judgement and a longsword.

Round one. He lands the second part of his fast string and I do the same. We’re each playing sloppily: going only for the fast hits, taking as much damage as we deal. Spamming like this isn’t exactly the hallmark of players in the top 6%, but we’re each too wary of the other’s heavier attacks to commit to anything else. Eventually the parries—and the round—go his way.

Blade 3

I think about this diary, and how it would be a pretty terrible story if I lost my Diamond rank as soon as I’d gained it—if the moral of the story is ‘actually, you belong in Steel after all’. Losing this match, I think, would be enough to put me there.

My lunge connects at the beginning of round two. I roll sideways instead of immediately following up and then land a charged, jump-cancelled thrust. I follow up with fast strikes, then another lunge, and then a parry and more blows. He drops and I’ve lost no health. OK, I think. I remember how to do this.

Another lunge connects with my sternum at the beginning of round three but I manage to land my entire combo—lunge into fast, parrying him to the side and jump-cancelling another fast strike. He hits me again but we’re both low on health, and neither of us wants to overextend. I feint forward then roll back, charging up a lunge that he fails to anticipate this time. I take the game, and restore some of my rating.

A new Diamond joins the server while I’m holding the duelling ground—a longsword-wielding Ryoku. I’m able to keep my distance and needle him in the first round, evading his attempt to land a heavy reverse sweep that I’d have a hard time blocking. He walks into a sideways heavy attack that opens him up for another combo, and it’s enough for me to take the first round. I’m feeling good.

I am wrong. He utterly destroys me in the second round, landing a grab that does a huge amount of damage and casts me to the ground. I roll sideways and come up into what should be a devastating lunge—the game shows my sword travelling entirely through his body—but no damage is registered, and I take his full heavy string of attacks after that, and again after that. It’s over quickly.

Chris Thursten

Joining in 2011, Chris made his start with PC Gamer turning beautiful trees into magazines, first as a writer and later as deputy editor. Once PCG's reluctant MMO champion , his discovery of Dota 2 in 2012 led him to much darker, stranger places. In 2015, Chris became the editor of PC Gamer Pro, overseeing our online coverage of competitive gaming and esports. He left in 2017, and can be now found making games and recording the Crate & Crowbar podcast.