In AoS2, you will always automatically face your opponent directly, and shots fired will generally be pointed in the opponent's direction. Thus, the idea of the game is to shoot your opponent while avoiding or neutralizing enemy shots. There's other dynamics in the game too, such as managing your weapon gauges, building and using Hyper gauge, and managing your Heat gauge. In addition to that, there's a very wide variety of weapons with three primary attack types.
In order to become proficient at dueling you will need to learn some of the more important basics, such as:
- Zoning with different types of attacks in an attempt to control and hit your opponent or force them to move where you want them.
- Dash Cancel Attacks to cancel the recovery animation of an attack by dashing.
- Dash Cancel Hits to cancel the recovery animation after being hit by an attack.
- Combos to inflict further damage to your opponent.
- Building Hyper from firing weapons, charging shots, and destroying ballistic.
- Using Hyper to defend yourself with shields, cancel attacks into Hypers, and using Hypers to chain other attacks.
- Managing Heat to keep your Heat gauge low and force your opponent's Heat gauge up.
Attacking is what you must do in order to defeat your opponent. However, learning how attacks work is important. For the most part, projectiles that are fired will build some Hyper gauge. But keep in mind that the opponent can also convert your shots fired to Hyper gauge for themselves.
While there are only two weapon buttons, there are many different types of button inputs and combinations that create many different kinds of attacks. Not all characters have each button combination, so refer to the character-specific sections to learn more about what your character has and does not have. Here is a list of common abbreviations used.
- A: Tap WeaponA (Primary Weapon)
- [A]: Hold WeaponA
- B: Tap WeaponB (Sub Weapon)
- [B]: Hold WeaponB
- S: Tap Special (Special Weapon)
- SA: Tap or hold Special and tap WeaponA
- SB: Tap or hold Special and tap WeaponB
- D: Tap Dash
- DA: Hold Dash and tap WeaponA
- DB: Hold Dash and tap WeaponB
- DSA: Hold Dash and Special and tap WeaponA
- DSB: Hold Dash and Special and tap WeaponB
- H: Hyper A, press Hyper. Requires at least one stock of Hyper.
- DH: Hyper B, tap or hold Dash and tap Hyper. Requires at least one stock of Hyper.
- SH: Hyper C, tap or hold Special and tap Hyper. Requires at least one stock of Hyper.
- BH: Hyper D, tap WeaponB and tap Hyper. Requires at least one stock of Hyper.
- SBH or ABH: Accel Hyper, tap Special and WeaponB and Hyper or tap WeaponA and WeaponB and Hyper. This Hyper requires three stocks of Hyper gauge to fire and can be input in two different ways.
There are three basic types of attack in the game, and they are:
- Direct: The two main attributes of direct attacks are that they are ungrazeable and undestroyable. All melee attacks and a lot of hypers fall into this category.
- Passive Direct: This is a further subdivision of direct attacks. These Direct attacks do not destroy ballistics.
- Active Direct: This category of Direct attacks destroys ballistics.
- Beam: The two main attributes of beams are that they destroy ballistics and are grazeable. For a lot of characters this is their WeaponA. Rifles, orbs, little glowy balls, bouncing lasers, shurikens, wisps, you name it. Beams usually don't do much damage, they are more used for clearing out Ballistics and building meter while doing so.
- Ballistic: The two main attributes of ballistics is that they are ungrazeable and destroyable. Ballistics are always destroyed by beams, though they can be destroyed by other ballistics and some direct attacks as well. They generally do quite a bit of damage, and are your main zoning setup projectiles. While beams do destroy ballistics, generally beams are much narrower in size than a ballistic spread, so at least some of the chaff will get through. Their damage is not affected by the opponent's Heat, so they aren't effective damage dealers when the opponent's Heat is high.
While a good offense can also be a good defense, there are other means of defending oneself, such as avoidance or shielding.
Dashing has several properties that should be known for intermediate play. They are:
- Grazing: Enemy beam attacks can be dashed through. this is sometimes referred to as "grazing".
- Conversion: When dashing, you leave a trail of rings behind you which are used to convert enemy lasers into Hyper meter. This will also rebuild a small amount of recoverable (red) life if you have any to regenerate. It is important to note that simply dashing through the laser is not what causes your meter to increase, but rather it is the ring itself that collects Hyper meter for your Hyper gauge. When a laser connects with the ring you will hear a faint charging sound and a text-display saying "CHARGE" will appear. This distinction is important because it is possible to also get a charge from Ballistic attacks by leaving the dash rings in the path of incoming Ballistic attacks. Thus, it's possible to intentionally dash away from large sprays of attacks rather than across or toward them, which will leave a ring directly in their path and catch all of them. Attacks converted can still inflict damage though.
- Heat: When dashing you raise your heat in two different ways. Holding the dash button for a long graze will generally raise your heat gauge up gradually. Rapidly tapping the dash button to perform a quick series of dashes will very quickly raise your heat gauge. Heat effects the amount of damage you take by enemy weapons by a linear amount starting from 100%, so reaching 300% heat will cause triple damage to be incurred from enemy shots. To keep your heat to a minimum you will need to micro-manage your dashing a little bit by keeping and eye on your heat gauge and using normal movement or no movement to lower your heat.
All normal weapons can be Hyper canceled, most normal weapons can be Dash canceled at some point (varies by attack and by character), and a few weapons can be chain canceled into other weapons. Some Hypers can also be chained into other Hypers. This is a very integral part of the game, especially learning how to dash cancel.
- Dash Canceling: Most attacks can be dash canceled as soon as the weapon is fired. More specifically, as soon as the attack becomes actively able to hit the opponent. For example, Firing Suguri's WA then quickly pressing a direction and tapping the Dash button will result in a quick-cancel of that move. You can then stop dashing and fire the move again, then repeat the process for some quick firing lasers. Generally;
- Most laser-based attacks can be dash canceled immediately.
- Most ballistic-based attacks have some delayed cancel timing and can only be dashed once all shots are active.
- Most melee-based attacks tend to not have dash cancel points at all.
- Some Hyper attacks, usually ones that are lasers, can have dash cancel points in them, though this is character specific and not all of them do.
- Weapon Chaining: Some attacks have very specific cancel rules that allow you to cancel one weapon into another. This is generally character specific and usually involves melee-type attacks in some way. An example of this is Suguri's chain that allows you to do the following: Spec+WA, Spec+WA, WA, WB.
- Hyper Canceling: All basic weapons can be canceled into a Hyper attack at any point of the move, even before it has begun firing. But that also means it can be done after the weapon has fired. An example would be to use Sora's Spec+WB -WA combo and then quickly cancel into a Hyper as soon as the laser is fired, normally this move would have a long recovery duration after fired, but the Hyper attack quickly cancels the recovery and both attacks continue to hit.
- Hyper Chaining: Some hypers allow you to chain one Hyper attack into another. This is usually limited to character specifics.
There are to ways to cancel out of hitstun.
- Hitstun Dash Cancelling: In this game it is possible to dash cancel some small part of the recovery when hit by an attack. The timing that you are able to cancel from hitstun will vary depending on the attack you are hit by. Sometimes you are able to cancel extremely soon after being hit, and other times it won't be for a large duration until you are able to dash cancel the hitstun. Knowing that you are able to cancel out of hitstun can get you out of some combos. There are even attack strings in the game that would cause the player to be stuck in hitstun indefinitely (causing an infinite combo) if not for the fact that most or all of these attack sequences can be broken by dash cancelling out of hitstun.
- Hitstun Shielding: Another way to cancel hitstun is to use your shield while being hit. See below for more details on shielding.
Extremely important for intermediate and advanced play is the Shield(Guard) button. Shielding has some major effects;
- Invulnerability: Temporary invincibility to all enemy attack types for the duration of the shield.
- Knockback: When in range of the shield, enemies will have their attacks canceled, be put into hitstun, and be forced away from you.
- Shield Canceling: Is simply the act of canceling hitstun into a shield. Newcomers often shy away from the shield button at first as they feel it is a "waste" of meter since Hyper attacks come equipped with their own shield durations. However, the most critical difference is that shielding can cancel hitstun. That means if you're currently being hit by an enemy attack you can press the shield button and activate a shield instantly to prevent further damage. This is incredibly important to master as it can truly mean the difference between a win or a loss. Cancelling hitstun with the shield button consumes one full meter stock, unlike normal shielding which only costs half.
- Hyper Shield Dispelling: When the opponent launches a Hyper, you can activate your shield to dispel their Hyper's invincibility, provided your shield makes contact with their's. It doesn't matter if it's an offensive or defensive shield.
The act of shielding can thus be defined into two categories;
- Offensive/Preemptive Shielding: If you shield when you are not in hitstun you only consume half a stock of meter. This is useful in a couple of key situations: When predicting or reacting to an opponent's hyper (since that burns a whole stock while you burn only half, you gain a meter lead), and for melee users in order for them to move in close and attack while protected from invulnerability.
- Defensive/Reaction Shielding: If you shield when you are in hitstun you consume one full stock. But as mentioned above, this is sometimes essential to gameplay, especially to save yourself from huge amounts of damage if your heat has run high. This cannot be used when you are in hitstun inflicted by an Accel Hyper.