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Now that guard impacts require a full soul meter to perform, their utility seems to have flown out the window. They aren't even improved from in the previous games, where through them out was completely free.

Guard Impacts were a big part of my game, and now I am having trouble figuring out how to initiate an attack against an aggressive opponent. Are there any generic strategy changes that would help me, being an old player of the Soul Calibur franchise, adapt to this new system? Are there any new tricks that were added to the game to compensate for the decreased utility of Guard Impacts?

Edit: After playing a bit more, I have noticed I seem to be blocking too much. My health bar is often flickering yellow or red, and it's because I don't know exactly how to deal with an aggressive offense without Guard Impacts.

Edit 2: All the answers so far are focusing on how to use the new Guard Impact. While this is good information, it's not what I'm primarily asking for in the question. I want to know what my other options are that don't require any soul meter to employ, with a specific emphasis on strategy.

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BTW, I think the guard impacts only require half of a soul meter. –  Maxx Feb 10 '12 at 18:18
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Maxx already gave a good answer for when to use Guard Impact so I'll focus on how to play without it.

This is coming from someone who played semi-seriously for months before starting to incorporate GI in SC4.

The first thing to know is your character's fastest moves. It's often just a straight horizontal hit. After that it's a matter of knowing your opponent's attacks and knowing when there's going to be an opening. There's always going to be some time interval either in between or at the end of a combo where you can get in a quick swing,by which I mean you can safely do attack, not necessarily that it will land unblocked. Even if your counter attack is blocked, at least now you're on the offensive.

I've only played SC5 once so far, but it seems like Just Guard gives you a slight edge where you might be able to get in a quick attack before the opponent has a chance to block in some cases, but it comes down to knowing your opponent's moves and how to react to them.

Also some moves have a higher tendency to supersede the opponent's attack than others. I know in general a vertical hit usually cancels out a horizontal hit. Some moves are also faster than the initially appear. I know personally I've found moves that I previously disregarded as not useful turned out to quite useful as they are faster than their animation would make it appear. I think it's an issue of our mind typically watching the time between the start and end of a swing, rather than the time between the start and the time of impact, which may happen well before the end of a swing.

Finally there's a rule of any pretty much any competitive game that has a meta-game component: Set up expectations, then break them. Repeat a pattern until the opponent figures it out, then break the pattern with something that counters what the opponent's going to do to counter you. For example, lots of characters usually have variations on combos, so there's mid-mid-low, repeat that a couple times, then occasionally throw in mid-mid-mid. They'll go to block the low and get slammed with the mid at the end (bonus points if it's a ring out!). It's like in Starcraft, making your opponent over-commit to anti-air, then coming in with a big ground army instead.

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I was pretty heartbroken over this change as well.

  1. The guard impact is actually improved in this version. It's easier to perform and it deflects low and high attacks. My advice would be to avoid using it unless you're certain it will give you an advantage.

  2. Just guard has been added to the game in place of the old guard impact. It does not require any special meter to perform and can be done against any attack except a critical edge (even ublockables). To perform a just guard tap guard as quickly as possible between the time your opponent starts an attack and the time it connects.

In regards to actual Guard Impact strategy, what I have found works for me is saving them until those critical times when both you and your opponent are down to the last hit and tension is high. If there is distance between you, a lot of people will attempt a run slide, or a run attack (if they suspect a slide is too obvious).

The gist is that in those instances the simplest way to win is to score that one hit the opponent isn't expecting. The beauty of the new Guard Impact is that it deflects low and high attacks all the same. Wait for them to throw an attack and easily shrug it off with a GI. This leaves your opponent with one option: throw their own GI or get killed. Most close matches can be decided with a moderately well timed GI.

EDIT: I noticed that if you just guard a slide (and some low kicks?) it will actually hurt your opponent (once I even got a ring out as a result of using a guard impact). This makes it perfect for the end of the match when tensions are high.

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It's good to know about just guards, but they don't seem particularly reliable, especially in online play (which, although much improved, still isn't the best situation to rely on just inputs). I don't think this answer covers the general strategy portion of the question, however, so if you have anything relating to that, it would be much appreciated. –  StrixVaria Feb 9 '12 at 21:18
    
I believe that unlike guard impacts in soul calibur 4 which was done by pushing forward and guard within 0.25 seconds of the actual strike, the fact that just guard has to be done ahead of time allows it to work much more reliably online where lag can be a factor. Regarding strategy of GIs, I'll update my actual answer. –  Maxx Feb 10 '12 at 18:11
    
Also keep in mind that a lot of characters have GI's built into their moveset now, though they seem to be limited to high/mid attacks. Cervantes, Zwei, Leixia come to mind with strong built-ins. Moves that existed before, like in the case of Cervantes, also feel a lot more responsive compared to the versions represented in 4. –  TheQ Feb 10 '12 at 18:23
    
That is a really useful portion on when to use guard impacts, and I'll definitely make use of that information, but the core of the question is how to fight the rest of the battle, without using guard impacts. –  StrixVaria Feb 10 '12 at 19:01
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JG does not use energy and is easier to pull off. Guard Impact now stuns the opponent for a half second allowing you to seize the initiative. Both can be used to block attacks, but only GI will stun your opponent.

I think if your going to use GI, you should really be trying to capitalize on the stun effect. If your just trying to avoid taking damage, then use JG.

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