The Guard Break move replaces the kick from Dark Souls. After a short windup, the player delivers a backhand attack, stunning their target. If the target's shield is up, their guard is broken: they are stunned for a longer period of time, during which the player can perform a Frontal Riposte on them.
Guard breaking when unarmed or using a fist weapon is significantly faster than guard breaking with any other weapon, and can be accomplished with nearly all weapons.
The PC version of Dark Souls II is known to have issues when it comes performing jumping attacks and guard breaks. This is the result of issues with the adapted control scheme of the ported game.
When playing with keyboard and mouse the mouse buttons are used to perform attacks, but both light and strong attacks are bound to the same button, with the strong attack being activated by double-clicking the button. For that reason there is some input lag after pressing the button (while the game checks for the second input to determine whether to perform light or strong attack) which results in impossibility to perform guard break or jumping attack with keyboard and mouse (it's extremely difficult to press W at the right time).
The only safe way to perform the attack is by using keyboard buttons only (W+H in default scheme performs guard break).
The Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin version of the game has an option to disable double-clicking, thus removing the issue.
For some reason gamepad controls were adapted in such a way that it's extremely difficult to perform any of these attacks by pressing analog stick forward and holding the attack button (considerably more difficult than performing them in Dark Souls with gamepad) because the analog input is not recognized correctly in these situations. The exact reason for this issue is unknown.
The only more or less safe way to perform these moves with a gamepad is to use a gamepad mapping software (such as Joy2Key) and bind keyboard buttons to gamepad buttons: for example bind keyboard 'W' to gamepad RB, so that forward movement is activated when the attack button is pressed (Joy2Key doesn't suppress gamepad own input, so the attack function will also be activated). It would be a good idea to bind a 'shift' function to another button (e.g. A which is not otherwise used in combat) so that this guard break bind is only active while the 'shift'-button is pressed (so that regular attacks can still be performed by pressing RB).
This issue seems to be fixed (or at least noticeably alleviated) in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin.
Making Guard Break and Jump Attack work on PC with gamepad using Joy2KeyEdit
The following is information on how to make Guard Break and Jumping Attack work on PC when using a gamepad.
Note: The XInput controller uses the 'Xbox 360 Controller for Windows' driver. The DInput controller requires running an emulator for the game to recognize it, such as x360ce. The instructions below are provided using Logitech F310.
- Create a profile by clicking File - New. Give the profile a name; 'Dark Souls II (Guard Break)', for example.
- Go to Options tab and make sure that Number of joysticks to configure is 2, the Number of buttons is 10.
- Click on Stick/POV and choose Show all axes (8 way + POV x2). This allows configuration of triggers (as the jump attack is bound to a trigger which is an axis, not a button).
- Double-click Button 1 (gamepad A) on Joystick 1 screen (not Joystick 2!), click Special tab and under SHIFT function choose Joystick 2 in the dropdown menu. This creats a shift key. In the next stage we will bind guard break/jump attack functions to RB and RT, but we need to be able to use regular attacks as well. So, when the Shift key is held down, RB and RT will later function as guard break/jump attack, but otherwise they will be regular attacks. The A (Button 1) is used as the shift key in the example, because A is not used in the combat otherwise. Binding keyboard buttons to gamepad does not suppress gamepad's own input. So it's still possible to freely use A as interaction button and not feel the difference. This seems to be the easiest solution, but another button can be used. Note that this cannot be done without shift key if you want to be able to use regular attacks.
- Go to Joystick 2 (binds created here will only be active while we hold the shift key that we created in the previous step). Here double-click on Button 6 (that's RB) and in Keyboard tab click on the first line and press 'W' on keyboard. Click OK. Do the same for Axis5(<0) (which is RT). Why only bind 'W'? Because Joy2Key doesn't suppress gamepad input. So now when RB is pressed, the gamepad will simultaneously send the RB signal (attack) and keyboard W signal (forward movement) which will result in special attack. And all of that will only happen while the A button is held down on the gamepad.
- To make this setup only active while playing Dark Souls II, create a profile without binds that will be used for other games. Click File - New and create a profile (called 'Normal (no mapping)' in the example) and change nothing in it (can change number of buttons down to 10 and number of joysticks down to 1, but that's not important at all). There should be no binds here.
- Click on the Dark Souls profile, then click Settings - Associate Profiles with Applications (or press S and then A on the keyboard).
- In the Associate Profiles with Target Applications window first click Specify a default profile and choose the profile without binds that were created in step 5. After that click Add, and Association between Application and Profile window will appear (marked 3 in the screenshot). Enter Application Name (e.g. Dark Souls II) and choose the profile that was created in Associated Profile. Finally in Application Path + .exe filename, enter the file path to the Dark Souls II exe.
Note that it is possible to bind profiles to Steam games. Steam is installed in C:\Games folder with this example (though it may default to C:\Program Files).
After launching the game, hold down A on the gamepad, then press RB/RT to activate guard break/jump attack. It is not necessary to move the analog stick in this case. Unfortunately, it will not work 100% of the time, because of certain input lag (related to in-game FPS and how binding software works).