Solid Game from a Lesser Known Name
3000th Duel arrives without the benefit of a generous marketing budget or the pedigree of a prominent developer. But those things shouldn’t dissuade you from seeking out this engaging and sporadically enraging new action-platformer from Korean developer NEOPOPCORN. Delve into the affordably priced title and you’ll discover responsive controls and a fluid framerate, which are indispensable during the game’s exploration and intermittent boss battles.
While the game’s visuals and play are proficient, storytelling isn’t one of 3000th Duel’s merits. The title admirably aims for a succinct set-up, with a mask-wearing protagonist suffering from amnesia. Expectedly, fragments of your backstory are drip-fed to the player via interactions with NPCs. But with a muddled translation and text that materializes on the screen far too slowly, exposition doesn’t offer much incentive for your quest. Instead motivation is rooted in a growing miasma of adversity, with Duel coyly prodding players to be more observant.
Hello, Save Point, My Old Friend
Undoubtedly, 3000th Duel does deliver engaging action. Begin reconnoitering the environment and quickly you’ll find many of the traditions of a Metroidvania. Moving through the game’s rooms and hallways gradually charts in-game map. Conveniently, elements like save points, upgrade statues, treasures, and bosses are highlighted, simplifying navigation.
Later on, you’ll probably wish that the developers were a bit more lenient with the frequency of portals. Although backtracking is a customary trait of the genre, fighting through enemies who respawn in the same places can be a bit of a chore. Alternatively, you can make the best of the forced labor, grinding your character up to even the odds of tough boss battle.
150 Different Enemies to Study and Kill
Duel offers the expected bestiary of subordinate baddies, who each behavior in their own way. Early on, you’ll encounter weak foes who shift back and forth, serving as little more that a determent. But steadily you’ll confront opponents that are larger and capable of inflicting substantial amounts of damage. But these too, seem like pushover against the game’s bosses.
These showdowns are the strenuous tests of mastery you might expect from the genre, requiring players to read each baddie’s gestures before reacting with razor-sharp reflexes. Unsurprisingly, there are a few of these fights that might cause exasperation, evoking the fun or frustration of games like Hollow Knight. Enjoyment hinges on patience, perception, and nurturing a protagonist that fits your play style. So, if these aren’t qualities don’t describe you, considering a bit of weapon-swinging action in a game like Tower Hunter: Ezra’s Trial.
Karma Doesn’t Take Care of Itself
While 3000th Duel’s tendency for gating meaning you’ll undergo a fairly linear experience, autonomy is found in the player upgrade system. Offensively, weapons are classified in blade, sword, or lance categories, respectively favoring speed, power, and reach and handling quite distinctively. Equippable objects extend a light role-playing-like system, where found items can augment your play style. Additionally, you can use karma farmed from defeated foes to upgrade four different stats. Curiously, Duel uses a single currency system, so you’ll also use karma to buy new weapons and items.
Issues from that design decision emerge when you are killed, which creates a karma orb at the site of the murder. Navigate back to where the ball is, fight it, and you’ll get your resources back. But if you are killed while you’re in route, the orb is replaced and your progress is undone. This can feel punitive when your karma ball ends up in a boss lair.
With a steady 60fps framerate and a multitude of lighting effects, looks great in motion. Visual treats like glowing weapon trails a Devil May Cry-like animation when karma is absorbed make Duel look less like an indie title than the efforts of an accomplished mid-sized studio. Sonically, the game’s orchestral soundtrack contains the tranquil interlude and swells that accompany a boss fight. But it’s lacks a bit of distinction and could probably be used in most action games.
3000th Duel likely won’t get the attention of Hollow Knight, which is saddening, since its action is nearly as polished. While the mid- to late-game difficulty isn’t for the challenge-avoidant, players who are looking for a Souls-like test of their abilities could do far worse.
3000th Duel was played on the Nintendo Switch with review code provided by the publisher.