DNF Duel Review: Definitely No Frills

by Chris Camilleri
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Fighting Games are usually their own franchise, with a legacy built throughout the years and a series of titles which spans a large number of entries along the course of the lifetime of the game. Recently, however, we may be seeing some changes in this trend with the announcement of Riot Games’ upcoming fighter codenamed Project L and the release of DNF Duel, a spin-off of famous MMO DFO – Dungeon Fighter Online.

An open beta for the game was announced and released back in December of last year, coming out of the blue as there wasn’t a big marketing stint for the title or the fighting game. Following the success of Guilty Gear Strive releasing earlier in the year, DNF Duel Beta included Rollback netcode from the start, and that attracted a lot of players to try the game out, albeit the beta being console only. This beta ended up generating a lot of interest from the Fighting Game Community, and with the second beta this interest turned into expectancy, as more and more people were eager for the game to release.

DNF Duel’s release was highly successful as well. In fact, one may argue it was more successful than imagined as the game blew up on Steam and on Twitch, reaching more than 12,000 concurrent players and a peak audience on Twitch reaching similar numbers as well. The game is surely great viewer material as it is very colourful and the moves and combos all look amazing in motion. DNF Duel is also incredibly easy to get into and learn, as together with motion inputs like the quarter circle motion and the Z-like DP [dragon punch] input, it features a single button input for all moves. This has had mixed reception since not everyone appreciates having your opponent potentially ruining your momentum with a one-button dp, but the small uproar has already calmed down and people have come to terms with the mechanics pretty quickly.

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As mentioned briefly before, the inputs in DNF Duel are one of its strongest features to welcome new players in. The varied cast is another important factor to attract new people to the scene. All 16 characters offer something different in terms of gameplay and special moves, and it’s very likely that people will all find someone to their liking given the uniqueness of every playable fighter. The names may not be as unique, however, but that is because they are the classes from the original game, Dungeon Fighter Online.

Getting into a game is really easy then; there are a number of game modes to play which are standard in fighting games: Story mode, Arcade mode, and Survival are the base single-player modes, to which there is obviously Training mode. Training modes in DNF Duel are quite fleshed out, with the option of training or a tutorial, which is split into three sections: an actual tutorial for beginners of fighting games, explaining the core concepts of fighting games. The second section is probably the one which will be the most popular, the combo trials. There are eight individual trials for every single character in the game, ranging from quite easy to hard. Unfortunately, even with a higher difficulty, not all of these combos are viable in an actual game, but they do help players get an understanding of the basic inputs required and the timings to pull off combos in a game.

The third training category, Challenge, is made up of actual moves you are requested to pull off against the CPU, like anti-airing them successfully. Again, this is a basic level but it helps beginners learn quite quickly what is expected in a fighting game, so from that aspect DNF Duel is very beginner friendly. It is a little ironic then that the training mode for DNF is a little underwhelming. Side swapping is not available, so to practice a particular situation you need to arrange yourself; jump over the opponent for a side switch, carry them to the corner, you name it. It is honestly very minor issues but when labbing something repeatedly for hours, it can get a little tedious.

Getting to the nitty gritty of the game, we move on to the hardcore element of the title: online. The online portion of any fighting game has become its major selling point, and the netcode type has become a top priority. Luckily, DNF Duel adopted Rollback netcode ever since the first beta it was available to the public, and the connection feels great. It easily compares and potentially beats other rollback fighters already available like Guilty Gear Strive or BlazBlue Central Fiction, which is quite huge given the amazing feedback these two games got for their rollback implementation.

Ranked in DNF Duel is matchmaking based, so you sit in a queue and wait for the game to match you up with a potential opponent, whom players will know nothing about until they accept. This is a double-edged sword, as while it will not let people refuse games out of spite, it can still force people to play leavers or rage quitters, which detracts from the experience a lot. While queuing players can do a variety of things such as go to training mode, do combo trials or even survival mode to kill the time efficiently.

The other portion online is comprised of Player Lobbies, which are quite handy and can host a number of simultaneous matches at one time. Player Lobbies are really good at gathering a bunch of friends in one spot and taking turns beating each other to a pulp. The essence of fighting games is competing with friends, and having the ability to get a number of fights taking place at the same time is a great feature in DNF Duel. Sadly enough, there are no big public lobbies in the game, so if you do not really have people to play with, either you dive into someone’s lobby out of the blue or go into ranked. The latter mode may be a little bit too stressful when players just want to wind down, so that ends up in an unfortunate scenario for the player.

All in all, DNF Duel is a very solid addition to the Fighting Game scene, and its reception will make sure that the game will be quite featured until the end of the year. The incredibly easy nature and how straightforward it feels are two very strong features that will enable anyone to pick up the game with unparalleled ease. Arc System Works is also supporting the title in a big way as well, making it the second official Arc World Tour title alongside behemoth Guilty Gear Strive, with a combined $200,000 prize pool being awarded at the next Arc World Finals, scheduled sometime in March in 2023.

This support is surely what the game needs to thrive and flourish, and coupled with the community’s events it surely has all the makings of another success story. The big question is how long will the developers support it, and will they address the current issues that affect it? This remains to be seen but for now, all one needs is to grab a controller and duke it out, DNF Duel is the perfect game for that!

DNF Duel is available on PC and PlayStation now. Check out the game page on Steam!

And for more gaming reviews, be sure to check out our full section HERE.

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