Over the last few years, the chance of coming across a decent fighting game has been null and void, to say the least. Being that there are no new major company releases and the ongoing pandemic has made it impossible to run physical tournaments, it just seems to have fallen into the abyss of gamingdom. Some day we will get Street Fighter 6 and hopefully, a new sunrise will rise on this genre of play style. However, only games like MultiVersus that are coming out will be a spark to the fighting game, until something better comes along.
Tossed into this void of gaming still life is the new game of DNF Duel. If you haven’t heard of DNF Duel you are not the only one since it is based on Dungeon Fighter Online which has popularity mainly in the Eastern countries. DNF Duel would be considered as a spinoff from free-to-play action role-player Dungeon Fighter Online, which despite being one of the most successful video games of all time is something most Western gamers have probably never heard of. South Korea, where the game is from, it’s known as Dungeon & Fighter, which is usually abbreviated to DNF – hence the name of this game. Now, Nexon has joined up with Arc System Works to bring the series to the fighting game genre with DNF Duel.
DNF Duel story mode isn’t anything too exciting, luckily the developers didn’t completely just cut and paste the ideas from other games. Each character must compete in the same battle of Will as portals open up and mighty warriors rise to collect the Will of the world, which is supposed to summon someone.
Now is this idea original or going to be the one aspect of this game that makes it one of the greatest of all time, Hell No, but it’s more than most other fighting games have done.
Furthermore, each character has a unique story that revolves around this concept. DNF Duel features a lineup of 16 characters, giving fans various fighting types to learn, no matter what their play style. The character pool is diverse, with aggressive melee and ranged classes. There are also a few mid-characters. However, even though their stories are unique, the finish is almost the exact same for each character. For me it was a huge letdown, I was hoping for a reason to keep playing each character to get a different and specific finish to the game.
DNF Duel seems to lean more into the gameplay of those players who should I say are more tactical fighters instead of button smashers. There are systems that allow for some HP recovery after blocking damage, along with an easy retreat and dash motion. Counters are a significant part of fights, with an added opportunity to execute a critical hit. Now, depending on which character you are playing, buffs and debuffs are also available. You will have some form of elemental damage being a factor to take into each match. On the surface level, the general matchups are fun, given the various aspects of any given character that must be considered. Still, there’s no real downside to booting up the game and learning on the go.
Each character shares general combo actions with attacks tied to face buttons and a directional press, but it doesn’t get overly fancy. So I think that the developers wanted to make a game that anyone from the age of 5 years old and up can pick up the game and start having fun. However, high-level players can take advantage of things like block counter and combo cancels, but you won’t need that if you’re just playing through the Story Mode.
I do think that there should be more of a balance between the characters in this game. Ranged characters are exceptionally annoying as they can take down foes from a distance in an attempt to get the easy win. I would say that it would compare to Street Fighter and you just do a leg sweep on repeat. Now, I will say that I really enjoyed the combination play style. Launching characters in the air, juggling, and all follow-up attacks feel seamless and tied to your understanding of MP usage as you chain together attacks with the specials. It’s beautiful in execution, but I loved how many fights came down to the wire. It’s possible to turn the tide of a fight even if you have a sliver of HP left, thanks to the systems that allow players to easily switch between defensive and offensive play.
Of course, being that this game is from Arc System Works, there are deeper systems lying under the surface of the water, so to speak. There are all the expected special moves, that are unique to each fighter, but also some systems inspired by Dungeon Fighter Online. Damage taken comes in two flavors: white and red. The former will slowly return if you block, but most special attacks deal red damage, which cannot be recovered. Another consideration is that you have an MP bar, as well as health, which powers its own special moves and also recovers slowly over time. However, you can choose to exchange some health for more MP, which is an obvious risk but works in conjunction with the Awakening mechanic, which allows you to perform a unique special when your health falls below 30%.
DNF Duel has so much to offer fighting game fans. The stylish roster of characters pairs well with the exciting and accessible combat system. There isn’t much here for casual fans looking for offline content, but mastering any of the characters opens the door for competitive online play. Like most fighting games, this is a title that will live and die by its community, and luckily it’s one hell of a fun game. DNF Duel is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, and Steam for $49.99, and I believe that for any fighting fan this should be a pick-up and play-now kind of game.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of DNF Duel for PC provided by Arc System Works.