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DNF Duel Review – Magic, Blades, Guns, & Combos

8.5
Reviewed on PC

Get your gloves on, and your sword at the ready, as we give you our full review of DNF Duel

DNF Duel popped up on my radar out of nowhere. I enjoy fighting games, but I’m far from a fanatic, focusing on the story and solo content over ranking in online matches. But when I saw DNF Duel, I was absolutely intrigued. Developed by the incredible team over at Arc System Works, now well known for Guilty Gear Strive among other titles, DNF Duel holds a similar visual style, which looks stunning and captivating.

Arc System Works teamed up with Neople, creators of Dungeon Fighter Online for this game. DNF Duel is directly related to Dungeon Fighter Online, however, DFO is more of a side-scrolling beat ’em up compared to the more traditional fighting style found in DNF Duel. Like similar games that Arc System Works has made before, DNF Duel is a way of bringing in both new and existing fans of the original game, and offering enough of a difference to make it worth your time.

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DNF Duel’s fair set of fighters is all based on classes in DFO. While they do have personality, they remain nameless, simply being known for their class title. However, each fighter’s style and personality ooze into their moves, and interactions, which are definitely equally both fun to watch and play as. In fact, DNF Duel’s roster is so interesting, that it’s the only fighting game where I didn’t actively choose my main before release.

DNF Duel Full Review Beserker

Every character is damn nonsensical. The Crusader is an almost tank-like character whose combos will make you say “holy hell”, whether he’s smashing down on opponents with a hammer the same size as him, or using a Cross to charge and smash through an enemy’s defense. Or, you have characters like Ghostblade, who uses a Katana along with a Ghost to decimate opponents with a quick flurry of strong attacks.

Having a simple set of four moves, along with directional inputs to offer varying styles, keeps the combat simple and focused.

There are plenty of great fighting games. In fact, it’s hard to even think of a bad fighting game within the last five years. Whether it’s NetherRealm, Capcom, or Arc System Works, it seems that most games these days are all solid contenders for the top spot. However, the question always comes down to longevity. Not every fighting fan can play all of these titles, so they need to hit the right notes and offer a low skill floor but a high skill ceiling for players to enjoy.

Thankfully, DNF Duel has started on the right foot. Instead of having standard combos, DNF Duel features four sets of attacks; Weak, Medium, Skill, and Magic Skill. The idea is to go from a Weak move to a Magic Skill move as a chain of moves, offering devastating blows when you use your Magic Skill. Having a simple set of four moves, along with directional inputs to offer varying styles, keeps the combat simple and focused. But like many other fighters, DNF Duel has the capability of being a worthy competitive title.

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Skill moves are completely free to use, while Magic Skill attacks cost Mana, which fighters can have up to 200 in their Mana bar during a match. If you use too many Magic Skills in quick succession, you’ll exhaust the bar, meaning it will take longer to recover. However, players can use Conversion, which will sacrifice some of your health bars for a quick Mana recovery. It’s a great, albeit underused mechanic which can turn a fight quickly. And combining all of these attacks, along with managing your Mana well, means you’ll have some fantastic and visually breathtaking fights against both CPU and other players.

DNF Duel Full Review Magic Skill

Fighters also get access to “Awakening”, which unlocks once they drop below 30% health. Using your Awakening ability will deal devastating damage to your opponent, bringing them to a similar health pool as yours. However, you need to make sure to land that ability, or you won’t be able to perform it again. The Awakening abilities look stunning, appearing similarly to many fighting games’ ultimate moves, providing a cutscene where your opponent (or maybe yourself) are getting dealt insane damage.

DNF Duel truly blends a great mix of easy and complex gameplay.

Each battle usually resorts to chaos, if it hadn’t been from the start. Expect to be pummeling a player in one moment, and being beaten into the ground the next. The first few days of DNF Duel are likely to be absolute madness, where fledgling players are learning how to enact insane combinations of attacks while veteran fighting gamers are calm, collected, and pulling off combos as no one has seen before. I imagine this will balance out over the course of the next week or two, but don’t always expect easy matches when you play online.

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But that’s part of the beauty of DNF Duel. It’s attempting to cater to everyone. And while that could be worrying to some, it seems that Arc System Works knows what it’s doing. DNF Duel truly blends a great mix of easy and complex gameplay, and I’m really excited to see as the player base gets more competitive. I, admittedly, haven’t had too much time in DNF Duel’s servers, but thanks to Rollback Netcode, every match I had was smooth and unfaltering.

DNF Duel Review Gameplay

As for single-player modes, players have a fair few options to get their DNF Duel action without having to play against someone who only plays this genre for a living. You have Story Mode, which is a set of fights that are split up by visual novel-style storytelling. It’s clear that DNF Duel’s narrative isn’t the highlight, because it’s pretty mediocre. But it does offer some insight into the lore of the universe, and a chance for players to practice before entering some tougher challenges.

The gorgeous visuals and stunning animations are a front for a surprisingly solid fighter that feels smooth as butter.

There’s also Arcade, which offers a bunch of different opponents and stages with increasing difficulty. And there’s an extremely fun Survival mode, that sees players surviving 15+ enemies and trading hard-earned scores for upgrades to damage, defense, Mana recovery or even refilling your health. Finally, there are some practice modes, like tutorials for individual fighters and a well-made practice mode that offers plenty of settings to mess around with.

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It’s all great going into details, but how does the game actually feel to play? Well, some characters are clearly better than others, and a few bits of jank and clunkiness within the design. There’s also the issue that movement seems pretty slow, even for lighter-weight characters who feel equal to tanker and bulkier characters in terms of speed. But I can’t lie and say that DNF Duel’s gameplay isn’t a joy to play. The gorgeous visuals and stunning animations are a front for a surprisingly solid fighter that feels smooth as butter. And having a lower barrier of entry compared to other fighters, even Guilty Gear Strive, means that it could have a larger audience.

Whether you’ve played a fighting game before or not, DNF Duel is an absolute blast to play, and one that I hope will be seen by the masses over time.

Performance-wise, DNF Duel ran pretty well on an average-level PC. While it’s unclear how well the game runs on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, I have heard that the game runs slightly better on PS4, weirdly. However, I expect this to be patched fairly soon, and I imagine that both platforms will run the game fairly well.

DNF Duel Full Review Gameplay

DNF Duel is perfect for a multitude of player bases. Whether you’re a player who enjoys watching fighting games and simply letting the chaos unfold, or you’re getting started in the genre and want to button mash. And, it seems that the game will lead to more competitive and complex matches as it grows an audience, as players find a method to the madness. I fit between the lines of newcomer and veteran, and DNF Duel has me hooked and hoping to play more within the coming days.

Overall, DNF Duel is a blend of everything that makes a fighting game great. It enters the market knowing that it hopes to entice players of every kind, with mesmerizing visuals and almost-lawless combat that can be both simple and complex in nature. Of course, the main issue with DNF Duel is whether the game can survive amidst plenty of incredible fighting games, but I hope that with word of mouth, and more reviews, DNF Duel could become a competent fighter in the space. Whether you’ve played a fighting game before or not, DNF Duel is an absolute blast to play, and one that I hope will be seen by the masses over time.

A review code was provided by the Publisher for the purpose of this review.

DNF Duel Review
Conclusion
DNF Duel is a beautiful, twisted, and chaotic fighting game that matches style and substance. With a blend of incredible visuals and solid gameplay, DNF Duel aims to be one of the best fighting games in the market, and if it can keep a solid playerbase, it could be a must-have for fans and newcomers alike.
PROS
Solid gameplay that's perfect for both fledgling fighting players and veterans.
Incredible visuals that perfectly fit the chaotic nature of each match
Online uses Rollback, which makes each match smooth
CONS
Narrative in Story Mode is fairly mediocre and forgettable
As always, longevity is a main worry
8.5
Reviewed on PC

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