3000th Duel (PC) Review with stream
Solid art direction
Plays like Castlevania
Blind paths forward
Magic is pointless
Dark fantasy has always had a place in the hearts of many. One of the best examples of this type of setting in video games is definitely the Castlevania series. However, while the settings in those games is very much high fantasy with a darker twinge, the story is usually the same. Dracula, or someone just like him is making a ruckus, and a hero must kill him. 3000th Duel is taking a different approach to the genre by not front loading the story, and it’s a slow burn to the truth. The character here is instead a nameless, faceless, memoryless hero in an unknown land. You might the monsters to stay alive of course, but more than that – you fight to find the truth of yourself and your situation. Using dark powers, power scriptures, and different weapons will aid the hero on their journey to salvation (or ruin?) while battling the ever growing horde of evil.
Check out my live stream of this game here:
The setting is bit different from the games of the past, with a lot of it taking place not in some gothic castle, but out in the wild, or underground in some vast ruin. Dark colors abound with rich purples and blues in every shade are used to paint the dark world around you in the caverns, while rich greens and browns invite you into a forest of death. The camera is also a bit zoomed in, meaning your avatar take up a good chunk of the screen real estate, which is great to see, but harder to play because it means more blind leaps into enemy hands most of the time. This closeness to the character gives off a more “cutesy” feel to the hero, and the enemies, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing from person to person. I think it does take away from the dark, gritty feeling that the story and settings present, but it’s also a bit easier on the eyes for many, including younger players.
There does seem to be an appeal to a younger player not just in the character design, but in the gameplay as well. Controls are very simple, and the style of gameplay relies a lot on hacking and slashing your way through a tough enemy, instead of a complicated mix of armor and items. There are of course different weapons throughout the game, for instance, the sword means max damage, and the lance means max reach. This is great for lots of players to adapt their own play styles, but it also doesn’t hold a candle in terms of complexity to other games in the same vein. The controls are also a bit sluggish, and can interrupt the pace that players are used to from this kind of genre. The jumping is especially very floaty, and because you don’t gain powers quickly, instead gaining them over time it can be very annoying to not be able to move like you want to from an artificial restriction. Even something simple like not being able to jump out of a pit of spikes is very noticeable and takes you out of the game.
It is very clear that the people at NEOPOPCORN are fans of the Metroid-vania style of level/Map design, as they even use the same colors as an homage to that past. They have done a great job of trying to change the art style enough that it doesn’t break genre bounds, but still being different enough to not just copy what has come before. The adventure is fun, the enemies are interesting, and the weapons are cool so it’s hard not to recommend this piece, but I do wish it was faster, and they got to the point a bit quicker.