DNF Duel – EXP OPs

Experience/Opinions – Not quite a review. Not quite a preview. When you jump into a beta and experience something else.

Chances are you’ve never even heard of DNF Duel and are even less likely to have heard of Dungeon Fighter Online which the fighter is based on. DNF Duel is being made largely by Eighting and if that company doesn’t sound familiar then the Bleach: Heat the Soul series and Marvel vs. Capcom 3 should. The co-development with Arc System Works shows in the games visuals but this is very much an Eighting show with Arc assisting and Neople providing the Dungeon Fighter Online assets. With the Open Beta for DNF Duel coinciding with the 2nd King Of Fighters XV beta it was facing some stiff competition but did the jazzy character trailers that launched beforehand build up enough hype? I’m happy to report that the word of mouth resulted in a lot of fun.

If (like me) you signed in early at 2am to have a go, the beta got off to quite a bumpy start. You couldn’t connect to lobbies, the menus would visibly vanish and the connection kept dropping out. Once this issue was fixed the menus were never much fun. From the start there was no simple “quick play” option with the annoying 3D anime lobbies that are in almost every fighting game Arc System Works is involved in made mandatory. A plethora of options and no simple way to just list the rooms but bizarre options such as ‘Random’ for which type of room you want to join. Hopefully this side of things will be ironed out by the launch because it was such a mess that it was really the only big issue the beta had all weekend.

For a 1vs1 fighting game beta DNF Duel had a lot of playable characters. You could pick from Hitman, Ranger, Berserker, Crusader, Striker, Vanguard, Inquisitor, Dragon Knight, Grappler and Kunoichi. What was absolutely wild about DNF Duel is how every character was fun to play. I cannot thing of any other fighter where I’ve enjoyed the mechanics and setup for every character on the roster before. As with many other players, I eventually found myself gravitating to one or two towards the end but I would still swap out to another from time to time. It’s bonkers how enjoyable the core game is while still having unique feeling characters.

There’s a lot of content in the beta for DNF aside from the characters. You could customise your profile ID in various ways, use alternate colours, a handful of stages and the 3D rooms had separate avatars and reactions as well. DNF Duel defaulted to Korean voice actors and had options for Chinese and Japanese. The thing is, all of this was just icing on the tasty cake that was the main fighting game at its core. The rollback netcode was superb and despite the early network issues by the end of the weekend it was running fantastically. Despite the janky marketing (especially in the UK where most people were googling beta times) there were always rooms running and plenty of people jumping back in for one quick go.

Fighting in DNF Duel is pretty simple to begin with. Every character has a HP bar and an MP bar for specials. Special attacks are simple with a direction and button akin to Smash Bros but unlike Smash the ability to combo is silky smooth. Once you start to get to grips with what works and how the HP can be converted to MP mid-combo it really becomes a flashy fighter with plenty of wallop. DNF Duel also has the MK11 style of big super that can only be pulled off when at low red-health and catching people out with this was a great way to turn the tide in a losing battle. The only thing it was missing was a little rock track while these animations played out as they were as flashy as a Guilty Gear finisher or BlazBlue Astral Finish.

To say I’m incredibly hyped for the launch of DNF Duel is an understatement. This feels like the game I wanted Guilty Gear Strive to be. Jump in, have some fights, do something else and go back for more. It’s incredibly accessible while still being deep to get into. Visually it pops, slashes and explodes with style. The only thing lacking in the beta was any decent music but given the game is due out next year we’ll see if there’s anything more to add on launch. It’s a shame it’s another Japanese fighting game is shunning the Xbox as it would be a day one purchase for me if it was on there to but I can tell you now, I’ll be looking out for DNF Duel on PS4. After all, The seeds of volition bring forth a challenger.

DNF Duel is out on PS4 / PS5 / PC in Summer 2022 check out a short clip of gameplay footage here!

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