Review – 3000th Duel

Metriodvania’s have been popular for decades, while Souls-likes have taken the gaming world by storm only within this most recent one. The fast-paced nonstop action from these sub-genres allure many gamers. Hence why we have seen no shortage of these types of games over the years. Hundreds of these types of games have been released over time, with the more memorable titles having their own unique take on the genre to set themselves apart. Blasphemous is one such title that I had the pleasure of playing a little while back, which took the atmosphere and gameplay of Dark Souls and put it into a 2D setting. Now I have had another pleasant surprise with NEOPOPCORN’s 3000th Duel, which takes Souls-like combat and pairs it with a metroidvania fever pitch, level layout, and platforming.

In 3000th Duel, you play as an unnamed masked protagonist who has lost their memory. You know nothing except that in order to find answers, you must push forward. Along the way you’ll encounter a few characters who range from mildly informative to frustratingly silent. I will say that the storytelling in 3000th Duel is not one of its stronger points. Most of the game provides very little information and remains largely vague throughout its duration. Occasionally you’ll come across a forgotten memory of someone long since passed, but even these seem like random exposition dumps.

3000th Duel

Thanks for the encouragement.

There’s no voice acting in this game, but the sound design still stands strong. The sound effects are competently done and makes the combat even more fulfilling. The soundtrack fits the overall themes and aesthetics well. It ranges from somber and foreboding to appropriately epic during boss battles. Not every song is particularly memorable or hugely impactful, but it does a fair job setting the tone throughout the game.

Visually, 3000th Duel impressed me. It has really sharp, clean graphics with a slightly cartoony look. The art style fits this game well and even lends a certain charm to some of the enemies. I was also surprised by its solid 60 fps framerate. This game runs buttery smooth which is a blessing when fighting bosses or groups of enemies. My only complaint is that some of the areas, especially the backgrounds, can be a bit too simplistic and underwhelming. There is a noticeable difference between the main sections of the game, the boss arenas, and Save locations, which usually have a more impactful set design.

3000th Duel

Were these trippy lights always here, or is it the mushrooms kicking in?

The boss environments aren’t the only things that stand out. The bosses in general are far more interesting than the normal enemies. While 3000th Duel boasts having over one hundred fifty enemy types to fight, many of them are simply slightly altered versions of foes you’ll encounter over and over again. For the most part, much of the common enemies are fairly easy to beat, especially in the earlier sections of the game. They mainly feel like fodder used for leveling up rather than posing any real challenge.

The boss fights are on a whole other level, however. It can be a bit jarring at first to coast through large sections of the world with ease, only to encounter a boss that is not only massive in size, but exponentially harder than anything you’ll see before it. This is where 3000th Duel truly feels like a Souls game. You’ll have to spend time carefully watching their movements and timing in order to come up with a solid strategy to defeat them. These battles feel far more satisfying and are the shining point in the game.

3000th Duel

Prepare to taste my steel… if you have a mouth, that is.

That’s not to say the rest of the game is boring. There’s a lot of fun fast-paced metroidvania action to be had throughout the majority of the game. This is simply where you can truly feel the difference in the mix of gameplay styles. The bulk of the game is a hack ‘n slash metroidvania, with Souls-like boss battles, similar to Hollow Knight. Luckily, regardless of what you’re up against, the combat is engaging and well polished.

While 3000th Duel is mainly a hack ‘n slash platformer, there is still strategy behind the combat. You have a variety of weapons you’ll pick up in different categories: blades, broadswords, and lances. Blades are well-rounded, providing equal parts speed and attack power. Broadswords are slower, but far stronger than any other type of weapon. Lances are the weakest, but are fast and far reaching. You’ll have a lot of fun playing around with these different weapons and discovering which works best on different enemy types. The hits are very satisfying and swinging your weapon leaves a glowing trail like you would find in a Devil May Cry game, which is never a bad thing.

3000th Duel

Meet Shelob’s little sister, Shelop.

You’ll also be able to level yourself up and unlock new abilities by collecting Karma. Naturally, you accrue Karma by defeating enemies. If you are killed, however, you will lose all of your unused Karma, just like in a Dark Souls game. Also like those games, if you successfully make it back to where you were felled, you’ll be able to collect the floating orb that holds all of your Karma. That is of course unless you die again before collecting it, in which case your Karma is lost for good. Since I only seemed to die during the boss battles, this was never a big issue for me.

3000th Duel is a thrilling game that does a fair job of blending 2D metroidvania-esque action and platforming with Souls-like bosses and leveling up structure. It’s a beautiful game, even if not all of the environments are the most dynamic, and it runs incredibly smooth. The stark contrast in difficulty for bosses and normal foes can be a bit shocking at first, but you’ll quickly be able to enjoy to the carnage of the hack ‘n slash sections as well as the strategic intricacies of the boss battles. For fans of either of these genres, 3000th Duel is worth your time.

 

Graphics: 8.0

Nice, crisp graphics with a slightly cartoonish design. Backgrounds can be a bit bland at times. Animations are well done and bosses truly stand out.

Gameplay: 8.0

A nice blending of 2D platforming metroidvania style with Souls-like combat. The different weapons each have their own distinct feel and the hits are satisfying.

Sound: 8.0

The soundtrack fits the game well with the scores ranging from epic to foreboding.

Fun Factor: 8.5

While seemingly too easy in the beginning, there is a nice difficulty increase as you progress. The combat is somewhat simple, but still highly enjoyable. The normal enemies can be lackluster, but the bosses are fantastic.

Final Verdict: 8.0

3000th Duel is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of 3000th Duel was provided by the publisher.

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