Okay, let’s get this out of the way: I know it’s lazy to describe a game as a simple mashup of genres, but sometimes it just fits, as is the case of 3000th Duel. Take the visual presentation of a Metroidvania game and combine it with the gameplay systems of a Soulsborne game like Dark Souls, and 3000th Duel is what you end up with. Well, it’s what you end up with if you’re willing to make a few compromises while working with a presumably limited budget, anyway.
The good news is that the game itself isn’t bad! While it starts off fairly easy, the difficulty ramps up once you’ve cleared about a quarter of the map, and by that point you’ll be facing bosses that require some pattern recognition and understanding of the mechanics available to you, such as air dashing and slides. It only takes a few hits before…
Yup. You Burnt. This is how it’s going to be. And as you might expect, with burnination comes resurrection, and your experience points–Karma in this case–are left where your smoldering ashes remain. To be more precise, they take the form of an orb, which floats around where you died and the damn thing actually attacks you when you try to retrieve it (which can be a real pain in the ass in boss arenas)! You have to smack it three times to get the experience back, and as you would expect, if you die again on the way back, the orb is replaced by a new orb, and cannot be retrieved.
Fortunately, you have plenty of weapons and skills at your disposal. The game has three types of weapons: blades, which are versatile and have a spinning attack, heavy blades which are slow but powerful, and spears, with long range, but at a cost to mobility. All of the weapons feel weighty, powerful and satisfying to use, which again fits right in with the Soulsborne feel.
Leveling up is also exactly like in Soulsborne games, where you spend Karma to add a single point to one stat, and each subsequent level up costs a bit more. There is also a skill tree that allows you to focus on your favorite weapon type or play style, but you get to fill out most of it through normal gameplay. I went for a build focused heavily on strength and vitality so that my basic attacks would be powerful and I could take a few hits (because I’m bad), and I put an emphasis on blade weapons. Because of this choice, I didn’t have enough MP to frequently use my more powerful attacks, such as powerful weapon skills or the occult skills learned form monsters and bosses.
Still, my build worked out in the end, and I was able to completely finish the game with 100% of the map cleared in about 16 hours. A couple of those hours involved being lost and searching for the double-jump, but I suppose that’s business as usual in Metroidvania games. I eventually found a bouncy mushroom that I had overlooked, which propelled me new heights and a whole new zone with a boss guarding the powerup I was looking for. Still, a waypoint would not have gone amiss, as this was a rather frustrating waste of time during an otherwise enjoyable game.
As Metroidvania games go, this one has all of the staples. The map screen, for example, is made up of blue squares, with blocks for save points and teleport tiles. It’s even kind enough to place icons for treasure chests when you manage to find one that is out of reach! But with that kind of game design comes backtracking, and unfortunately, there are not nearly enough teleport rooms for my taste. It’s not unfair to say that the backtracking pads the game time significantly, even for a game in a genre where backtracking is par for the course.
I also spent quite a bit of time grinding for the bosses towards the end of the game. The bosses in the second half of the game are formidable to say the least, and there are at least a couple where I never did figure out the patterns to not get hit, and instead popped a couple potions to survive. Potions are somewhat expensive to acquire, and like in other Soulsborne games, the currency you use to level up is also the currency you use to buy items, and upgrade weapons and occult spells.
Still, my experience with most of the boss fights was ultimately positive. In fact, the single best thing about 3000th Duel is that in the second half of the game it successfully manages to replicate the kind of Soulsborne boss fight that at first glance seems unbelievably frustrating and unfair, but then ends up fun. It’s like something magical happens and the frustration itself gets turned into elation as you learn the patterns and strategies needed to survive. This is the best compliment I can give to 3000th Duel. I also really appreciate the placement of save points and shortcuts, which are just far enough apart to stretch your resources thin. This created several moments where I made it to safety with just a sliver of health, which is always fun, and very reminiscent of a Soulsborne game!
Unfortunately, there is quite a lot holding 3000th Duel back from its potential. For one, its visual style is a mixed bag. I enjoyed some of the backgrounds and a few of the more intricate bosses, but many of the enemies are visually simple and just not that interesting. It also doesn’t help that the enemies, particularly early in the game, have very basic patterns of movement. There’s even a little guy that does nothing more than run back and forth! Enemies can also get caught on the environment, making them easily exploitable and trivial at times.
I also found the music to be a problem. It wasn’t necessarily bad from a critical standpoint, but there wasn’t quite enough of it for the size of the game, and what was there was not exactly memorable.
Another problem is the writing, which has multiple typos, but can also be somewhat nonsensical, with strange sentence structure and word choice. This made it very hard to take the story and setting seriously, but I suppose these games are more about the gameplay itself, so that can be forgiven, if not overlooked.
Finally, the game itself is somewhat of a bare-bones package. I was able to 100% clear the game on my one and only playthrough, and there are no additional features whatsoever. 3000th Duel is a one-and-done game, unless you really want to play through the game again with a different build.
All and all, 3000th Duel is a competent blend of the two genres than inspired it, but is held back by its simple visuals, limited soundtrack, and poor writing. Still, it is fun overall, and I do recommend it for a once-through if you’re in the mood for this type of game. I went into this game knowing nothing about it or its developer, and I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised overall.
Ari played 100% of 3000th Duel in 16 hours. He received a copy of the game for free from Neopopcorn Corp.
+Difficult and fun boss fights
+Rewarding and challenging gameplay
-Bloated with backtracking
-Basic visual presentation
Available on: PC, Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: PC (Steam)