DNF Duel is an achievement in accessible fighting game design

DNF Dueling Exam

Developer: Arc System Works, Eighting, Neople | Editor: Nexon, Neople Gender: Struggle | Platforms: Playstation 4/5, PC | Reviewed on: computer


When Nexon first announced that it would be collaborating with Arc System Works to develop a fighting game based on dungeon fighter online, the answer is a bit mixed. Arc System Works is arguably the best fighting game studio in the industry right now, but working with an IP that has a niche audience, huge as that IP is, hasn’t ignited the fighting game community. Fast forward a year and a half later, however, and there’s no doubt that DNF Dueling earns its place as one of the most accessible and polished releases the studio has had so far.

The basics

DNF Dueling is a 1v1 2.5D fighter with an emphasis on combos and counter management. Instead of using complex inputs, DNF Dueling offers a few risk-reward systems that keep every fight entertaining while maintaining a welcoming control scheme for newcomers. Understanding how moves work and what each entry does is easy with a comprehensive tutorial mode that showcases everything from universal mechanics to character-specific combos and abilities.

This also translates to the list of commands that can be displayed at any time during offline combat; not only is there a full explanation of each move with a mini video showing it in action, but the inputs will reflect which control method you are using. For anyone who’s ever tried to get into a classic fighting game franchise and needed to consult an online guide to understand how combo lists translate to actual buttons, this should come as a welcome surprise.

Image: Nexon

For those who might be put off by the simpler entries and one-button promotions, rest assured that the skill cap of DNF Dueling is incredibly high thanks to a few unique mechanics. First, players deal two types of damage: white and red. Standard attacks, grabs, skills, and guard cancels will all partially deal white damage, and all white damage is gradually restored over time. Only MP Skills and Awakening Skills can convert this white damage to red damage, which is permanent. This creates a dynamic flow for each battle where entire combo chains can early on be rendered useless if the fighter is unable to land MP skills and convert that damage before it is replenished.

Next, how DNF Duel approaches counter management. MP skills can still be used as long as there is a certain amount of MP left; there is no waiting for the gauge to level up to perform certain moves like in most fighting games. However, when an MP skill is used that takes more MP than is available, it results in a state of exhaustion. This takes away the ability to use any MP move for several seconds, severely limiting options in the heat of battle. Additionally, players can use Conversion to convert white damage to MP and fill up their gauge. Risking health regeneration for the meter is a gamble, but that only makes it more exciting when it pays off.

Finally, a major focus is placed on the late game thanks to DNF Duel’s awake state mechanic. Not only is this the only time flashy ultimate moves can be used, but being Awakened also grants special bonuses to normal attacks. Whether it’s Ranger attacks having the ability to inflict debuffs or Striker attacks increasing their base damage, it’s essential to know that each fighter’s Awakened boost is key to adjusting your playstyle in the second half of the fight.

Ranger game
Image: Nexon

A fighting spirit

For as much in layers as DNF Dueling The combat mechanics are, they, suffer from a lack of emblematic characters. dungeon fighter online is absolutely huge in Korea, but player characters aren’t named – they’re based on classes, like Striker, Ranger, Grappler, etc. This was translated into the game; no one has a proper name outside of a handful of characters in the story mode. Instead of trying to reinvent the existing dungeon fighter online characters in the upcoming Sol Badguy or May, Arc System Works, and Eighting chose to lean into their more class-based nature. This would normally have ended up making the roster of 16 fighters look rather generic, but thankfully a well-crafted story mode saves the day.

Fighting games are somewhat infamous for having lackluster stories or single-player content in general, but that’s far from the case in DNF Dueling. Not only does it feature a story mode that strings together a cohesive narrative, but it’s also delivered beautifully using a pseudo-visual novel-style presentation.

Each storyline follows the same basic premise of a fighter being transported to an alternate dimension through warp gates known as Marvels. They are all tasked by an angel to seek out the others who have the Will (a special fighting spirit) and defeat them, absorbing the loser’s Will in the process. What sets this type of repetitive story mode apart from, say, KOF XV, is the amount of work it takes to give each fighter a personality and identity outside of those main story beats. Story mode helps establish DNF Dueling list as being more than just archetypes by giving them backstory, motivation, and fully voiced scenes (in Japanese).

History of DNF Duel Grappler
Image: Nexon

In fact, the story mode is part of a transparent skill ladder. The story mode battles are all easy enough to allow players to get used to each fighter. In arcade mode, bots are a bit tougher on default difficulty (especially the final boss) and there’s the added stakes of having your score reset if you lose a match. Finally, survival mode is a true test of character mastery and match knowledge, with each fight becoming progressively more difficult over the course of 15, 30, or 45 matches. The moment you smash the races in survival mode, there is no doubt that you are ready for online gaming. This steady stream of progression is perhaps the most satisfying I’ve experienced in the genre, especially since understanding each fighter’s backstory is baked into the experience from the start.

Online play is stronger than most thanks to a clever rollback netcode implementation and a good list of player filters (by region, rank, etc.). Player matches use the same setup of “chibi sprites walking around 3D environments” that Dragon Ball Fighter Z uses, but ranked matches are strictly menu-based and get players into the action right away. Players have the option to start at the bottom and move up the ranks or start playing at a higher level and move down if they’re not up to it, which is definitely a good option for veterans of the game. FGC.

The simplicity of the ranking system and the win percentage displayed on the player card (this can be removed for those wishing to keep it private) naturally taps into the competitive desire to improve percentages, and it works quite well. Unfortunately, online play was the only area where I encountered a bug, and a serious problem: when playing ranked on PC, I was unable to accept, decline, or request a rematch. The screen just stayed on the winning animation until the timer ran out and we were both kicked back into matchmaking.

online gamer lobbies
Image: Nexon

A nice package

just like Guilty Equipment Effort, Granblue Fantasy Versusand Dragon Ball Fighter Z before that, DNF Dueling is one of the most beautiful fighting games on the market. Not only do the fighters themselves drip with incredibly smooth and vibrant animation, but the scenes also feel alive and bustling with activity. The master animators at Arc System Works even added little touches to the backgrounds of the scene, like a mother and daughter walking together holding hands in the middle of a city, or the wind blowing wildly around the city. exterior of an airship sailing through a cloudy night sky. Even if the level of detail is not enough match what they were able to achieve with Striveit is nonetheless an absolute treat to watch.

From the incredibly sleek menu design to the neatly constructed offline skill ramp, there’s just a ton of polish here that fans have come to expect from an Arc System Works release. The mechanics are easy to understand thanks to more simplistic entries and detailed tutorials, but the skill ceiling is very high for those who want to spend time. Perhaps best of all, in a genre that’s notorious for skimping on the single-player mode. contents, DNF Dueling offers players an interesting story mode, a surprisingly deep survival mode, and tons of additional artwork and music that can be unlocked through in-game currency. This is an undeniably solid first outing for a spin-off , and hopefully it will do well enough to warrant a season or two of DLC.


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