I know the phrase ‘Souls-like’ is a bit overused in the world of video games, but sometimes it’s simply the best way to describe a game. It’s certainly the case with 3000th Duel, the 2D adventure from devleoper NEOPOPCORN that has just made its way to the Nintendo Switch, bringing with it an enjoyable gameplay experience that was clearly inspired by From Software’s brutal series.
The best way to describe 3000th Duel is as a typical 2D Souls-like. You’ve got your minimalistic plot that encourages the player to uncover details themselves, you’ve got your nasty bosses that provide stern tests for the player, and you’ve got your collectible currency that disappears if you get killed – you know, typical hallmarks of the genre. It doesn’t offer anything that you wouldn’t have seen before, but for the most part its more than competent in everything it does, so it’s hard to complain too much.
3000th Duel’s 2D exploration and combat against standard enemies is easy going for the most part, with no overly complicated platforming expected from the player or nasty enemies lurking around that are going to cause you too much fuss. The bosses on the other hand were a lot more challenging and stood out as the highlights of the game, with each not only providing a stern test but looking impressive in design with their hulking size. I really found myself looking forward to each encounter, whilst the variety of bosses on offer ensured players have to be creative in their approach when learning their attack patterns and how to evade them.
Whilst the boss battles are impressive though, everything in-between just felt a little bit too ordinary. There was nothing too special about 3000th Duel’s world, with no real focus on exploration and unravelling the environment’s secrets but instead simply reaching the next boss. It’s a shame because the game’s combat mechanics are strong, even when facing off against standard enemies.
3000th Duel’s combat varies depending on the weapon type you’ve got equipped, with three different varieties in the game: swords, broadswords, and lances. Swords are quick, broadswords are powerful, whilst lances have good range, so the best choice of weapon will typically come down to the player’s preferred playstyle. Attack-wise though, they all generally feel the same with basic attack combos strung together with ease, whilst the more powerful charge attacks and the mortal blows dish out some extra damage when utilised efficiently. On the defensive side, you’re only able to dodge, so you’ll always want to be aware of your environment around you when trying to get out of the way of enemy blows. It’s all simple but fun, and ensures that battling in 3000th Duel remains entertaining throughout.
As mentioned, you’ll collect a currency in 3000th Duel known as karma, which effectively acts as the game’s equivalents of ‘souls’. You can spend this karma to improve your stats in-game, with traditional attributes such as vitality, strength, mind, and activity (stamina) all improvable to make yourself a more efficient warrior. Karma can also be spent in the in-game shops, but I focused on levelling up when possible. Still, if you want some of those high price weapons, you’re going to want to save some karma – and, of course, make sure not to die too often.
That’s right; in true Souls-like fashion, when you die you lose all of your collected karma. Thankfully, you’re able to collect it again by visiting the point of your death, so it’s not too much of a burden – as mentioned, 3000th Duel isn’t too tough of a game outside of its boss encounters, so re-gathering lost karma isn’t too difficult of a task. It does emphasise the risk-and-reward vibe of 3000th Duel though, so you’ve always got to make sure to be careful and not slip up. It adds to the tension of the experience and ensures that the stakes are always high when encountering the game’s big baddies.
3000th Duel is a fun experience that fans of Souls-likes are sure to enjoy, but it doesn’t do anything that really makes itself stand out in the crowd – especially since similar titles such as Salt and Sanctuary and Hollow Knight are better examples in the genre that are already available on the Nintendo Switch.
With its enjoyable combat mechanics and great boss battles though, there’s still plenty to enjoy in 3000th Duel. It might not be the best 2D Souls-like available on the Nintendo Switch, but it’s still one that’s worth checking out.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC