Friday, December 11, 2009

Duel: The Art of Combat Review


If you've never read Lost Garden I recommend it as a deep thoughtful dive into the world of gaming. I happened to to be reading a couple recent articles about multiplayer gaming prior to playing several hours of Duel, which is a game that is best played with a friend.

Duel is a sideview combat game that has you in the role of a well-armed snake like (?) character. You're tossed into an arena with other snakey beings that are equally well armed with anything from ninja stars, to battle hammers, to rocket launchers. There's lots of weapons, no question. Duel: The Art of Combat isn't so much "art" as it's mayhem, and it's probably more of a run-and-gun than it is "duel." But I honestly have no issue with that - none at all really it's just an observation on the title.

There's a good deal to like about Duel so as usual I am going to run through some likes and then some dislikes and then try to make a recommendation on who will enjoy it.

Graphics often play heavy into the first impression, and I believe Duel sort of falls into the "good enough" category considering the price (240MP) and the platform. They aren't artistically high-end but the designer was smart to keep environments and characters simple and uncluttered. There is good depth from the 3D elements and the simple shapes offer easy to navigate arenas for fighting.

Speaking of navigation, it's important to point out a rather interesting mode of travel. The snakes not only have a beefy arsenal of weapons, but also have a grappling rope that can be used to whip around the levels. Honestly, it takes some getting used to and is a little counter intuitive when compared to the much slower 'walking' and jumping alternative, but once you learn to rely on it, it works quite well and greatly increases the pace and fury of the combat.

Other cool features include perks (like faster grappling, higher jumping, etc), power ups (basics like shield, health, extra damage), and unlocking ton of weapons to choose from. As you progress though the single player, I found this to be a nice light progression vehicle to keep me interested and content. There was always something a little new to chew on.

Duel really relies on two main components. Lots of weapons, and multiplayer action. If you like other sideview multiplayer combat games, this one will probably be up your alley too. The single player is fun, but probably won't extend beyond the 45 minutes or so it'll take you to plow through to the single boss. What you really need is a buddy to square off against, test different character builds, and have a face to rub your victories in.

One feature I found lacking was a way to monitor damage and weapon power. While I enjoyed testing out the many weapons, and trying different strategies from remote mines to sniper rifles, I really had no way to know how effective they were. It would have been nice to have either viewable enemy life bars, or weapons stats (or both) so that the many weapons seemed less arbitrary. When it came right down to it, while the minigun and the uzi were both fun, I had no real way to compare them accurately.

A couple other small hacks - the music was pretty bland and the story felt like a last minute add on. Seeing as these are not crucial to these genre's fun factor, those drawbacks didn't phase me as much as it could have. As mentioned, I believe anyone who likes this small-character-area-combat genre will find enjoyment from Duel: The Art of Combat. If you have a friend to play with, I'd recommend it - if your only option is single player, I'd see if the demo hits a positive chord with you first.

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