I didn’t quite know what to expect when I booted up Duck Life: Battle; an adventure, by all accounts, that’s crammed with mini-games, combat, and mild exploration. On paper, it sounds quite endearing, and the cutesy design certainly complements that impression, but in practice, the whole affair is perhaps a little too shallow, a little too simplistic, and a little too repetitive for its own good. There’s not much of a story premise present, in fact, this is one of those games that you can overlook its story and still pull the same sort of experience.
Following character creation, the game opens up with a brief introduction; several ducks worshiping a monarch (that’s you) before being swept away to a new land via a towering tornado. Once that’s out the way, it’s onto business. The game’s world is broken into several areas, most of which are inaccessible until you’ve completed a specific task or gathered some quest items. It’s a relatively straightforward trek overall. Dotted throughout the land sits a bunch of sporadic ducks that you can interact with in more ways than one.
A handful of these will guide you as to what you need to accomplish to further advance into the game, with the remainder gearing up to battle you once you engage with them. Outside of that, each area, whilst fairly small in scope, sports its own necessities. For instance, in area one, you’ll have access to a shop and a training dojo, whereas in area two, you’ll find the same, but the addition of a tournament showdown. The game does a fair job of keeping things quite diverse with the little content it houses, but repetition does sink in all the same.
The problem doesn’t so much sit with its content variety, but with the fact that it all tends to rest on the same sort of functionality, ultimately making for a very samey-samey adventure. Either way, that’s how the game unfolds; you’ll move from area to area, engage with the locals in a few different ways, all whilst collecting or accomplishing a handful of tasks along the way. The first thing to note, and the first gripe I have with the game, is that movement is sluggish and far too slow. Seriously, are we playing as ducks here, or snails?
You’re only able to move around the map in four directions, and rather than walk, your duck will hop towards wherever you are facing. The process is tedious, and makes getting from area to area a slog. I’m not sure if this was a design choice to stretch out the length of play, but in truth, it only serves to annoy. The aim of the game is to bolster your duck’s capabilities, which you’ll do through interacting with mini-games and buying gear from each area’s store – using the coins you’ll earn during mini-games, or found around the world map.
The gear tends to consist of weaponry, head-wear and clothing, all of which will improve your base stats in one way or another; more attack power, better resistance against the elements, and more besides. You can indeed upgrade gear with more gold, to which this will bulk up the stats per-gear piece. Your main stats, however, can only be improved via taking on mini-games. These stats consist of health, speed, power, defense, and special. You’ll improve these over in the training dojo found in each area. Like I said, it’s easy to digest.
When visiting the training dojo, you’ll be free to select which stat you want to improve. Once selected, you’ll then be taken to a mini-game. Success in your selected mini-game will improve the stat that it’s based on, and for each new area you visit, you’ll be able to bolster any stat by a total of twenty levels. This means that by area one, you’ll be able to boost your stats (health, speed, power, defense, and special) to level twenty, and by area two, level forty, rinse and repeat until you hit max level. It’s mandatory that you keep your stats up.
Failing to do so means that you’re likely to get your feathered ass handed to you by the ducks that want to battle you; which is often necessary for progression – that, and each area tends to see ducks rising in capability and strength. So far, the framework of play is well set, even if extremely basic. Sadly, it’s from hereon out in which things start to drastically fall apart. Everything from the game’s vast mini-games, right through to the combat itself, is horrendously underbaked, and wholly boring. Seriously, it’s a huge, huge drawback.
The mini-games are painfully tedious, and revolve around the likes of button mashing in correspondence to a sequence, flapping a duck through a terrain full of mines, jumping over snakes for as long as you can hold out, and other depth-less, meaningless tasks. Further to that, hitting max level per game can be done in a matter of minutes, and once there, you’ve no reason to go back and play them (not that you would want to) again. It just doesn’t sit right. Games that house countless mini-games should be fun, but here, they just aren’t.
Regardless, once you obtained gold from mini-games and used it to buy gear, as well as improving your base stats, you’ll be ready to dive on into the battles. Don’t expect any actual combat, because you wont be getting that here. Once a fight commences, you’ll just sit back and watch two ducks going at it; taking turns hitting one another through the use of whatever gear and weaponry they’re holding. The last duck standing is the winner, and that’s pretty much as deep as it gets. Success is really just a case of keeping up your stats.
The only time you will ever need to interact with a fight is when you’re using a special attack. Here, once you’re special meter is filled up (which happens automatically), you simply press the action button at the right time to initiate a special attack, which will dish out mass damage. That’s all there is to it. For a game that measures its depth through combat and mini-games, it’s surprising to see such a lack of innovation, or even basic structure. The bottom line? You’ll see and do everything the game offers very early on.
Sure, Duck Life tries to spice things up by throwing the odd element in to the mix from time to time, such as the Wonder Wheel; a Wheel of Fortune-like prize wheel, but nothing truly stands out. You’ll just move around the map at a slow assed pace, take part in boring mini-games, partake in senseless bouts of combat, and then rinse and repeat until you hit the endgame. Now, for the younger gamers, and I mean very young, this will no doubt go down fairly well, but if you, like me, expect even a bear minimum amount of depth, look away.
Perhaps its the game’s description that raised my expectations? It certainly sounds appealing there, what with it boasting a massive world, outstanding graphics, and more besides. In reality, it’s the total opposite. That leads me to the visual and audio design, Duck Life is by no means outstanding. The game relies far too heavily on asset recycling for its rather small, dull world, that it all gets visual bland within the first few minutes of play. Sure, it’s vibrant, but the lack of detail and variation just runs directly against the game’s promise.
I cant even commend the game for its audio design, being that all you’re really getting are a bunch of repetitive audio cues that run their course long before you make it out the first area. Overall, the visual and audio presentation is serviceable, and that’s at very best. When all is said and done, Duck Life: Battle is a boring game that runs dry sooner than later. Nearly every aspect and element of play feels out of touch, which is a shame because its progress system and its gear system is at the least passable. Will I play this again? I ducking think not!
Duck Life: Battle is one of the most tedious games I’ve ever played. Whilst its general framework is plausible in regards to progression, everything else falls to pieces. The game’s combat is lackluster, its countless mini-games are far from fun, and even basic traversal feels like a slog. It’s a shame that there isn’t much more to the game than that, ultimately making for an experience that’s bland, drawn out, and wholly boring.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.