To be dauntless is to show fearlessness and determination. Not only a game title, but seemingly a company motto, Phoenix Labs have had Dauntless in production for a few years now, in a genre that few dare tread. Capcom have had their Monster Hunter franchise up and running since the PlayStation 2 got a network adaptor, and have a fairly fervent fanbase.
That franchise has never hit PC, though, and what’s more, it has never been free-to-play outside of China. Dauntless is going to let you hunt behemoths with your friends on PC, and when it leaves the current beta period, it will be free for everyone to hack and slash to their hearts content.
Of course, currently we don’t know the full details about the paid content as the game is in closed beta, and it’s currently only dyes to colour your weapons. But there’s an open beta coming before the end of the year, which means there is still plenty of time for that to be implemented.
For those who don’t know, and think I’ve been burying the lede, Dauntless is a third-person monster-slaying game which sees you slaying giant monsters (surprise!) - preferably as part of a group. Each type of monster has a weak spot, so try to aim for that whilst avoiding its teeth/claws/tails.
At the moment there are quite a few hunts to take, but it boils down to going to an area and having 30 minutes to hunt and kill a monster. After that, your transport’s fuel is running out, and you have to abort. You will also abort if you/your party dies or your danger level gets too high, though I haven’t had that happen yet. The danger level, I mean, because of course I’ve died...
There are loads of missions which go from teaching you the basics to challenging you to bigger and badder behemoths. You’re taught crafting, upgrading, hunting - all your usual things, and sent off to kill or be killed. The hub town, Ramsgate, is pretty sparsely populated, not counting other players, which given its size is a bit of a letdown. You end up doing a lot of running up and down the streets because each quest sends you to two or more NPCs.
When you join the hunt for a creature, you’re put into a queue, unless you’re going solo. If you’re in a party, you have to wait an indeterminate amount of time for the game to either get more people, or eventually send you off on your own. You arrive on a habitat via airship, then have to find the beast you selected, before beating the crap out of it. As mentioned, you can party up with your friends (so long as you get in the same instance as them), and go into battle together.
The game warns you before you head into battle against a behemoth that is too strong for you, telling you to get better equipment. This is only obtainable through crafting, so it’s a good idea before every encounter to wander around scavenging elements from rocks, trees and flowers. For instance, I went up against the weakest monster several times just so I could spend 15 minutes gathering iron.
There are a couple of negative points that I encountered, that I think can be put down to Dauntless’ early alpha state. However, it doesn't look good that they’re planning an open beta soon, when it feels so unfinished. The aforementioned long wait times to go hunting, the menus look like placeholders, and there are only a few customisation options for your hunter. I asked fellow writer Simon to join me for a few bouts, and we independently managed to create the exact same slayer.
The gameplay loop at the moment is quite samey. You go somewhere and kill one of the bunch of behemoths, hopefully gather some items that you need - if not, go back and kill another one. Once you have the attack patterns of each behemoth down, it gets that much easier to kill. Kinda like the boss fights on the average Mega Drive game. However, each one is different enough to the last that you’ll have a challenge ahead for quite a while.
Graphically, the game looks great - so long as you’re not looking at the slayers. Each beast is well designed and looks fierce, and the Shattered Isles themselves are quite picturesque when you’re not knocking out goats or slaying behemoths. The sound design is also spot-on, as you usually need to listen out for your prey before you can find them.
As Dauntless approaches the open beta stage, it’s shaping up nicely. However, it needs a lot of work before it should get there. I wasn’t in the same instance as Simon multiple times, which would have made planning our next hunt difficult if we weren’t already on voice chat through Discord. There isn’t an instant messenger of any description, you have to type /whisper *username* to talk privately, which adds more work on top of dodging an angry Embermane.
If you’re a fan of the “hunting monsters” genre of games, Dauntless will certainly appeal to you. However, if you’re hoping to socialise and hunt, you might be disappointed. Whether you prefer quick strikes with twin blades, a hammer or a sword, start preparing for a fight.