In this day and age, with originality being a lofty goal that seems like a good standard for games, it’s inevitable that comparisons will abound within certain genres. One such is Dauntless vs. Monster Hunter. Both games have varied weapons, legions of gear to craft, and of course, big bad monsters to slice, dice, stab, jab, or shoot. And while Monster Hunter is currently top dog of the, well...monster-hunting genre, Dauntless manages to bring some things to the table that are familiar to longtime veterans of the Capcom jewel, while also brand new and inventive.
For starters, the art. The game’s cel-shading makes everything pop, from the smallest of plants to the most towering of creatures. Even the flash and numbers from your attacks look like things from a well-financed Saturday morning cartoon, and you might find yourself getting distracted by the smooth, fine visuals just in time to take a Shrike glide to the face. Whether the game is day or night, each hunt will leave you staring in awe at the art style and how visually explosive it is. It harkens back to Wind Waker, when The Legend of Zelda undertook its first foray into cel-shading. Like the visuals themselves, it was a bold move. And like the green-capped hero’s seafaring adventure, it paid off, big time.
As an MMORPG, Dauntless is co-op, and does all it can to let you know that. Missions by default are set to search for other players eager to participate in the same quest as you and once matchmaking is complete, off you and your crew go to put a bullet or a blade in whichever unlucky beastie has incurred your wrath (or need for a hat).
However, the matchmaking setup has some serious tweaks in need of addressing. If, say, you need to exit out for whatever reason, the game doesn’t let you; you have to go through the process of making it to the quest lobby, then returning to the main menu, something far more arduous and unnecessary than it needs to be. Another big issue is ‘leavers’, people who join solely to gather resources from the map and leave, leaving you with a monster that has much higher HP than your squad is equipped for (Behemoth HP and damage output scales in accordance with how many people there are in a mission).
Other times you’ll end up with worse; people who show up and do absolutely nothing, preferring to tool around and leave you and whoever else to fight the monster while they end up reaping the rewards when you invariably do kill it (or die). As of now, there’s no way to remedy this; there’s no kick option, but that might change down the road, once the game hits Switch and mobile and it’s been properly optimized.
Combat in Dauntless overall is simple, but varies from weapon to weapon. As of now, there are six, each with their own quirks and traits to offer.
Sword: jack of all stats, it can switch between light and heavy strikes to deal decent damage to Behemoths, and can enter Overdrive to release powerful shockwaves with every attack
Axe: the burst damage king, axe users can charge up attacks to unleash hugely powerful strikes per hit, and throw their weapon like a boomerang, dealing damage on the throw and return
Hammer: big, slow, and with a cannon fused to it, hammer users can attack with heavy strikes that are excellent at breaking parts, and amp up their swings with ammunition for even greater power. The head is their body part of choice, and enough strikes can stagger a monster for a few seconds, opening them up for even more punishment
Chain Blades: speed freaks rejoice; you’ve found your new best friend. Lightning fast and agile, these dual weapons can attack from up close or afar, and can even pull you close to a monster for optimum range, or let you push off them to stylishly leap out of a hairy situation
War Pike: the worst nightmare for something with a fleshy hide, this weapon is a virtuoso at inflicting wound damage, making your attacks that much more powerful. Stand your ground with short, fast jabs that culminate into a blinding flurry, or graceful move about the battlefield with sweeping slashes. Build up your weapon meter to either increase your overall damage, or convert it into ammo to unleash a devastating blast at your target
Repeaters: enter a hunt guns ablaze with these dual pistols. While you still need to be relatively close to deal maximum damage, these guns pack a powerful punch and come with a variety of accoutrements that you can customize to fit your needs, like marking a monster to deal even more shot damage, or throwing down a mine to literally blow up in a monster’s face.
Finding your favorite weapon is just part of the fun, and the more you fight, the better you get.
The actual monsters themselves aren’t slouches, either. The AI borders on precognition sometimes, requiring you to really get those dodges down to avoid trouble. You’ll have to learn what moves to watch out for, recognize their tells, and plan appropriate countermeasures, sometimes within mere seconds, and especially if it’s a monster you’ve not yet faced. But the payoffs are rewarding when you learn them so in and out you can complete hunts without getting downed once (or even damaged once!), earning better rewards in the process. But the hunts can be quite unforgiving, especially with the danger meter.
As you take damage and you or your teammates get killed, the danger level will rise (and play very unsupportive music to follow). If it caps at 100%, then you or your teammates can’t be revived by other players, it’ll have to be done via the revival syringes you’re automatically given per hunt (separate from your five potions per hunt). But once those run out and the danger level is still high, you’re out of the game for good, heading towards crushing failure. So hunt wisely!
Crafting is just the sort you’d expect in a monster-slaying RPG. When you kill the monsters, use what’s left to craft different weapons. Strengths and weaknesses majorly come into play here; weapons and armor with an elemental strength against your target serve you better, while ones weak to them will make your life much much harder. Thankfully, just before a hunt, the squad lobby shows you what you’re in for based on your loadout, which can be changed before the clock counts down. Blaze beats frost and vice-versa, shock beats terra and vice-versa, and radiant beats umbra, and vice-versa. Neutral, by name, is neither strong nor weak to any element. And improving your arsenal takes time and resources, but it’s not like there’s a shortage of stuff to kill for them, thankfully.
If you’re a fan of the action RPG genre and love to dish out major pain to monsters that would otherwise eviscerate you, you’ve found the game. Yes, there are many comparisons to Monster Hunter, there’s bound to be. But Dauntless has plenty of charm to stand on its own. Proud, strong, and above all? Dauntless.
Dauntless (Reviewed on Xbox One)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
If you’re a fan of the action RPG genre and love to dish out major pain to monsters that would otherwise eviscerate you, you’ve found the game.