Dauntless Reviews

723,956 (384,735)
TA Score for this game: 6,212
Posted on 05 June 19 at 13:36
This review has 4 positive votes and 0 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
So Dauntless has finally left alpha stage, and has been met openly with quite a lot of praise and positive reception, being heralded as “a great free to play Monster Hunter clone”. But does Dauntless goes above and beyond this pseudonym it’s been given next too 2018’s Monster Hunter World, or does it actually have its own identity?

Dauntless starts off positive, with you being given a pretty decent character customisation suite, with many options for skin and hair colour, and every single feature on your characters face having a wide range of available options and sliders giving you plenty of range to make your characters face however you like, and the colourful pallet and cell shaded style the game has means you have quite an extensive range of options as to how you want your character too look, however there are no options to change your characters height or weight, so unfortunately, especially to start with when you don’t have access to a wide range of armours for your characters, you don’t end up feeling to unique in the grand scheme of things. This is a consistent issue throughout I feel, as the game is still pretty new, there isn’t a huge selection, even when you get further in to the game. A lot of the armours feel interchangeable style wise, even with all the dyes available for you to purchase or earn in the game. A game like Dauntless would be better off with much more variety in how the hunters look with and without armour, as I feel like with all the options to show off emotes and banners, you are at least going to want to look good whilst doing it. At the very least there is a hide helmet option, which I am grateful for.

You start off on a ship in a pretty well directed cut scene (unfortunately, this is only one of two cut scenes in the game, the other one being rather short), before being dropped off on an island to fight your first battle, where the controls and main features of the game are explained pretty well. All fights in the game at current are single fights against a large creature, either alone or with a group, and given a time limit and a “Danger Limit” which gives you a perfectly fair amount of time to complete a hunt. I really enjoy the Danger system in this game, compared to other games in this genre. For example, Monster Hunter World has a “Three strikes and you are out system” meaning if one player goes down three times, it is over for everyone, which could be infuriating at times, whereas the Danger Limit system Dauntless has you covered for the whole team. How it works is each time a player goes down, the limit will increase by a small amount, until it reaches 100% and doesn’t allow players to revive other players. It also increases quicker depending on how long a player stays down. I really like this system, as you can carry self-revive stims too it forces you to try decide quickly and, on the spot, whether to use a self-revive to get back in to the fray quicker, or let someone else revive you so you can save the stim as they can be used at the max danger limit. This feels like a much fairer system, as more experienced players won’t be wasting time on a hunt if someone else fails repeatedly or doesn’t know the boss so well.

Ramsgate is the main hub world of Dauntless. You access this after you finish your first fight. This is where you do everything, from buying and upgrading armour and weapons, to accessing orb upgrades and potion crafting. Ramsgate is pretty well designed, with a few hidden spots as well as I imagine they are saving for future updates. Exploration is encouraged daily too, as you can earn special tokens that help with the “Hunt Pass”, and it’s easy to remember your way around. The compass at the top of the screen will always point out the icons so you will know where you need to go, so at least you will never get lost.

Armour and Weapon crafting is pretty simple. With each weapon and armour displaying what materials you need and how many you require, however, the later levels of crafting can get excruciatingly grindy, not for certain parts, as these are pretty simple and self-explanatory, such as tails and horns, which require you to just break the part you need of a Behemoth, but for “orbs”, the secondary upgrade material. You can only obtain orbs during special “Patrols” (or through a lucky drop bonus against a monster with the same type). The amount of these you require just getting a single level up at the higher levels is crazy, with about 130 orbs required for a single level up. Seeing as only 10 orbs at minimum can be earned per hunt, so if you are quite unlucky, you may have to do 13 hunts just for a single upgrade! Seeing as a hunt can last anywhere between 5-20 minutes, and fails don’t give you the orbs either, it can become a tedious pain in the back end just to get one weapon to max level. And seeing as the game encourages you to at least have a weapon of every element to counter the Behemoths weakness, this can certainly take a lot of the fun out of the game, considering as you spend a good majority of your time fighting the exact same boss just to get the exact same loot.

The combat is where Dauntless shines, as it’s a very simple combo system, with enough finesse to feel like you are constantly improving and learning how to use your weapon better, or learn the attack pattern of the Behemoths. It’s a very rewarding game play loop. As each time you fight a monster, you begin to learn which attacks become counter able, and which attacks leave enemies vulnerable to be stunned, allowing you and your team to wail on an enemy whilst they’re trying to get back on to their feet. Each Behemoth is different and susceptible to different types of damage and weapons, and all require having a fresh mindset to take on. Nothing is more satisfying then timing a dodge perfectly, and following it up with a slash to a flying enemy that sends them careening into the ground with a huge satisfying smash. It makes you just want to put on a pair of sunglasses and stare into the middle distance, whilst your team shower you in praise for your excellent play.

I do wish however they would add just a little more variety and game play options to the maps where you fight the Behemoths, it’s nice getting to explore them, but there isn’t really much to find other than a handful of different herbs or ores to use outside the battles, yet their design is quite scenic overall, clusters of flying islands connected with vents and jumps, it would be nice if they could integrate something else to make the landscape feel more than just set dressing, as that feels like it’s all it is. I appreciate that a lot of the joy of Dauntless is its more simplistic game play loop that leans more towards the easier side; however, it would be nicer for players that have a lot of experience to be given some more options that encourage clever tactics or use of the idyllic environment that the battles take place in.

In fairness, that is the joy of Dauntless. The simplicity. There are only 6 weapons to master, which doesn’t sound like a lot, however each weapon feels unique enough and all have such different move sets it feels like enough for now. And the core loop of “I need X items and X orbs; thus, I shall do X hunts and X patrols” makes it very easy to say “Just one more hunt before bed” and it keeps you hooked. The only problem is that may not be enough for some people, and I did find myself getting bored and frustrated whenever I would finally upgrade my weapon and then just see a huge shopping list of stuff I would need to get before being able to increase the damage. And that is the only thing it would increase to, armour and weapons do not upgrade visually, so it’s only a bump in the stats department. Which is a shame as all the equipment is really well designed and unique dependent on the monster. It would be nice to have a visual prompt to show your weapons or armours improved and not just a number next to it.

This does lead to the biggest problem really, is that there are a few walls through the main campaign that really block your progress and put you up against an unnecessary grind wall. For example, there will be a main story quest that challenges you to beat two pretty strong bosses, not once, but twice. No actual reason, no story specific “Kill them twice because we need that thing dead twice”, it’s just contrived game play padding which is a huge shame. It did keep me coming back granted, as unlocking a new set of monsters was always rewarding, but people that are less patient may just see a wall of boredom that they may not bother breaking through, which is a shame, especially seeing as the later game fights are actually really unique and feel totally fresh for the genre, with the fight against the “Riftstalker” really standing out as a highlight for me in the game, which I won’t spoil as it’s a great experience that is like Dauntless meets Portal. It's fantastic.

Because Dauntless is so new, it’s still plagued by a few bugs as well. Some minor and actually kind of funny. Like Behemoths path-finding buggering up or emotes acting strange. Others aren’t so funny though. Such as the games Server issues at launch. Certain bosses getting lodged in walls near out of reach. Watching you character have to do a strange dance around things they want to interact with trying to find the perfect time to press the use button. Also, A lot of the fire bosses on the console versions are hit with frame rate issues, so you basically have to try and fight through a puddle of maple syrup when trying to deal with them. There are a few qualities of life improvements that could be implemented too, as far as I can tell there isn’t an overall inventory button, so you can’t see all of your drops in one place. Phoenix Labs having acknowledged some of the above and are working on patches, so it’s good to see them looking too improve and repair their game.

The strangest thing is that the padding feels like it’s there only to account for the fact there isn’t a massive number of Behemoths to fight as of launch, and it’s strange considering that none of the paid aspects actually help progression in the story. Combine this with the fact that a lot of the stuff on Dauntless’ “Hunt Pass” Doesn’t actually feel worth the effort going for. However, and one of the things that takes away something from the experience for me, is the fact that if you get the paid version of the “Hunt Pass” you can get tokens that help speed up buff crafting, and cores that contain orbs that can give you stronger buffs a lot easier and quicker than other players will be able to earn them. I do not like this, as I don’t like that players that purchase these will get an edge on players that don’t for a while. The “Elite Hunt Pass” also gives you access to a +%50 bonus to exp earnt on weapon exp, which means you will level overall faster and get buffs and bonuses others won’t get until playing for a third more of the time then purchasers of the Pass bonus get. Lucky enough it doesn’t affect balancing too bad, as the later bosses are only going to be accessed by people that are strong enough to fight them, but knowing that you can pay to get an edge will always grind my gears personally, and I know it gives a lot of people the wrong impression. Dauntless isn’t pay to win, not by any means, as the combat is nuanced enough to be challenging and skill reliant, but if you want to maximise the efficiency of dealing with these Behemoths, you’re going to have to rely on luck to get the bonuses you want.

Dauntless is a good game. As I stated before, the basic game play loop of Hunt – Upgrade – Replenish – Repeat is a damn addicting one, and so many times I caught myself getting lost in a chain of hunts rather than doing things like going to bed or being a useful human in society had me hooked, but when I’m not playing it, it feels quite lost in the shuffle still. It’s the issue with this “Live Service” type model that gaming is becoming as a whole. With the lack of an engaging story and no feeling of a satisfying end, you kill the last two monsters and it sort of just plops you back in the city with no fanfare or recognition whatsoever, it’s kind of just... there.... like a fart in a lift. You acknowledge it’s there, and it has your attention, but when you get out that lift it makes little difference and you can just get on with your day. I’m hoping that the success of Phoenix Lab’s Dauntless will encourage them to push to improve a few of the lacklustre features and make some bold advances to improve progression and add more fights, will make this game take that extra step to stand out in a genre that has some stiff competition.
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