Last time we were here, Dauntless was in a state of alpha and showed potential, with a basic idea of where the online monster hunter was going. With the release of the latest major content update, that potential has certainly grown into something that feels more finished than Dauntless has ever been. Allow me to elaborate in this Dauntless Sharpen Your Skills preview.
Starting From Scratch
With this update, everyone was punted back to the very beginning of progression, which leads to the addition of some minor layering to the hunts that are available to you this time around. Previously, everyone simply headed to an NPC, blew through some lines of dialogue, and all of a sudden a specific creature was available to hunt. Players now have to run some patrol missions of an area enough times to earn a Wayfinder’s Mark to track down a specific creature.
On paper, this sounds like things are a bit more open. In practice, this is basically like the way hunts operated previously only with the targeted creature switched to one random Behemoth from a selection of about four or five. If that sounds disparaging, it’s not; despite the fact that the hunts operate similarly at the brass tacks level, it’s still a nice change of pace to go into a map and not know what you’re going to face.
There’s also a Rank system that increases as you take on various hunts of both the patrol and specific target variety, which naturally opens up more quests, more areas to hunt in and more Behemoths. Overall it feels like a good enough carrot to chase, though the rate at which one earns Rank XP does feel like it’s a bit sluggish.
The other (and arguably better) progression system lies with the new Cell System, which lets you add Cells that provide modifiers to improve your gear. Cells are randomly granted whenever you open up an Aether Core. While that sounds a bit too RNG-heavy, I found that I was getting enough Cells to make things feel rewarding.
What I like about this system is that it further deepens the already deep rabbit hole of the gear chase in Dauntless currently. Better yet, these Cells do appear to provide some appreciable effects. Numerically they seem meager, but combining multiple Cells of a similar type seemed to really beef up my character.
I’d love to see this Cell system evolved further; introduce new tiers of Cells, let people craft Cells, let players trade unwanted Cells on a market board or put in buy orders for Cells they’d like. I can easily see a bartering market springing up from the Cell system.
On the Hunt
Of course, all of these progression systems are just an avenue to the primary destination: more hunts. Mercifully, the combat in Dauntless still feels just as excellent as it has during previous alpha and beta tests.
The risk/reward method in which combat plays out in Dauntless adds a layer of strategy to every swing, and the new combos that were introduced offer some fresh ways to swing your favorite monster choppin’ instrument while still maintaining a level of approachability for anyone new to the game.
Naturally, I can’t really get too far into talking about combat without bringing up the new War Pike weapon. Personally speaking, this combination spear and cannon didn’t really appeal to me. Its Piercing type of damage didn’t really apply any feeling of contribution to the hunts I brought it out on, and about the only thing that feels rewarding is firing off a charged up Aether Cannon shot…which, conversely, makes missing a shot feel that much worse.
On the subject of damage types, each of the weapons now contributes a specific form of hurting that can be leveraged to your advantage against certain monsters. You’re certainly welcome to bring a sword and its Slashing damage type to a fight against the rock-covered Skarn, however, bring a Hammer and its subsequent Blunt damage type and you’ll be blowing off chunks of the Behemoth’s armor, opening up places where your teammates can deal real damage.
This addition is such a simple one, but easily one that makes Dauntless feel radically different. It brings it up to par with any of the Monster Hunter titles, as now carefully considering what weapons to bring adds a level of teamwork and strategy to Dauntless that just didn’t exist before.
This coordination is made that much easier with the Airship Ready Room, a place where player teams form up and can conceivably discuss strategy before going into a hunt zone. More often than not there was little chatter, but people could also just see what everyone else is using and make up their minds on what weapon to wield based on that information. Sometimes conveyance is better than open, unmoderated chat.
Is It Ready Yet?
All of these new systems lead to one question for me: is Dauntless ready for prime time? Almost. There’s still a couple of niggling inconsistency issues that remain in Dauntless even with this update and subsequent patches. Connection strength still feels inconsistent. The stability of finding a team for a hunt can feel inconsistent to a lesser degree. The little cinematics that play before and after a hunt don’t consistently play.
Still, it’s not exactly death by a thousand cuts for me than it is just wrinkles that need to be ironed out. If the alpha and previous beta builds were the foundation of Dauntless then the Sharpen Your Skills update is the walls. All that really remains is to put a roof on the thing and to decorate. If you ask me, Dauntless is in a state now where spending money on a Founder’s Pack wouldn’t really feel like a waste, especially since there’s nothing out there like it on PC currently.
Will Dauntless become something that can take on the upcoming Monster Hunter World? That’s not really for me to say; both games aren’t really complete and the MH World “beta” has only provided the smallest of looks at what it can do. In the interest of fairness, I can’t really compare either game because neither is fully released.
Regardless, I can say as a player of both titles that I can find room in my heart and gaming diet for both. I can also confidently say that Dauntless is getting better and it looks like it can only continue to improve from here.Related: Closed Beta, Dauntless, MMO, Multiplayer, Preview