Dauntless Hands-On: Things Are Getting Monstrous

While Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World has taken the world by storm on the console and PC front, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for competition. In fact, ever since its debut at the Video Game Awards in 2016, Dauntless has been making quite a name for itself.

The game, which has warriors hunting down wily monsters in the midst of forests and other locations, has been moving right along in development at Phoenix Labs. There’s all sorts of great talent behind the game, including former Riot Games developers Jesse Houston, Sean Bender and Robin Mayne, along with several former team members from BioWare, Blizzard and, yes, Capcom.

The game moved into open beta on the PC front back in May 2018, where it’s drummed up a pretty respectable audience. But this year is the big one for the franchise, as the game will finally launch this spring not only for the PC front, but also Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The Nintendo Switch is also in the cards, set to get a version of the game sometime down the road.

The team was recently at PAX East, showcasing some new monstrous goodies for fans to get excited over. So what can we expect from this epic battle between the Slayers (hunters) and the Behemoths (monsters)? Quite a bit, especially if you think Monster Hunter is the only “kill the giant beast” game in town.


The General Idea

For those unfamiliar with how Dauntless works, here it is in a nutshell. In the game, you’ll select from your Hunter of choice, each with special weapons. Care to hurl around an axe that you can call back upon command? Or maybe you want to use a pair of pistols and hit enemies from afar? There are various choices here, with six in all thus far.

Once you select your Slayer, you can team up with others to see which monster you want to go after. They vary, from winged creatures that can strike from above to a strange ice beast that can summon minions to do damage on their behalf. It’s up to you to work closely with your friends, heal up when the situation best calls for it (you don’t want to be down and out with no way to recover) and slay the beast before it’s too late.

Throughout the game, you’ll find opportunity galore. If you can keep a close eye on your health and stamina, you can time your attacks pretty nicely. In fact, in some cases, you can even put together combos to land additional damage, provided they aren’t using any sort of shielding to fend off your attacks.

But strategy is the name of the game here. Each Behemoth will have techniques that they’ll use to chip away at your health or act as a defense while they shield themselves or even run away. You’ll need to dodge these with a well-timed roll or run to a safety spot, then continue striking when you’re within range. These hunts can take a good amount of time- there’s no way to kill a Behemoth in a matter of seconds. Some can take upward to about twenty minutes, so make sure you’re in it for the long haul.

Fortunately, these hunts come with abundant rewards. Not only can you upgrade weapons to make them more powerful and effective against creatures, but you can also buy new equipment and gear, which will help you as hunts become more and more insane.

Best of all, Dauntless is full of options. If you wish to take on the hunt by yourself, you can. It’s a mountain-sized task, to be sure, but it’ll help you train for when you team up with your friends. Obviously co-op is the big draw here, as you work alongside three others as a team of four to hunt your prey and collect your rewards. There are whispers that the game may support cross-play, but that’s not finalized just yet. Hopefully Phoenix Labs will have some news for us once the game gets closer to release.


Lots To See, and Lots To Kill

The structure for Dauntless is set up pretty quaintly when it comes to getting things done in the game. Right off the bat, you can join up with your group and decide which beast you’re going to go after. You can discuss it for several seconds before needing to make your decision. Once you do, you simply fly onto the battleground, begin using your skills to deduce where the creature is (or follow your group if your senses aren’t quite that keen) and prepare for a fight.

It’s not going to always be in one place. The creature will eventually run off if you do about halfway worth of damage to it, forcing you and the team to run after it while the hunt is still good. This is a great opportunity for you to get your health up and check on others so you’re literally ready to finish the fight.

If it doesn’t go in your favor, i.e. the Behemoth manages to wipe out your group without any hope of recovery, you can always try the hunt again or select a different beast if you prefer another favorable challenge.

Phoenix Labs will also offer up special Hunt Passes over the course of the game, set up on a free-to-play basis. So you can start off without investing anything, and then turn a few bucks around and see what’s available to select from. If you prefer, you can also check out Seasons worth of content within the game. Those plans haven’t been revealed just yet, but the developer has a lot in mind when it comes to keeping players coming back for more.

Rest assured, the game isn’t about nickel-and-diming you to death with hundreds of dollars in purchases. The start of Dauntless has more than enough to offer. However, if you feel like making an investment, it looks like you’ll get more than enough payback from it. The choice is obviously yours, and that’s one of the best things you can get from a free-to-play game such as this.

The New Beast In Play

We’ve seen a few Behemoths running around in Dauntless before. But the new one that Phoenix Labs just introduced, the Boreus, is more than a handful. We fought him across two different stages, each time facing new challenges that he managed to generate from his body, in the form of minions.

Now, right off the bat, the Boreus is a challenge in himself, mainly because he can generate an ice shield that makes him impenetrable. In fact, he’ll summon a few minions and actually cover himself in that, so you won’t be able to get any cheap shots while you fend them off. Only after you wipe out the current wave of minions will he shake loose and start attacking again.

What’s more, the minions that Boreus generates actually come in different types. First up, you’ll face the Stalkers. These are beasts that merely fly around and try to hit you with their blade-like limbs. Fortunately, they’re the easiest to hit, even for melee strikers.

Then we have the Spitters. This is a bit tougher a wave of enemies, mainly because they can drop cold, frost-charged projectiles on your team. The best thing you can do when these pop up is kill them right away. Otherwise, they may do a considerable amount of damage with their continuous bile.

But perhaps the most dangerous are the Bombers. Just as their name suggests, they live to fly close to someone and then create an explosion on command. If Hunters get caught in the midst of this explosion, they’ll take damage. Again, having a long-range attacker take these out- and maybe a few of their minions with them- is the best course of action.

Then there’s the Boreus itself. Aside from its shielding, you’ll also have to watch out for its ice attacks, as well as when it comes charging at you. It means serious business, and will take a whole lot of damage before it eventually succumbs in defeat. Be prepare for war with this one.

Once you do eventually beat it, you could earn you the opportunity to use Boreus Gear for your character, a sleek mixture of fur coat and armor that can help you in even the coldest of temperatures. Plus it looks real slick, like something out of a nouveau Viking design.


Master of Disaster

As you continue to work your way through Dauntless, you’ll find plenty of rewards awaiting you. We’ve already mentioned how you’ll be able to unlock new gear and upgrade your weapons. But you’ll also be able to take on the Master System, which will assist you in becoming a true badass of a warrior, whether you’re taking on your first hunt or your tenth.

Set to kick off any day now, the Master System will feature a number of cards that you can unlock, provided you can complete a few objectives to do so. As you complete the levels of Mastery, you’ll be able to unlock new rewards, as well as specialized mods for your weapon and special items as well. You also won’t have to worry about Reputation tracks, as those are officially being “retired” by the team.

Essentially, this works as a tough level of the game, with a number of challenges available. In fact, it’d be safe to call it a New Game Plus, even if that’s not its official title. As the company describes it, “This brand-new system delivers a raft of challenges that you can take on to earn Mastery experience, raise your Mastery levels, and unlock a rich assortment of rewards. When introduced in the Path of the Slayer update (OB 0.7.1), the Mastery system will offer Mastery objectives for each Behemoth and weapon in the game.

It then taunts you by asking the question, “Ready to dig in?”

This will definitely serve as a benefit for those that have played the game for quite some time. If you haven’t- or you’re merely waiting for the console release of Dauntless– not to worry. It should already be implemented within the game once it launches, should development move along like it is.

Plus, Mastery will give you a chance to up your Slayer level, so you can build upon your reputation as you pair up with team members and improve skill accordingly. You can check your progress on these objectives as you go along, so you know exactly what you need to do when it comes to accomplishing tasks within the game. And with Seasons and new Hunts being introduced, there’s sure to be a fresh challenge awaiting you, even if you’ve managed to see it all.


The Hunt Is On

While there are some skeptics who believe that Monster Hunter: World is the true king when it comes to this particular genre, don’t be fooled by Dauntless. It has something to offer to everyone, from amateurs that are getting into monster hunting for the first time to true masters ready for their next diabolical clash.

First off, Dauntless is free-to-play, unlike World’s full price affair. That’ll serve as a benefit to many, and provided that it runs smoothly across the board, it could easily serve as a strong revenue stream for Phoenix Labs.

The hunts themselves are fun as well. Even though some foes, like Boreus, can be a real pain in the tookus, the effort to bring them down is most certainly worth it, as you can level up your Slayer of choice and unlock some new gear to be proud of. And there’s probably going to be more where that came from, as Phoenix Labs should keep the store freshly stocked.

The game is challenging but fun to play. And while the idea of playing single player can be good for those that want to train, it lives and breathes from its co-op factor. There’s nothing like getting a good group together and taking the fight where it needs to go. Plus you have someone that could heal you should you need it- and you just might.

Dauntless will drop sometime this spring for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC (Epic Games Store and Windows 10); and later this year for Nintendo Switch. No matter which way you go, you’ll have quite the fight on your hands…


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