I’m going to be honest here, I searched far and wide for a Monster Hunter substitute. My 3DS broke down some time ago before MH Generations made its glorious release, and though I wanted to get my hunting fix, I just couldn’t be bothered to reacquire one. In turn, I submitted myself to the likes of Toukiden and God Eater which never came close to satiating my hunger for a good hunt. While it did have the flair, it didn’t have the soul I was looking for.
I also played a bit of Monster Hunter Online but being unable to speak Mandarin proved to be a big handicap as I wanted to understand more of the story alongside its fun hunting gameplay. Sigh, what I would do for a North American MHO release. I know that there’s a community-made English patch, but I really wanted to understand more than just the menu and hunting sets.
Anyway, it was then when I saw Dauntless, a hunting-style online game by Phoenix Labs. Interested by all the hype surrounding it and mechanics revealed, I immediately found myself picking up a Founder’s pack. The way they described monste—cough*— Behemoths were exactly what I, someone who was looking for a PC alternative, wanted in a hunting game. Smart Behemoths, seamless world exploration, and the upgradable gear sets were enough to sell me the game, and after patiently waiting for Alpha access, I finally got the opportunity to explore the Shattered Isles first hand. Was it as good as I had hoped? Let’s check it out.
The game is still in its Founder’s Alpha stage so some of the things I will say may not reflect on the final product. With that said, let’s move on.
Is It Monster Hunter?
Perhaps it’s best that I start with the nitty-gritty, as I’m sure most of you are wondering if this is indeed the Monster Hunter alternative we’ve all been waiting for. On paper, Dauntless behaves pretty much like a MH game. You still have the central nexus where players gather to form parties of four, along with the familiar cycle of Behemoth farming, breaking parts, cutting tails, crafting equipment, and brewing consumables for subsequent missions. Despite these similarities, however, there are a lot of key features that make Dauntless its own game, boasting its own set of mechanics that make for a unique and diverse experience.
So what exactly does the game do differently? Well, one of the first things would be how the hunting ground is presented. Unlike Monster Hunter, Dauntless sports a seamless open-world map instead of the traditional numbered sections. This means that you’ll be forced to hunt down the Behemoth in an open space, instead of the segregated areas Monster Hunter is well known for. I think this factor presents its own set of pros and cons, because while it does add to the overall immersion of hunting down Behemoths, it could get cumbersome when players start to farm the same beast for hours. Maps are also not present in the game and players must resort to signal flares to alert the rest of the team when the Behemoth has been found.
I really enjoyed the flare system, but would still pick the traditional minimap over it, as having the latter just accomplishes much more with ease. Even just having it in the town would be glorious, as players wouldn’t have to run around houses in case they forgot where an NPC was or where the quest markers on their compasses are. It also makes gathering with a team much more efficient, given that you are able to see where your teammates are in case they find the ores you’re looking for. It certainly beats ‘re-flaring’ when you’ve lost your way.
Melee All The Way!
Dauntless currently carries a total of four weapon types in the form of Sword, Axe, Hammer, and Chained Blades. It’s not that large of a selection but the ones available do their job well, at least outside of the regular pre-launch bugs. The game also does a good job of explaining what each weapon does, giving you a comprehensive list of all possible combos the moment you pick up a new weapon.
Each weapon really differs from the next in terms of playstyle, and I’ve had quite a blast cycling through them. Fancy a quicker more agile approach? You can channel your inner-Kratos via the game’s Chained Blades, which allows you to poke from afar and land fast multiple hits up close. If you’re looking for something a bit more precise, then you could try your luck with the axe, which features strong charged attacks similar to Monster Hunter’s Greatsword.
I’ve wielded the sword for the most part due to its simplistic nature and amazing damage output, but what really got me intrigued was the Hammer. Unlike the other weapons in your arsenal, this one proves to be the most gimmicky, acting as both a melee hammer and a semi-close-ranged cannon that shoots fire. Think of it as Monster Hunter’s Gunlance, only with the ability to vault you up in the air for a stylish ‘Rocket Jump’ style attack.
Here’s to hoping they add more weapons in the near future… hopefully, the ranged variety.
As I said earlier, the game is still in its early stages, so nothing is set in stone. I do, however, have a couple of things that I think should either be changed or improved as it approaches the beta phases.
Dauntless seems to have an unhealthy amount of player collision, making it a tad bothersome when dodging most of the behemoth’s powerful attacks while stacked with other players. I often find myself unable to dodge and stuck in place due to another player blocking my dodge’s trajectory, leaving me open to enemy fire and oodles of damage. This also proves to be quite annoying when hitting the behemoth as your team tends to eat up the space required for your weapon to actually land a hit.
Being able to queue with only the members of your party (be it two or three) is also another feature I want to be added. So far, the game only gives players the option to either hunt solo or with a matched party until you get a total of four party members. I know running it without a full party isn’t optimal, but queueing with complete strangers may prove itself to be a bit of a problem when your agendas are different, which brings me to my next point.
Being as craft heavy as its hunting brethren, Dauntless does so little for the everyday gatherer. The game lacks gathering stages, which means you can only gather by entering the hunting grounds and killing the monster inside after picking stuff up. This means that you’ll most likely have to go solo when gathering materials so as to not bother other players who are bent on slaying and leaving. It would also be nice if we could queue only for gathering purposes, as well.
Last but not the least, I’m not a big fan of the slow turning. Since Behemoths tend to jump from one place to another, the turning delay tends to cause a couple of problems. At times, I found myself attacking a bit too early when having to immediately face a repositioned monster behind me, resulting in wasted stamina or at times, getting hit. It’s something players can get used to over time, but it just felt a bit clunky for me.
The Key Differences
Despite being known as a Monster Hunter alternative for the PC, Dauntless is definitely its own game with its own set of mechanics that give it its own unique twist. Aside from the average armor sets, the game also adds Lanterns into the mix, which are charged and activated equipment items that grant special effects to the user and at times to the ones around them. These things can greatly influence the tide of battle and can save you in its own way, from offering extra stamina to group heals, so pick the one that really suits your playstyle.
Player deaths are also handled a bit differently here, with players entering a wounded state instead of dying when their HP reaches 0. It’s a mechanic often found in shooters where able party members can interact with and revive downed team mates up to a fraction of their max health that gets lower every time they reenter said state. Once a person exceeds the amount of wounded states available to them, the game enters its Maximum Danger mode and all forms of revives are disabled. It’s a welcome change, especially since the game tends to hit you with harder challenges as you go along. It also adds up to Dauntless’ multiplayer aspect, encouraging players to exercise a bit of teamwork.
Dauntless keeps most of what makes hunting games addictive while taking out factors that may deter those who are new to the genre from trying it. It still keeps the challenging feel, while providing a more streamlined approach, making it a title that’s easy to learn yet hard to master. The object of the game is simple: enter the hunting grounds, gather items, and slay the Behemoth to get crafting materials for your equipment upgrades. While I’m still hoping for capture and gathering missions in the near future, I think that the game’s simplistic nature is a good way of introducing newbies to the genre.
Memorizing a Behemoth’s pattern and watching out for mannerisms was as satisfying as I had hoped, and is rewarding for those who are looking for ways to effectively take down enemies. The seamless open world makes for a decent and fresh experience, presenting an unfamiliar yet enjoyable take on tracking down your prey. Lanterns and airship packages are also mighty helpful in extending team synergy. It’s one of those things you never knew you needed until you actually use it.
If there’s anything innovative about Dauntless, it’s definitely its depth of team play. While still a bit rocky due to some minor bugs, Phoenix Labs have done well in integrating more teamwork into the hunting genre. Teamwork has become a key element in Dauntless, as have a lot of things, be it potions or lanterns, they have their own way of helping out your party. The team revive was also a nice touch, especially when the bosses became more punishing.
The community has been one of the biggest things influencing my enjoyment of the game. Much like the devs, players have been hard at work in helping Phoenix Labs make Dauntless the best it could possibly be, providing great ideas for future content. Dauntless, of course, returns the favor via its Partner program, which rewards active members of the community (streamers and artists) with giveaways and various in-game items to reward them for their effort. They even support Dauntless streamers by sharing their streams on the game’s website. It’s always a treat to see community support from the developers, and Dauntless doesn’t fall short when it comes to that.
The game’s visuals are definitely top notch, sporting an animated look that feels a bit like Ori and the Blind Forest in cell-shaded format. The game does well in bringing its Behemoths to life, as well as the diversely themed areas along the Shattered Isles. I personally loved the vibrant cartoony style, as this particular style tends to age better than the hyper realistic kind.
My only complaint with the game’s aesthetics stem from its armor sets, which tend to be a series of hits and misses, depending on which set you’re looking at. Some are utterly stylish, while others look a bit uninspired. Armor sets serve as a reminder of a player’s progress, and seeing the generic knight designs just fails in delivering that accomplished feeling upon donning those garbs. Well, it’s still alpha, after all. I’m looking forward to the next batch of armor sets!
Dauntless’ sound was a mixed satchel for me. The game seems to lack a bit in the music department with little to no memorable tracks while hunting. The whole tribal music does fit the whole hunting aspect but it still feels a bit too generic and I ended up playing my own music shortly after a couple of hours passed. Behemoth sounds, on the other hand, are glorious; each monster sports their own distinct roars that intimidate upon engaging them for the first time. It’s a minuscule part of every hunting game, but one that imprints a sense of change when progressing to the next hunt, so I would have to commend it for a job well done.
Value for Money
Dauntless is set to be a free-to-play game on release and promises to not feature any form of pay to win items whatsoever. I’ve been waiting for a true non-port PC hunting title for a long time, and Dauntless pretty much addresses that. I think the game itself is worth paying for and would have no problems buying it had it been a buy-to-play title. Being in its early alpha stages, there are still some things it can improve on, but I think Phoenix Lab’s outlook is in the right place. Dauntless gives a good take on the hunting series, and one I would gladly play without question.Related: Dauntless, MMO, monster hunter, Phoenix Labs, Preview