STAFF REVIEW of Dauntless (Xbox One)

Friday, November 15, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Dauntless Box art While I absolutely loved Monster Hunter: World, I eventually stopped playing due to the serious grind to make any real progress. Since then, nothing has really filled that gap. I’ve been tempted to go back but decided not to once I think of the time and effort I’d have to put in once again. Enter Dauntless, a free-to-play co-op action RPG that clearly took some cues from the long standing Monster Hunter playbook, but changed enough so that it’s a unique experience, yet familiar.

The biggest thing Dauntless has going for it is that it’s free-to-play, so you can start playing right now without having to put any money down. I know what you’re thinking, that most free-to-play games are okay, but eventually ‘require’ you to pay something if you actually want to make any real progress or look cool with unique skins. Yes, Dauntless falls into this somewhat as well, but you could easily progress without ever putting a dime into it, though you won’t look as cool as those that have.

A series of floating islands in the sky, aptly called The Shattered Isles, is under attack by massive beasts called Behemoths. While in normal circumstances this wouldn’t be a huge issue, they are eating Aether, the mysterious force that is keeping The Shattered Isles afloat in the sky, so needless to say, they must be stopped at all costs. Your first few hunts will show you the ropes, but you’ll eventually be faced off against more challenging and larger Behemoths as you progress.

You’re a Slayer, tasked with taking down the never ending threat of Behemoths alongside up to three friends. Besting these beasts will reward with you with experience and loot which can be crafted into powerful new weapons and armor. If you’ve played Monster Hunter: World, then you’ll have an idea of how this works already. The best part? Dauntless is completely cross play and chat, so you can play alongside your friends regardless of console or PC preference. Because of this, I never had an issues waiting for a hunt to begin, and actually played with more PC and PS4 people than I anticipated. Sure you could play solo, but that’s nowhere near as rewarding and much more challenging.

Behemoths come in all different shapes, sizes and difficulty. You’ll be faced off against numerous different enemies that have an element types to their attacks. For example, if you’re fighting versus a fire behemoth, you’ll want to use ice based weapons for extra damage but fire armor to take less. While it’s not forced, it’s highly suggested, as you even have a ranking on your offence and defense in the lobby based on your currently equipped gear. There are more elements as well, like Terra (Earth), Shock and even Radiant or Umbral as well. Each type has their own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll need to make sure you got the right tools for every type of hunt.

There’s a ton of different sets of weapons and armor to craft, based on your playstyle and preference, so there’s always a constant grind to partake in, it’s just a matter of how rounded you want to be. To craft these items though, you’re going to have to hunt certain Behemoths for specific parts. For example, certain weapons or armor require parts from certain monsters, such as maybe a part of their tail or horn.

Some items drop regularly on a kill, while others are rare drops and require you to break off certain parts. If you happen to do enough damage to a tail for example, it could break off, dropping you a rare component, but also leave it susceptible to more damage as well. Be wary though, as a Behemoth can become enraged or completely change their attack patterns if they lose a horn or tail for example, so always be aware and on your toes. Once you’re trying to craft a complete set and see the grind that needs to be done to acquire all the components you need, you’ll need to dedicate some serious time into Dauntless to make any serious progression.

How you fight and what weapon you’ll use is also up to you, and there’s a plethora of weaponry to choose from, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and specific specialty. You begin with a basic sword, a good all-rounder, but eventually will be able to craft and choose from War Pikes, Axes, Chain Blades, Hammer, Aether Strikers (fists) and Repeaters. Every weapon feels and plays completely different, has an ideal range, strike zone and specific purpose. Certain weapons are meant for constant sustained damage, like my Repeaters, while others are for stunning or breaking off Behemoth parts and armor, so having a well-rounded team will make all the difference. Every weapon also has its own progression as well, so the more you become experience with a specific type, you’ll become more proficient with it, able to craft higher tiers.

Hunts are you choosing what type of specific hunt or patrol you want to partake in. If you want to simply hunt a Blaze Behemoth, you can do so, though if you want to track down a specific one, you can do that as well. Patrols will place you in a queue to fight any of the element type, whereas a specific hunt will look for other players wanting to do said explicit Behemoth. Eventually you’ll want to hunt certain ones to grind for specific pieces and components you need, all of which are laid out in an easy to understand list when you’re in the crafting menu.

Hunt Pass is an interesting component to Dauntless that tempts you to a certain type of progression. Your Hunt Pass is essentially a checklist of objectives that you rank up once you complete bounties and find collectibles in the hub zone, Ramsgate. This basic Hunt Pass is free, but being a free-to-play title, they need to tempt you to drop some real money into the game right? This is where the Elite Hunt Pass comes in.

This is a second set of tiered rewards that you can earn as you rank up as well, usually given you cosmetic skins, useful potions or even Platinum, the confusing real world turned in-game money to purchase other cosmetic items. Think of this like a Season or Battlepass from other games and that’s how you’ll find its worth to you or not. If you really want to gain some of the early items from Hunt Pass levels, then there’s even a purchase you can make that skips you ahead 15 levels instantly, unlocking some of the items. Of course, this costs real money, and if you want, you can even buy Platinum and skip all the way to the final tiers, but this becomes costly of course.

This is where we need to have a talk about microtransactions. Yes, Dauntless is completely free to play, and no, you aren’t forced to spend any money on it should you choose. You’re always tempted though, especially when you see the Hunt Pass Elite rewards, or cool skins on the marketplace. Once you convert the money it roughly works out to be $5-10 per skin or purchase. You’re able to buy bundles of Platinum of course, ranging from $6 to $130. While it’s not shoved down your throat to spend money, you are reminded often about it, constantly teased when you see someone with the coolest skins out there. Full disclosure; we were given a VIP code and a handful of Platinum, so you can bet I bought the coolest looking armor and weapon set I could afford. Did I need it? No. Am I glad I look awesome now? Absolutely.

Visually, Dauntless shares a colorful and cartoony style that almost mimics that of Fortnite. In fact, my daughter saw me playing and actually thought that’s what I was playing. Even though it has a cartoonish visual style, the Behemoths are very well designed and vary based on the type you’re fighting. Animations for characters and monsters are very fluid and you can customize the color pallet of your armor to be almost exactly how you want, granted, if you put some money down for the cool dye sets of course. Standing on a plateau you’ll be able to see the far distant edges of the floating island you’re hunting on, always on the lookout for sparkly collectible plants and rocks for crafting as well. Weapons sound like they have some ‘oomph’ in their hits on impact, Behemoths sound intimidating with their attacks and snarls, and the battle music is very fitting for hunting some huge monsters.

My biggest complaint with Dauntless though has to be with its camera. Given that you hunt in third person, the camera can get a little wonky at times when you’re backed against a wall or the Behemoth is close up to you. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve fallen off the edges of the islands because I was unable to move my camera around quickly enough while also trying to keep track of their attacks. Also, what I would give for a camera lock-on system. Currently there’s no way, that I know of, to lock onto a Behemoth, so you’re having to track it and adjust constantly while also aiming for specific parts to attack. Some Behemoths constantly pounce, leap and teleport around, so keeping track is incredibly difficult in the thick of battle. Sure, you can press in the ‘Left Stick’ to center your view on them, but doing this constantly while also trying to maneuver and dodge isn’t the easiest of tasks.

Dauntless kind of took me by surprise. While I expected a game that was Monster Hunter-like, and it is, I actually prefer Dauntless’ progression path, as it’s not discouraging overall. Yes, there’s a big grind the higher tier you get, but the payoff for finally crafting that new armor or weapon is fantastic. If you’re paired with a poorly skilled team, you’ll most likely fail, but I love that it’s simply fighting the Behemoths without useless filler in between, so getting right back into the thick of things doesn’t take long with the cross play enabled. It’s free to play, so might as well check and see if it’s a hunt you’ll want to partake in.

Overall: 8.1 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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