Release Date: September 26th 2019 (Epic Games Store, Ps4, XBOX One) December 10th 2019 (Nintendo Switch)
Available on: PC (Epic Games Store), PS4, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch
Price: Free (has optional in game microtransations, and a Battle Pass)
Dauntless is a free to play action RPG in the same vein as Monster Hunter made by Phoenix Labs and published by Epic Games (of Fortnite fame). The game is advertised on social media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, which is what drew me in. A free to play Monster Hunter game, that sounds awesome! Was it really everything I had hoped it would be?
It is worth noting that a game like this is a live service and as such, will be getting new content and improvements down the line. For full disclosure, I played version 1.0 at the time of this writing. I gave the game a good week to try and suck me into its world, its mechanics and its gameplay loop. Despite this, after about a week, I found it difficult to go back to.
First, the good: its price and its crossplay support. Free is a very difficult price to argue with and is a great draw for people who want to go slaying monsters with their friends no matter the platform. Whether it’s on PC, PS4 or XBOXOne it’s easy to get Dauntless without breaking the bank… initially.
Second: the (relatively) short tutorial. I spent roughly 30 minutes learning how to play the game. While it is true that I have experience playing these kinds of games and therefore skipped most of it, it still felt way shorter than say, the beginning of Monster Hunter World.
Third: the simple gameplay. Dauntless’ main premise is simple; walk up to the monster and smack it. It does have mechanics that make random swinging of your weapon a poor tactic (leaving yourself open to attack if you’re too aggressive) and has different weapons to suit different playstyles (my personal favorite in this game being the chain blades due to their speed).
Fourthly: the armor/weapon upgrades. The way Dauntless does it’s weapon and armor upgrades is streamlined. You get three big numbers on the side of the screen that tells you how strong your weapon or armor is against certain types of enemies and upgrading these is a simple matter of acquiring the necessary materials needed to level up your weapon/armor.
So if it has this many positives, why is it hard for me to return to the game? Well…
Tracking the monster is challenging. While it is true you can use the “Recruiter’s Lantern” that you get at the beginning of the game (holding L1 will use its alternate function of pointing you in the direction of the monster), I feel it doesn’t suffice in locating the fleeing beast. The absence of a map also makes this harder.
The graphics overall are unimpressive. They feel like an angular Fortnite. While not objectively bad, it isn’t for me. What needs mentioning is that the world feels meager and bland. Unlike Monster Hunter, where the environment feels lively, expansive and even helpful (where monsters leave tracks), Dauntless has barren, uninteresting and forgettable landscapes.
Dauntless’ aforementioned simple gameplay acts as a double-edged sword, as it also makes it shallow. Armors have no skills (known as Perks) on their own, just slots where you can add Cells. To add Perks to your loadout, you need Cells, which you get from Cores. Weapon impact also feels weak, like giving the behemoth a discontent slap as opposed to the crushing force that Monster Hunter’s weapons have.
My biggest gripe with Dauntless is the monetization. Since the game is free-to-play, it only makes sense that the game would have a way to make money so that it can stay online. The problem is Dauntless shows its in game store at every opportunity it gets. In most free-to-play games, it is common to see either, a Battle Pass (like Fortnite) or cosmetic microtransactions (found in quite a few modern video games). Dauntless has both. It has a Battle Pass where you get some rewards for getting Silver Stars, which you can get by completing side objectives like “slay behemoths with a certain weapon”. You can also buy cosmetic items using the premium currency known as “Platinum”. While none of these have a major impact in progression Dauntless seldom lets you forget that it has extras that can be purchased for real world money.
Overall if you are looking to slay some monsters for a low cost no matter what your gaming platform of choice, Dauntless is a good prospect, but if you are looking for a rich world, gripping mechanics and overall more interesting monsters, Monster Hunter World would be a better choice.