Dauntless

Free-to-Play games usually struggle with balancing receiving a decent income with keeping their player base happy. Some developers with their publishers consider tactics like placing content behind paywalls while others offer a fully fledged game with only cosmetic microtransactions. Players prefer one or the other but it is fair to assume that the “pay-to-win” ideology is most likely the worst, specially in PvP type online multiplayer. However, Phoenix Labs’ Dauntless is a free-to-play co-op action RPG available on the Epic Store, Xbox One and now recently launched on the PS4, a particular type of game that fits slightly in these aspects to a certain degree. Does that make it good or bad? Depends honestly on how much entertainment you get from keeping your wallet at a distance or not and how much you enjoy this game’s genre.

Dauntless is straight up an indie, much, much less complex version of Monster Hunter. Of course also much simple and easier in terms of gameplay and mechanics. You start off by customizing your character in a variety of different ways such as body shape, sex, facial characteristics and what not (and can later be changed in any way for free, anytime), you then launch the game and are introduced to 1 of the 6 weapon types you can use which in this case would be the Sword. You mash your way through the tutorial as you encounter your first Behemoth which are creatures that are a phenomenon invading the Shattered Isles. Your job as a Slayer is to make this universe’ PETA as angry as possible. But in all seriousness, you need to hunt as many behemoths as you can by finding ways to make the game not boring to you. You fight in a team of 4 Slayers, with full cross-platform compatibility.

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OK, HOW DO WE NOT MAKE IT REPETITIVE?

As most games from this genre, you land in a hub town with quest givers and vendors. Most of these are literally just there for ambience since you can just enter their menu from the Start screen. In the beginning you will be tasked to hunt a few behemoths, just simple hunting tasks that will later unlock further quests such as collecting specific parts that drop from specific behemoths. During this phase you will familiarize more and more with your weapon of choice (you can choose between the Sword, Axe, Hammer, Chain Blades, War Pike, and after a simple extra quest the dual guns known as Repeaters). The interesting part about these weapons is that you can enter their move lists and learn their simple mechanics, but they can get more unique depending on the weapon parts you can find as random drops from behemoths, crafted ones or quest rewards.

At one point the game will introduce more NPC quest givers and you will find yourself with many quests at a time. Fortunately, when you enter the Map it will sort your behemoths and mark them with an exclamation mark and under their description the objective for a quest they’re related to currently. The map gives you the option to do Patrols, which allow you to enter a fight with a random behemoth depending on the elemental type you choose, or you can play a Pursuit to fight a specific behemoth to complete a specific task in your quests.

Patrols are given extra rewards as the game’s Daily Rewards every few hours in the day, offering extra materials needed to upgrade armor and weapons depending on the element you chose. As you defeated behemoths they will drop materials to craft their own unique armor set and for each behemoth you can craft one of each weapon type designed by it. There are also lamps that you can craft which can activate a skill with L1 and another ability if you hold it, there are a few you can craft with different abilities. Your goal as a completionist is to craft every single piece and min-max your builds.

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WAIT, THERE’S BUILDS?

Yup. There are 7 elemental types of behemoths; Neutral, Blaze, Frost, Shock, Terra, Radiant and Umbral. Neutral armor and weapons have no advantage or disadvantage against behemoths, but the other types do just like Pokemon. When you start an encounter against a behemoth you will be given a simple instruction on what type of armor and weapon is most effective against it and what is not. So ideally, if you struggle against a new Blaze behemoth, you farm enough Frost behemoths to craft a frost weapon that will do a lot of damage to it, but here’s the interesting part that actually makes some sense, the most efficient armor against a specific element is the element itself, in this case you would suit up with Blaze armor against Blaze behemoths. Simple enough, right?

It only gets just a little bit more complicated. Every armor set for each behemoth can be upgraded individually for each of it parts such as the helmet, chest piece, gauntlets and boots. Materials needed for such objective drop from the behemoths you annihilated to craft the pieces in the first place with some added extra mats such as Orbs. Orbs only drop from patrols but these are the ones you can get an extra chunk if you do the Dailies.

Each of these individual armor pieces (as well as the lamps) have an intrinsic perk which alters your character in a way such as giving you extra health, do more damage on specific parts, regen energy, etc… and if you upgrade them to a certain threshold their perks will increase. The game then adds relics, these have the same intrinsic perks the armor pieces have but you can slot them however you like into your favorite armor, lamps and weapons that you want if the relic matches the slot’s symbol (offensive, defensive, support of the like). This allows you to mix and match pieces from different behemoth sets and then use relics on top of that to increase your perks higher and higher, making hunts trivial or at least less of a pain.

If you have duplicated relics, there's an NPC that will meld them into a random one, but you will have to wait some hours to see the results or pay him with not-specifically-easy-to-earn currency. This is probably one of those F2P mechanics that’s most troublesome.

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OK, HOW DO WE OPTIMIZE OUR GAME TIME?

With so many quests, there are cases where the objectives can overlap, so questing efficiently is always recommended. If one quest tells you to hunt any Terra behemoth, but another tells you to obtain a material that only drops from a Skarn (a Terra behemoth), then simply go to your pursuits and hunt it specifically and complete both objectives.

As you keep on completing quests, the game will start opening up more and more as it will allow you to hunt harder variants of the behemoths which will hit harder and perform new movesets against your team. Finally at one point, when you are somewhat satisfied with your builds, you can simple do patrols and fight whatever the game launches at you.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT HOW F2P-ish IT IS THOUGH

In terms of customization, I mentioned before you can freely change your appearance of your characters physically, as well as have some emotes, banners, color dyes and signal flares. Of course if you want the more flashy ones, they will cost Platinum. The game offers a free Hunt Pass that you can level up throughout the season when you collect a specific currency dropped from broken behemoth parts, and as you level it pass you will earn free rewards such as simple currencies, potions, relics and a total of 100 Platinum. On the other side, you can purchase a premium Hunt Pass that has way more rewards, more cosmetics (which are themed depending on the season), more Platinum and other goodies.

The problem with Platinum however is that the only way to obtain it is through the Pass, and the free one will not give you enough to purchase the Premium one for free unless you save up for like 5 seasons. You can also use this Platinum to buy goodies in the Store, such as all the type of cosmetics for each category for visual flexing purposes, but also buy consumables to ease your hunts.

In terms of the game itself, Platinum only helps alleviate some player’s struggles to farm materials or to look good. The game offers its content freely to players; there’s no behemoths, armor, weapons, or lamps behind paywalls, only cosmetics (which if you buy, you can transmog them to your favorite sets). I will say though, when you defeat behemoths and obtain their drops, you will get better the more parts you break and your overall individual and team rating, but even then you will need to hunt the same behemoths over and over because the amount of materials required to craft armor and weapons is slightly too much.

After dozens of hours playing and hunting the same behemoths, you will most likely understand that you should stick to one weapon or two and maybe, just maybe a third one, since upgrading them and the armor pieces requires a lot of mats. If you like progressing this would be your methodological steps, however if you’re patient and want more rewards, simply farm casually and upgrade every weapon type and optimize your sets however you like. The more you use a specific weapon or hunt the same behemoth enough, they game will reward you with a long tier of rewards for that specific category; earn enough kills with a Shock War Pike, or do enough Frost damage to a specific type, all of these passive objectives will net you permanent stat upgrades, relics and more.

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MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS

The game has a lot of behemoths, even if its free-to-play, with stronger variants and a healthy amount of weapon and armor combinations to get you through all these objectives and get the most out of your gametime and enjoyment.

Audio Visually speaking, the game’s aesthetic is gorgeous with simple shaded 3D graphics, well designed behemoths and their armor and weapon counterparts, as well as fighting these creatures on different floating isles with different biomes so almost every fight will look different. The interface has some contrasting issues and it’s missing some key features as quality of life updates but it is visually good looking for the genre. The music is well balanced, voice acting is top notch, and the sound FX are way better than I expected.

The crossplay functionality is amazing yet the servers still need some tuning to make the gameplay seamless, as well as optimize some behemoth fights (some Blaze behemoths just destroy the framerate).

It might not be Monster Hunter, you have to manually order your loadouts and there’s no wishlisting materials, but the game has decent loading times, a big enough sandbox, and enough to keep you hunting. It does need some work but it has a lot of space to work with.

4

In Short

  • + Fun and simple gameplay mechanics for each weapon style
    + Customizable builds and gameplay variety
    + Encounters are almost different everytime
    + Audiovisually stunning

  • - UI still needs some QoL improvements and game requires framerate stability

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