Review: Dauntless – an unmemorable mess of a game
What happens when you try to mash Monster Hunter, Destiny, Fortnite, and World of Warcraft into a single game? Dauntless has the answer for you: A disaster.
Dauntless is a game that I have seen at gaming conventions for what feels like an eternity, but really has just been since PAX East 2017. In gaming years, that’s a long time for something to be visible to the public. It hit paid early access in 2018 and “full release” on May 21st.
I honestly had no idea what kind of game it was. The booths were always enormous, it looked pretty, and as far as I could tell it was just another vanilla fantasy action game. I should have trusted that feeling all along.
Developed by Phoenix Labs and published by Epic Games, Dauntless wants very badly to be a more social, free-to-play Monster Hunter that appeals to younger audiences and streamers. I love Monster Hunter, so when it came out I thought, “It’s free and I’ve played a ton of MHW already, so let’s give it a shot.”
The first thing you do is link to an Epic Games account. I’m not wild about that, but fine. The second thing you do is realize that there’s no in-game option for rescaling the video, so my game is just permanently cut off on all sides.
That compass at the top of the screen you can see in the above screenshot? That’s my first time seeing that; only the bottom sliver is visible on my TV and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Then I made my character, got introduced to the world, and ran through a tutorial mission, after that, I got dropped off in Stormwind.
Wait, no, The Tower.
Neither of these? What’s this city called? I literally can’t remember. Maybe Ramshead? Ramsgate? I think the overall world is called the Maelstrom. It’s a broken series of floating islands, which is an extremely apt metaphor.
Once I got the general lay of the city, which is not helped by the lack of a map, I figured out what I was supposed to hunt, picked one of the game’s weapon types to start with, and got to it.
Hunting Behemoths in Dauntless
When you arrive at the hunt, which you queue up for individually before getting placed onto a team, you get dropped off in literally the exact way that the ships drop you into a mission in Destiny, right down to the fly-by in the background, customizable entrance effects, and arrival poses. The game makes a point of the spectacle.
Starting the hunt, you are given nothing to work with. All hunts are for a singular monster, but there’s no map. My lantern, one of the equipment pieces you get, says “hold to track Behemoth” but holding the lantern button doesn’t do anything. Is it broken? Am I doing something wrong? Who knows?
Anyway, I ran in with my rando party and we killed our monster in 3 minutes. It literally took longer than that to queue up and arrive.
I noticed on the hunt that there are materials you can pick up and later use for crafting consumables, but the problem here is that all hunts are in groups. When am I supposed to get those? Should I be a slacker and pick flowers while my compatriots fight the Behemoth? We only get 30 minutes to hunt, so you can’t dick around for too long.
I did try that, once. I had a quest to craft some potions and that required picking flowers, so I went out of my way to do that. I immediately got lost. The game’s action worlds are utterly unmemorable. There is no wildlife. There’s no personality to them. Nothing feels alive or real. I spent 3/4 of that hunt finding my party again, because there’s no goddamn map.
All of that is a shame, because the Behemoths do look cool
They have interesting attack patterns and wielding the different weapon types feels good enough. I tried all of them and the varying move sets were plenty different from one another.
Weapons tend to have a standard attack, a heavy attack, and a power-up attack that’s only available once you’ve done enough of the first two to fill a meter
In combat you can move, jump, attack, dodge roll, and use consumable items with a four-way pad like the one in Dark Souls. Behemoths themselves have different parts to break, so sometimes you’ll be going for horns, sometimes tails, so on and so on.
For better and for worse, if you’ve played some combination of Monster Hunter and Dark Souls, nothing will surprise you here
That is, except for the lack of a lock-on button. That was the record scratch moment for me. There’s no ability to lock on to a monster, which moves around quite a bit. You can click the left stick to reorient your camera to where the monster is at that exact moment in time, but that’s it. It feels wildly insufficient.
Don’t like that being on the left stick? Tough, you can’t re-map buttons. That’s also a pain given that the button to jump is also the button to harvest things and talk to people, so I hope you like bouncing around like a moron when you’re trying to do anything else of consequence.
Once the fighting ends – pretty unceremoniously, I might add – I’m reminded that this is a free-to-play game
You literally get different loot if you don’t have an Elite Hunt Pass. It affects your actual mechanical progression through the game.
What does an Elite Hunt Pass actually do? Honestly, I’m at a bit of a loss. I’m pretty sure there are finite seasons, so you can buy a pass for a season and it unlocks different Mastery tiers that I think can be filled in a bunch of different ways (e.g. dealing damage with weapon types, hunting certain Behemoth types, etc.).
You have a free Mastery set of rewards each season and a premium/paid set of rewards if you opt for that pass. I’m not 100% sure on any of this because literally nothing explains it to you. On top of that, Mastery seems to fill so agonizingly slow that I didn’t even make a dent in it in my time with the game. You are definitely supposed to sink tons of time into this game.
This raises another problem, which is that the game is steeped in so many kinds of currency with so many generic names, I have no idea what most of them do
There’s gold, which I think is called RAMS? There’s that purple stuff. There are iridescent bars of some kind. There are things you can pop open to get ability spheres that you infuse into your gear. There are upgrade spheres of a million different types. There are monster parts. It’s a lot.
And honestly, all of that for what? The combat is okay, minus the lock-on nonsense, and the Behemoths are pretty, but there is so much garbage to wade through that I cannot in good faith recommend wading through it.
Everything in this game is completely unmemorable
I found myself trying to remember a swath of pointless things just to get to a few kinda okay seconds of fighting for maybe 20% of my overall play time.
Hard pass. Don’t play this game. If you play it and think it was kinda fun, invest the money you would have spent into Monster Hunter World, which does everything this game tries to do infinitely better. I love that there’s cross-platform multiplayer, but that’s no saving grace for me.
And no, Dauntless, I don’t care that you got the same voice actor as The Commander from Monster Hunter World. You can’t keep me here with a bullet point list of things people told you were cool in other games, but have been implemented here only as superficial fan service in a game that is pretty to watch and painful to play.
No, not even to pet the dog.
I always try to identify who a game is for but I’m having trouble with this one. It seems like Dauntless is for people who’ve never played any of the other games that it tries to ape. “People who don’t have $20 to pick up Monster Hunter World on sale,” maybe? I don’t know.
Avoid this one. Play Monster Hunter World, God Eater, Toukiden, or literally any other game that might scratch your hunter’s itch.
Dauntless is available for free on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Jake played Dauntless so you don’t have to.
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