During PAX East 2017, I had the opportunity to get my hands on a game called Dauntless– a co-op ARPG about fighting giant creatures, it’s a bit reminiscent of Monster Hunter, and if my first impressions are to be trusted, it could be the next big action game you’ll be playing with friends.
The demo that I played at PAX wasn’t too complicated- alongside three other players, I picked the character bearing the Umbral Sword, which allows for quick attacks- since I was so new to the game, I figured I could keep my dying to a minimum if I managed to be nimble. We then voted to play against the Shrike, a giant, terrible owl-like creature; the level loaded, and we were dropped onto a marshy plain, where we tested out abilities as we ran towards our fate.
As we approached the beast, I couldn’t help but wonder why we were fighting a giant owl- the Shrike, after all, hadn’t made any aggressive moves towards us until we entered its territory? From what I learned later about the game’s story, it’s postapocalyptic- set in an age after some Earth-shattering calamity- and the monsters hunt people. I didn’t get that out of the demo, and that concerns me a little. I understand that for most Monster Hunter fans, a significant chunk of the game’s appeal comes from fighting monsters and not wading through lore, but I also think that Dauntless would do well to set itself apart by establishing a stronger tone and by bettering its worldbuilding once it’s released. Being completely honest, monster-fighting games aren’t really my genre, but I can be swayed by a good story- that’s why the (now cancelled) Scalebound had my attention. The gameplay didn’t really excite me, but the game seemed to have so much personality leaking out of its trailers that I wanted to at least try it out.
While Dauntless may leave something to be desired from a story angle, its gameplay is pretty solid- if you’ve played Monster Hunter, you have some idea of how Dauntless plays: run up to monsters, fight them with your weapons. Time your attacks carefully, pay close attention to when the beast’s about to strike and try not to get yourself killed.
Perhaps the beast my team fought- the Shrike- was on the easy side, but I didn’t get the whole team dynamic to the game. Maybe I’m just a bad player, but I didn’t really feel like an important part of the team- I was just the guy with the fast sword. The only time I really felt important was when a teammate went down and I needed to bring him back to health. Again, this is the alpha version of the game that I’m talking about, so we can expect the developers will continue to improve the team dynamics and game balance.
My favorite element of Dauntless thus far is its aesthetic- the character design is really cool, and left me wondering more about the characters and just who they were; the game’s visual style is really neat as well- the textures look as though they’re painted onto every surface. The monster design didn’t blow me away, but the Shrike did feel sort of frightening to play against because of how formidable it was- I just wish there was more strategy to the fight, as it felt like I was just running up and smacking it until it went down. If I had to give the developers advice, it would be to improve their worldbuilding, make the game’s team dynamic stronger, and to make the battles more strategic.
Will Dauntless take off? It certainly has the potential to- the developers plan for the finished game to be free-to-play with microtransactions for cosmetics- a relatively fair business model, in my opinion.
If you’d like to try Dauntless, you can register for the upcoming beta at the game’s website here.