As someone who got on the bandwagon back during Monster Hunter 3, I can’t really claim myself to be a huge Monster Hunter Fan as others. While I didn’t get the chance to play until the Wii U and 3DS, I heard many stories about the Monster Hunter games and how rewarding playing those games can be. Eventually, I did find myself getting swept up by the hunts and when Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Generations Ultimate came, I was hooked. So when Monster Hunter World came out last year, I literally put in over 1000 hours between its launch to today while preparing for Iceborne in less than 100 days.
As thrilling as it is to go on hunts, craft weapons, and armors and challenge myself against more dangerous monsters, there was that small timeframe where we had no idea exactly where the series was going. Before World literally meant “Worldwide release,” many players thought we would have to cross our fingers to see if the next Monster Hunter game would cross over from Japan and go international or not. This was especially the case when Generations Ultimate was its announcement for the Switch, and yet for reasons unknown for some, it was a Japan exclusive. We would get it later, but that was still an unknown period of time of a game still being rather exclusive to Japan.
That was until December 2016 when Phoenix Labs began development on their own Monster Hunting game: Dauntless. Now after many months of Beta, this free to play hunting game has finally gone gold and with it, a new opportunity to enjoy an alternative hunting experience. Does it serve as a good free-to-hunt experience? Or does it still have a ways to go to reach the same level as Monster Hunter?
Six Weapons Of Choice
When Monster Hunter got going back in 2004, you could pick from six weapons. While that number has since gone up to 14, it shows that their focus wasn’t trying to throw in as many diverse weapons as possible as much as it was about the monsters. In the case of Dauntless, they too have six weapons to work with, and each one does their job fairly well too.
If you wanted to, you can draw a lot of comparisons to Dauntless weapons with Monster Hunter with examples like how the Axe is the Great Sword, Chain Blades being fast hitters like the Dual Blades, and Hammers that excel at giving them splitting headaches. You could draw on those comparisons if you like, but each of the Dauntless weapons has something special to them that does make them stand out.
While the Axe can let you charge attacks, you can also perform a charging attack that lets you move around. Attacks with Chain Blades let you charge a meter that can let you get closer to a monster or have an escape if you need it. Meanwhile, you have other weapons like the War Pike that can let you wound a monster with lets you and your team get in extra damage when applied.
Each weapon in Dauntless makes you feel like you have an assigned role and more importantly, can help contribute to taking down a monster in an efficient fashion. It can be fun to jump between weapons to find a particular playstyle you enjoy and there are lots of ways to customize your loadout.
Combat Fashion is Half the Battle
If you are a veteran of Monster Hunter, you know that prep work before the start of a new hunt is just as important as the hunt itself. Dauntless understands this too as there are plenty of things to take into consideration when you are getting ready to take down a behemoth.
It may not be as complex, but there’s a lot to take into consideration when setting up your layout. You can pick a head, torso, arms, legs and lantern to wear as well as the weapon you choose to take with you. Each armor piece can provide various perks to them alongside with Cell Slots that let you augment your skills further. Even the lanterns you unlock can help provide various skills for hunters like improve attack power to having the means to attack the Behemoths.
After you craft your weapons and armors, you can also upgrade them with orbs as well from patrols. it can get rather engaging when you start making a list of things you hunt so you can have a better chance at progressing the story. You’ll find yourself doing a rather delegate balancing act between trying to make the best gear possible and getting to that point of the story that will let you progress your progress forward. This is especially true with the game’s mastery system.
To Master the Hunt
Usually, when you play these hunting games, there is really no means of knowing how far you’ve come since the start of your journey. In the case of Dauntless, they went well out of their way to make a progression system through Mastery.
How Mastery works is fairly straightforward as it focuses on seven things. Besides what weapon you use and how it tracks how much damage you’ve done with it, it also keeps tracks on the Behemoths too in the sense of how efficiently you’ve fought them. While this may sound pointless at first, the rewards you get for leveling up a category (alongside with your overall hunter rank) can range from cores to get new augments, how many times you can upgrade your weapon and even new moves and abilities.
Say, for example, you like to use the horizontal slash of the Axe, but you find yourself wanting to move faster. There’s an augment you can unlock that lets you do just that without instilling the negative standpoints against you. You can even set up your super move where instead of tossing your axe like a boomerang, you can just launch the weapon directly at the monster and have it bounce off it. By playing through the mastery, it can feel like there’s always a new challenge to overcome all the time and keeps things moving forward as you make your way through the game.
A Free-To-Play Hunting Experience
One of the biggest draws Dauntless has going for it is how there is no charge at all to play it. Now, Free-To-Play games are a double-edged sword considering how they tend to find a means to turn a profit through other various means. Thankfully, Dauntless is pretty fair about how it inquires for your money as it isn’t like it will lock monsters or progression behind a paywall.
There is a store you can buy cosmetics and other small tidbits. It isn’t much and it isn’t like the developers will force you to get them. In fact, they follow the “Fortnite” approach with their season pass which lets you work on unlocking extra goods for a short period of time.
But this leaves to one small issue: There are no in-game stores at this time. While you can craft potions, weapons, and armor, the gold you collect in-game feels worthless. When you are sitting on 20,000 gold, but have nothing to spend it on, it makes you wonder, what exactly is the point. Hopefully, in the future, you can buy supplies and other goods to help you out, but until then, it feels like currency is pointless and all that matters are the parts the Behemoth drops.
Taking down Behemoths
So let’s talk about the actual Behemoths themselves. For the most part, the hunts against Behemoths are fun. While it would be easy to fault Dauntless on how nonsensical it can track one down, Monster Hunter was guilty of doing this too before World.
Once you do find the behemoth, you will notice several things. As you fight the Behemoth, there is a danger meter on the top right that will slowly fill up over time. The more attacks you and your team take, the higher that goes up. If it gets to 100%, the Behemoth becomes much stronger and you can not revive downed party members, and if everyone goes down the hunt is deemed a failure.
Luckily though, there are a few tidbits you can make use of to keep the fight in your favor. If you do enough damage to a Behemoth, you can force it into retreat and drop the danger meter. You also have access to various potions to boost your performance and five health potions (although you can’t make anymore during a hunt). It can get rather engaging when during a fight, you can knock parts off a monster and then start doing real damage to it until it drops dead. With over 20 monsters with several “powered up” versions, there’s plenty of variety to be had here.
The Other Glaring Issue
It can be fun to hunt these Behemoths, but I have to ask this question since it feels like there is one thing that keeps me from fully embracing the game: Why do these Behemoths feel so overpowered?
It sounds stupid to ask, but here’s the thing I hope gets improvements. In Monster Hunter, each monster (even if they take a few tidbits from other similar monsters) all have their own movements and tells of what they are going to do. It is with these actions that can help tell the player, “Here comes the attack! Move out of the way!” Well in Dauntless, the monsters have those too, but it doesn’t seem like you get that feeling for most of them.
Bear in mind that Dauntless currently does not have any weapons that can block attacks. No shields to hide behind, so you only have one choice: Dodging. The idea is how you are supposed to dodge through an attack so you can escape unharmed and continue the attack. That’s all fine and good, but for myself playing on console, these reads can feel misleading as it doesn’t seem like the game registers when you’re dodging and thus you get hit anyway.
The game just launched not too long ago, so perhaps the performance issues it is running into will get the fix up it needs to play just as smoothly on PC. Until then though, it feels like the game is punishing me even though there are little means to work through the issues.
So if you were to ask me which of the two Hunting games I prefer, it is a no contest. Monster Hunter World has the polish that fans have known for decades and with Iceborne around the corner, I’m just counting down the days at this point. That said, would I recommend Dauntless? Yes.
At the time of writing this, there are still plenty of issues to iron out with the game, but right now, it does what it needs to do: Be a fun alternative to Monster Hunter. I’ve been enjoying Dauntless so much, I will admit that it has been the first game I’ve ever got a season pass for since I feel like the game does an amazing job at being a F2P game and deserves that extra support.
My hopes for the future of Dauntless are simple: Besides fixing up the performance so that console players can enjoy the game as fluid as PC gamers, I hope we get to see new Behemoths to fight and maybe even new weapon types. At least having one shield would be nice too for those of us who want to play more defensively. But hey, considering Dauntless is also a cross-platform game too, that’s an extra bonus to enjoy too. So if you want to enjoy a new hunting experience, you can’t go wrong with Dauntless.
Have you had the chance to try out Dauntless yet? What are you thoughts on the game so far? And do you think it does well to compliment Monster Hunter? Leave your thoughts down below and be sure to follow us here at Culture of Gaming for more impressions, editorials and other things in the gaming world.