Beta Testing Dauntless
Dauntless is a game based on reading the signs and reacting quickly. If you prefer to simply mash buttons then you’ll find yourself on a hiding to nothing. This co-operative fantasy-based RPG is set in a time when cataclysmic event has torn the world apart, releasing gigantic beasts that prey on the surviving humans. Players take on the role of Slayers who hunt these Behemoths, collecting loot that they use to craft and upgrade weapons. When hunting, the game plays as a third-person action game with players using a combo system to attack, while monitoring their own health and stamina gauge. Such hunts can take upwards of twenty minutes of in-game time to complete. The game can be played both as single player or co-operatively with up to four people. If your team works collaboratively, has the right gear and is au fait with reading the Behemoths body language, then Dauntless is an immensely enjoyable endeavour.
Dauntless is currently in beta and is still a work in progress. However, it is regularly updated and the version that I played this afternoon is by far the most complete game experience I’ve had so far. It still lacks things like a mini map but the developers, Phoenix Labs, have certainly been busy focusing on the nuts and bolts of the game, such a weapon damage and the various combination moves. I also feel that there’s a more tangible difference between the various weapon types. They’re becoming more distinctive with their special second attacks, and making a choice now seems less arbitrary. The Chain Blades with their evasive grapple and teleport-dash are now a good choice for players who don’t favour such a full-on melee style of combat. There are potions and other boosts to craft which you can utilise to your tactical advantage. However, Dauntless does not have the excessive intricacies of other games of this genre.
Obviously, since it was announced Dauntless has been constantly compared to Monster Hunter: World. However as ever with games, this is was a classic apple versus orange scenario. Dauntless is easier to solo, for one thing, though the developer is still working on the best way to optimise the single player experience. I believe there was an experiment with bots in the closed alpha but it proved unpopular. As it stands in the current iteration of the game Dauntless scales according to group size. There are also certain weapons that are more effective against specific Behemoths. Yet conversely, there are no support only weapons and success in the game is no dependent solely on having a balanced team. Dauntless takes a flexible approach to consumables which are mainly focused on AOE heals, buffs and debuffs rather than the precise use of special ammunition or traps. There is also no risk of friendly fire.
At present Dauntless does not feature an enthralling storyline. What’s in place is functional and serves a purpose, guiding the player to the appropriate quests. The only major decision the story offers in this build is what faction to join. But I don’t see narrative being a primary selling point for Dauntless. This is a game about going head-to-head with beats with nasty sharp pointy teeth. The Behemoths are the stars of the game, particularly the Shrike, which conjures up the memory of Ori and the Blind Forest. The minimalist art style actually suits the needs of the game and the procedurally generate landscapes are also creative. Usually the fantasy genre is flamboyant in its use of colour but Dauntless favour a very organic use of pastel shades. There is one trade off when using procedurally generated environment and that is it negates any facility to explore, beyond simply doing so to gather.
As a F2P game, Phoenix Labs has to find an appropriate means to monetise Dauntless. Since the Star Wars: Battlefront II debacle, the developers have decided to remove loot boxes from the game Phoenix Labs said that this isn’t “entirely reactive” to the recent turn against the free-to-play system but admit they’re “not deaf” to the backlash. Across the industry, developers and organisations like PEGI, the FTC, and the UK Gambling Commission, are being asked to take a stand for or against loot boxes. Phoenix Labs have indicated they wish to follow a model similar to Warframe and Path of Exiles “where you choose the things that you're purchasing.” The developers describe this approach as “a lot more player-first.” Obviously, it is prudent to reserve judgement until the final release of the game, which should be later this year. However, so far developers Phoenix Labs do seem to be responding to their players needs in an equitable manner.