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Dauntless Review: Fun, But Far From Perfect

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Dauntless is basically a free to play version of Monster Hunter with Fortnite-esque graphics…

And despite this mini-rant you’re about to read… I can’t stop playing it. Developed by Phoenix Lab and published by Epic Games, the game just made it’s way to PS4 and Xbox One this week after first launching on PC back in May 2018. And, with it being free to play and all.. I couldn’t say no to losing a few hours to this game.

For those of you unfamiliar with the title, Dauntless is a free-to-play RPG that takes place in a time where a cataclysmic event has torn the world apart. This end of days setting has set the tone for unleashing Behemoths across the land that like to prey on the surviving humans. Like many other monster hunter games, you collect loot and craft new items to advance your gameplay to take down bigger and badder Behemoths along the way, either by running solo or partnering with a team of 4 others for more difficult challenges.

Don’t get me wrong… I have certainly been enjoying the game. I also get that it’s a free to play game that launched on a new platform less than a week ago, so I should probably be a bit more lenient with my judgement. But there are some underlying issues that my inner ranter just needs to vent about, and I do hope that this post isn’t in vain and that these issues possibly get fixed or addressed in future updates and patches. Otherwise, I could certainly see myself moving on to the next big thing.

BATTLE PASS / HUNT PASS

Like most games these days, Dauntless has implemented a “Battle Pass” that assists with in game cosmetics and rewards for leveling up. For a free to play game like Dauntless, a battle pass totally makes sense to help them recoop expenses on the game development (both past and future) and keep those servers turned on. Additionally, the battle pass doesn’t really provide anything of value that would turn the game from “free to play” to “pay to win” which is also a nice touch. But ultimately, it still seems to be a bit lack luster. The pass itself costs 1,000 Platinum, and in addition to the cosmetics, emotes and a few consumable items comes with some of their “Premium Currency” or Platinum. That’s really where the issue is… The Premium Currency.

After playing Fortnite until Season 7 (and part of Season 8), I kind of got over it all. The pass did pay for itself by getting me to Level 100 and with it’s completion I’d get 1,000+ V-Bucks, but that isn’t the case with Dauntless. The Battle Pass in Dauntless only gets you to Level 50, and you can only gain 500 Platinum. This means next season you’ll have to drop some real money on it again. For a game of this nature, it feels like I’m really being milked and taken for a ride. Because after a few seasons, you could just as easily drop $60 on Monster Hunter World and be done with it. And while the Battle Pass is totally optional, it really has me second guessing just how long I’ll stick around for the game. I mean, even Apex Legends saw a pretty big hit once their version of the pass came out.

Health Bars

So, Monster Hunter doesn’t have health bars so it would make sense that a clone would follow in its footsteps. However, Dauntless forces players to rely on monster movements, body language, and barely visible scars and blood on the monsters during mid-fight in order to gauge the state of the monster and how long the fight may be. In Monster Hunter World, there is great detail that makes it easy for even the most casual of players to determine if the monster is actually getting wounded or if it’s time to call the fight early and flee. At the risk of sounding like a noob, I’d like to formally request just a little more visual or auditory clues to the fights progress. Thanks.

Lock-On Mechanic

In it’s current state, Dauntless does not offer any lock-on mechanics. This forces the player to react with lightning speed when a monster potentially rushes you or jumps over you mid-fight. Otherwise, your monster is now a mile away and you either have to chase it down or give up. This is especially true with the Embermane hunts, since it runs around so much. I spent a good amount of time just trying to relocate it mid-fight. I know, I know. I shouldn’t be comparing Dauntless to Monster Hunter World as they are two separate games, but honestly, Dauntless is such a close clone of MHW, it feels like a big miss to not copy a feature like this.

Graphical Issues and Serious Lag

Since the game is quite new, I feel like I should have a bit of leniency in this category. Especially since this is the company’s first game.

That being said, this definitely needs to be placed on their radar.

I’ve noticed that since I started playing, there are times the game will lag out, and the graphics will start to look a little off, or wonky. There are even points where my character looks like they had the living daylight scared out of them, even though I didn’t set her to have that expression. I have also had to go through and re-edit my character to fix it, as the bug seems to alter the characters expression until I make a change to the appearance again.

But the graphical issues didn’t nearly bother me as much as the lag has. I can put up with my character looking a bit weird, but some of the random spikes in server lag make it nearly impossible to dodge or accurately land blows to your monster. There’s been quite a few times I’ve been downed due to a monster teleporting on top of me during a fight. I’m sure that the team at Phoenix Lab is working hard to scale the servers and push out patches as quickly as they can, so I’ll move on to a different topic for now.

Matchmaking

While this hasn’t happened every time, there’s been enough issues with the matchmaking process to make it on this list. When you go hunting for Behemoths, the game is designed to place you in parties of 4. But, that’s not always the case. There’s been a few times that it says it’s found me a party, but then there are only 1 or 2 others in the group and no one else joins. It’s possible this is related to the above mentioned lag issue, where maybe someone lagged out mid connection, but it does make hunting the Behemoths quite difficult. The other night I had to hunt an Embermane with only 1 other party member, and while the Embermane isn’t even the hardest Behemoth to fight, it does make the fight quite harder.

Arguably (one) of the best parts so far…

Ok, so the game is extremely fun and it’s a great way to kill some time. But one of my favorite little pieces nested in the game so far is that you can pet the dogs in the main town hub. If that doesn’t make for a good game, then I don’t know what will. The only real issue I have is that I can’t pet the goats that are found throughout that same town. So devs, take note!

Overall, Dauntless is a good game that just falls short of being great. You’ll have some fun, kill some time, make new friends, and see some crazy beasts along the journey. And if you’ve ever had any interest in playing the Monster Hunter games but were afraid of splurging on the AAA title with that $60 price tag, this game is a great way to dip your toes into the mechanics and gameplay style. The game is fairly easy to learn, even for the most casual of players, and the crafting system definitely encourages you to continue the hunt. Graphically, it’s pleasing enough (when it’s not messing up), and I could easily see myself sticking around for a few seasons if there is some progress to the above bullet points.