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CORPG | Setting:Fantasy | Status:Beta Testing  (est.rel 2020)  | Pub:Phoenix Labs
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5 Things You Should Know Before Starting Out in Open Beta

By Gareth Harmer on May 24, 2018 | Columns | Comments

5 Things You Should Know Before Starting Out in Open Beta

Today is the day that Phoenix Labs has been waiting for. If everything goes according to the indie studio’s plan, Dauntless will emerge into open beta just before the Pacific coast breaks for lunch. At this point, the pathway to Ramsgate will be wide open for players everywhere to experience behemoth slaying for the first time.

Hunting big-ass monsters is a genre with a significant chunk of fans, but PC gamers have mostly missed out on the fun. While it won’t be the only choice arriving this year, Dauntless has nonetheless been steadily building a legion of loyal advocates; over a hundred thousand clocked in to test. Now, after a significant closed alpha and beta, Phoenix feels that it’s ready to pull back the covers on this multiplayer co-op action RPG.

But where to begin? If you’ve not familiar with Dauntless, or simply not caught up since last year’s alpha, here’s a handy list of 5 things you should know before making your way to the Shattered Isles.

1) New & Improved

The road to open beta was a long one, but Dauntless has been made all the better for it. From my experience in early alpha to this month’s final closed beta (disclosure - I paid for an early Founder’s Pack with my own cash, so another crewmember will be doing the review) much of the core game has changed. Crucially, performance has improved dramatically, particularly in combat. Latency and rubber-banding have almost completely vanished.

Progression has also been revamped, with a voice-acted questline that gradually introduces the life of a slayer. The Shattered Isles have been carved up into regions, each with its own tier of behemoths to hunt and gear to craft. You can even pick your style of hunt: a patrol for a random behemoth to get extra loot, an expedition for bonus crafting resources, or a pursuit for a specific monster.

One thing I want to call out is the new group queueing system, as it’s a little different than what you might be used to. Choose a mission, and you’ll be placed on the airship with a five minute timer. At this point you can either ready-up and go solo, or wait for more to arrive and launch as a team. The longer you wait, the more people arrive. It means your queue time is up to your own preference and skill.

Numerous other tweaks and touches have also been thrown in for good measure. Trees and other scenery can now be demolished by the behemoth mid-fight, weapons have been overhauled, and controllers are now supported. New behemoths, behemoth types, and even islands are waiting to be discovered. Even transmogrification been squeezed in before open beta. What’s more, the development roadmap is public for all to see.

2) Combat has Heft

If you’re not familiar with the monster hunting genre, the first taste of combat can be a little jarring. Attacks can feel slow and lethargic, while dodging can seem difficult. Your toolkit of abilities might also feel a little small and button-mashy.

All this is deliberate in order to raise the skill ceiling. Different attacks have a different duration, and it’s up to you to judge if you should swing that sword or dodge an incoming blow. Choose badly or spam attacks and you’ll end up face-down in the dirt more often than not. That said, it’s worth experimenting with different weapons; the speedy chainblades might suit your playstyle better than the slow hammer.

There’s also no health bar for the behemoth, but the wounds you inflict appear on the creature as the battle progresses. Some monsters have specific vulnerable spots, but discovering and exploiting those is all part of being a good slayer.

Knowing your weapon is also important, as there’s a number of hidden combos just waiting to be learned. Each one also has a special ability that can be activated by filling a meter, and understanding how to charge and unleash these attacks will help you inflict some serious damage. Luckily, there’s an official wiki to help with all this.

3) Use Your Kit

You’re not expected to start slaying with just the weapon in your hands. Instead, a full toolkit is at your disposal, the most important one being flares to signal your group-mates when the behemoth is found. Learning how to fire these, and how to follow markers when you see one in the sky, should be one of the first things you do.

The second is about learning when and how to heal yourself. In the early levels you get a sling full of health potions with every mission, but you’ll quickly need to learn how to gather the resources to make these yourself. Drinking a potion isn’t instantaneous either, so you’ll have to get away from the behemoth before drinking or risk losing the vial. And if you really goof it up, you can try inhaling aether from the ground rift the behemoth burst through.

Run out of health, and your group can try to resurrect you as long as the behemoth hasn’t enraged (yes, they do that). You can even carry a self-resurrect gizmo, though these are usually single-shot.

The other vital tool in your arsenal is the Lantern. A basic version will release a green cloud that points you in the direction of the monster you’re hunting, but later versions will boost your group’s damage, increase movement speed, and more. Learning how to use them, and which ones are more useful against particular behemoths, can make all the difference.

4) Loot and Upgrade Often

It’s true that behemoths are a rich source of vital components for crafting weapons and armour. However, finishing that assembly or brewing your own consumables requires a wider set of scavenging skills. Herbs, ores and other ingredients can all be found on the various floating islands and are now easier to spot by their aetheric green glow. Learning how to recognise these and scooping them mid-hunt will help to keep your stockpiles topped up.

More importantly, building and upgrading your armour and weapons is absolutely vital in order to progress. Yes, your Slayer rank charts your badassery against behemoths, but having better equipment will help you take down stronger foes. It’s worth regularly looping around to see what can be upgraded, or even having a plan for what you want to build so that you can shop for parts in your next hunt.

That goes for consumables too. There’s nothing worse than landing on an island, only to find out that you forgot to make a fresh batch of potions...

5) No Loot Boxes!

It seems strange to call this feature out, but the last few months have seen a shakedown of monetisation practices in online games. Players are increasingly voting with their voices and wallets, trashing the reputations and sales figures of publishers who uses exploitative techniques to turn fans into ATMs. As MMO gamers we don’t mind paying our way, but there’s a balance to be had.

Which is why it’s refreshing that Phoenix Labs removed loot boxes from Dauntless. In an interview with PC Gamer’s (and former columnist) Steven Messner, design director Chris Cleroux stated that the studio would shift to a ‘bespoke monetisation model’, citing Warframe and Path of Exile as examples. We’ve seen parts of this new approach during the beta, and so far the shift has been to direct purchase of cosmetic and convenience items such as armour dyes and banner sigils.

Hearing a studio, even a small indie such as Phoenix Labs, put players before profits is great news. Now I’m even more tempted to spend some time making my Slayer look badass. Maybe gold and chrome?

Gareth Harmer / When he's not blasting or fireballing his way through a virtual world, Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer can be found dissecting the mechanics of online games. Chua at heart, he's also our resident columnist for all things WildStar.

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