I originally played Dauntless before it was released and for a short time afterward. Developer Phoenix Labs had created a fun game, in my opinion, but it lacked depth in some systems at the time. Unfortunately, it just didn't capture my interest. With the third anniversary ongoing and a new update, the opportunity suddenly came up to return over this past weekend. After reinstalling the game, I was surprised at how much I was looking forward to seeing what had changed.
My experience as a returning slayer was a pleasant one. The in-game tutorial was straightforward and got me into the action quickly. After a quick trip to the training grounds, I was off to do my first hunt. I had forgotten how good the environments look on the various islands in the game. The stylized graphics look great, and the equipment design is well done.
Combat in Dauntless is responsive and snappy, as I remembered. I quickly found myself settling into dodging and counter-attacking the behemoths I faced. All seven weapons still have that unique feel to each one. If a player chooses to use strikers, swords, repeaters, hammers, axes, war pikes, or chain blades, there should be a playstyle that fits them.
When I first played the game, the chain blades were my weapon of choice for high mobility and gap closer combo. Starting fresh in 2022, I tested all the weapons and finally settled on the war pike. Quickly swapping between a piercing attack to create wounds and a slashing attack to interrupt enemies was too useful.
Dauntless does an amazing job of making me feel powerful at certain moments when I interrupt a Behemoth’s attack or manage to knock them down in mid-charge. Especially when I also successfully execute a follow-up that nails them for extra damage or creates a wound. Then on the flip side, when I make a mistake, I feel so insignificant as these gigantic creatures knock me around like a ragdoll. At the appropriate level, hunts are exciting as I learn the various movements and sounds that signal specific oncoming attacks from my target.
My only complaint with the combat is that hits with weapons don’t feel impactful. The damage numbers show clearly. But the animations don’t look like they connected with my target quite right. I didn’t have any other technical issues while playing, and I found most of the menus intuitive to navigate once I got used to the different systems. It was also nice to see numerous bounties and challenges that provide extra rewards as I leveled.
While on my first dozen hunts, I also encountered several Aether Surge events. These typically broke up the gameplay with multiphase challenges and decent rewards. The Escalations though look to be where some of the more interesting challenges are going to take place for me. They include some form of environment mechanic to overcome while players fight through the four rounds of Behemoths. As players progress, random buffs/benefits (amps) are acquired. These can make or break the attempt.
So far, I have only attempted two of the Escalation events. But I am looking forward to eventually playing more as I level up further. Currently, the Return to Light season is ongoing, and the update this week brings two new challenges for experienced players. The first is a Radiant-themed Escalation that has a puzzle for players to solve. If completed correctly, it grants an extra amp before the final fight. Second, the new Behemoth Alyra will also be released. This new enemy will be able to shift their aetheric attunement during combat to everything but umbral.
Dauntless being a free-to-play game on the Epic Game Store does have an in-game store and a Hunt (season) Pass system. After looking around the shop, I was surprised. Pricing seems reasonable for what you get, and the extras you can buy beyond cosmetics only speed up a player’s progression, which is already decently quick. Bundles you can buy typically have cosmetic items and a decent amount of premium currency (Platinum). If you are buying Platinum separately, 1000 is $10.99 US. The elite track for the Hunt Pass is 950 Platinum, and you make that amount back by the end of the 100 levels along with the extra progression items.
The only part of the hunt Pass System I am not entirely sold on is the extra tracks you can buy for cosmetics and a few extra advancement resources. In this update, they have the Secret Assassins and Shadow Slayers tracks. Each one is 30 levels and costs another 950 Platinum.
I have had a lot of fun with Dauntless. While I don't think it will become my main game, I can see myself returning to it on a regular basis. I am already looking forward to playing through more of the missions and maxing out my character level. The Behemoths have been challenging, the graphics appeal to me, and the combat is engaging. With the Return to Light season, third anniversary, and 30 million player milestone, now is a great time to jump into the game if you want to go on a few hunts.