I originally played Dauntless both in beta and when it first released in Early Access. While I enjoyed it, everything about it was very rough. There weren’t very many different Behemoths to fight, and the entire UI was a bit unrefined. Additionally, while it was inherently a fun game there wasn’t anything that kept me wanting to play. Since I did enjoy the core gameplay a lot, I was excited to hop back in to see what’s changed. Nearly every aspect of Dauntless except the core gameplay has seen a substantial overhaul. Dauntless now looks and feels like a well-polished gem of a game.
Getting Back Into Dauntless
One of the first things I had to do to start playing was to link my Epic account with my Dauntless account, in order to keep the same character I was using previously. I had forgotten about this step and was confused about why the old shortcut wouldn’t launch the game at first. Thankfully, I found my way to their webpage and quickly found what I needed to know to link these two accounts together. The whole process went smoothly and was over in a matter of minutes. One important thing to note: you must link your accounts the first time you play after downloading from the Epic store. If you skip this step, you’ll be prompted to make a new character and then you’ll never be able to link the two accounts afterward.
Since I didn’t need to create a new character, I skipped the character creation part, but I was delighted to see I could go into the character creation screen and tweak how my character looks. There didn’t seem to be any limitation to what I could change either. There are also a ton more options than there were previously. The preset options are still a bit limited, but you can tweak these with tons of sliders. One area I was a bit disappointed in was I couldn’t tweak my character’s hair color at all. There are a ton of options, but there’s no color wheel so I couldn’t get the exact color I wanted and had to settle for something close to it. I also love the lack of a straightforward gender selection. You choose if you want your character to look more feminine or masculine, and there is a slider for this as well. I love this because it lets players choose their gender for themselves without being shoehorned into anything.
One of the great things about Dauntless is it’s effortless to pick up and get to a point where you are doing a decent job in the fights. However, mastering the game is an ongoing process. Aside from the straightforward, “hack at the giant thing until it’s dead” playstyle, there’s seven different weapons which each have their own combos, various gearing strategies, and tons of Behemoth animations to learn so you don’t always get clobbered. Some people might be fooled by the approachability of Dauntless and think it’s just a simple monster slasher, but there’s some real depth to the systems.
One of my favorite mechanics is something the community has dubbed “booping.” Most Behemoths have the ability to be interrupted through damage just as a normal course of play. Booping is causing an interrupt by whacking the Behemoth in the face at the right moment. There is an animation that will indicate the Behemoth can be booped, but it is still a matter of timing. I was able to get reliable boops the Embermane Behemoth fairly quickly whereas many of the other Behemoths were harder for me to time correctly. Embermanes will periodically charge so when the it was charging at me, I would stand my ground and hit him. There are risks to this. If you do it correctly, no harm comes to you, and the Behemoth will be stunned. If you’re slightly off in the timing, you’ll get hit but still also stun the beast. If you’re off by more than even that, you’ll take the full hit, and your quarry won’t be stunned at all.
There are also four different elements that come into play: Blaze, Frost, Shock, and Terra. Some of the Behemoths will be attuned to a particular element, and you will need to equip yourself properly for the best performance. For example, if you are going to fight an Embermane, which is attuned to blaze, you’ll want blaze armor and a frost weapon. Using either shock or terra gear won’t hurt or help, so those are good options if you don’t have the correct armor or weapon type. Likewise, if you wore frost armor and used a blaze weapon to fight the Embermane not only would you do less damage, but you would also take more damage. I like that this system is simple to grasp but does add a bit more complexity and prevents players from falling into the “this is what I always wear” hole. Paying attention to if your target is of a specific element is important, which means it’s also important to keep gear of all types available. This is where Loadouts come in.
Loadouts are where you can save gear sets, the cells and mods in your gear, and any transmog/dye you have used so you can instantly change between sets. Six loadouts are unlocked through gameplay alone, but that’s only enough if you tend to stick with one weapon because to have yourself fully covered, you’d need four per weapon. I suppose you could stick with four sets for each element type and manually change the weapon to a different kind, say if you want to use the sword for a bit instead of the chain blades. More loadout slots can be bought in the in-game store in packs of three. Making use of loadouts is particularly important because every time I would unequip a piece of gear the cell/mod that was in it would be reset. This made manually switching between sets very tedious. On the upside they aren’t expensive: three are 500 platinum which works out to being just under $5 for all three.
My only issue with Loadouts is there didn’t seem to be any way to name each one. If you don’t transmog your gear, or even dye it, then the picture shown at the top right will be enough to help you pick the correct set. However, I like transmoging my gear, and unfortunately it makes it much more difficult to tell what a set is without selecting it. Even if it’s limited to only being a short name, having some way to label my sets would have been an enormous help.
Aside from just leveling up my Slayer and increasing my Mastery of various weapons Dauntless also has a Hunt Pass. If you’ve played other games like Fortnight, this is similar to their battle pass. There’s a free track and an Elite track that can be unlocked for 1,000 platinum ($9.99). There are 50 levels, and you can earn your way through them by completing bounties, and every level on the Elite track will net a reward. Initially I thought there might be some issue if I had more than one bounty open at a time, but it’s a great idea to fill all four of your bounty cards. Some of the bounties are easier to do than others. For example I have found the “kill 3 Behemoths while enraged” bounty to be very hard to get any progress in much less complete. Others require the use of certain weapons. I think the balance between how much playtime it takes to get to Hunt Pass level 50 might still need some work though. After the first few levels it noticeably slows down. I felt like if I can’t play every day, there’s no hope of finishing it.
Since Dauntless is a free to play game, I can’t skip over the cash shop. The first thing I noticed was it’s not thrown in your face much. The noticeable intrusion is every time I logged in there would be a pop-up asking me if I wanted to visit the store or enter Ramsgate (which I already would be there so really that button only closes the window). Other than that, every in-game vendor has an area near them which opens the store, but all of it is easily ignorable if you’d rather not pay money at all. The prices on everything seem fair with the most expensive things being the armor skins at 2,000 platinum ($20). $20 might seem like a lot, but you aren’t just buying a skin for one slot, you get all of the armor slots together. Plus, any skin you buy on the store you can freely transmog as much as you want. Also, you can mix and match pieces from these sets as you see fit.
Problems I Encountered
The majority of my playtime was completely bug-free, though I did run into a few small issues. The first issue was after repeatedly jumping off a cliff into one of the jump boosters I got stuck between the layers of the ground. Now, most people will never run into this issue because most people would jump off the cliff at a different point after the first time. However, I noticed when it reloaded me back to the top of the cliff, the visuals seemed to be a bit finicky. So, I kept doing it and about the fifth time is when I fell through the layers. Luckily, I was able to run around and jumped my way back to the correct layer. Another issue both my friends and I ran into was occasionally our characters would do the dodge animation like we were successful, but then we’d randomly fall over even though the Behemoth was nowhere near us anymore. This could have just been server lag, but it was frustrating.
The much bigger issue we ran into was we queued for a patrol, and the queue bugged out on us. Usually, when we’d queue it’d take a minute or less to be matched with a fourth person. However, when the queue bugged out, we waited almost six minutes with no pop. The more significant issue was as party leader, I had no option to remove us from queue. My friends had the option to leave the group, but I could not. Even when they left group, I wasn’t taken out of the queue. I had to logout and log back in to get out of the queue, which is a bit silly. The leader should be able to remove the group from queue if needed; there are too many circumstances where that could be a real problem. Thankfully we reformed the group, rejoined queue and we were in a patrol less than a minute after queuing up.
Overall, Dauntless is a ton of fun and a great game to play alone or with friends. It occupies realm of easy to pick-up hard to master perfectly and offers a ridiculous amount of gameplay for free. There are seven different weapons which you can freely switch between, and all of them offer a unique playstyle and abilities to master. Dauntless is the perfect game to run around with your friends in or to play by yourself focusing on your goals.
Additionally, there is open cross-play between PC, Xbox, and PS4 and having played with both mouse and keyboard and a controller, neither feels awkward or as if the controls are being forced into something they aren’t designed for. Which you decide to use is truly a matter of preference. If you enjoy going out and fighting progressively tougher monsters while working your way to new rewards, then Dauntless is a game you need to checkout.
A copy of this game was provided for the purposes of this review.