The multiplayer side of things is where Dauntless really shines

2021-10-09 16:33:11

Phoenix Labs has taken up the task of creating the West’s first action hunting game with Dauntless, a free-to-play title that’s literally all about the thrill of hunting, gathering, and crafting that sweet gear. While some of its systems and mechanics leave room for improvement, as a title you can jump right into and play today, Dauntless is one of the best free-to-play games I’ve ever played.

Dauntless brims with energy. It's in everything from the exuberant use of color to the larger-than-life Behemoths with cheeky nods to the developer's Canadian roots. Monster Hunter: World's high-realism design almost feels grimdark in comparison to the Shattered Isles' Crayola color scheme of glamors and on-the-nose armor designs. The game has chutzpah, but it lacks that little bit more to keep you properly engaged in its monster hunting fracas.

For those who haven't played Monster Hunter, the premise is about as clear-cut as the name itself. You gather a group of hunters, or as Dauntless calls them 'slayers' and you take off on joint adventures to hunt down enemies. Once missions are over and you've earned your keep, you travel back to a social hub world to take care of the housework. This consists of claiming your rewards, customizing, upgrading and getting ready for the next hunt. There is a definite loop to the way these games are structured, and Dauntless is no exception, but the hunt missions are the real focus.

Though the battles themselves are frequently thrilling, the environments feel repetitive; each encounter takes place on a reasonably sized map, but aside from picking up plants and ore to craft tonics and goodies in camp, there's next to nothing in the way of exploration. Dauntless is all about fighting Behemoths, and it certainly focuses its sights squarely on that goal. The art style is entertaining, with Fortnite-inspired character models and saturated colors. The floating islands that make up the setting of Dauntless are visually striking, and some fights take advantage of this, with monster attacks knocking characters entirely off the map, temporarily removing them from the fight.

Dauntless clearly draws a lot of inspiration from Capcom’s Monster Hunter. But I have to say, compared to every other hunting game I’ve played, Dauntless’ set of monsters, also known as Behemoths, are wildly unique compared to the rest of the competition. Of course, you have the Behemoths that’ll just slam you to the ground with sheer force alone, but there are also other beasts that use more unique abilities, really changing up the ways in which you take them down.

The multiplayer side of things is where Dauntless really shines, and the reality is that the title feels optimized for it. Cross-platform compatibility has been available since launch day, which means that regardless of whether you're slaying Behemoths on PC, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One, your multiplayer pool will encompass all three. This is advantageous because matchmaking is, in practice, refreshingly seamless. No need to fiddle with a menu or five, and it's nice that each platform's native friends lists are imported into the client. Matchmaking usually takes a matter of seconds, which makes Dauntless feel very plug-and-play in the best way.

Overall, Dauntless provides a good amount of free-to-play fun for fans of co-operative RPGs, even though the game struggles to shake its similarity to Monster Hunter. There is certainly merit in the game's simplification of the behemoth hunts, focusing on simply gathering some friends and taking down a boss together. The hub world and resource options could have also done with being streamlined, as in their current state they are both quite confusing to navigate.

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