Dauntless made a big splash when it’s trailer debuted at the Video Game Awards but many were left wondering just what the game is all about. I had a chance to visit the team and try out the game at PAX East and, while I still have some questions, I at least know that Dauntless is something fairly unique in the PC multiplayer shooter world. At first I thought Dauntless was going to be like the ill fated Evolve (which also had huge pre-release buzz) but in fact it is more like Evolve meets Monster Hunter with a little Dark Souls mixed in. It was quite fun to play and has a visually striking look that inspired thousands of fans at the show to line up for their chance to check out the game.
Dauntless is a co-op action RPG set in a fantastical world were giant beasts called Behemoths have risen up and are terrorizing the world. Your characters are called Slayers and you take contracts to destroy the Behemoths and save the world. The game will be free to play, which always concerns me, but the developers were quick to assure me that the free to play mechanics will not hinder solo or non-paying players, instead they will add options and customizations to make the game more unique to your play style. Regardless of how they go the game itself looks and plays great with a striking art style and quick gameplay.
Much like Evolve the game is designed to be played as a team and there will be matchmaking features as well as closed group play options. Once you get assigned a hunt, you and your team head out to challenge the Behemoth, you and your teammates are tracked on the map so losing your team is not a concern. Once the Behemoth is found you can launch a flare (which is customizable; the one at the show said PAX which was a neat touch) so everyone can come and get in on the hunt. Once battle is engaged there are a number of tactics at your disposal, standard and special attacks as well as mapped items give a little bit of variety to the combat. I did find that the combat was a little shallow and as the game stands there will be four weapon variants (sword, axe, hammer, and the yet unreleased double blades) which really only change the speed and power of attacks. I am hoping as the game develops that a lot more variation in attacks and special moves are introduced to spice up combat.
In the demo at PAX they were showing two Behemoths, the huge feathered Shrike, and the armored beast Pangar; both have very distinct fighting styles that challenge the Slayers. Fighting the beasts was pretty straightforward with dodges and attacks being the primary methods to bring an end to the beast. As we fought the Shrike I noticed that it was taking visual damage and the developer mentioned that this is a key feature as sometimes tails or weapons can be chopped off as you damage the creature adding to the strategy. I had healing potions at my disposal and scattered around the landscape were healing vents that could be activated in a pinch. If I fell in battle (and it happened a few times), I could either wait for a teammate to revive me or use a revive item. In the end we defeated the Shrike and the demo ended. I was told by the team that in the full release you would then be able to loot the beast for components to upgrade or create items and weapons adding a depth to the game not yet available in the demo.
Dauntless is currently in an early state so there is a lot missing from the game; there will be a social hub that players can meet in to join groups and take missions as well as potentially trade items. There will also be a deep character customization component to make a unique build for your slayer as well as outfit and weapon mods that will adjust how you look and play in game. The free to
play mechanics are all still being ironed out, but I was assured that it would not be a pay to win schema,
but instead customization, weapon and cosmetic items that will be available.
So far from what I have seen Dauntless is a pretty shallow experience with a ton of promise. Combat as it stands is a little too static for my tastes but the dev team seems to be taking all feedback in stride and looking to enhance the combat and strategic elements of the game. Customization and looting/crafting was not in the demo so it is hard to say how addictive and enticing those features will be. What I can say is that the engine and graphic style is absolutely terrific; the art style is stunning, and the beasts and environments are a joy to experience. If the team at Phoenix Labs can make the combat and loot/crafting system compelling this will be a game to watch when it releases. Dauntless is in Alpha; they are looking at launching a Beta later in the summer and signups are being accepted at their site.
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