Dauntless review for PS4, Xbox One, and PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Epic Games
Developer: Phoenix Labs
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

Dauntless, the free-to-play, big monster-slaying game from Phoenix Labs, recently went into full launch mode after a lengthy early access run on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. With 1.0 going live, I figured it was worth spending some time with the title that is clearly heavily inspired by Capcom?s popular Monster Hunter series. While I can?t speak (yet) to how engaged I?ll stay with the end-game content of Dauntless, I?ll freely admit that my time spent so far with Dauntless has really impressed me. As far as free-to-play games go, it?s obvious that Dauntless has a pretty solid foundation in place here.

If you?re not at all familiar with Dauntless, here?s how it works. You?ll start off by creating a slayer, with a number of customization options to start with, and more optional cosmetics available via the store. While the more exotic options will cost a bit of money, I was happy to see the initial customization options for hairstyles, faces, and so on are still pretty robust right out of the gate. From there you?ll need to get acquainted with the hub world, where your quests, optional missions, and vendors will be placed. You can change loadouts, upgrade and create new armor and weapons, and have limited interactions with other players running around the same hub town as you.

There are multiple weapon types, including basics like swords, hammers, and axes. There?s also the brand new Aether Strikers, which are fist weapons, and a ranged weapon option via the Ostian Repeaters. Once you?ve settled on the weapon you enjoy the most (all of which felt pretty viable to me), you?re then ready to delve into the proper grind of Dauntless. Namely, hunting monsters with three other players, and looting them to upgrade and craft new weapons and armor. This is where the standard Monster Hunter gameplay loop kicks in, but in a much more streamlined manner.

You won?t need to worry much about gathering materials, tracking monsters, crafting multiple items out in the field, or carving away at monsters after the hunt is over. Yes, you can craft a limited selection of potions and other items, but a good chunk of your time is simply going to be spent fighting. The maps that monsters reside on are fairly compact, with little to see or do outside of a handful of gathering points that you can quickly pick up as you run ahead. As you strike away at various weak points on a monster, you?ll either break off parts or wound them, which will grant you additional materials once the hunt is over. Once a monster is defeated, you can quickly back out and return to the hub town, allowing you to jump back into the action really quick. Having played a lot of Monster Hunter World recently, it was honestly refreshing to not have to wait for a timer to tick down after every fight, or worry about finding a tail that got severed a couple of zones back that I didn?t have time to carve.

Combat feels fast and flows together well enough. You?ve got two primary attacks, light and heavy, along with a dodge roll with limited invincibility, and a weapon specific skill or two. Characters are also equipped with a lantern, which can grant an additional ability like a timed shield. Monsters have attack patterns to observe, and if you?re at all familiar with Monster Hunter, the tactics you employ there will likely serve you well in Dauntless too. Basically, don?t over commit to combo?s without having some sort of actual opening, fall back and be patient when the monster becomes enraged, and so on. You?ll automatically be paired up with three other players when jumping into a hunt, but can have friends tag along too. I?ve had pretty much no connection issues or problems finding full groups for hunts, so the online focus certainly isn?t a hindrance for Dauntless.

Crafting is primarily focused on creating and upgrading armor and weapons. Most weapons and armor pieces are elemental based, with the commonly used system of fire, water, lightning, etc. Usually, opposing elements are weak against one another when it comes to weapons, but you?ll also want to pay close attention to the inherent passive skills attached to armor and weapons. This is primarily where your theory-crafting for viable builds will come into play, specifically as you advance to harder monsters as you progress through the story and head into the end-game portion of Dauntless. You can certainly get away with creating sets early on that are focused on elemental weaknesses and strengths, but you?ll want to transition away from that mindset eventually. In addition to the built-in passive skills, you can also slot in various augments, which have additional passives that can stack together for better versions of existing skills. There?s also a rarity level to these augments and a vendor that can even meld augments together to create better ones.

My only real issues with Dauntless stem from the handful of bugs I?ve run into, which really haven?t been all that bad but are still a little noticeable. Mostly this comes down to having monsters bug out in weird ways, either getting stuck in an animation, getting pinned up against something in the environment and having the pathfinding fail, or having my own character hung up on something like a tree. It doesn?t happen often, and sometimes can even be a little beneficial, but ideally these are issues that?ll continue to be ironed out over time.

As it stands, I?d absolutely suggest checking out Dauntless if you haven?t done so already. It?s an easy access free-to-play title with crossplay built-in for all platforms and doesn?t immediately try to nickel-and-dime you to death with add-ons and other items. The stuff you can buy is purely cosmetic, and there are plenty of earnable options available without needing to spend anything upfront. Also, it’s really fun to play, and as a big Monster Hunter fan, it?s nice to have a viable alternative to spend time with.

Note: Epic Games provided us with a Dauntless VIP PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-