You’re in a fancy little ship, soaring through the air at top speeds, getting a pep talk from your mentor about how today, after your final test, you will become a slayer, when all of a sudden you’re falling to the ground to your death. Can you survive in the wild against the deadly behemoths in Dauntless? Do you even want to?
Okay, so maybe you don’t die within the first couple of minutes because how totally lame would that be? This is, however, the start of your journey to kicking behemoth ass and becoming the biggest hero the Shattered Isles has ever seen. Though Dauntless doesn’t offer too much in the way of a story, you will find yourself in a relatively linear journey that will take you across the Shattered Isles to battle against a variety of different beasts. With each battle you will earn money, enemy parts that can be used to upgrade armor and weapons, and experience. As you progress more and more types of enemies will be available to face off against, and in turn, more and more armor and gear will be available to craft and customize as well. Despite this, however, you’re the one that gets to choose which monsters to fight at any given time. There will be quests to complete your entire journey but if you’re looking to hit mastery against a specific type of behemoth, then you can face off against them over and over until you’ve successfully managed to do so.
Each time you enter a hunt to kick some enemy ass you’ll have the option to face it alone or in a group. This group of course, especially since Dauntless is a game that offers cross-play, can be some of your closest buddies or a few random slayers who answered your call. If you’re looking to get down to the nitty gritty ASAP then it’s probably best to stick to single player since it usually takes a bit of time to find a group to battle the behemoth with. That said, playing in a group offers the ability to not only be able to heal more often than if you were playing solo, but also to be in and out of the hunt a little bit faster. There has been a lot of talk since release that these wait times are absolutely abhorrent though I have yet to experience longer matchmaking wait times than a mere few minutes.
Hack and Slash Combat
The hunts themselves feel like a bit of a grind honestly because though you’ll face off against different beasts as you level up, they all feel a bit underwhelming. There isn’t a great deal of challenge that goes into facing these beasts if you’re in a group, and while the challenge is amplified when you’re taking it on yourself, the movement patterns of the AI are just too predictable. A simple strategy, thanks to the simple controls, will suffice a majority of the time where you get in close, get a few big hits in, and then dodge incoming attacks until the beasts tire themselves out. Rinse, repeat. It would’ve been nice if the enemies you’re facing off against, the whole basis of the game, weren’t stuck to the same patterns from beginning to end as it makes the whole experience a little less rewarding. What redeems the combat itself, despite the robotic feel of the behemoths, is the ability to hack and slash your way through your enemies because at the end of the day who doesn’t get enjoyment from that? Plus, it’s not like the controls are hard to master, as there’s just a lot of attacks and rolls being thrown out at any given time.
Each and every time you’ve completed a hunt you will be returned to the game’s hub Ramsgate, the city where you’ll be able to interact with the shopkeepers and open orbs that you’ve earned on your battles. While it’s a fairly simple town to keep track of where each of the important individuals are I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by just how much of the town is left unexplored. This seems to be a misstep on the developers part because the town itself, if more alive, could’ve felt like a whole new adventure all on its own. Fingers crossed that this is, as well as a difficulty modifier for those looking for more of a challenge, is something that will be added in the future.
Technical Issues Take Their Toll
While it’s not exactly the most bumpin’ town of the 21st century, the entire Shattered Isles certainly is colorful, and much like the entire game as a whole, the art style is impressive. With that said, the graphics aren’t exactly realistic, showcasing every single blade of grass, but they fit the style of game Phoenix Labs was going for. Same thing goes for the little sounds and humdrum of background music within Dauntless. It all just fits with the aesthetic the developers were trying to achieve. With that said, however, the frame rate drops frequently throughout scenes that would otherwise be as smooth as cutting through butter and that’s a real shame. If it was just a few frame rate drops, it wouldn’t be much to get upset about however there are quite a few bugs that have plagued the game since its release. These do nothing to make the entire experience better, and instead, showcase that the game could’ve used a few more days or weeks in beta to straighten these all out.
Despite these technical issues that reared their ugly heads throughout my time with Dauntless, and enemy movement that feels stale, the experience provided by the game is captivating and more than fun enough to keep you playing. Not only is the game gorgeous and the customization fun to play around with, but the hack and slash combat is a damn good time. There are definitely some things that the developers need to iron out, and should if they want to keep their impressive player base, but as it stands right now Dauntless has a very strong base that can be built upon moving forward. If you’re looking for a casual adventure to go on with or without your friends, building your character from the ground up, this is one to dip your toes in for sure.
*** PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
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Dauntless Review – Casual Monster Slaying Experience