One of my favorite multiplayer experiences across all consoles has to be Monster Hunter, starting first with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Some of my best gaming memories from college involved everyone gathering at a friends house with their 3DS systems to hunt super challenging foes, all while making our characters stronger and sharpening our skills. Those nights were filled with laughs and triumphs, but with the limited controls of the 3DS, we always wanted this experience on a full console or at the least with a standard controller. Dauntless aims to take the determined combat of Monster Hunter and bring it to the PC market with a host of features that correlates with that player base.
Before we get any further, Dauntless is still in its Alpha phase and still has yet to reach its Open Beta. The game is pitched to be free-to-play, which could be a driving force in its popularity, if its economy is done right. Now that we have this knowledge as a basis, let me recount my experience at the Phoenix Labs booth with Dauntless.
Players of Monster Hunter will feel right at home with Dauntless. Combat is weighted, each attack needs to be queued with precision, and knowing and reacting to how the monster moves is a must. What’s so great about Monster Hunter‘s combat carries over nicely, with some really cool weapon types to shake up the formula. One of my favorite new ideas are hammers with cannons on the back that they can ride for an explosive jump.
In our demo at PAX East, we teamed up with other random players to tackle the toughest monster available, the Drask. Now, the Drask is a four legged, electric spewing lizard of pain, one that can wipe out whole parties with its laser-like blasts. Also to note, this was one of the harder monsters to fight, which looking back may have been a poor choice for a new player like me and our other writer Shane. More on that later.
Available at this kiosk was two different control methods, an Xbox One controller and a standard Keyboard and Mouse set up. Being that I’m used to console games, especially ones like this, I opted for the controller. As soon as the match started I began fiddling with the controls, taking my deeply ingrained schema from Monster Hunter and applying it here. I found that many of the same actions are performed with similar buttons to what is used in the latest Monster Hunter games. I sprinted with the right trigger, dodged with ‘A’, had a couple different attack buttons, and my items were mapped to the directional pad. Most of my skills translated over to Dauntless pretty well, making me a natural.
Even at this early stage in development, Dauntless seems to be opting for larger environments to battle in. Our area was pretty barren though, being a standard forest with a basin where the monster was idly walking about, surrounded by higher outcroppings for scouting. Our team of four immediately scattered (our other two players had already played a few battles) to find our target. It wasn’t long before we heard, “There he is! On my flare” over the headsets. This was new for me as all of my previous Monster Hunter sessions were local on the same couch.
From that very moment where we started communicating over the headsets, I got really excited. I’ve always wanted a full online experience for Monster Hunter and Dauntless makes that dream a reality, even at Alpha. It wasn’t long before we started coordinating attacks, sharing tips on controls, and generally keeping the information flowing.
During the fight, I opted for a greatsword, which is different than my usual tanky build in these sort of games. I found moving my character and attacking familiar, yet new. We fought tooth and nail against Drask, rolling away from his sweeping tail strikes and absolutely panicking when his electric blasts charged. However, our skills didn’t hold out and we were finally defeated after trying to juggle healing everyone after some heavy hits. The whole fight though was filled with adrenaline pumping moments and I haven’t been this excited about cooperative play in a long time. The challenge is still there, meaning learning the mechanics and monsters will be a must, which is a feature I’ve always enjoyed in Monster Hunter.
Now, there’s something to be said about learning to play Dauntless, as players who aren’t familiar with this sort of combat may have a tough time. Shane opted to use a keyboard and because our group was so excited to jump in, we didn’t give him much of a chance to look at the control map. While I had an awesome experience, Shane did not, showing that other side of the coin. Bringing inexperienced players into Dauntless may prove a challenge for Phoenix Labs, pointing to the need of some great tutorials. Once again, we probably should have picked an easier battle.
Dauntless has probably the most potential of any other multiplayer game I have seen in a long, long time. Players have been practically begging Capcom for just this sort of experience with a focus on high definition graphics and sound, plus multiple ways to play. I can only imagine the sort of communities that could form behind this game and I am honestly excited to get a regular group together.
Really what I’m most excited to see as a future update is more information on what Phoenix Labs plans to do with character progression. One of the most addictive aspects of Monster Hunter is the absurd amount of cool weapons and armor made from bigger and badder monsters. There are so many items and ways to customize a hunter and I hope Dauntless emulates this as much as possible, adding their own personal flair on the system. Without this player progression though, I could see Dauntless being more of a flash-pan title and not the long term game these same fans are probably wanting.
Clearly, Dauntless has some big shoes to fill, but what I have seen so far is incredibly promising.
Those wanting more information should check out the official website. Early adopters can even purchase Founder’s Packs, which you can find more information on that here. The Founders Pack has different tiers to pick from, which includes Closed Beta Access, Flare, Patron Status and even the Founder’s Alpha. As stated, click that link just before this for more details. There is no word on a console release, but those I talked to would love to see the game make its way to consoles eventually.
Dauntless is slated to release on PC as a free-to-play title sometime in 2017.