“Monster Hunter: World” is one of my all-time favorite games and was the first game I covered in this column. Teaming up with friends to take down big monsters in order to get parts to craft better weapons and armor to take down even bigger monsters is my kind of gameplay loop, but it wasn’t without its often-intimidating complexity that makes for a steep learning curve for new players.
But when my pitch for “Monster Hunter: World” comes with watch a bunch of YouTube videos, experiment to find your right weapon and it’ll be fun in a couple hours, it’s hard to recommend. Not to mention the price of entry at launch was $60 for something that is a bit of an acquired taste.
That’s where “Dauntless” comes into play.
“Dauntless” is a free-to-play game that borrows many of the core ideas from “Monster Hunter” while stripping out some of the complexity and busywork that has bogged down the series. Here, you’ll be spending most of your time battling monsters — behemoths in “Dauntless” — less time collecting flowers to craft potions and zero time collecting monster poop (an actual part of “Monster Hunter”).
You’ll be dropped into the same gameplay loop of battling behemoths to get parts and materials to craft stronger armor and weapons to fight tougher behemoths, which will let you battle even tougher behemoths. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
The weapon variety in “Dauntless” is relatively limited at this point: You can use swords, axes, hammers, war pikes, chain blades and shotgun-like repeaters. Each has a variety of combos and options for customization. Each weapon type has its strengths: Hammers are good at dazing enemies while war pikes are good at wounding and swords and axes are good at cutting off tails.
What I’ve really liked with “Dauntless” is its perk system. Each weapon and armor come with built-in perks as well as a slots to add in orbs that offer more customization. Stacking perks makes the bonuses stronger. The perks can make a pretty big impact on how you play, encouraging players to experiment at their own pace and customize things to how they play.
But, ultimately, a monster-hunting game is all about the monsters and this is where “Dauntless” really delivers.
There’s already a good variety of behemoths ranging from the agile, fire-breathing Embermane to the lumbering lightshow-playing, beetle-like Valomyr. Each feels really unique and the game also does a good job at varying the fights in different stages and telegraphing the attacks.
Learning the patterns and knowing when to dodge and when to attack is a big part of the game.
Everything has a slightly more colorful stylized look, similar to something like “Fortnite” or “World of Warcraft,” which ends up being a pretty good comparison. Ultimately, “Dauntless” feels more like the Disneyland version of monster hunting games. It’s stripped down and less complex than its competitors, but it’s fun and accessible.
It’s also notable as one of the first games that allows players to freely play with other players regardless of which video game console they’re playing on. Progress also carries over from one system to another, which makes it easy to carry over from the PC to the couch on a PlayStation or Xbox. Nintendo Switch will be coming sometime this year.
Even with a big expansion on the horizon for “Monster Hunter: World” that brings a new world and new monsters, I’m not entirely sure that I’m going to dump as much time into as I would have without “Dauntless.”
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Play
Rating: 4 out of 5 starts
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch (coming this year)
Price: Free-to-play, seasonal pass for extra rewards is $10
Internet usage: Connection required for play
Release Date: May 21, 2019
ESRB Rating: Teen