It isn't very often that a game can capture my attention more than a few days. This is in part due to my very active imagination and a tenancy to be susceptible to flashy marketing . Ever since I was a young boy I always found myself bouncing around from hobby to hobby and books to books without ever actually diving too deep into any particular one.
The end result is that as an adult I have a amassed a crazy collection of video games and shelves full of tabletop games begging me to come back and revisit them.
When I stumbled onto Dauntless I was very cautious. Free to play games are essentially gateway "drugs" for what the developers hope will be a long term addiction to paid micro transactions. This is not a bad thing as the developers work hard to create these types of games and deserve money for them but just like any good AAA game, there is an art to making a GOOD Free to Play game.
It would be easy to lean into the example that Epic Games, Fortnite has set in the industry so for this review I am going to try and not compare Dauntless to it.
Lets get into it.
Dauntless is a game that puts players into the shoes of Monster Slayers in a world that is comprised of floating islands navigated by using airships to ferry the players to and from them and a sanctuary where they can mingle with other Slayers. The game treats the "hub" sanctuary as a giant lobby and players are able to see and interact with other players between hunting expeditions. There are a variety of activities and vendors to keep player's attention while waiting for a new hunt to que up.
Crafting armor and weapons make up the bulk of players time spent in the hub but purchasing essential supplies from vendors is also recommended.
Job boards are scattered throughout the fairly large sanctuary town and once you have found a match you will be whisked away with up to 3 other players ( solo que's are available as well as private expeditions) to an island of your choice.
The game boasts a large bestiary of creatures and the hunts scale up as you get more powerful. You have free reign to choose your pursuits and the rewards are all laid out with clarity and easy to understand information boxes in the lobby.
Dauntless subscribes to the "less is more" ideology by giving players an easily consumed diet of upgrades and options. The game has both depth and the accessibility of a casual game and manages to balance both on a razer's edge.
Fans of this genre may crave more depth and stat crunching but I appreciate the developer going for ease of access over hardcore mechanics.
The game play loop is especially satisfying with very little preventing you from jumping into a hunt and having fun. No elaborate "pre hunt" requirements and easy to access menus and load out screens make this game a perfect title if you can only fit a game or two in a night. Better yet each hunt clocks in at close to 30 minutes or less and you are then back at your hub . Repeat and rinse!
Controls both in combat and out of combat are smooth and flawless. The combat system is essentially the same as any other brawler/hack N Slash that has come before it. Using your front facing buttons in different combinations allows you to perform a variety of combo moves and the bumpers are reserved for special abilities. Light and Heavy attacks are your primary way to defeat monsters and new attacks come online as you progress. The Animations and sound that accompany your hacking and slashing are the cherry on top pf this monster fest and really sell the fact that you are wielding giant weapons designed to slay T-Rex sized monsters.
I couldn't write this review without mentioning the monsters. In the early stages of the game you are resigned to hunt " lesser" versions of the cast but as the game trucks along you eventually start to set your eyes on the adult versions and that is when the game starts to earn its pedigree. Hacking away at a single monster with four heavily armed hunters hardly seems fair at first but that is when the game takes a decidedly sharp turn and makes you realized that YOU are the ones who are outnumbered when you go hunting.
Monster animations and and presentation is great and really sets the tone for the game.
Speaking of presentation. I will break my one rule here and say that the art style and presentation/graphics are heavily inspired by Fortnite or at least that quasi World of Warcraft cartoon aesthetic.
While it wont come under any fire from Epic Games for copying it I can only guess that the developers saw how the industry is being dominated by the aforementioned games " style" and decided to emulate it. Even the games premium store borrows heavily from the whole " season pass" and optional cosmetics that is a staple of most Free to PLay games on the market.
Overall Dauntless is an amazing game that just grabs you fro the get go. If you are a player who prefers co-op to competitive and also has a love of fantasy themed games versus guns and explosives I would say you will not be disappointed by Dauntless.
It is available now on all platforms and even boasts Cross play regardless of the platform you choose ( yes even Playstation owners get to play with Xbox One players).
See you on the Hunting fields and don't forget to forge a set of fire deflecting armor before setting off on your next hunt!
Dauntless leans into the stylized graphics that is becoming more and more prominent in casual games. I like it and you will probably as well.
Controls are smooth and executing combos is a snap. Easy to learn but hard to master.
Weapon sound effects as well as ambient music really see the whole package.
Game sessions that get dripped out to you in 30 minute hunts really amp up the fun especially when you don't have to dedicate your whole day to playing the game.