Dauntless is an upcoming free-to-play action RPG title from Phoenix Labs currently in Alpha exclusively for Founder’s pack owners on PC. You fight as a ‘Slayer’ in the world known as the Shattered Isles fighting huge, ransacking beasts called ‘Behemoths’. Most will compare Dauntless’s combat and progression system to that of the Monster Hunter franchise – a series I have personally invested thousands of hours into. But does Phoenix Lab’s take on this niche genre translate well on the PC? Here are my impressions of the DauntlessFounder’s Alpha so far.
You start off crafting your Slayer by selecting two ancestors from a list of pre-made models. The art style and character design is beautifully cartoony and reminiscent of Dishonored. These ancestors combine to form a general impression of your Slayer. A slider on the bottom allows you to choose which of your ancestors you more want to take after, but thankfully you can also just personalize your features further by utilizing a plethora of sliders to perfect your look. Unfortunately, a lack of options for facial-hair, scars, tattoos, height, general size or otherwise unique features inevitably results in your custom Slayer looking like everyone else.
In the end, your Slayer’s style will come primarily from deciding which set of armor you’ll rock.
Dauntless immediately hit the ground running as I was dropped into the tutorial mission where I found myself on a lush forested island in the sky. Upon exploring, I found my primary target: a beaver Behemoth called a Gnasher. The beast attacked via a frontal flip using its thick, hammer-like beaver-tail to try and squish my Slayer. Pressing [Spacebar] dodged me out of the way, and the deadly tail slammed down harmlessly beside me. Using LMB sets off a flurry of weighty slashes from your weapon, and RMB combos in to change up your attack pattern. The dodge, attack, dodge, repeat rhythm settled in nicely as I took note of the Gnasher’s many tells and started to learn the sword’s combos.
Monster Hunter fans will feel right at home here in learning the ins and outs of their weapon combos and adjusting attacks based on a Behemoth’s tell signs. Currently, there are four types of weapons to choose from: Swords, Axes, Hammers, and Chain Blades. Hit boxes feel natural as there was never a time I felt like I unjustly took a hit, or should have scored a hit when I didn’t. However, the Gnasher’s character model would sometimes push my character aside as it would get back up, forcing my character to glide a couple steps. In these instances, I would much prefer character model clipping to this as I would find myself positioned for an attack only to be scooted aside and miss. And not just Behemoths, but other Slayers as well will collide and often get in the way of one another.
Behemoths can also have their tails cut off or horns broken to reduce how much damage they cause. However, this also has the added side effect of changing up the Behemoths’ attack patterns. It caught me off guard the first time when I cut off the tail of a Gnasher when, instead of trying to squish me with summersaulting flips of death, it began to work in headbutts, charges, and ground stomps that created shockwaves. Breaking off these appendages are worth it as they earn you ‘breakparts’ at the end of the mission which can be used for crafting.
Combat in Dauntless continues much this same way. After the first mission, you can party up with up to three other Slayers which makes both tracking down and fighting Behemoths more fun. Yet Slayer beware: Behemoths only get harder. As I discovered, I had only taken down a rogue Gnasher and not a full-grown one. More powerful versions of Behemoths await the more you fight, which also have different attack patterns and tells to watch out for.
Loot Box System: Cores
It wouldn’t be a free-to-play game without loot boxes! Dauntless’s take on this new trope is handled via the successful slaying of Behemoths. At the completion of a mission, players receive cores which come in rarities ranging from Common to Legendary. These cores have random items inside acting as a secondary loot table from its corresponding Behemoth. I would prefer instead that they offer Emotes, Flares, Banners, Sigils, and the like. Instead, the only way to gain more of these cosmetic items is by spending real money for in-game platinum and using this currency on . And as happy as it makes me to open these loot cores, I would rather have more crafting materials initially drop from the Behemoths and gain the weapon/armor schematics or cosmetic items from these Behemoth cores instead.
Weapons & Armor & Crafting
After your first successful slaying of a new Behemoth, you unlock schematics for that Behemoth’s gear. By using the drops from both the hunts and the items from cores, you can craft and upgrade new armor and weapons that add helpful buffs or add elemental damage respectively. Part of the grind and the fun of Dauntless is by hunting Behemoths to gather enough materials for a full suit of armor. This loop of the hunt, gather, craft, repeat allows for incremental upgrades between hunts and gives a sense of progression in an otherwise goal-less game. After the initial crafting, you can use more materials to upgrade the level of your gear. For weapons, higher levels mean higher damage. For armor, not only will it increase your defense but pieces will gain additional ‘aspects’ such as increased stamina, Berserk essence, and increased Lantern charge rates. Lanterns are small peripheral accessories that can also be crafted. These accessories add a utilitarian option to your arsenal. One lantern releases aether that rushes in the direction of the closest Behemoth to more easily track it down. Another will create a small radius around you that heals fellow Slayers. Having a team with different lanterns will increase your overall efficiency.
Sadly, options for this genre of game on PC are slim. I do hope Dauntless will find its stride in the community when it officially launches later this year. For now, this clone is little more than a “Lite” version of what I love. With a limited number of Behemoths, no options to further customize gear, only one area to hunt, no storyline whatsoever, and a seemingly useless loot box system it’s gotten more than a little repetitive in only the three days that I’ve been playing it. Hopefully there will be more Behemoths added later, new zones to explore, and an option to gather resources without specifically having to go on a hunt. But unless more content is added, I worry about the state of the game when early next year there will be a brand-new entry in the Monster Hunter series.