It’s been about a week and a half since I first ventured into the Shattered Isles of Dauntless. With the free-to-play Monster Hunter-like game finally entering open beta on PC, my eager friends and I jumped at the chance to hunt large creatures (called Behemoths here) together and get increasingly superior armour and weapons along the way. Throughout that period however, my feelings towards Dauntless - which is my first Monster Hunter-like experience - have swung from “I kinda like this!” to “I’m kinda tired of this already”.
Of course, I’m aware that the game is still in open beta, which means it can evolve and improve noticeably in the near future. But as for now, here’s what I currently like, and dislike, about the game.
What I Like
1) The way it looks
This isn't a massive “like” for me, but it's still a “like” anyways. Dauntless is another one of those games that goes for a cel-shaded cartoony look, and I think it works quite well. It doesn’t offer anything particularly new in this regard, but the bright and colourful aesthetic makes jogging through the various parts of the Shattered Isles a quiet delight. And despite its chosen look, it doesn't make the Behemoths any less intimidating or dangerous-looking.
2) The Behemoths that feel like living creatures
The first hunts I went on are undoubtedly my favourite ones thus far. Aside from the freshness of the experience, one reason for that is what I perceive to be a sense of life in (some of) the Behemoths’ moves. Quillshot, for example, has an attack in which it lies on its side, quivers, then shoots out several quills. Skarn on the other hand is encased in rock armour that frequently shifts and forms new shapes in fluid motion, depending on the Behemoth’s actions (like launching a sideways attack or defending itself). Simply watching these movements makes for an enjoyable time… until I get struck by an attack, that is.
3) Differences between weapon types
Dauntless doesn't have a lot of weapon types right now, but I appreciate that the currently existing ones don't feel like copy-pastes. From the agile Chain Blades and precise War Pike, to the ponderous axe and straightforward sword, each weapon has its own identity. Unique traits like the War Pike’s ranged attack and the Hammer’s player-propelling concussive blasts further set these weapons apart.
4) Satisfying combat feedback
One of the worries I had based on early videos of Dauntless was the seemingly unsatisfying combat feedback. Luckily, upon experiencing it myself I can say that I don’t have major grievance on this front. Sure, even striking the least armoured-looking Behemoth can feel like hitting a rock, but the feedback carries an adequate amount of weight and impact. Staggering and breaking Behemoth parts feels great too, thanks to the sound effects.
5) That moment when you "boop"
I’m not sure where the term “booping” came from, but it basically refers to interrupting a Behemoth. Its precise meaning eludes me, and even now I wonder if it’s the same action as stunning or whether the term applies strictly to interrupting specific actions. Nevertheless, the latter is what I most commonly associate “booping” with. I’ll never forget the moment I faced down the agile, flame-covered Embermane, gauging for just the right moment to begin my attack. The moment my sword made contact, resulting in the annoying creature flying and being knocked out for a bit, I whooped.
What I Dislike
1) Customization/progression isn’t that interesting
This aspect sounds nice on paper. Different armour or weapon types offer different traits. Lanterns offer abilities ranging from boosting speed to surrounding players in swirling damage-dealing stones can be equipped. Cells offering passive buffs like additional part damage or protecting against certain effects can be slotted into gear. In practice, I found that these actives and passives were either not very perceptible compared to the core combat or simply unexciting.
2) The Behemoths that don’t feel like living creatures
Maybe it’s just me, but the more I progressed through the game, the more dull I found the Behemoths to be. Tougher, yes, but not as interesting as the initial ones I faced. To me, the missing ingredient is the “sense of life” I mentioned about the low-tier Behemoths earlier. Part of that might be due to the repeated attack patterns, especially from Behemoths that are basically evolved cousins of previous ones. Another reason is the way the later Behemoths move and unleash their abilities - they’re still fluid, but I just can’t help but immediately see them as AI with pre-programmed attacks. It’s not entirely universal - Pangar is one which I find to be an exception - but it still feels like a common issue to me.
3) The Shattered Isles is a bit bland
Visually-speaking, the Shattered Isles is fine. But when it comes to the interaction, it leaves more to be desired. I do like the current parts that can be interacted with - for example, the Aether vents that spice up traversal a bit, as well as the destructible trees that add immersiveness and eye-candy to battles. Beyond these and the Behemoth-slaying however, there’s not much to it other than collecting materials, which isn’t terribly exciting. Fortunately, there are already plans to add more features, namely destroyed villages and ships that will reward curious explorers. It also seems that the goats of the Shattered Isles, which currently exist only to add to the visual atmosphere and occasionally get in the way, are only untargetable temporarily due to bugs.
4) Hunts don’t feel like hunts
The fact that the player characters are called “Slayers” instead of hunters seems to be taken into account by the gameplay itself, as the Slayers pretty much suck at hunting. All they do is run around until they stumble upon a Behemoth; at best, they can utilize the starter lantern to give some directional pointers. This makes searching for Behemoths in Dauntless neither fun nor engaging right now, especially once the joy of sightseeing wears off. There's a saving grace in the form of flares, at least, which are cool to me and make the hunting part of the game feel just a little more epic.
5) The goddamn tails
The longer I play Dauntless, the more likely that I'll develop a phobia towards tails, methinks. A number of Dauntless’ Behemoths are blessed with big tails, which they don't hesitate when it comes to swinging them at Slayers. I hate them thanks to their size and my constantly getting hit by them, but that’s not my problem. The thing that really bothers me is that most of the big-tailed Behemoths seem to use them in more or less the same way. I mean, even the tailless, insectoid Kharabak reminds me of past tail encounters, thanks to the familiar way it attacks with its slightly tail-like abdomen. While I hesitate to say that every Behemoth swings its tail at Slayers in the exact same manner, I can’t deny the sense of repetition every time I have to deal with a large tail, irrespective of its owner.
That’s it for my likes and dislikes regarding Dauntless’ open beta form. Do you agree with any of these, or are there some which have you shaking your head? Share your thoughts on Dauntless’ open beta with us in the comments section!
Dauntless is currently available on PC. Download the game on their website.