Dauntless, a not-so-easy combat ARPG
Dauntless provides me with a very nostalgic feeling. It takes me back to when I started playing the Monster Hunter series, Freedom Unite, before the game got so "flashy" with its styles and arts in Generations. For those who have never played it and don't know what I'm talking about, I refer to some very specific traits it had -Big hitboxes, simpler weapon mechanics, and very deadly Monsters.
Every move counted, you needed to manage your stamina or otherwise the creature would run you down, and you would also need to choose very carefully your armour in order to ease your way into a new fight… which meant in most cases having to face that hell you had just gone through because that precise monster had the armour/weapons you needed. so you would hunt him again, and again until you had all the materials and conquered your fears in the process.
Fact is, I discovered I missed that feeling. And let's just say Dauntless captures it very efficiently.
You are a Slayer
The intro very much tells you all the important parts you need to know. The Shattered Isles is our home, and they float thanks to the Aether, which also fuels many of the machines situated in our city: Ramsgate. That's where the Behemoths come in, they feed on the Aether without any kind of control, threatening to throw into chaos all we've known. Hence, the need for trained slayers, like us, to put an end to them.
Throughout the closed beta, we were put against a series of Behemoths, each one farther from Ramsgate, and closer to the Maelstrom, the place where the most dangerous creatures converge… and where only a selected few are sent. Our Legend will lead us there.
Ever played Dark souls? Exactly
Patterns. That's the key to Dauntless whole gameplay, much like other punishing games on the line with Darksouls. If you haven't played it, let's just say it's frustrating, depressing, intriguing, but the struggle is incredibly rewarding. I mean, the title says it all – Dauntless: to show fearlessness and determination. And believe me, you will have to be a dauntless Slayer.
But not just yet, as the game eases you into slaying with "rogue" versions of some iconic Behemoths, like the Gnasher, the Shrike, or the Embermane. Then you'll face the real ones, and may be tempted to think "this is way too easy". Well, let me correct you on that.
They say an image speaks a thousand words -once you reach the third region, the difficulty curve shoots sky high in comparison with the previous Behemoths. So you have an idea, I spent some time helping players reach the Maelstrom, as it was necessary to get an exclusive flare in the OBT, and many of them were struggling to the point of repeating the same hunt over and over without success. Normally they would have had time to improve their equipment, but as you can imagine it wasn't the case.
Now, even if patterns are the key to its gameplay, that doesn't mean Dauntless lacks depth. Here is where your weapon, and how you use it, comes in:
There are five kinds for now, and the developers are currently working on a sixth. Each has their own mechanics, using the Aether to power up their damage:
Sword: easy to handle. The sword is the jack of all trades, good mobility, fast swings, and an incredible dodge-attack. Basically, his fastest swings "aether-charge" the sword, and said charge can be unleashed for a big hit which can chain into a combo, and also activates an attack speed buff plus extra elemental damage that last depending on the charge you had.
A weapon which underwent a series of tweaks, and reached a state that makes it the best weapon for beginners and veterans equally, and my personal favourite.
Chainblades: agility type. Forfeits power in exchange for increased attack and movement speed, being able to get into range, deal a few hits, then retreat to safety quite easily.
At the beginning, the chainblades were the most powerful weapon in the game because of his dash, fast hit, and incredible DPS. It received a nerf, and now because of the changes in damage it became the weakest, yet it seems it will be reworked by the time (or during) OBT arrives.
Gun-Hammer: the slowest weapon in the game by far, as it forfeits speed in exchange of pure power. It has 4 aether bullets that can be fired in the middle of a swing in order to empower it, and then reload said shot at the end of it.
The hammer started as a weapon which was better to use it as a shotgun than as a hammer, as it was way too slow and sluggish to actually hit anything, and the damage wasn't worth the risk. Once it got reworked, it became way stronger, yet also harder to learn as it requires some time to get used to the key combination. Thanks to the Hellion variant, it has become the strongest weapon in the game.
Axe: the second slowest weapon, it has potentially the highest single hit damage of the game. Its hits can be charged, and each successful charged hit fills a bar which once it's complete can unleash a powerful attack that also increases the overall damage of the Axe, up to 3 times.
Also went through some rework, as before it needed way too much stamina for little reward. They tuned its stamina consumption and offered a much better damage potential, including an "infinite" combo, turning the axe in the second best weapon.
Warpike: versatility type. It has three modes, one being a fast piercing attack, second being a swipe and committing attack, and third being a long-range projectile. The first two charge a meter that can be converted into a bullet, but it requires exquisite dodging skills, as any hit depletes said meter.
Newest weapon added, it has been tweaked but nothing as drastic as the hammer or the axe, yet because of some damage types rework, right now the pike has been moved to the supportive bench. Still better than the chainblade, and its projectile correctly aimed can deal some huge numbers too.
There are 5 kinds of damage:
Stagger: dealt when attacking the head or the legs of a Behemoth with any weapon except the Warpike, and seen as blue numbers. Hammer has the highest stagger damage and has a preference when hitting the head for the exact same reason. Next comes the Axe, then the sword, and finally the chainblades, which can't really stagger a Behemoth on their own.
To stagger is the best way to create an opening.
Part Damage: dealt when attacking any part of the Behemoth which hasn't been broken yet, and seen as yellow numbers. The Axe has the highest part damage, closely followed by the hammer and actually surpassed by its Hellion variant. Any weapon can break apart.
Wound Damage: dealt when attacking with the warpike, and showed as red numbers. It can be dealt by other weapons, but you have to be equipped for it, while the pike has it inherently in exchange for not dealing stagger damage. Dealing wound damage to a Behemoth's part will, after reaching a threshold, wound it, increasing the part damage it receives. Not very useful unless you actually equip yourself to deal wound damage, and even in that case still not worth it, as there are other stats far more useful.
Direct Damage: always being dealt to a Behemoth's health pool, yet remains hidden while a part remains unbroken, and is represented as white numbers.
Elemental damage: Behemoths usually have an inherent element to which they are resistant, and another to which they are weak against. Your damage to such creatures is stipulated in your very own weapon, yet the important part is the effects said elemental weapons inherently carry –fire weapons inflict a burning dot and are usually the strongest, ice variants deal a chilling effect, slowing the behemoth's movements, and shock ones, which are probably the most useful right now, paralyzes the creature much like a stagger. Having a shock weapon in your party can potentially chain staggers creating a huge opening of DPS.
And now that class is over, I shall tell you a little secret: everything before Maelstrom is just the tutorial. Your best and enhanced armour will barely protect you from the horrors there, so dodging will have to be your priority, and you will also have to exploit every single weakness. What do I mean by that?
Well, some Behemoths, yet not all of them, have certain attacks which can be interrupted, effectively creating an opening you and your allies can take advantage of. But that's not all, some other Behemoths can't be "booped" (which is the term the community has adopted), yet they have some patterns which leave them incredibly vulnerable, like with the Hellion. This beautiful son of a hundred has a side-body slam which rewards you with quite the big opportunity to deal damage if dodged correctly.
In summary, you could say Dauntless has the right ideas, and the developers are working hard in making them a reality. In fact, I can see how much it has evolved since its early access started, when it was so buggy I had to constantly remind myself it was such. Yet, as you may guess, there are still details to polish –Dodges are not 100% reliable, as they are server based and not client based, like similar action combat titles. What do I mean by that?
Well, basically the code judging if you dodged an attack or not is on their side, instead of your side, so if there is any kind of delay in your connection to the server, which can happen because of a variety of reasons, the server will probably disagree with you and you'll receive a hit even if you actually dodged it correctly on your side. Why is it made like this? because client-based dodge scans can be easily tampered with, requiring a really good anti-cheat system, and even then you cannot prevent them completely.
The Dauntless community has given its feedback about the matter, so I believe it will be addressed with time.
Another issue I found during my gameplay was the mountain of difficulty players needed to suddenly climb when reaching the third zone, while before there was a Behemoth perfect for that "threshold", yet instead, said creature was put in the Maelstrom… when it's clear it doesn't belong there. And finally, I did say I like big hitboxes that make you have to time your dodge to the detail, however, some Behemoths are just absurd, covering way more space than it visually does. More than once I was hit by a cut tail where supposedly it didn't reach.
In the end, all the game needs is more feedback and tweaks here and there to make the gameplay flawless.
Ramsgate and the Shattered Isles
Now, visually the game gives a timeless vibe I can't really get tired of. It doesn't try to be realistic and instead goes for a "comic" feel with much success if I may add, even on lower settings. The animations have also been polished, so you can actually perceive the weight behind a Behemoth's step, and the same can be said of the sounds they make. I know a tail swipe it's gonna hurt before it actually hits me, something incredibly valuable in a game where all you do is to fight against such creatures.
But not all is flowers and sunshines – Dauntless has been gradually optimized to a point it's acceptable, yet I still experienced some drastic drops in FPS depending on where I was standing in the city, or what map I was slaying on. And when I say drastic, I mean halved to 30-20. I have to accept my graphics card is not the best, but the fact that I can play at 60 fps without problems on the ice maps means something can be done about it.
So, should you play the Open Beta?
Yes, that's my answer. Dauntless has that try-harding feeling the free-to-play genre has lost over time, and the game it's in the hands of a small but much earnest group of developers who are very close to the community and their feedback. Last time I saw something like that was with a game called Warframe, and even though they are still in OBT, it's incredible how far they've come.
So, if you like action combat, and you like playing with a friend such games, you should definitely try Dauntless.
|+ Amazing combat||– Still in development|
|+ Challenging endgame||– Not yet optimized|
|+ Inventive Behemoth patterns||– Dodge is not 100% reliable|
|+ Good character customization|
|+ Timeless visuals|