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Dauntless: Reforged First Impressions (PC)

The biggest overhaul that Dauntless has ever seen. Dauntless: Reforged features large, sweeping reworks to the main content, and progression loops. Progression is now more flexible, allowing you to choose how you want to progress and what quests you want to do. However, compared to before, progression is now decidedly worse and takes far too much time, on top of some other new issues.

A scene depicting the new armors and glider on one of the new islands

I’m a big fan of games that follow the live-service gaming model. Games like Destiny, Warframe, and The Division — while usually starting off average — slowly rise in quality and functionality as the developers learn to live up to the IP’s potential. For the longest time, Dauntless has done a good job of living up to the expectations born from the live-service games concept since its early access launch. 

For a little over 3 years, Dauntless has slowly built upon their base game with free content featuring new modes, new types of gear, new armor, new cosmetics, new behemoths to hunt, and occasionally new systems that were smartly incorporated into what was already there. Many players, myself included, felt this was a perfectly natural way to expand upon the game’s base designs until there were hundreds of Behemoths to fight across 50+ different islands. Give us more types of weapons to use, more exotic gear to chase, a few new modes, and I personally couldn’t have been happier.

Dauntless: Reforged is fully free to play, and is available on the Epic Games Store, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch.

Dauntless | Reforged Launch Trailer

That Is Until Now

Enter Dauntless: Reforged; the equivalent of Destiny 1 year 4, transitioning to Destiny 2 year 1. What I’m trying to allude to is that for what could essentially be “Dauntless 2.0”, or even “Dauntless 2”, upon booting Reforged up, players found there was actually less content than before. The biggest change was the rework of how you set off to hunt Behemoths. 

Before the Reforged update you could choose to hunt a singular Behemoth of your choice (usually for questing or personal vendettas against the menacing monster A.I). You could also just do a Patrol, which would matchmake you with a random hunt for a variety of Behemoths that belonged to whatever tiered Patrol difficulty you initially chose. You would hop onto 1 of a dozen different islands, find the big bad boy, and take it down alone or with a team. 

What this update did to this system was gut it entirely, and replace it with one that ultimately is more replayable (and dare I say fun?) than the previous system. With one caveat, you can no longer (at the time of this writing) go on solo hunts. At this point in time, you have to hunt with other people. A decision that has been met with great backlash from the community.

Grindy Might Just Be An Understatement

While solo hunts will certainly be missed, it is important to note that the Hunting Grounds that replaced singular hunts and Patrols are by and large an improvement. Instead of just a one-and-done singular hunt, you now traverse bigger islands with multiple, respawning Behemoths. This is in conjunction to various random events that litter each island. With that said, every other change associated with the progression of the player has been a complete failure. Increasing your power in the past was simple: increase your gear’s enhancement level from +0 to +15. This was an easily understood concept.

One of the new Hunting Ground's event cubes that spawns multiple Behemoths

One of the new Hunting Ground’s event cubes that spawns multiple Behemoths

Every hunt always gave you the same amount of resources needed to slowly climb the ranks to +15, it was elegant, simple, not a headache in the slightest. What Reforged did was change the entirety of that system so that you would now simply gain experience towards the weapon you are using to get it from lvl 1 to lvl 20. However, that’s just the start, as from there you would need enough of a rare resource to “Reforge” your selected weapon or armor. This would give you a much-needed boost to your attack and defense, because until you’re able to use the Reforge system you’re unable to do the harder content that you had already been doing prior to the update (if you had gotten that far already).

I Could Really Go For An XP-Double Weekend

The grind towards reforging gear is thankfully offset by the brand-new Slayer’s Path. A passive skill-tree that acts as a new way to obtain rewards from simply playing. Rewards that vary from whole new features like gliding in hunting areas, to allowing you to carry more health potions. Instead of one rigid quest after another like the old system, this new Slayer’s Path requires XP from slain Behemoths, and daily bounties to unlock higher and higher account-wide features. The new features require both the gold-like currency called Rams, and Merits. With the Merits being earned slowly over time from hunts, bounties and the paid “Hunt pass”.

Dauntless' new Slayer's Path gives you complete freedom in return for a steep price

Dauntless’ new Slayer’s Path gives you complete freedom in return for a steep price

On paper these all sound like good changes from the older, less flexible system. The problem with all of this is that it was designed in a way to have you grind 5 times longer to reach the same position of power you used to be in, or give you the much more convenient option to spend money which cuts down the grind considerably. You even have the option of spending real-money currency to skip entire quest chains, made even worse by the fact that these quests are designed in a way that makes you want to skip them because they’re so tedious.

A Subtle Suggestion To Open My Wallet

Sadly, the grind is indeed considerable; the sheer amount of Rams and Merits you will need to slowly trickle in the damage and defense you once already had is borderline evil. It‘s a good hunt when you earn a few thousand Rams, and a couple dozen Merits, but you’ll need a lot of good hunts as each option in the Slayer’s Path costs 10s of thousands of Rams, and 100’s of Merits… each.

The new winter-themed armors awarded from this season's Hunter Pass

The new winter-themed armors awarded from this season’s Hunter Pass

I hope you aren’t taking a shot every time I say “but wait, it gets worse” because you’re going to need your stomach pumped after I’m done. Veterans went from multiple endgame builds to barely being able to do endgame content upon logging in. This is because the developers dropped the ball when they were supposed to fairly compensate their player base when converting old systems to the new ones. The vast majority of Dauntless players have lost months or even years of progress, and thanks to the new systems in place, it’ll take 100’s or possibly 1000’s of hours to return to their original level of power. 

Progression That Frankly Does Not Make Sense

What’s really funny is that the Escalation mode is something I’ve been doing a ton of before Reforged. Looking at my Slayer Path, I can see I still have them unlocked somehow, even though I’m still several tiers, and dozens of hours away from being able to Reforge. Which I would need to do in order to avoid being 1-shot by the tougher Behemoths. So in order for me to get to where I was before content-wise, I would need to play every day for roughly 2-3 weeks to get the XP needed to unlock Reforging.

For myself and many others, this is a massive turnoff and a major headache.

Laying The Groundwork For A Brighter Tomorrow

Thankfully, the developers have been very vocal with the playerbase who are active on Reddit and Twitter. Answering what questions they can, and seemingly passing on feedback to the programmers and designers enmasse. Seeing this is a big relief to me, because at the end of the day I still love the core concept of the game. How well combat plays, to the new persistent Hunting zones with events and treasure chests, to the various social features that encourage teamwork. It’s easily one of the better free to play titles, and certainly one of the best Monster Hunter-style games.

A New weather event found in one of the 18 new Hunting Grounds

A New weather event found in one of the 18 new Hunting Grounds

Much like the Dauntless of 2017, Dauntless: Reforged has created a new baseline of content and progression that the developers will build upon in even more exciting ways for years to come. I just hope they never forget the stumbles they suffered along the way, and the die-hard veteran fans that helped them through it.