Dauntless Beta Impressions: Winner, Winner, This Chicken’s Bones Will Get Me 40+ Shock Resistance
“I’ve made a very beautiful man.”
This is probably the first thing I said after starting Phoenix Labs' new co-op action-RPG Dauntless. Like the precocious child of Fortnite and Monster Hunter: World, Dauntless aims to take players on a journey (solo or with friends) to take down massive Behemoths and craft gear from the leftovers, which then allows them to fight even bigger Behemoths and make even better gear -- rinse, repeat, so on. All of this is done in a very familiar cartoon style -- emotes and loading area included.
It’s a simple concept, but there’s a lot of room to grow. And while I think Dauntless is on the right track, and I've enjoyed playing through the beta so far, there were a few small hiccups that left me a little more frustrated than thrilled even after downing my first few kills.
The first of which was character creation.
It’s Time to Meet Your Fighter ... I Guess
I’m a HUGE fan of character creation. I’m that person that logs into their World of Warcraft account just to test different toon designs. I’ve been timed on how long my first character in Skyrim took me to create, and I don’t even want to get into the number of times I spun the character wheel in Sea of Thieves before I made a decision. The point is -- I care.
And I was pretty happy with the initial concept of Dauntless’ character creation design. You get the option to choose two ancestors off of which your character will be based. There’s even a bar in the middle that allows you to veer more towards one ancestor’s looks than the other. From there, you have the usual customization options -- hair color, skin color, mouth shape, eye shape, etc., as well as options for makeup, facial hair, and face paint.
However, the default body type is “male,” and there’s no obvious option for “female” anywhere on the character creation screen. Instead, to create a female character, you need to change the body type from “large” to “small.”
If you’re like me, this “Body” button is easy to miss, and you’re left with a very beautiful man with a very large sword, just trying his best.
While I’m happy to take the blame for my own oversight on that one, especially since you can change your appearance by visiting an in-game stylist, there is another problem with Dauntless’ character creation. You can’t make more than one character, and you can’t delete the one you did make.
Whatever you’ve made is it. Welcome to your new life.
Of course, this may change once the game launches officially, but for now, the only way to wipe a character and start fresh is to email the Dauntless team and cross your fingers.
Welcome to Ramsgate
Everything in Dauntless is in the sky -- or at least it feels that way. Each area seems to be on a lonely floating island, and the starting city Ramsgate is no different.
It's not an overly large city, but it can still get confusing. There are no maps in Dauntless. Instead, you're left to your own memory and the scrolling compass on top of the screen to help guide you. This is where you'll see helpful alerts for things like quests (marked by exclamation points) and quest turn-ins (marked by questions marks). You will also find that any items or people you can engage with will have an "E" appear over their heads as you get close. And failing looking at the compass or walking uncomfortably close to everything in sight, most NPCs in the game that want your attention will call out to you in stage whispers.
There are also signs. Though I found it odd that every building in Ramsgate has doors you can’t seem to enter, they don’t really matter when the whole town seems to be living for outdoor floor plans. After a few laps around the city and making note of the key areas (armor and weapon shops especially), it's pretty easy to get a feel for where everything is.
It was also pretty easy to figure out that the numerous boards scattered across the town can be used to access and set out on quests, though there’s no tutorial for that one.
In the end, the map felt less and less necessary. Until it came to hunting ....
Eyes on the Prize -- PLEASE
One of the most important parts of Dauntless, if not the most important, is the Behemoths. If you're solo hunting, these guys can be a bit hard to find, even on a small floating island.
There are no markers or ways to track them, which I found slightly disappointing in a game that sends you out on “hunts.” However, the varied ground levels on each map mean you can usually get to some higher vantage point to spot them -- they're big and don't usually blend in.
And if you can't see them, a music change will usually alert you to the fact that one's nearby.
The first few monsters you face are pretty easy. Each Behemoth has its own element, though those won’t mean too much in your first few fights. You’ll be far more concerned with getting out of the way. But the special attacks of each Behemoth are definitely important. These repeat over and over during a fight, so even if you’re struggling at the start, it won't take you too long to memorize their patterns. From that point on, it's just dodging and landing hits.
Which is easier said than done -- especially on a keyboard.
While the battle system in Dauntless feels simple, especially as it starts to repeat, controlling your character on a keyboard feels anything but.
For one, you need to be facing the Behemoth when attacking, and your character doesn't automatically adjust to keep it in sight -- there’s also no button for that on the keyboard. So after dodging, you’re usually stuck looking in the wrong direction and have to reorient as fast as possible. This can mean taking some damage with the faster Behemoths. On the other hand, it does provide some nice tension before it bleeds out into pure frustration.
Coupled with the camera angle issue, getting hit usually disorients your character, and it can take a little while to recover. This is something I grew increasingly irritated with as the fights dragged on. For short battles, it wouldn't matter too much, but battles in Dauntless are meant to be long, drawn-out affairs.
You have 30 minutes for each monster battle, and you're very likely going to be using most of them. So patience is key (I sometimes have little, I admit). The Behemoth battles are really the point of the game, so it's important that you set yourself up to enjoy them.
So get a controller, hit auto camera focus, and live a better life.
Adventure on the Horizon
Despite the minor frustrations, some of which are admittedly of my own making, I think Dauntless has a lot of potential. They’ve got a great concept to work with, and the crafting system promises to keep people coming back again and again. But more than that, I think it’s the ability to waste a few hours slaying beasts with your friends and gearing up your ideal heroic crew that’ll keep players engaged.
What are your thoughts on the beta? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below. Be sure to stick with GameSkinny for more great information on all things Dauntless!