Dauntless Is An MMO For Monster Hunter Fans

There was a time before the world of the Shattered Isles lived up to its new name, but a cataclysmic event tore the lands apart. It wasn’t just that the world was torn apart that changed life for the humans left, but that the remaining landmasses now floated in midair on the power of aether, and that huge beasts known as Behemoths roamed them, eager to consume all of this energy for themselves.

Letting the Behemoths run free to consume all the aether would see islands disappear one by one, and so players in this co-op action RPG take on the role of Slayers who head out to risk their lives and battle the Behemoth threat.

Phoenix Labs are rather open about their inspirations and there’s definitely hints of Dark Souls, Destiny and plenty of other popular games that come into the mix. However, Monster Hunter is the clearest source, with the game focussing on big multi-stage battles against monsters twenty times your size.

One of the first Behemoths players will encounter is the fantastical hybrid owl and bear known as a Shrike, a combination that feels original and is at the very least an exceptionally niche mythological creation if it does exist. It’s in many ways akin to a raid boss, as you chip away at its health while trying to read its attacks and avoid taking too much damage yourself.

There’s a lovely graphical style to this, with an animated film softness akin to Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, and plenty other games. However, what stands out in this first battle is the way that the weather lends a great deal of atmosphere to the fight. Dropping onto the island, it was shrouded in the darkness of night time, but with a howling wind that made the thick grass wave and shimmer in the moonlight. The weather and the biome of the island can all factor into the fight, with the Shrike more powerful at night time, another Behemoth strengthened by fighting in the cold of snow, and so on.

As we fought against the Shrike, one fascinating aspect is that while you and your co-op partners have health and stamina bars, you don’t have this kind of simplistic indicator for the Behemoth you’re battling. Instead you have to look for the visual cues of damage to see how much you’re hurting them and where. As they take more damage, they’ll potentially flee the battle and have to be chased down once again, become enraged and deal more damage, or add more elemental effects and use different attacks. Depending on their design, some can even have limbs cut clean off, such as the Stegosaurus-like Quillshot which loves to whip you with its tail, until it doesn’t have one anymore. You remove one of its attacks, but it can still perform many others, such as flopping on its side and firing off a spread of spines from its back.

With up to four players in co-op, the main factor in your ability to stay in a fight is the danger level before the captain back on your personal airship decides you need to fall back. You need to keep a keen eye on your health, using both health potions and regaining health from aether fissures, as well as learn how best to dodge incoming attacks to avoid being downed and needing to be revived too often.

Hunting these beasts doesn’t just help the last remnants of civilisation to survive, but it also gives you the opportunity to improve your character. Harvesting their corpses, you’ll earn the resources and ingredients to eventually create weapons from them, though you’ll also need to collect standard resources from the islands you visit. These range from a low level Shrike Sword or Axe through to weapons and armour that will need you to go up against the toughest Behemoths of a particular species. There’s different versions of each, so a younger Shrike might be what you face initially, signposting its attacks more clearly, while an older, tougher version of this Behemoth has much more health, has more moves, and doesn’t indicate so clearly what it’s going to do.

It’s through crafting stronger and stronger gear that your character grows and becomes stronger. There’s no set in stone character classes, allowing you to easily shift into different “soft” roles depending on your weaponry and picking different secondary . Because of that, there’s also a good deal of being able to equip yourself for a specific Behemoth. Weapons and armour you craft from a particular beast can be imbued with its powers, and so if you go after an icy enemy, you might want weapons that take power from fiery Behemoths.

The different weapons lead to different combat styles, each of which will take getting used to. The swords are rather neutral weapons right now, barely even using any of the stamina bar as you can simply rely on standard light and heavy attacks, but the axe lets you charge up your attack, sapping your stamina in the process and rooting you to the spot, which means you need to get your timing and positioning right to get the best from it. More inventively, the hammer has a shotgun-like cannon built into it, which sounds like it could be a lot of fun to learn to play with. With each, your hits build up to powerful special attacks that can unleash a great deal of damage in one go.

Between hunting trips, you’ll head back to a hub town called Ramsgate – yes, I did point out that naming a place after a Kentish coastal town probably isn’t as exotic and epic as they’d probably intended. It’s populated with up to 32 players, though this number could grow in future, brought together from your friends list, your guild and then geographical closeness. Getting networking right on a global scale is vital for a game such as this, and this system sounds like it should work well.

Ramsgate is also your gateway into the game’s non-linear story. There will be content for solo players within this, though you’ll ideally want to play this game by teaming up with others, but however you play you’ll be working through the quests and missions of different factions, not all of which will be simple “go and fight this Behemoth” missions.

There might still be work to be done in fleshing out the ideas behind Dauntless, as it shifts through various alpha stages on PC, aiming for a fuller release later this year and with an eye on consoles in future, yet the potential appeal is clear to see. Monster Hunter fans are those most likely to be drawn into Dauntless’ world of hunting, well, monsters, but this is a game that I feel can reach beyond that audience, tapping into players of traditional MMOs, the modern crop of online co-op games like Destiny and The Division, and many other.

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I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!


  1. Right… I don’t want to miss out any more with this one. Following it on Facebook! Thanks for the reminder. Looks like it’s shaping up really well so far. :-)

  2. Probably not my kind of game but i do like the screenshots, nice art style.

  3. Really am crossing my fingers for a console release on this – right up my street!

    • There’s already controller support on PC, the team are just doing one thing at a time.

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