Dauntless was already having a great year in 2020. Having only just rebuilt the game’s social hub, Ramsgate, in the summer summer, developers Phoenix Labs broke the news that their monster hunting online RPG would undergo an extensive top-to-bottom overhaul.
Available now on all major platforms (including PS5 and Xbox Series X|S via backwards compatibility) Dauntless Reforged is the biggest, most ambitious update in the game’s history. Not only does it significantly shake up player and gear progression, it completely strips out those individual hunts that have been its bread and butter for years now.
For those new to Dauntless and any lapsed Slayers out there, hunting monsters (or Behemoths) would involve queuing for specific “Patrols” or “Pursuits”, transporting you and up to three other players to a map where you’d square off against your foe before beaming back to Ramsgate.
Now we have something much better: the Hunting Grounds. These are bigger biomes where multiple Behemoths roam in their own sections of the map amongst smaller creatures and collectable resources that you might forage for. Each session can now house up to six players in total, whether teaming with friends or rolling with randoms.
Once you’ve touched down you’re free to explore, investigating the ‘?’ icons on your compass to find Behemoths, each Hunting Ground also having its own selection of world events that will often draw Slayers together for big reward drops.
Phoenix Labs have done an impressive job in completely changing the way players interact with Dauntless’s huge spread of content, making everything easier to access without compromising its action-heavy core. “Stay and Slay” is the motto behind this core pillar of the redesign and it sticks.
This is also thanks to the way they’ve moved the goalposts when it comes to player progression. At first it may all look pretty confusing, especially if you’ve spent some time away from Dauntless. The Reforged update charts your feats and milestones via the Slayer’s Path, a character development screen that isn’t too far removed from being a skill tree. Here you can spend resources to unlock permanent bonuses and stat increases for your Slayer though they’ll only unlock as you gradually progress, complete quests, and fulfil bounties.
The way gear works has also been rerolled. In truth, I wasn’t too hot on these changes to begin with, as Weapons are treated more like classes now, each one having 20 levels to power through as you slay Behemoths and earn experience. What’s new here is that you can exchange athersparks (a new form of currency) to Reforge a weapon. This is somewhat similar to how Call of Duty’s “Prestige” system works. You’ll revert back to level zero with your attack and defence powers dropping accordingly, but doing so will reward you with an aetherheart. Take this to the forge and you can supercharge any weapon or piece of armour to permanently boost its raw stats.
The idea here is that Slayers will work their way from the lower level Hunting Grounds to those at the top tier, Reforging, and then beginning the cycle anew. It also means that you aren’t stuck fighting the same cluster of endgame enemies, though the time it takes to raise a weapon’s skill level and then Reforge a piece of gear is far from a breeze.
Phoenix Labs have taken a bold leap with Dauntless Reforged, breaking their flagship game down and rearranging the peices into a mosaic that is without doubt more intuitive and engaging, even if returning players may find it somewhat… daunting. It’s mad to think you can still enjoy everything this game has to offer for free, without spending a penny. Dauntless is a true champion of the free-to-play genre.