If you’re like me, you’ve been wanting to get into a Monster Hunter-style game for a long time, but the franchise’s platform exclusivity hasn’t allowed it. Aside from an Eastern MMO release, it’s never been on PC.
One great thing about the boom in indie development is we’re seeing developers take it upon themselves to bring us games from neglected franchises. Take Advance Wars. Tragically unloved by Nintendo, but Tiny Metal is just one of many smaller projects resurrecting the formula.
Now, Dauntless is doing the same for Monster Hunter on PC. Dauntless is still in its early beta buy-in period. It’s a little bare-bones at the moment while it adds more content.
That doesn’t excuse it from any form of criticism, but the usual caveats about buying in pre-release apply. Cool? Cool.
The nifty thing about this road to release is the Dauntless devs have been very open about the whole process. They host votes on the direction of the game, and the entire roadmap is hosted on Trello and available for anyone to look at. You can view it here.
A Monster After My Own Heart
It’s pretty clear to see where the influence for Dauntless comes from.
The loop is identical to the Monster Hunter series. You form a group (or go solo, the encounter will scale with group size). Hunt a monster. Use the rewards to craft better gear. Use the gear to hunt more monsters.
A lot of the tangential activities are there as well. Mining for minerals, gathering from flora, killing small animals for materials and the early stages of a hunt when you’re just looking for the beast.
Monster Hunter players will also be familiar with the weapons on offer, and the general script of a fight. Monsters in Dauntless — called “Behemoths” — will run away after a while. They’ll occasionally become enraged, gaining new abilities. And breaking different parts of the behemoths will affect the fight and grant different rewards.
The combat system is just as familiar. Stamina-based sprinting and rolling, with a small window of invincibility on your roll.
All the elements are there for a Monster Hunter game — it’s just not called Monster Hunter.
Monsters vs Behemoths
Considering all of the above, Dauntless won’t escape comparisons to the recent Monster Hunter World, and nor should it.
That’s a bit of a tough one for Dauntless. This is a game for which a large part of the appeal is being able to play this style of game on PC for the first time. Now, Monster Hunter World is coming out multiplatform, and just happens to be marvelous.
But there is kind of a serendipitous window of here. Monster Hunter World is delayed on PC, and Dauntless has just brought out a massive update. There’s a new weapon, new monsters, a new loot system, and I personally have found it much more challenging on solo missions.
If you’re a fan of this style of game, then a particular piece of wisdom from my favourite taco ad applies: Why not both?
But for the time being, this is the game filling that void on PC. And it certainly understands what fans of the genre are after.
Are there any differences?
There are, but it’s not entirely obvious at first.
Obviously, being in the equivalent of Early Access, Dauntless is a world yet to be filled. You get that feeling wandering through the town or exploring its giant floating chunks of land. Things to do, and discover, are sparse.
In a way, that’s a good thing.
The focus has clearly been on the core gameplay, and that’s the best part. Dauntless is about the fight. Its bare-bones world can be interpreted as a no-nonsense hunt that gets you straight into the action. Shorter missions mean more monsters hunted.
I don’t know if Dauntless‘ collaborative development process will lead it to flesh out the peripheral activities. Maybe it’ll just continue adding cool behemoths, armour and weapons. I’d be fine with that — there’s room in this space for a game that’s laser-focused on the fights.
When it comes to the fights themselves, there are some similar ideas but also some unique ones. One particularly massive quadruped would periodically shoot fiery streams in four directions. It would then slowly turn around, forcing you to manage the forward movement of your attack animations and stay in its safe zones.
It’s a cool idea, made cooler with four players working together. It’s a small area of differentiation, but important. These behemoths aren’t just clones of elder dragons.
While the newest weapon may look a lot like Monster Hunter’s insect glaive, it fosters more teamwork with the ability to create wounds in a behemoth. These wounds effectively become weak points for the rest of the team to capitalise on.
Early on, players are also given a lantern with an AoE heal — making it easier to save teammates, even if you’re an all-out DPS. Later this can be customised with different effects.
It’s a fun game in its own right, and even better with friends. It’ll be even better when it’s more fleshed out. But this is a style of Monster Hunter gameplay you can jump into right now on PC.