Dauntless by Phoenix Labs is a monster slaying game that is, in a phrase, free-to-play Monster Hunter . We at Sprites and Dice have been involved since early access for a long time and loved it, and were obviously excited for the full release on May 21st. That release came with some major news: In addition to some updates and quality of life improvements, we were getting cross platform play! Now that the full release has a whole month under its belt, let’s see where we stand since we last reviewed it.
The Good: Pretty Much All Of It
Dauntless has quickly become, if you’ll forgive the pun, a behemoth of a game. The player count has grown to over 10,000,000 and is still climbing; that’s more than four times what they had in early access (although 2,000,000 in early access is pretty darned good). With Nintendo Switch crossplay slated for late 2019, that number is likely to jump yet again before evening out.
The core gameplay loop of Dauntless hasn’t changed much since early access - which is a good thing, as it’s very solid already. The biggest changes have mostly been to rebalance or rework weapons, as well as some ways to make your time in the Shattered Isles go a bit more smoothly. The most important take away is that now its easier and faster to get into the middle of the fight.
Some of the changes have been small quality of life improvements: now you can harvest plants just with a button press instead of having to hold it down, and the aether vents now show how many charges are left on them, to name a couple. Some of the changes are much more substantial, like the in-game voice chat that bypasses the need for an outside service such as Discord. There have been some improvements to the UI as well, most notably on the hunt select screen.
All of the info, including what monsters and resources you can find and what quests they contribute to, are now clearly shown.
The updates keep coming: Pheonix Labs has been teasing the Winterhorn Skraev, a new behemoth (or, more accurately, a powered-up version of an old one) which is slated to land in the Shattered Isles sometime in July, and they’ve hinted that there are more enemies to come.
They’ve also promised to continue working on rebalancing the weapons and making them even more fun to use, stating that they want to perfect what they already have “before working on new ones.” Does that mean that there will be new weapons coming our way in the future, or is my optimistic self reading too much into that? Either way, I'm still enjoying the new axe-throwing mechanic for massive finishers.
Speaking of weapons, they’ve made the crafting and upgrading process immensely more satisfying. In early access, each behemoth would drop parts that you could craft into a different weapon and set of armor. The problem was, once you got up to the next tier of behemoths, all the gear you already had became obsolete. They’ve fixed that by cutting down on the number of different gear sets you can craft, but allowing you to upgrade each of them more, using parts from higher-tier behemoths as the gear level increases. This solves the problem of farming parts and upgrading gear, only to get a better version of the same thing a few hours later. This might be my favorite change to Dauntless so far.
And don't worry - their updates aren't going away any time soon. Just look at this teaser to their "Fortune & Glory" update coming July 16th!
Overall, Dauntless is a smoother and more enjoyable experience than ever (when you’re able to play it - more on that in a moment). It is also clear that Phoenix Labs plans to keep supporting and updating Dauntless for a long time to come.
The Bad: A Case Of Too Much, Too Soon
Those impressive player counts haven’t been all good news for Phoenix Labs however; the Dauntless community has been flooded almost nonstop with complaints of server slowness and disconnects. I play on PC and haven’t personally had any problems, but the Playstation and Xbox servers have had difficulty keeping up with the sheer number of people using them.
Since day one, console gamers have been reporting problems like long queue times to get into the game or into a hunt, severe lag, and dropped connections. Almost every update that Phoenix Labs posts includes something about increasing server capacity and reducing queue size, but so far there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. With Switch crossplay on the way, this is a worrisome trend that could badly hurt what should be a great step forward. I was really excited to hear that I would be able to take my monster slaying on the go, so I hope that Phoenix Labs is able to get the support in place for it. Fortunately, this is a 'too much of a good thing' problem more than anything, but its still frustrating.
A much more minor issue is drop rates for monster parts. So-called “common” drops hardly ever actually drop. You’re much more likely to find a blue rare part than the gray common one. It’s not game-breaking like the server issues, but it is frustrating when all you need to upgrade your weapon is a part that should be easy to get, yet just won’t drop for you.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the bee in PC gamers’ collective bonnet: Dauntless is currently an Epic Games Store exclusive. The Epic Games debate is a whole different can of worms, and one that I won’t be opening in this article, so use your own judgment on that issue.
Go Get Slaying!
I have loved Dauntless since the early early access days, and it’s only gotten bigger and better with each iteration - except for the recent server issues. If you are able to play on PC, I highly recommend starting there, as most of the problems seem to be with the Playstation and Xbox networks. If you are looking for an excuse, just remember the new pirate themed "Fortune & Glory" patch is dropping July 16th, adding in new a new Trial mode along with more quality of life changes.
The new Trial mode is almost here, promising new challenges and new loot!
No matter what system you choose to start your slaying journey, Dauntless is free-to-play, so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a shot on whatever system you can. If you enjoyed Shadow of the Colossus or any of the Monster Hunter games, or if you just want to try your hand at fighting massive monsters in an endless series of boss battles, I highly recommend trying it out.