E3 2017: Hands-on with Dauntless shows it’s more than a Monster Hunter clone

    
31
Some daunts remain.

Phoenix Labs’ not-Monster Hunter monster-hunting game Dauntless is obviously standing in a big shadow after E3 2017. I wasn’t yet fully aware of what Monster Hunter World was doing, but I’ve seen solid games lose to their larger rivals who are slower to innovate in the past. Capcom, while constantly disappointing Mega Man fans, is generally quite good with its co-op hunting series. RaiderZ, a Perfect World published not-MH game that also tackled the monster hunter genre, made minor changes to the formula and came as an actual MMO but still shut down. Though the Phoenix Labs guys weren’t aware of RaiderZ‘s failure, they seemed barely fazed by Capcom’s announcement, and maybe they’re right. Surprisingly, they’ve innovated a few things Capcom itself is doing while also adding a few things Capcom isn’t.

Think Monster Hunter lite

For those unfamiliar with the monster hunting genre, let me give you a quick rundown: Think action combat raiding, like TERA, but without the colorful circles telling you where not to stand. Now take away all that auto-attack nonsense and move with an urgency similar to Dark Souls. Remember to attack certain points on your enemy to disable their attacks, like cutting off tails to nullify tail attacks or break horns so you don’t take as much damage if you get head-butted. You’re still gonna have to gather and make your consumables (often in the field) plus craft armor (from the bloody body parts of your fallen prey), but you’re doing that slow and steady as soon as you start the game, not after 40+ levels of skipping through forests with a (hopefully) engaging story before realizing that the real game is devoid of story and didn’t prepare you for this kind of experience. That’s the kind of gameplay we’re talking about.

Now enter Dauntless. The very first thing that struck me about Dauntless was how accessible it seemed. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but aspects like being able to carry all of your items without having to bank are huge. Having multiple armor suits and multiple weapons makes inventory management a game in and of itself in the MH series. While the maps are more open than current MH maps are, they feel just as interactive as the main series games, having rocks and plants for you to collect for gear, though you don’t have to worry about item space in this game.

Dauntless, instead of piling everything into one bag, organizes everything by slots. Click your paperdoll’s head to see helmets, weapon for weapons, etc. You can’t change gear mid-combat, but it does make visiting the world hub for crafting easier. Sadly, there’s no trading in-game, though, not just in terms of gear like in the MH series but for consumable as well. The team feels its better to avoid trading altogether rather than fight players while on a slippery slope. Dauntless may not be an MMO, but I understand that trading items also opens games to secondary markets that may use real world currencies, causing problems for most of the playerbase as well as the developers.

One nice additional slot is the lantern. Dauntless had lanterns leading players toward their main hunt objective in game, “behemoths,” before MHW revealed the addition of scout flies. Independently creating the same mechanic to simplify similar systems should help show that Phoenix Labs has a similar understanding of the monster hunting genre and what it takes to make it more accessible. However, Dauntless’ lanterns also give players a slot for an ability, like group heals to help ensure players don’t die as much. These small changes or additions, rather than tweaks, are what generally win me over, and the way Dauntless handles team play really suggests it has a certain audience in mind.

Death was another innovation that surprised me. In MH, the team has a limited number of shared deaths. Die too many times, and the whole group fails. Instead, Dauntless uses a “Danger Meter.” Taking damage, getting KOed, or even just having the fight go on for too long will increase the Danger Meter. If the meter hits 100 and a player dies, the whole team has to retreat. The game’s only in alpha, but while the developers kept dying, we never went over 30 Danger during the demo from what I recall. Doing damage, forcing it to run, and other things can help to reduce your Danger.

One aspect of Monster Hunter that appears completely absent, however, is the ability to hit allies. While this has never directly damaged other players in MH, it can indirectly damage them. For example, in MH, you can kick an ally who’s got a sleep effect on to wake up, or whack an ally into the air if it looks like she’s going to get hit, but those same moves could not only interrupt an ally’s combo but also fling her into harm’s way. This has always been a potential issue with MH missions, but its local multiplayer gameplay often makes it something the team can try to coordinate more easily. Especially among online players, though, it’s made certain weapons feel like a liability, similar to people choosing Hanzo in Overwatch. By removing team attacks, Phoenix Labs makes it so no weapon’s user will be ostracized in the same way it might have been in MH (though other factors could naturally cause this).

That isn’t to say you don’t have to save your allies anymore. Monsters may create environmental hazards (like ice) that when touched will freeze a player, so it’s good to make sure you break these. A downed ally can be revived, though you’ll want to make sure you have some space and time to do it. The combat itself is still like MH’s, and you’ll need to learn when you can attack and when you can dodge. However, for veterans, there are moments when a behemoth prepares an attack and gives you a risky opportunity: Connect an attack at just the right moment to cause a critical failure and leave the behemoth wide open for multiple attacks, or take massive damage if you fail. I admittedly never learned when these occur myself during the demo itself, but the developers did show me both the right and wrong way to do it.

At the end of each hunt, we didn’t need to rush to get out loot as we do in MH. We didn’t have to run back to the tail we lobbed off to gather anything. Any “breaks” or monster bits you get are automatically looted and given to you at the end of the mission, with the lore reason being that the guy that dropped you off will haul away your kill(s) as well, which makes perfect sense.

New features

Dauntless isn’t just a tweaked Monster Hunter. It has the same MH feel at first, but the differences become apparent quickly. For example, I’m generally a hammer user. Think “tank,” even though every player is naturally going to get aggro and need to help make sure the monster doesn’t hit their teammates. I’m in the front of the monster doing my best to hold its attention and keep others from harm. A lot of this comes from whacking the monster in the face to stun it. However, in Dauntless, the hammer isn’t just for smashing heads. It’s part gun, similar to MH’s gunlancer. It gives the hammer user a ranged attack, and I was told there was some way to even ride the hammer. It got the job done, but think I prefer my hammers gunless.

The game’s newly released “chain weapons” were quite appealing, though. Chain weapons are like harvesting scythes attached to chains. Similar to MH’s dual swords, they’re for weaving in and out of combat. However, they also have a neat special feature: You can use your chain weapons to pull yourself to the behemoth when you’re far from it or pull yourself away from it if you’re too close. I usually prefer big, long weapons for tail cutting and have adapted to patiently trading blows as I hulk about my prey, but as the chain weapons have a long reach during their combo as well as mobility, I may have to try them again some day.

Player organizations in the Monster Hunter series have always been an out-of-game “feature,” similar to how people organized themselves in the original StarCraft and Tribes games. Dauntless doesn’t currently have guilds either but plans to add them with Cataclysm-era World of Warcraft type guild perks. But you won’t just join and get free bonuses. The plan is to make the individual “prove loyalty” to unlock the rights to share perks. WoW also did this, but perhaps Phoenix Labs’ specifics will work out better after seeing how Blizzard struggled to make it work.

As in any RPG, you have multiple damage types, and Dauntless tries to make sure they help each other. For example, piercing damage does more damage to exposed flesh. If a blunt damage weapon breaks a behemoth’s armor, or a slashing weapon cuts off a tail, piercing damage will increase in those areas.

Dauntless’ environment, as in Monster Hunter World’s hands-off demos, is important. For example, when you’re in the snow, snow based monsters will naturally be tough, but if you happen to find them in the desert, expect them to hot, tired, and easier to defeat. There are no mounting behemoths, and I didn’t get to see us drop rocks on them or trap them in vines, but there were objects to interact with. For example, there were cracks in the ground that would release a healing steam for my allies, and I believe the behemoth was trying to use these as well.

There was one last aspect I kind of liked, mostly for bragging rights. At the end of your mission, everyone receives a grade, as well as other little bonuses, like a notification that you got top DPS. My Japanese hunting mates would be proud to hear not only that I never died in the three hunts we did but that I managed to snag top DPS from my first round. It’s a small addition, but knowing how you ranked can act as an additional motivation for improving gameplay. I just hope other aspects, like most healing or least damaged, make it in too!

A solid entry point

My Dauntless demo was good. Feel free to go through my E3 articles and see how often I say the opposite (it’s often!). This was a demo that felt like organic gameplay and showed off what the team’s advertising as the core experience. Our gear felt matched specifically for our encounter when in reality we’d probably be in gear one tier below, but press (and developers) often need a bit of a boost to ensure they can experience the demo quickly and easily. For me, though, jumping into the game felt natural. In fact, I was surprised to learn not everyone demoing the game could beat the three missions we took on. To me, as an MH and action combat veteran, jumping into the game felt natural. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but I felt familiar while remaining accessible. It’s what Hearthstone is for Magic the Gathering, teaching some good core skills (like patience and dodging) while cutting out some tedium (item management and painful mission failures).

Although the team isn’t worried about the Monster Hunter World reveal, I am. I’ve seen other good, accessible, innovative games die off because a bigger name releases around the same time. Unless MHW really condenses the MH experience itself, Dauntless could be a much better entry point for those intimidated by the genre, better than RaiderZ, which sadly never seemed to find its stride. It’s especially difficult due to MH hype and Capcom’s constant content recycling with newish games that probably should have been DLC or an expansion. It’s another area that could help Dauntless stand out, at least in the western market, but the game probably needs more marketing, which the team knows well. It wants more people to bring their friends, and that’s important since the team is asking people to buy the game before releasing it as a free-to-play title.

On the showroom floor, almost no one had heard of the game, but everybody seemed impressed by the design choices. MHW has a lot of people excited, but Dauntless is showing that there’s room for innovation in the subgenre.

Massively Overpowered is on the ground in Los Angeles, California, for E3 2017, bringing you expert MMO coverage on The Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert, and everything else on display at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo!
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Dibs

I’ve never played Monster Hunter so I didn’t find the over-reliance on comparisons to it all that useful.

Reader
jinarra

Looking forward to this as well as MHW. Will Massively be able to cover the closed Alpha test? I’m seriously considering purchasing that tier of Founder.

Reader
Jeremiah Wagner

Dauntless over MHW x 10

Loyheta
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyheta

I am a huge fan of the Monster Hunter series. It may be second only to the Elder Scrolls series. I’ve backed this game as much as I could. (use Loyheta as your referrer if you guys want one) I’m really looking forward to this and the idea of not having to fuss over inventory space is staggering.

To anyone thinking this game isn’t worth it with the announce of MHW. Please support it. MH really needs some competition, especially on the PC. PC has been neglected completely (save for monster hunter online but that doesn’t count in the west). Also Dauntless will be f2p and that is a huge boon.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

If there wasnt MHW announcement, this game would be more interesting, But now its just an inferior version of whats coming on PC in 2018. Im not only talking about visuals (and its day and night difference). Look at monsters roaster. Latest version of MH X has _107_ monsters to hunt: 37 small and 73 large. And how many Dauntless has 2 months before going to early launch? Right. Four.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
agemyth 😩

Monster Hunter has been a very slow to evolve series (probably in part due to technical limitations). I’m looking forward to MHW, but if it takes a wiki and/or friends who already know the games to get new players introduced to the concepts like most of the games, I think there is plenty of room for the competition.

Reader
Danny Smith

Honestly i hate to say it but i dont think ‘not being fazed’ is going to help them here. We have seen this time and again that the online spin off to an existing, beloved brand survives and the competition dies in f2p obscurity every time. Theres a reason the biggest mmos still going are spun off multi decade ips like Warcraft, Final Fantasy, the Lord of the Rings and so on.

I know it barely shows up on Massivelys radar but Monster Hunter is the sole ip that has kept Capcom out of bankruptcy for YEARS. Beginning in the 2007 period where microsoft and EA got caught paying journalists to write articles pushing a “japanese gaming is dying because western gamers want western games” message to try and stem the change in the market to consumers finally starting to support the PS3 more over the already declining Xbox 360 buzz in the market along with EA’s tactic of dropping its brand as a movie game tie in producer to a creator of original AAA content. Developers at the time like Keiji Inafune and Shinji Mikami drank this cool aid and fell for it completely, convincing the capcom higher ups that “we need to change our games for wider western appeal” and thats why we got things like Resident Evil 5 and 6 while things like Vietiful Joe and Megaman were mostly forgotten.
This was almost catastrophic for multiple companies who would thankfully see games like REmake HD and Bravely Default in Square Enix’s case prove that the games meant for a core native market had the unique appeal westerners bought the games for to begin with. By that point folks like Mikami and Inafune jumped ship for the west to make critical bombs like Mighty No.9 and The Evil within and the capcom diehards were spreading the meme “capgod is capgone” for a good few years.
The release of Monster Hunter Tri really saved them, it shifted the series to 3DS -the second best selling console of all time- and lead to a series of smash hit releases that i think a lot of western journalists do not understand. There are entire monhun cafes in both asia and now in the west. Just for one game, thats how big a deal this is. By now we have MH4U and Generations doing gangbusters the world over while games like Street Fighter V are massive losses for the company. Not only does it have a bigger, and currently more active userbase than games like WoW but has groups like “monhanbu” that are dedicated official, supported fan clubs for it. It is a phenomenon that has kept Capcom afloat almost solely by Monster Hunters insane, and growing userbase.

Compound this with the Monhun series dropping Playstation home consoles with the PS2 and 2 gens later its back and losing the 3DS lean to action in favour of the stealth and tracking core idea. For the original userbase thats the dream ‘looks like the cutscenes in real time’ game they have always wanted form a series stuck on the credit card sized 3ds screens still using ps2 assetts.

THAT is what Dauntless is going up against. I hate to be the downer but its one of those cases where having more features doesnt matter. You are the mom and pop shake shack going up against McDonalds. Theres only one way that ends.

Line
Reader
Line

What kind of bullshit is this?
Evil Microsoft and Electronic Arts paid the press to convince Japanese devs’ that the future was in westernized games?

Is this a joke?
Not only is it completely fabrication, but it also forgets the fact that… those westernized games are the reason why Capcom is such a juggernaut today, unlike assorted “dead” devs’ like Sega (oh look, another company that only exists because it has a western division after their tons of very Japanese games tanked hard).
The makeover of Resident Evil starting from 4 is what brought it to international recognition, and much higher sales. I hate RE6, but it made so, so much more money than the others that it’s ridiculous.

The market looks like this today because Japan never managed to follow through their success during the PS360 era. And it goes deeper than just “making westernized games”, because the bread and butter of Japanese developers changed: it became shitty otaku stuff. No doubt that Final Fantasy Tactics or Vagrant Story would be considered very western nowadays… because they were.
The recent Monster Hunter sold just okay in the West (and like complete garbage for years before that), because nobody really gave a shit about local co-op here.
When the fad died in Japan in favour of mobile, they had nowhere else to go than modern platforms.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
agemyth 😩

Beginning in the 2007 period where microsoft and EA got caught paying journalists to write articles pushing a “japanese gaming is dying because western gamers want western games” message to try and stem the change in the market to consumers finally starting to support the PS3 more over the already declining Xbox 360 buzz in the market along with EA’s tactic of dropping its brand as a movie game tie in producer to a creator of original AAA content. Developers at the time like Keiji Inafune and Shinji Mikami drank this cool aid and fell for it completely, convincing the capcom higher ups that “we need to change our games for wider western appeal” and thats why we got things like Resident Evil 5 and 6 while things like Vietiful Joe and Megaman were mostly forgotten.
This was almost catastrophic for multiple companies who would thankfully see games like REmake HD and Bravely Default in Square Enix’s case prove that the games meant for a core native market had the unique appeal westerners bought the games for to begin with. By that point folks like Mikami and Inafune jumped ship for the west to make critical bombs like Mighty No.9 and The Evil within and the capcom diehards were spreading the meme “capgod is capgone” for a good few years.
The release of Monster Hunter Tri really saved them, it shifted the series to 3DS -the second best selling console of all time- and lead to a series of smash hit releases that i think a lot of western journalists do not understand. There are entire monhun cafes in both asia and now in the west. Just for one game, thats how big a deal this is. By now we have MH4U and Generations doing gangbusters the world over while games like Street Fighter V are massive losses for the company. Not only does it have a bigger, and currently more active userbase than games like WoW but has groups like “monhanbu” that are dedicated official, supported fan clubs for it. It is a phenomenon that has kept Capcom afloat almost solely by Monster Hunters insane, and growing userbase.

*citations needed

Reader
Danny Smith

The sites that took part wiped it as you would imagine but its documented quite a bit in the ‘untold history of japanese games development’ books, which also include things like sega of america hiring the yakuza to kidnap a devs sister so he wouldn’t defect to nintendo in the 80’s. Really good reads but also a gross behind the curtain reveal of how awful the industry can be at a corporate level.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
agemyth 😩

*additional citations needed

Reader
Chuck Finley

This guy believes, man. He believes!

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

3DS -the second best selling console of all time-

Nitpick, but the 3DS is actually the 10th best selling console of all time. The second best selling console is the Nintendo DS, which sold more than twice what the 3DS has sold to date.

That is not too shabby, though, because the 3DS is the best selling *current gen* console. On the other hand the PS4 is likely to steal that crown soon, what with it selling faster and the Switch canibalizing sales of the 3DS years before it was supposed to be retired.

Reader
Jeremiah Wagner

The only reason 3DS would be anywhere near a top selling console is because Pokémon / Monster Hunter / maybe a couple other exclusives. Which is why almost 100% guarantee that MHW will not have anywhere near the depth as a MH on 3ds because they would lose a bunch of potential sales also why They are not releasing a real MH or Pokémon game on the switch.

Reader
Jeremiah Wagner

I have played ALOT of MH and Dauntless looks way more like MH then MHW does. MHW is most likely guna fail since it looks like a fancy, shiny game with lots of gimmicks that will be anmoying by the end of the first month of release. Dauntless looks to have alot more replayability.

Xijit
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Xijit

MHW is really just Lost Planet 2 (if anyone remembers that one) with a fantasy makeover.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

I appreciate this game’s art style and I have little confidence in Capcom as a developer at all. I’ll willing to try both – so for me it is a winner take all event where I do not care who wins.

Reader
Dug From The Earth

does it have a story campaign? Or is it a pure hunting sandbox game?

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Tobasco da Gama

There’s definitely room in the world for two games delivering on this concept, especially since it’s tragically under-explored in the west.