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Monster hunting on a budget.
Dauntless is a cooperative action game where up to four players group up to fight giant monsters called behemoths. Drawing comparisons to Monster Hunter is inevitable, but Dauntless manages to carve out its own identity in the framework that Capcom’s wildly successful franchise has built. Dauntless was playable at Nintendo’s booth on the E3 show floor today, and I got to play a round with three other attendees to get a taste for what a free-to-play counterpart to Monster Hunter looks like.
The demo dropped us into an open area only a short distance away from the behemoth – a toad-like lizard called a Charogg that could shoot columns of fire out of its shell. The Charogg acted like a monster from the Monster Hunter franchise; it telegraphed its attacks so you knew when it was safe to attack and when you needed to dodge, and changed up its attack patterns as it was wounded and grew more desperate. Healing items needed to be used deliberately as they don’t take effect instantly, so stepping away to recover leaves you vulnerable to another attack from the behemoth.
Where Dauntless manages to set itself apart is by lowering the barrier of entry to make its gameplay more accessible to less skilled players. Whereas in Monster Hunter you need to totally commit to swinging your weapon, attacks in Dauntless have a lot less ending lag keeping you from moving out of the way after starting an attack. Additionally you’re allowed to make a lot more mistakes than in Monster Hunter by a generous revive system that gives your teammates the opportunity to help you get back up when you’ve been knocked out by a behemoth. The demo we played also gave everyone a number of revive potions that allowed a player to get up on their own after being knocked out.
Dauntless should do a good job appealing to anyone looking for a free, alternative to Monster Hunter, but the Switch version still needs a bit of work before it can stand up to the version other systems received last month. Dauntless targets 30fps on Switch, but when four hunters are gathered around a fire-breathing behemoth the game often chugs well below that target. It’s tough to recommend the Switch version in its current state, but with no currently announced release date there’s still time for developer Phoenix Labs to make fighting behemoths a smoother, more consistent experience.