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Dauntless Early Access Hands-On Impressions
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Dauntless Early Access Hands-On Impressions

How free-to-play monster slaying on PC stacks up

After playing several hours of Dauntless Early Access (both during the Founder’s Alpha and the Closed Beta), I wanted to share some of my preliminary impressions of the game for those who have not invested in Founder’s Packs. It’s important to stress that since the game is still in Closed Beta, this is not a review, and I fully expect that a fair amount of things will change between now and the game’s official launch.

To set the stage, Dauntless a monster-hunting game brought to the PC in a free-to-play format. Games in this genre tend to focus on exploration, crafting as character progression, and long fights against one AI-controlled enemy. While many games of this style can feel very confusing and overwhelming when you begin, Dauntless feels much more approachable, largely because early hunts seem designed to ease players into the game rather than immediately throwing them into the deep end of the pool. For example, players are immediately dropped onto an island post-character creation where they can learn through trial and error about gathering materials (later used for crafting gear) and locating then fighting the island’s monster. Since the first monster isn’t very difficult, this serves to help the player get a sense of the flow of the game and the combat system.

After dispatching the monster, the player is loaded into a city hub which introduces further aspects of the game, like quests, crafting, and grouping up for hunts. The game has a variety of quests that guide players along, encouraging things like killing specific monsters, collecting X number of resources, or crafting/upgrading pieces of gear. Completing these quests unlocks new Hunts or schematics at Crafter NPCs, which act as the game’s progression systems. Since there are no levels or character classes in the game, characters are completely defined by their gear: your “level” is basically how strong your gear is and your “class” depends on what weapon you choose to use. This gear is crafted with materials that players get on their hunts, some of which are specific to a particular monster and some of which can be gathered on a variety of hunting islands.

Any unlocked hunt can be accessed on a city bounty board which allows players to queue for either a solo hunt or a group hunt. If you’re already in a party, the queueing system will automatically fill out the party to the group size of four players. During my PAX East interview, it was suggested that players would be able to attempt a hunt at any number of players they wished, but that functionality does not yet appear to be in the game.