After years of being relegated to handheld consoles, the Monster Hunter expertise is lastly coming to big-screen platforms. In the end, western gamers will have the ability to hunt large monsters with mates, and use their corpses to craft weapons and armor to hunt even larger monsters on the platforms they like.

No, we aren’t speaking about Monster Hunter World, Capcom’s upcoming house console adaptation coming in January, 2018. We’re speaking about Dauntless, a free-to-play motion RPG from indie studio Phoenix Labs, which takes the Monster Hunter formulation — hunt, craft, repeat — and adapts it for a wider viewers.

Monster Hunter, which is extraordinarily fashionable in Japan and has a smaller, devoted following within the U.S., is understood for, amongst different issues, time consuming missions and obtuse crafting mechanics. Dauntless takes the fundamental gameplay loop and strips out a whole lot of the complexity with shorter gameplay classes and radically simplified crafting that gained’t have you ever poring over wiki articles.

The founding core of former League of Legends developer Riot Video games staffers at Phoenix Labs means they’ve ample expertise at crafting the kind of systemically-rich, however widely-accessible gameplay that Dauntless wants with a purpose to pull this off.

“It’s about getting along with your folks, slaying these badass, larger-than-life monsters, crafting tons of drugs alongside the best way, and having a whole lot of enjoyable and searching actually cool whilst you do it,” mentioned Phoneix Labs Advertising Supervisor Nick Clifford.

In closed beta since September, 2017, Dauntless is shaping as much as be a viable different for gamers who see how a lot enjoyable Monster Hunter followers are having, however, for no matter purpose, aren’t keen to make the leap themselves.

Kill the beast!

Dauntless takes place on the Shattered Isles — a fantasy realm unfold throughout a drifting archipelago of floating islands. Large monsters generally known as “Behemoths” have all the time been a part of the world, however current expansions of the frontier have provoked a lethal backlash, bringing horrendous monsters down onto weak settlements. You’re a Slayer, whose order has hunted behemoths for generations and is required now greater than ever. The sport encompasses a narrative marketing campaign that unlocks progressively tougher areas and behemoth hunts, however gameplay is extra targeted on quick classes than total progress.

We preferred Monster Hunter — we felt like there was a very good sport in there, but it surely’s surrounded by a whole lot of cruft, a whole lot of unknowable design.

Our journey started within the metropolis of Ramsgate, which serves as an MMO-style social hub the place you possibly can meet up with mates, craft gear, change your look, or tackle new hunts. Ramsgate feels extra like an old-school MMO public house than one thing you’d discover in, say, Destiny 2: It’s populated with as much as 60 actual gamers (beginning with your folks, adopted by your guild, after which filling in the remainder with folks geographically near you). Gamers may also have the ability to join with mates or by customary matchmaking, so that you’re by no means restricted in with whom you possibly can play.

The hunt itself passed off on one of many floating islands, traveled to in a loading display through airship. On touchdown, our three-person occasion got down to discover our first behemoth. After a number of minutes of working round, certainly one of our occasion discovered our quarry, “a bigger, lumbering pile of rocks” known as a Skarn. As promised, Skarn was an enormous, quadruped dinosaur encased in thick, stone scales of armor that made it exhausting to do any actual harm.

Luckily, two of our occasion wielded heavy mauls, which briefly knocked the armor off and left a gap for us to run in and hack with our sword. Fight was tense and tactical. Our squadmates, Clifford and Phoenix Labs Group Supervisor Ian Tornay, each made a number of allusions to the affect of Dark Souls and Bloodborne on the fight, and it exhibits within the measured rhythm of blending mild and heavy assaults, whereas studying your opponents’ animations to anticipate their strikes. The fight additionally depends closely on dodge rolls to make the most of these essential invincibility frames, moments throughout an animation when you possibly can’t get damage, to keep away from dying whereas sustaining place.

There are at the moment 5 weapon lessons within the sport, all of which really feel and play fairly otherwise. The struggle pike, for instance, offers melee harm builds up power that you could financial institution within the pike, earlier than stepping again to unleash in a devastating ranged assault. It’s the closest factor Dauntless has to a ranged weapon — irrespective of the techniques, you all the time have to discover a strategy to get in shut and land melee hits, making each assault tense and dangerous.

“Fight constancy is tremendous vital to us,” elaborated Clifford. “While you swing a sword or an axe, it must really feel actually good — actually crunchy — while you hit a behemoth.”

Harm numbers pop as much as give some suggestions of how efficient your blows are, however, as within the Monster Hunter video games, behemoths don’t show an total well being gauge. As an alternative, you want learn their actions to find out how a lot harm you’ve executed.

“it must really feel actually good — actually crunchy — while you hit a behemoth.”

As much as 4 gamers can hunt concurrently, with the behemoth’s problem scaling to match. The Skarn was a comparatively easy prey, asking extra endurance than technique, however even that comparatively easy battle required a very good quantity of communication amongst our group to take down. Our second hunt with the late sport behemoth Caravac confirmed simply how bushy issues might get.

The Caravac is a big insect that may: fly, spawn damaging swarms of smaller bugs, cloak itself, and throw out quick, lethal ranged assaults. It wiped our occasion fully after a heroic battle. (Clifford reassured us that was par for the course — he’d solely overwhelmed it as soon as earlier than in all their testing). The behemoths are designed to push your limits of timing and coordination, demanding an increasing number of teamwork as you pursue deadlier prey.

A late-game monster just like the Caravac ought to usually take three or 4 makes an attempt to grasp as you study its patterns and develop counter-strategies. Once more, invoking Darkish Souls, framing shedding and studying as enjoyable is essential for the right Dauntless mindset, which is designed round “highly-replayable, session-based” hunts that ought to solely take 15-20 minutes in complete.

Swag

We didn’t get to delve into the second half of the sport — crafting and customization — practically as a lot as we did the hunt itself, but it surely’s clear there’s loads current already. The spoils from every behemoth can produce a whole armor set and one weapon, all of which have distinctive results. Gamers can combine and match (and coloration customise) their armor piecemeal or put on complete units, which convey extra bonuses.

This newest patch additionally launched a system known as “cells”, which add customization sockets in all objects. You fill these sockets with the eponymous cells, including every thing from easy buffs, corresponding to resistance to a sort of injury, to particular perks, like dealing extra harm instantly after a dodge roll.

Dauntless has no lessons and minimal character development (there’s a story, but it surely predominantly exists to unlock new hunts), so gear is the first technique of development and expression. Cells give gamers extra choices to “smooth spec” into standard RPG roles, corresponding to help, tank, or damage-dealer, which could complement their occasion.

Obtuse crafting with elaborate recipes that require obscure elements from a number of monsters has all the time been one of many extra intimidating parts of Monster Hunter for outsiders. Dauntless addresses this by lowering complexity—the crafting system exists to allow customization of your slayer’s look and play model, but it surely’s supplementary to the principle exercise of searching, versus being an nearly equally elaborate metagame that sits alongside the precise hunts.

Hunter of Monsters

Dauntless’ similarity to the favored Monster Hunter collection of action-RPGs from Japan isn’t any coincidence. An enormous a part of the Dauntless group’s preliminary impulse from the mission got here from desirous to strip away all of the fats and hone that core expertise of co-operative battles towards massive beasts, creating “a extra western-friendly, extra accessible action-hunting expertise,” in accordance with Clifford.

“We preferred Monster Hunter — we felt like there was a very good sport in there,” defined Clifford, “but it surely’s surrounded by a whole lot of cruft, a whole lot of unknowable design; the DS kind issue is all the time type of difficult for a hardcore motion sport; speaking cats… There’s loads about it that I discover significantly charming, but it surely’s tough to method for different folks.”

Dauntless already makes an ideal case for approachability. On high of its strong, core mechanics, we actually loved its stylized presentation, with daring silhouettes, brilliant colours, and clean textures that regarded paying homage to a Blizzard sport.

Past its appeal, the stylized look serves a twofold objective of permitting the sport to run on a variety of machines and in addition future-proofing it towards graphical obsolescence as constancy improves — simply take a look at how nicely the colourful visuals of World of Warcraft held up as so a lot of its friends regarded like muddy rubbish  on reflection.

Clifford mentioned that forward-thinking perspective was rooted of their want to run Dauntless “for a few years to return” within the “game-as-service” mannequin. Though it’s too early to say but whether or not the sport may have that type of legs, what we noticed up to now exhibits nice promise. Dauntless is at the moment in closed PC beta, and will likely be getting into public beta in early 2018.

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