Cooperatively hunting monsters online is an inherently fun formula so let's see if Dauntless does enough to stand out in the genre.
When I started playing Dauntless, I actually quite enjoyed myself. All you essentially do is talk to NPCs in the hub area while upgrading your gear and such then head out to start your next hunt. The hunts themselves primarily involve exploring a small mass of land while searching for a monster. Once you find it, your teammates will come rushing to help you take it down and as soon as it perishes, you win! It really is that simple but taking down these monsters definitely won't be easy as they become progressively trickier as you advance past the basic hunts. Thankfully, you can always upgrade your equipment and try to equip elemental gear that'll make the next fight easier. It all comes together to make a simple yet somewhat enjoyable formula that's best played cooperatively with other players online.
Dauntless features a handful of different weapon types including swords, axes, hammers, chain blades, pikes, firearms, and strikers. Each type mixes up the gameplay a substantial amount as you'll gain access to a whole new set of moves and special abilities when you change up your weapon type. That being said, the only other piece of equipment that actually changes the gameplay is your lantern which provides a couple of abilities. In other words, swapping out your 4 armour pieces and weapons (unless you choose a different weapon type) doesn't really affect much other than some core stats and how your character looks.
Instead, I wish that you had to make careful decisions while setting up your loadout because at it is; you just equip the best stuff while trying to take advantage of your next foe's element. As a result, this limits the character customization aspect to the point where swapping out gear just feels hollow and tedious. I should mention that there are equipment modifiers that offer certain boosts when attached to gear but I only found that these changed my capabilities to a very small degree.
On the plus side, Dauntless is very easy to learn as all you do is tap buttons for weak and strong attacks as well as a few others to jump and use abilities and consumable items. The resulting action is rather fast-paced yet the battles can still take quite a long time due to monsters having enormous health meters and some of the fights can be quite monotonous as a result. Speaking of which, the gameplay in general is highly repetitive and after about 5 successful hunts, I began to feel exhausted by the overall repetitious gameplay formula. However, I still persisted because I figured after I unlocked more mission and monster types, things would start to feel fresh again. Sadly, it's all just more of the same. For example, Escalation mode just adds a survival element, Patrol mode presents a random monster, and Trial mode implements modifiers and it's the most frustratingly challenging of all the modes.
Dauntless may have a lot of content to master and checking off the many quests as you progress can be somewhat rewarding yet its repetitive nature is really what makes it a difficult game for me to thoroughly enjoy. That being said, I can definitely imagine gamers who don't mind repetition having fun with Dauntless. Whichever camp you're in, there's no denying just how poorly Dauntless runs on Switch. The graphics don't seem very intensive with minimal textures and early PlayStation 3 era character models yet the frame rate drops almost constantly which can be a huge pain when you're fighting a monster as you may not be able to use evasive moves effectively with the visuals struggling to keep up with the action. If you have the choice to play it on a better performing console, do that.
Dauntless is one of those games that's best played in short bursts every once in a while. If it featured more gameplay variety and character growth that relied on careful decision making then it would have been a much more worthwhile game.
- + Simple combat that's easy to learn
- + Nifty weapon types and abilities
- + Lots of quests and content to master
- - Combat quickly gets repetitive
- - Equipment doesn't offer much variety
- - Subpar visuals complete with plenty of severe performance issues