It’s been a few years since I reviewed Monster Hunter Generations for the 3DS, which was my first foray into the series. Since then I have played a bit of Monster Hunter: World when it popped up on Xbox Game Pass, but haven’t played any of the other core entries in the series. I did say in my review that Monster Hunter might not be my cup of tea, but I’ll still check it out if I can via a demo or something like Game Pass. However, what if you want to check out Monster Hunter but don’t have Game Pass or don’t want to plunk down 60 dollars for a game you may not like? Are there any alternatives? Well, yes, and today I’m going to look at one on the Nintendo Switch called Dauntless.
Dauntless was initially released on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC back on September 26, 2019, while the Nintendo Switch version was launched on December 10, 2019. In Dauntless, monsters known as Behemoths have been released into the world after a cataclysmic event. The player, known as a Slayer in the game, is tasked with taking down the Behemoths. As you take them down you’ll collect loot to craft and upgrade your weapons and armor to begin taking down larger and more powerful Behemoths. As stated this is all probably sounding very familiar, but there are some differences between Dauntless and Monster Hunter. I’ll save that for the end. When the game begins you’ll spawn into the city of Ramsgate and run around and check out everything in the city. It might take some time to figure out what the different navigation icons mean but you’ll pick it up pretty quickly…maybe, because the first major thing that had me concerned was the frame rate.
While Dauntless isn’t the first MMO game on the Switch, it’s the first one I’ve personally experienced (sorry, not really a Fortnite person). I haven’t played the game on any other system, so seeing the drop in frame rate as you’re running around the city got me worried. There were also occasional brief pauses where the game slightly lagged. It can get annoying when you’re trying to turn or look around with the right control stick, but overall it’s not a deal breaker. Thankfully most of the frame rate droppage occurs in the city and although there is the occasional drop out in the field, it wasn’t anything that negatively impacted gameplay.
The gameplay itself is a bit simpler than in Monster Hunter. Since this is an MMO-style game, the best comparison would be to Monster Hunter: World, though I’m sure other MH games would also be a good comparison. Between hunts you go back to the city to turn in quests, pick up new ones, and craft and upgrade weapons and armor. Once you’re all done it’s back to the hunt. That’s pretty much it. In fact, when it comes to getting ready for a hunt there’s not a whole lot of strategy to it. You do have six weapon types to choose from and you start out with one of each type, with the sixth coming a little later in the game. The weapons, and armor for that matter, can have an element attached to them that can improve your attack or defense depending on which type of behemoth you’re facing. For instance, a fire weapon can deal more damage against an ice behemoth, but less damage against another type of behemoth, while dealing neutral damage to everything else. Likewise, ice armor will give you more defense against other ice behemoths, but will naturally be weaker to attacks from fire behemoths. Armor and weapons can also be upgraded a few levels to increase their effectiveness.
Once you have your armor and weapons set it’s time to head out and hunt some behemoths. You’ll see from the map screen that you have four options: Patrol, Pursuit, Escalation, and Trials, though only Pursuit is available from the start. The rest require a certain amount of progress to unlock. Pursuits will let you go after specific behemoths and will be the basis for a good amount of quests you pick up, tasking you to defeat a certain behemoth. After a while you’ll unlock Patrols which let you pick a habitat to explore and you’ll encounter a random behemoth. Escalations require you to take on several behemoths back to back to be able to face off against the season’s boss. Finally, Trials are unlocked once the main story is completed and it lets you face off against tough behemoths with various modifiers.
Once you select your mode and behemoth (if applicable), you’ll auto-enter into matchmaking as the game searches for three other players to join you. You can go it alone if you wish, but I actually prefer to have other people join in. Granted the battle’s difficulty will depend on how many players you have, but having four players go at a single monster is pretty fun to experience, especially if everyone uses different weapons. While waiting you have one more chance to change out your loadout, including weapons and any items to take in. Once everyone is ready—or when 90 seconds have passed—you get dropped onto an island and set out to find the behemoth. While hunting it down you can pick up various resources found scattered around the island. Once the behemoth is found it’s time to take it down. You have normal and heavy attacks you can perform and each weapon has various abilities you can use. You also have a Lantern with you which has two abilities when their meters are full.
The behemoths don’t have a health meter per se, but rather a heart in the upper-right corner of the screen. After so much damage is dealt one quarter of the heart will disappear. Once the heart is empty the battle is over. Much like Monster Hunter you can’t typically just run up, hack away at the monster, and hope everything turns out okay. There is a good amount of strategy needed to survive, including knowing when to stay back and dodge attacks before going in, getting a few good shots in, and preparing to avoid another attack. If you go down you have a set number of times you can revive either on your own or via a teammate. You also eventually gain four item slots that are mapped to the directional arrows on the left Joy-Con, one of which is always populated with five health potions at the start of each hunt. Basically unless you go into a fight completely under-geared (which the game will show you the difficulty based on your gear and what the recommended attack and defense levels are for a hunt) it’s kind of hard to completely wipe with a full party of four. It has happened to me, but in the early going it probably won’t happen all too often, if even at all.
There is a catch to the fights though. If you take a while taking down the behemoth two things will happen. First, a danger meter will increase. The higher it gets, the more dangerous the behemoth will become. Once the meter reaches 100 percent, players can no longer revive, either on their own or via teammate. You now have to either defeat the behemoth or drive it off. Speaking of which, the second catch is that sometimes the behemoth will run off and you have to hunt it down again. That’s fine. The hunt itself isn’t on a timer, but if you take a while to find it the behemoth will actually regain a bit of health. That can be a bit annoying, but I get why. It’s running off, finding a place away from you, and resting. Too bad your health doesn’t auto-regenerate by just standing still. As you hack away at a behemoth you might end up hacking up certain parts that can be used to craft armor and weapons. Beyond that, just keep fighting on and eventually you’ll take it down; or if you wipe entirely you’ll just go back to the city. I mentioned that the lag when on a hunt isn’t nearly as bad as in the city, but it is slightly noticeable when not in combat…which is weird because I barely notice it while in combat. You think it’d be the opposite.
Beyond that you also have a couple of other tasks to work on. There is a season pass that you can level up by doing various bounties. You can have up to four bounties active at any one time and you can draft one to an empty slot by spending a token, then choosing one of three bounties that come up. These are typically pretty easy in the early going with things such as collect a certain resource or battle behemoths with a particular weapon. Finishing these can level up your season pass and earn you rewards. There are two tracks with rewards: the top track with a reward every other level that’s free for everyone, and a bottom track for season pass memberships that have more rewards and more often. These aren’t required though and just make things easier as you earn more currency and resources.
In the end, Dauntless is a pretty entertaining game and a nice alternative to Monster Hunter if you want something a bit simpler or just don’t want to shell out the money for Monster Hunter. While Dauntless is free to play, there are microtransactions for cosmetic items, and the publishers did provide a code to give me some stuff to get started, but it was things like Platinum, Ace Chips (other currencies), Cells (orbs that you can open for various mods for armor and weapons), and cosmetics. Surprisingly outside of the cosmetics I haven’t really used any of the other items yet, and I’ve had no problems crafting the proper equipment when I needed them, though a slight bit of grinding for particular parts was needed. The game gives you some pretty good tutorials through the opening quests to get you started. Once you get hunting down, that’s the bulk of the game. However, the Switch version’s main issue is the frame rate droppage. Again though, that’s mostly in the city but it is very noticeable. If you’re looking for something complex and in-depth, Monster Hunter World is probably more up your ally. For someone like me though that isn’t all that great at the Monster Hunter series, Dauntless is a great alternative.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.