Be brave, kill monsters
This review needs a disclaimer up front: With 1000+ hours in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, Monster Hunter Generations and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate I’m kind of a monster hunting veteran. So I’ll draw from my experience when I’m writing about Dauntless and will also frequently compare it to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate.
Dauntless has the same story as any other monster slaying game. There is a monster threatening a town/a village/a merchant route and the threat has to be removed. You are the town’s/village’s/merchant’s chosen hero and the burden to kill the monster falls into your capable hands. Take up your weapons and armour and do your job. Then take parts of the monster to make better weapons and armour and kill a stronger monster. After a while you will end up facing the strongest monsters to ever have existed and go down in history as a hero (or get smashed into smithereens while trying).
Chop, chop, choppy!
In case you haven’t got it from the paragraph above, the gameplay is basically to get a quest, kill the corresponding monster, take it’s parts to forge weapons/armour (Repeat the killing to get the parts you lack, these games tend to be rather grindy.) Rinse and repeat.
This sounds grindy and boring, but trust me – it isn’t. When the monsters, called Behemoths in Dauntless, are well thought out hunting them alone or with a group of friends can be very enjoyable. That is, when the controls are well thought out and the gameplay is fluid.
And this is exactly where Dauntless faults are.
It’s not even the controls. Apart from the axis inversion there is no way to change them, but that’s OK. It’s the abysmal loading times coupled with the stutters and dropping framerates both handheld and docked that take away the fun. The central hub, Ramsgate, is worse. Simply walking around makes the framerate drop so much that one wants to call Panic Button for help. Turning off the chat, which is rather useless on the Switch in any case – unless you have a keyboard attached – helps a bit, but only makes it bearable. The hunts are significantly better, but but still not as fluid as the ones on Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate. Which, by the way, also has better loading times.
Speaking of hunts, you normally hunt in a group of four. You can choose to have a private hunt, just you and the Behemoth, which is quite enjoyable. Keep in mind, though, that even those hunts are online only and that you need a constant connection to the internet. That’s a downside for a portable system like the Switch, but on the other hand you gain cross saves/cross progression as well as cross play with it. This makes it worth my while.
Lights, camera, hunt!
Compared to Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, the artstyle looks much simpler, more like a comic book art. It’s not as detailed or colourful. As a result keeping a constant framerate shouldn’t be that hard, but as we have seen, Dauntless takes a hit here. It’s still serviceable but there is a lot of room for improvement.
The music also aspires to greater things without delivering. Compared to Monster Hunter’s soundtrack, the one of Dauntless is nice but not as catchy or dramatic. It completely serves its purpose, though.
Handheld or docked? Wifi or cable?
I’ve already pointed out the main flaw of the game. Now let me get into detail: There is no difference between handheld or docked nor wifi or cable connection when it comes to the stutters and framerate drops. I can’t imagine why the developers released this version and didn’t choose to optimize it further before throwing it to the monster hunting hungry wolves. I know that at least the stutters in Ramsgate are also on other more powerful consoles, but that’s no excuse.
In direct comparison with Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, Dauntless has little chance. Apart of the tutorial quests which are very good in Dauntless and really teach you the basics and the price, this game lacks when it comes to the gameplay itself. That’s a pity, because the mechanics are good, the mosnters are interesting and the weapons offer a large variety. Crafting and upgrading the weapons is easier as well. But that’s all for naught when the game stutters like this.
- It’s free and accessible
- Scratches the Monster Hunter itch
- Private hunts are possible
- Long loading times
- Stutters and framerate drops
- Online only
If this game gets updated and addresses the issues at hand, it will be a great way to let off steam and kill some monsters. In this initial state, first release version on Switch, it’s mediocre and can only be recommended if you really don’t want to pay for the real thing.