The two booths at PAX South that have had the biggest lines to play are Nintendo, who brought their Nintendo Switch, and Dauntless , an indie game that’s been in development for two years and is playable for the first time at the convention. Why is this relatively unknown game such a smash hit on the show floor? Probably because it’s the game a lot of fans have been waiting their whole lives for: a co-op driven, Monster Hunter style game made in the West. I managed to get some hands-on time with Dauntless ’ demo with guided help from Phoenix Labs’ co-president, Jesse Houston.
Dauntless is a simple game that combines the encounters of Destiny with the combat of FFXV . At the demo, you could play one of four characters, each with a different weapon and skillset. According to Houston, this game won’t have a specific class system, but instead there will be gear acquired throughout the game that will increase your strength and the monsters you can fight.
The controls of Dauntless are simple: you can jump, run, dodge, use items and attack. If you have ever played Monster Hunter , Dauntless should be easy to understand. I picked a hammer with a heavy swing that had a shotgun on the bottom. If I stood still, a shotgun shell would spray enemies in front of me, or if I used the attack while running, a shotgun blast would propel me into the air.
The four Dauntless heroes playable at PAX South
The story is pretty simple: imagine a world where Aether, a magical essence, runs rampant. Animals mutate with the magic, creating gigantic beasts that need to be slayed. It’s up to you and a team to fight these creatures, claiming rewards and bounties along the way. Aether is the lifeblood of this world, you can find it in craters around the map filled with the stuff that can heal you. You are definitely going to need healing, trust me.
At launch, Dauntless will have over 100 to 150 hours of gameplay, with dozens of monsters to fight. As the game progresses, monsters you thought you knew will change. Some might deal more damage, better armor or even new attacks. Fighting a dragon in an open field might be easy, but if you have to face that same drake in a poison swamp, your strategy is going to change. Houston wasn’t specific on the number, but he was positive that players will have enough content to go through and not get bored.
Fighting The Shrike In Dauntless
The demo had three other players and myself searching a floating island for an owl-bear, called a Shrike. Before we could fight the monster, we had to find it, so all four of us split up in search of the beast. The player who eventually found it launched a flair and we all ran to his location. I was ready to show this Shrike who the boss of the monsters really was.
While swinging my hammer and shooting my gun, I tried my best to avoid the talons of the Shrike by dodging or strafing. You die pretty quickly if you don’t dodge the attacks of the monster you are fighting, which makes Dauntless feel dynamic and fluid. Milliseconds matter, knowing when to use attacks or when to dodge is integral to survival. Since I have the reaction time of an old man, I was guzzling health potions.
That lizard is about to be hammer pulp.
My HP hit zero about a half dozen times, but thankfully my teammates were there to revive me.
The demo was over after our team tracked down and slayed three Shrikes. Dauntless brought a pre-alpha build to PAX South, but it felt like a fairly polished game. The world felt full and lush, the combat was engaging and the graphics didn’t disappoint.
Dauntless was one of my favorite games I played on the show floor and I can’t wait for the title to come to PC sometime in 2017.