I remember when Fortnite Battle Royale launched. I was enjoying it, but when I would talk to others about it, the comparisons to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds would abound. The graphics were simple, the shooting wasn't as precise, and the building mechanics were underwhelming in those early days, considering the player was always on the move. I couldn't really argue, Fortnite Battle Royale did feel like a B-grade PUBG, but the matches were quicker and the play was looser. I wouldn't say I preferred one over the other, but if I had 10 minutes to burn, Fortnite was my game of choice.
I've referenced this very old article in Wired before on the topic of 'good enough'. "We now favor flexibility over high fidelity, convenience over features, quick and dirty over slow and polished. Having it here and now is more important than having it perfect. Suddenly what seemed perfect is anything but, and products that appear mediocre at first glance are often the perfect fit," wrote former Wired editorial director Robert Capps back in 2009. The essay is about technology, but the concept is easily applied to gaming. I think PUBG was a better game, but Fortnite fulfilled the need just fine and it was free. It was good enough.
Phoenix Labs' Dauntless is clearly treading the same ground as Capcom's long-running Monster Hunter series. It's been in alpha or beta since 2017, just after Capcom's announcement of Monster Hunter: World. When MHW finally launched in 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, it looked like it was going to steal any thunder Dauntless would have. Monster Hunter: World offered a wonderfully-realized world to explore, with gigantic, amazing beasts to hunt and convert into snazzy armor. MHW went on to sell 12.4 million copies worldwide and in contrast, Dauntless trudged along in the background.
This week marked the full release of Dauntless on the Epic Games Store, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Between the all the very full servers, I've been wandering the Shattered Isles, hunting, killing, and turning the elementally-based monsters into fine-looking gear. I've been having fun. Do I have issues? Sure. The weapons I've used don't have enough impact. There's not a ton of actual hunting, as the monsters tend to be around the same regions on the maps. The maps themselves, which are supposed to be islands floating in the void, feel like sparse game levels, not the beautiful, semi-realistic environments of Monster Hunter: World.
Monster Hunter: World busted it out with fourteen different weapon types, while Dauntless has cut that down to only six weapons: Sword, Axe, Hammer, Chain Blades, War Pike, and Repeaters. They're pretty easy to get into as well: there's nothing like MHW's Insect Glaive here. I've currently settled on the dual-wielded Chain Blades, which offer quick attack up close, chain attacks as range, and the ability to dodge four times in a row.
While a hunt in Monster Hunter: World is around 20-40 minutes, here in Dauntless, you can finish them in 5-10 minutes if you don't putz around collecting herbs and materials for crafting. (Currently, finding a hunt in matchmaking takes as long as the hunt itself.) If you have a few minutes free and you want to bang out a quick hunt of Embermane or Boreus, Dauntless is here for you.
I really liked Monster Hunter: World, but it was a bit too intensive for me. If that's your only game, that's great. Between review games and keeping up with the MMOs, I simply didn't have the time to give to MHW. Dauntless is quicker, easier, and free. It's not asking as much in terms of time to see some satisfying progress. It fills the slot Monster Hunter would in my life; it might not be the same premium experience, but it's good enough.
The folks are Phoenix Labs also clearly learned from the success of Fortnite. Dauntless is free-to-play, lowering the barrier of entry versus Monster Hunter: World's $60 price tag. The in-game store sells skins, dyes, emotes, arrival animations, and more. It has a seasonal Hunt Pass, which costs 1,000 Platinum (Platinum is Dauntless' real-money conversion currency). Each season offers 50 levels of rewards as you play and complete challenges; folks on the basic tier without the Hunt Pass get almost no cosmetic items whatsoever. Even Fortnite gives you a few cosmetics on the free tier. Hunt Pass owners get all of the basic rewards, plus extra items from the Elite tier. And in 46 days when this season ends, they'll have to pick up another Hunt Pass or slum it with the Basic tier folks.
Dauntless has already hit 4 million players within a few days of launch, so "good enough" might be exactly what a number of other players were looking for as well. It also helps that Dauntless is fully cross-platform and cross-play. There's a helpful icons next to player names, so you can tell which system they're playing on. I've been in groups with Xbox One and PS4 players with no problems. And if you decide to move from PC, to PS4 or Xbox One, and back again, Dauntless has you covered. All online games should allow for full cross-play. It's a beautiful thing.
Will I stick with Dauntless for the long-term? Doubtful, as I dropped out of Fortnite after only a few seasons of play. (Trying to keep up with the MMOs is hard enough.) But for now, I can see why 4 million players at giving it a shot at least. And it could potentially carve out its own niche adjacent to Monster Hunter.