I totally meant to write something up about the stuff I saw at PAX this past week, but PAX pox actually hit me pretty hard this year. It seems it always happens after South! I think I’ve only gotten sick from the other PAX shows like once. I think I’m going to do 3 total PAX South posts. This one about Dauntless, another one about Hyper Universe, and the a 3rd one about some other stuff I got to check out a bit that I thought was cool. We’ll see how slowly that gets pumped out >.>. BUT, let us talk about Phoenix Labs’s Dauntless.
First, let me explain what Dauntless is for folks that have maybe never heard of it. Dauntless is a essentially a Monster Hunter style CO-OP Action game. Very similarly to Monster Hunter, you’ve got a variety of weapons at your disposal (each with different move sets) that you use to dispatch Monsters – Or as Dauntless calls them, Behemoths. It is being developed for the PC only (for now, I believe they mention console isn’t out of the question) as a Free-to-Play title. If I recall correctly, the exactly payment model they’re using hasn’t been decided on, but they did say that all ‘gameplay affecting’ things would be free (correct me if that is wrong please :D). That pretty much covers what the game is, so let’s talk about the PAX South demo.
The demo features two Behemoths: Pangar (pictured above) and Shrike (the Behemoth in the first picture of this post) and 3 weapons: Shrike Sword, Iron Axe, and Iron Hammer. I played twice against Pangar, the first time using the Shrike Sword and the second time using the Iron Axe. The first major thing I noticed was how smooth everything was in the demo. No glaring performance issue, controls were very responsive, movement and animations were very smooth – Overall it already looks extremely polished and very well ironed out. The only issues that did occur during any of the demos was the offsite demo servers crashed once, otherwise the entire demo looked and played very smooth. I don’t know exactly what FPS the game is running at, but it felt like 60 at least.
Aside from the technical stuff, you can really feel the difference in each of the weapons. The Shrike Sword is lighter so attacks quicker, but has less of a feeling of impact. The Axe is a slow but has a better display of you beating the hell out of the behemoth. Each weapon has some unique abilities to them as well, which I wasn’t able to explore all that well. The Shrike Sword goes into a bit of a ‘power up’ mode after you beat things with it for a while. During this mode you attack quicker and I was told deal more damage (I couldn’t tell from anything on the UI). The Iron Axe has the ability to charge your attacks to land some heavy damage and also wider attack angles. I’m sure there is loads more to it than just that, but it will take more exploration of the game for me to figure it all out (which I’m totally excited to it). Overall the actual fighting was just as smooth and polished, which I was honestly a little worried about. I’ve played other Monster Hunter style games where the controls get super clunky in battle or you have to fight the camera, etc etc (Looking at you Toukiden), but I didn’t really run into anything that put me off on the game from a technical or control aspect. When I talked to the developers about more weapons, I was told there will definitely be more. I wasn’t given specifics for obvious reasons, just the intention to release with more than just the previewed 3 weapons and that a range option was being worked towards. Also, I hear the president of Phoenix Labs really wants to add a Yo-Yo as a weapon option ;).
I know I didn’t talk much about the Behemoth itself in that last paragraph, but that is mostly because I wanted to dedicate an entire paragraph to just how fucking cool these things sound design wise. I’m going to use Pangar as my example, and then expand a bit on it. So Pangar is this giant part T-Rex part Armadillo looking badass with heavy scales going down its back all the way to its tail. There are 3 things here that lead to an understanding of just how awesome these things are designed. Pangar in particular has 3 ‘phases.’ A normal phase which is just how it looks the first time you walk up to it. An enraged phase (there was a name for this, but I forgot it 😦 ) where the behemoth beings to have some red glowing areas on its body, attacks quicker and for more damage. Then an ‘Aether’ phase, which is probably the coolest of all of them (pun intended and you’ll see why 😉 ). Using Pangar as my example still, throughout the fight Pangar’s scales will being to freeze over. Slayers can attack the scales to break off the iced ones, but if all of Pangar’s scales become iced over it enters the Aether phase. During this phase Pangar visually looks a bit more frosty and begins to use a few elemental based moves. The most notable one when I was playing was when it would put up too giant ice pillars just before rolling between them with its roll attack, which makes it significantly harder to dodge that attack and when they spike up deal a good bit of damage. This design in general struck me as really cool, basically because think of how many awesome things you can do with these sort of mechanics. It lends itself pretty easily to creating some awesome sounding creatures. Even some low hanging fruit like a Phoenix or something like that would be neat. There are a lot of really cool possibilities though using just the idea of what Pangar has as an example. Then what about adding more layers to that? Imagine a Hydra type Behemoth with multiple heads. Each head is a different element and maybe you’ve got to damage each head evenly or one (or more) of the heads will go into Aether mode. Or maybe a Chimera or Sphinx like Behemoth where each differen’t ‘creature’ in its body is a different element which will trigger if not dealt with in a different unique way. It has almost endless design possibilities, and that is before you even get into stuff like manipulating a fight by chopping off appendages – Which wasn’t featured in any of the Behemoths in the demo, but I believe was told is a thing. There is just an insane amount of possibilities with only these few tools and it gets me a little excited. Game design is one of those things I will really nerd out talking about and these things stacked on top of each other are just so cool to me.
Needless to say at this point, I’m really excited to play more Dauntless. The simple but colorful aesthetic is pleasant, the sound in both the environment and the behemoths is really well done, the gameplay and performance are extremely smooth, the animations are fluid and look great, and the potential longevity between additions of new weapons and behemoths is very exciting. The very little I got to play at PAX just has me really wanting to fully dive into the game and it is now easily one of my most anticipated this year. Even now I’m rewatching videos wishing I could play right now :). I’ll get to play more at PAX East hopefully. Can’t come soon enough! If you want to watch or read more about the game, check out the Dauntless Website, YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter! You can also join the Unofficial Discord to chat with the community and talk about Yo-Yos and Eggplants.
Big shout out to the developers who were all just super friendly, great folks who were willing to let me toss some question their way and an extra shout out to the community manager Ian (@crash7800 on Twitter) who was nice enough to let me cut in line on Sunday to get another session in!
I word vomited a bit there, but I got pretty excited 🙂 Shortly after I publish this I’m going to start my stream up (7PM) which is a little late, but I really wanted to get at least one blog post to the wilds this weekend. Not sure what I’m going to play. I might just chill with Tales of Berseria. SEE YOU THERE?