Before last week, I hadn’t played Dauntless since its open beta launch, about two years ago. Giant monster-hunting games just aren’t my thing, so while I enjoyed the game for the few weeks I played, I didn’t stick with it. Part of the reason was my overall feelings toward the genre but also, as we alluded to several times on the F2P Cast, there was the repetitive nature of things, with a relatively small roster of Behemoths to battle and overall lack of fight variety.
Fast forward two years and the team at Phoenix Labs has made a great number of strides, adding not only to the roster of Behemoths but also introducing new ways to play. While I haven’t closely followed developer blogs in this time, I have to assume that a lot of the changes came from feedback from players. Actually, I only partially have to assume, since Director of Marketing Nick Clifford wrote about them a short time ago, referring to things like the addition of a ranged weapon and the subtraction of loot boxes. Last week, I got a preview of the next content major update, Call of the Void, from Clifford and I was not only pleased by what I saw but also the other changes that have gone into the game since 2018.
One of things that didn’t come up in that article were the ways to track Behemoth damage. When the game first launched, the only thing you had to go by was how a Behemoth looked – scars, body parts being destroyed, and so on. It was a cool stylistic choice, but one that obviously didn’t satisfy players. I knew that damage numbers had been added, but I wasn’t aware of the health meter of sorts for the Behemoths we fought. It’s a heart that ticks off in quarters every time a Behemoth loses 25% of its health. I don’t know when that was added to the game, but it’s a welcome addition that serves as an excellent compromise between style and function.
My demo with Clifford wasn’t to showcase these now-old changes, however, but to show off the new content in the Call of the Void update. We ran through an Escalation, a type of content introduced last year that pits a team of slayers against five Behemoth encounters, back to back. The first four encounters are “semi-procedural,” as Clifford put it, sometimes challenging slayers with a pair of Behemoths. In this update, the Behemoths are all shadow-based, as befitting the “Void” in the title; in the last one, Scorched Earth, they all had a fire theme, culminating in the Torgadoro, a.k.a. “fire gorilla.”
The big bad at the end of this encounter is Thrax, a sneaky and snaky Behemoth that was always slithering away from my hammer strikes while dashing in and out of portals, making him nearly impossible to pin down. For his “Pain Train” attack, he lanced around the battlefield, leaving lines of dark fire in his wake, which almost made it look like he was trying to summon a demon by inscribing a (very messy) pentagram. I’d like to say “we” were triumphant in the end, but really it was Clifford and PR Manager Andy Burt who did most of the damage, while I got smacked down time and time again. Word to the wise: Escalation final bosses are no joke.
(Fortunately, even if you’re not an elite player like me – who totally didn’t need those other people to drag me through the final encounter! – there is a slightly easier way to progress that doesn’t include that fifth encounter and locks the difficulty level at 13. In the standard version, you need to have it at 40 after the fourth boss to face the final one.)
Those of you who have followed me for a long time know about my eternal crusade against bad inventory systems. Coming in a close second on my hit list – and sometimes co-equal with inventory – is bad UI design, especially in menus. On that front, Dauntless has also improved greatly since its launch, providing tooltips on each piece of gear’s elemental strengths and weakness, making it easier than ever to select the proper gear for your hunts.
As for what’s actually new in Call of the Void, there’s a journal of your Behemoth-slaying exploits, so you can re-live your triumphs – and also properly prepare for when you face them again. You can also practice your moves in a Behemoth-free training ground, and there are hints of an “evolving narrative … that will have lasting repercussions on the game world.” Look for that to be expanded upon with the next content update in July.
As I said in the beginning, I’m not a monster-hunting fan but I did enjoy my time with Dauntless back in the day. I drifted away from it, though I don’t think it was due to any singular issue that sparked an intense kind of dislike; it just hadn’t all come together to my liking. After seeing the progress the game has made in the intervening time, I’m inclined to give it another look after Call of the Void goes live on June 11 for the Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC via the Epic Games Store. If you’ve been on the fence about jumping back in, maybe you should too.