When I was writing my preview piece for the Dauntless Sharpen Your Skills update, I made a passing mention of how I can’t fully compare Dauntless and the upcoming Monster Hunter World because, technically, neither game is finished or fully released yet.
That doesn’t mean I can’t do it on my own personal blog, though!
So before I begin, I should in all fairness mention that this opinion is based solely on my time spent with the current closed beta of Dauntless and the “beta” weekends being held by Monster Hunter World. That said, I feel like I have put in enough time to at least lay down some initial thoughts and determine which one I feel is better.
And I promise, I won’t do a cop-out “they both win!” thing even if that kind of is how I feel.
So I’ll start off with Dauntless since it’s the game I’ve spent the most time in. During the final few weeks of alpha and up to the Sharpen Your Skills update, it felt reasonably solid; not exactly a mind-blowing experience, but with all of the basics in place to make a great game. And if I’m very honest with myself, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the DNA of the Monster Hunter series is ingrained in Dauntless.
I imagine that’s not by accident. The Monster Hunter series has a very unique approach to gameplay and a hook that can only be described as “engaging treadmill”. Weapon swings are commitments you learn. Monster attack patterns become studied and memorized. Getting new gear or opening an area for new hunts feels really, really good.
After the Sharpen Your Skills update, that feeling has only been heightened, once again following the path laid by Monster Hunter. Each of Dauntless’ weapons now apply a type of damage like Slashing, Piercing or Blunt. It’s one of the simplest additions that adds so much depth to what was otherwise just an arena to whomp on a giant lizard’s face.
Mercifully, Dauntless isn’t willing to simply retread Monster Hunter’s formula verbatim. The update’s addition of a Cell system that lets you imbue items to weapons and armor for added benefits brings a form of customization and deepens the sense of strategy. Of course, the biggest difference is Dauntless’ choice to go with an almost Pixar-like design aesthetic that just works.
For something that people could easily brush off as a Monster Hunter clone, this game really does strike a lot of those same notes, making Dauntless less of a rip-off and more of an homage. Or, perhaps more appropriately, a remix.
But what about the OG? Well, it’s hard to deny how good it is to have Monster Hunter in my hands once again, and on a much bigger and shinier screen to boot.
Again, I’m not a big graphics guy, but the quantum leap from 3DS to PS4 visually cannot be overstated. This is the prettiest this game has ever been, even if most of the models, assets and animations are quite literally copy-pasted.
World has so far shown off the level of comfort and control in its design that can really only be achieved by iterating on the series over a number of years. It’s the most drum-tight, most cohesive, most approachable but also richest entry in the series so far.
Even in a very limited beta state, World is dragging me into its embrace even if the second “beta test”/”please buy our game demo” is the same as the first. In fact, I’m still managing to get surprised by this thing.
During one hunt against a Jagras where I decided to try a weapon I’m not familiar with, a totally different monster called the Pukei-Pukei showed up out of nowhere and decided to engage my target. Naturally, I had to attack it back.
The second surprise was during a Barroth hunt where another monster – the Kulu-Ya-Ku – decided to get into my face. I elected to ignore the Barroth and instead turned my attention solely to this obnoxiously tenacious little raptor, which ended up being a great fight.
After I slew it, I was also surprised to see a bunch of carrion birds land and start pecking away at the corpse, lending a sense of a living ecosystem to the proceedings that I never really knew was missing before.
It’s for those little touches that I have to, ultimately, give the nod to Monster Hunter World over Dauntless.
As much as I’m enjoying Dauntless and will certainly keep playing it, the advantages of World’s sense of familiarity with this type of game and its little thoughtful embellishments just edge it forward for me.
And if Sony decides to not be dickheads and lets PS4 and PC players hunt together? That, frankly, will be the final nail in the coffin for Dauntless personally.
With that said, there’s still lots of time for Dauntless to get to those embellishments I speak of. The game has definitely come a long way and I still stand behind the assertion that the Sharpen Your Skills update has made Dauntless feel more like a full release title than it ever has.
Sometimes, though, you just can’t beat the classics.