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Dauntless Closed Beta Review: Less Daunting Than Anticipated *Updated*

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Last Friday, I finally received my invitation to participate in the Dauntless closed beta. While the beta actually started earlier this month, it was mostly for people who helped fund the game (i.e., paid money for early access). Since few gamers are ever invited into closed betas, I consider myself lucky. Still, I spent my weekend playing Dauntless and finally wrote this review/preview. But, before I continue, I should give the following disclaimer: I am going to compare Dauntless to Monster Hunter  — a lot. After all, Dauntless was originally designed to give western Monster Hunter fans the PC monster hunting experience they richly deserve, well before Capcom announced Monster Hunter World. Still, since I am a Monster Hunter fan, I’m contractually obligated (no not really) to compare Dauntless to Monster Hunter, which is why I’m going to judge Dauntless on its own merits and as a replacement for Monster Hunter. So, on with the review.

The hallmark of a good art style in a video game is that it doesn’t look like any other video game, and Dauntless’ art style is nothing if not unique; the game uses semi-cartoonish, cell-shaded graphics that give every character sharp cheeks and a big chin — think Wildstar but less Saturday morning cartoonish. The monsters…sorry, behemoths…however, look a bit off to me. While I don’t want to call the behemoths generic, after getting up close and personal with them, I think Phoenix Labs’ designers tried too hard to make the behemoths look unique and somehow circled back into genericness, not unlike how unmarked black vans are more noticeable than a regular cars. Sure, most of the behemoth designs are cool, especially the Gnasher and the Pangar, but most gamers have probably seem similar designs before. Except for the Shrike, because it’s just a flying owlbear, which is about as generic as you can get when it comes to monster designs. Although, I do have to credit the designers for some special little touches they added to the behemoths, such making them look more ragged and beaten the more players damage them. Oh, and I have to give kudos to the character creator, because it provides players with a novel, if superfluous, option to make their characters look like the descendant of two pre-made characters. And it comes with a heterochromia option. That’s cool.

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If I were to describe Dauntless‘s gameplay, I would say it’s a streamlined (or stripped down) version of Monster Hunter. Players can chose a mission from the mission board, either select to hunt in a team or solo, and start hunting their quarry on a floating island. These islands are rather small, which makes the behemoths easier to hunt, but the islands don’t offer any unique locales; players can only hunt behemoths in either a generic floating forest or a generic floating tundra. Furthermore, Dauntless‘ missions are currently limited to “kill X behemoth,” whereas Monster Hunter offers a wider variety of missions, including searching for crafting items and capturing monsters instead of killing them. However, some of Dauntless’ missions task players with hunting rogue behemoths: smaller, weaker, and slower versions of behemoths that let players practice on what is essentially easy-mode before hunting the full-strength version. I actually want this kind of mission in Monster Hunter World. Still, Dauntless is only in beta, so players might see new mission types in the near future.

Combat in Dauntless revolves around effective use of weapons, tools, and stamina. Right now, the game only has four weapons with more on the way: the Sword (a two-handed weapon that acts as the game’s de facto balanced weapon), the Axe (a slow weapon that is most effective when players charge up attacks), the Chain Blades (two kamas players swing around like Kratos’ iconic Blades of Chaos/Athena/Exile), and the Hammer (a rocket-powered war hammer that can be used as a makeshift shotgun). Each of these weapons has primary attacks, secondary attacks, and special attacks that players can string together, albeit in extremely limited combinations. Monster Hunter veterans will quickly see that several Dauntless weapon mechanics are almost identical to some Monster Hunter weapon mechanics (e.g., the Axe’s special attack temporarily increases attack damage like the Long Sword, and the Hammer needs to be reloaded every so often like the Gunlance). However, Dauntless‘ weapons are different enough from Monster Hunter‘s weapons and are not wholesale clones. Moreover, players can pack as many tools as their inventory allows in Monster Hunter, but Dauntless intentionally limits players to five: a stack of healing potions, several offence potions (usually a stamina regeneration potion or an attack-increase potion), a totem that revives players and teammates, an unlimited use flare, and an airdrop (usually some free healing items or the ability to locate gatherable resources). Also, Dauntless lets players equip a lantern that can buff/heal allies or locate behemoths. However, once players start a mission, they are limited to their selected items and equipment until the mission is over, especially since crafting items is only possible in the main hub. Weapons and items are neither better nor worse in Dauntless, just different. But stamina is objectively worse in Dauntless. In Monster Hunter, running out of stamina is a death sentence, as it forces the player to stop for several seconds and catch his or her breath, which nobody should ever do when fighting an angry dragon. However, running out of stamina in Dauntless is nowhere near as much of a punishment as it should be. Aside from panting heavily and moving slightly more sluggishly, I noticed no significant difference between a character with full stamina and a character with zero stamina. Maybe I missed something, but this is not how stamina should work in a video game: characters who are out of stamina should not be able to move. Then again, maybe Phoenix Labs is planning to add in proper punishments for running out of stamina in future patches, or perhaps I encountered a glitch and didn’t realize it. This is just the beta build of the game, after all; everything I nitpick is subject to change.

Since Dauntless is in a beta, it includes several bugs and glitches, including body parts that clip through armor, river water that doesn’t splash, and Dauntless‘ take on Overwatch‘s “Play of the Game” screen not properly displaying. Even though Dauntless can be played with either a controller or a mouse and keyboard, sometimes the game bugs out and forgets to show the proper controller prompt, and certain in-game menus even refuse to acknowledge any controller input. However, not all problems are bugs or glitches. Voice acting in Dauntless is rough at best, and some text is nearly impossible to read. Moreover, the main hub requires a serious redesign (it’s just too big and empty), and the devs really should find a way to let players use emotes and plant banners with the controller. However, the biggest problem I witnessed in the closed beta was an optimization issue. I ran Dauntless on an MSI GT72 2QD Dominator laptop with an i7-4720HQ CPU, an NVIDIA GTX 970M GPU, and 12GB of RAM. It’s not the most advanced gaming laptop available, but it can play DOOM on high settings at over 30 FPS. However, Dauntless had trouble maintaining a steady framerate at even medium settings. And yes, I checked the system requirements; they aren’t that much different from DOOM‘s requirements. Here’s hoping the devs at Phoenix Labs can fix these problems, especially the optimization one.

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So, how does Dauntless generally stack up against Monster Hunter? Currently, Dauntless lacks a lot of the smaller details that help make Monster Hunter popular. For example, players can’t set up traps, lay down poisoned meat, or throw exploding barrels. Mechanics such as weapon sharpness and character temperature are dropped completely, and elemental weaknesses don’t seem to play any part in the game. Some players might be happy they don’t have to worry about these problems, so they can just focus on the hunt, but others will argue these tiny mechanics make the hunt more exciting. These gamers believe Monster Hunter is great because it actively encourages preparing for each hunt, since it’s easy for a fight to go sideways, and all that stands between victory and defeat can be one solitary item. Without those mechanics, Monster Hunter just becomes a slower, more methodical hack-and-slash game. And that’s what Dauntless feels like: a slower, more methodical hack-and-slash game. That doesn’t make it a bad game, just not as in-depth as Monster Hunter. Then again, maybe that’s what Dauntless should be: a game more friendly to newcomers than Monster Hunter.

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All in all, Dauntless is a decent experience and a good first attempt at a Monster Hunter-esque game. It’s fun despite its flaws and bugs, and while most gamers will enjoy DauntlessMonster Hunter veterans will find the game lacking and bare-bones. Dauntless gets rid of all the busywork of sharpening weapons, searching numerous zones for monsters, and carefully laying down pitfall traps and barrel bombs. This streamlining will attract players who think Monster Hunter is a little too complicated, but many, including me, enjoy the busywork and feel it elevates the game and makes it unique. While I can easily recommend Dauntless to most gamers (when it releases, that is), Monster Hunter fans might be better off just playing Monster Hunter World. Of course, I look forward to Phoenix Labs proving me wrong and improving Dauntless.

*Update*

Big thanks to username Necrochild for pointing out the game has elements and elemental weaknesses.  I completely missed this in my playthrough due to a lack of in-game explanation.

All you have to do to get my attention is talk about video games, technology, anime, and/or Dungeons & Dragons - also people in spandex fighting rubber suited monsters.

Gaming

Baldur’s Gate 3 has received an impressive haul of 5 BAFTA Awards, with the prestigious title of Best Game among them

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Baldur’s Gate 3 continues to solidify its position as a standout title, garnering five prestigious BAFTA awards, including the highly coveted Best Game accolade. In addition to the top accolade of the evening, the RPG created by the talented team at Larian Studios also emerged victorious in the categories of narrative, music, players’ choice, and performer in a supporting role.

Several games for the PS5 and PS4 received BAFTA awards. Alan Wake 2 won for Audio Achievement, Cyberpunk 2077 was recognized as an Evolving Game, Viewfinder was named the Best British Game, and Nadji Jeter received the Performer in a Leading Role award for his portrayal of Miles Morales in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

Standing on the stage that night, Swen Vincke, the founder of Larian Studios, expressed his disbelief: “It’s truly incredible to be here.” The effort and dedication poured into creating Baldur’s Gate 3 is truly commendable. It’s truly remarkable, and I extend my gratitude to Bafta and everyone involved.

Here are the winners of the BAFTA awards for 2024:

  • Debut game: Venba
  • Audio achievement: Alan Wake 2
  • Multiplayer: Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • Evolving game: Cyberpunk 2077
  • Game design: Dave the Diver
  • British game: Viewfinder
  • Artistic achievement: Alan Wake 2
  • New intellectual property — Viewfinder
  • Narrative: Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Performer in a supporting role: Andrew Wincott, Raphael in Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Family — Super Mario Bros. Wonder
  • EE Players’ Choice — Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Animation — Hi-Fi Rush
  • Music — Baldur’s Gate 3
  • Game Beyond Entertainment — Tchia
  • Technical achievement: The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom
  • Performer in a leading role — Nadji Jeter, Miles Morales in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2
  • Best game: Baldur’s Gate 3

 

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V Rising embraces its theme by introducing a Legacy of Castlevania crossover DLC

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V Rising, a vampiric RPG, made its debut on PC in 2022 and is set to grace the PS5 in 2024. The game clearly showcased a strong influence from Castlevania. Now, Stunlock Studios is fully embracing the opportunity, officially teaming up with Konami for a captivating DLC with a gothic twist.

Featured in The Triple-i Initiative’s recent digital indie showcase, Legacy of Castlevania offers players the opportunity to immerse themselves in the timeless visuals of hair, cloth, and character design from one of the most beloved vampire franchises in gaming history. The pack is set to be released in May, and it’s possible that we’ll gain further insights into the PS5 port at that time. In the upcoming game, players will have the chance to encounter the renowned vampire hunter Simon Belmont, who will serve as a formidable adversary. Additionally, fans will be delighted to know that they can dress up as the enigmatic Vampire Prince, Alucard, with a special cosplay set.

There will be three distinct shapeshifting variants for players to fully embrace the darkness. Among the options available are the Wolf Form Variant, Soul of the Wolf; the Human Form Variant, Glamour of Maria Renard; and the Toad Form Variant, Guise of The Flea Man. In addition, you’ll have access to luxurious furniture and decorations to adorn your sanctuary, creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a gothic masterpiece.

Did V Rising catch your attention? What are your thoughts on the Legacy of Castlevania collaboration? We eagerly await your thoughts in the comments section below.

 

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Fallout – RPG Series Continues to Impress on the Small Screen

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Television series that draw inspiration from video games have now reached a commendable level of quality. As a result, the anticipation surrounding Fallout’s adaptation is greater than it would have been in the past. HBO and PlayStation Productions demonstrated the potential for success when adapting a game into a film with The Last of Us. They then continued their winning streak with a more lighthearted Twisted Metal adaptation.

In the ever-expanding realm of TV and film adaptations, Amazon Prime is now bringing us Fallout, a brand new story set in the post-apocalyptic universe of Bethesda’s beloved RPG series. This film transports the audience to Los Angeles, where the wasteland proves to be a tragic setting, both underground and on the irradiated surface. It successfully captures the action, story-telling, deep cast of characters, and twisted humor that the games are known for. Amazon Prime breathes new life into the beloved Fallout franchise with a series that will surely make fans proud.

The inaugural season consists of eight episodes, each running between 45 minutes and one hour. The story unfolds through the eyes of three distinct characters who swiftly find themselves entangled in each other’s endeavors. Lucy, the undeniable focal point of the story, embarks on a relentless quest through the desolate wasteland in pursuit of her abducted father, who was snatched away from their sanctuary in Vault 33. Maximus is a member of the Brotherhood of Steel, while The Ghoul is a resurrected bounty hunter with a captivating and enigmatic history.

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The connection between the three characters revolves around a reward offered for capturing an escaped Enclave scientist. However, this is just the beginning of a captivating and suspenseful story. Lucy’s choice to venture out of the secure Vault 33 is just one piece of a larger narrative that stretches back to the time before the devastating bombings. At this point, Fallout truly showcases its potential and fearlessly pushes the boundaries of the franchise, surpassing any of Bethesda’s previous games. The results are absolutely captivating.

What’s truly remarkable is that even after Lucy leaves the vault, the captivating narrative beneath the surface continues to unfold. The events that unfold in Vault 33 after her departure are truly captivating, adding a layer of intrigue to the entire series. The aftermath of these events brings about shocking revelations that have a profound impact on the lives of its residents. With the inclusion of frequent flashback scenes, viewers are provided with a comprehensive understanding of how the passage of time has influenced the transformation of Los Angeles from a thriving city to a desolate wasteland.

They are arguably the weakest aspect of the show. The abundance of dialogue in each scene can become tedious at times. However, these scenes play a crucial role in providing a comprehensive understanding of Vault-Tec and its nefarious intentions for the City of Angels and beyond.

Lucy starts off with a relatively modest plot. Stepping out of Vault 33, she brings her cheerful demeanor into the unforgiving world of the Los Angeles wasteland, maintaining an optimistic perspective in every circumstance. Maximus, however, is well acquainted with the harsh realities of the desert-like badlands. Constantly tormented within the ranks of the Brotherhood of Steel, his once unwavering devotion and loyalty to the clan have been severely shaken. The Ghoul truly brings the Bloody Mess perk to life during shootouts, creating a captivating spectacle. Additionally, his character arc is truly fascinating, especially when his guns remain untouched in their holsters. We won’t reveal too much about his story to avoid spoiling it, allowing the show to speak for itself.

The ensemble of supporting characters, combined with the performances of the three leads, effectively portray the post-apocalyptic world from various angles. Lucy, as the newcomer, brings a fresh perspective, while The Ghoul, a seasoned veteran, adds a gritty and experienced presence. The audience is granted a brief glimpse into the characters’ challenges and hardships before the main mission takes center stage, cleverly establishing the setting through well-crafted vignettes.

The Los Angeles wasteland is portrayed as a character in its own right, with a focus on the conversational aspects of the Fallout IP rather than the action-packed elements. This adaptation places a strong emphasis on its characters, delighting in its skillful portrayal of the games’ multiple-choice dialogue system in a non-interactive format. Lucy and Maximus, in their own unique ways, choose to resolve conflicts through dialogue rather than violence. However, The Ghoul takes a different approach, favoring a more aggressive resolution. When he’s unleashed upon a gang of raiders, the pace intensifies, resulting in gripping and enjoyable confrontations.

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This product truly captures the essence of the Fallout universe while also forging its own unique path instead of relying on Fallout 4. Mentions of the games are few and far between, with in-world items such as stimpaks and radaways being some of the most common nostalgic nods. It succeeds admirably as a self-contained story that almost everyone can enjoy despite the absence of recognizable actors or settings. Those who stumble upon the show while browsing through Amazon Prime may find themselves facing some challenges, especially if they are new to the series. The TV series is enjoyable on its own, but it assumes that viewers have a basic understanding of the Fallout universe, including the vaults and the wasteland. If Mom and Dad decide to give the show a chance with their Saturday night takeaway, they might find themselves a bit overwhelmed.

Fallout is yet another standout addition to the ever-growing list of exceptional video game adaptations in recent times. The game successfully captures the essence of the series, paving the way for new possibilities beyond traditional gameplay. It manages to recreate the familiar atmosphere and even revive the nostalgic tunes that have been long forgotten. If Fallout is the aftermath, then perhaps the LA wasteland isn’t as dreadful as it seems. This adaptation of Bethesda’s RPG series, Fallout, is truly exceptional. It presents a captivating story that easily rivals the plots of its video game counterparts. This is a must-see for all fans of the series.

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