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Dauntless is PS4's new action RPG that wants you to notice it's like Monster Hunter… only free-to-play

An image from Dauntless

You catch wind of a big beastie just beyond your homestead. It’s a scaly creature, so it’s going to prove a real tall order to break through its natural armour for even a chance of putting it down, and if the Behemoth gets its gums around some aether during your confrontation… there’s no telling what it could evolve into. But those very same impenetrable scales are just what you need to make the armour-set of your dreams. What do you do?

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Monster Hunter World fans will be familiar with this risk-reward gameplay loop - where tackling larger beasts unlocks better equipment, which in turn allows you to tackle even more ferocious enemies - which Dauntless makes free-to-play. As a Slayer, you have a selection of weapons at your disposal, including marvellously-mobile chain blades, a hammer (slow, but deals massive damage) and fully-customisable Ostian Repeater firearms. It’s up to you to protect your home and stop the greedy Behemoth from sapping the land’s lifeblood, aether. 

Without aether, the floating Shattered Isles may fall and shatter once more. And if the Behemoths are left to their own devices and absorb aether, they may transform into something a lot more difficult to put down. It’s up to you alone - or with a crew of up to three other players - to defend the Isles, and craft some sweet threads while you’re at it.

Phoenix Labs' vision for a free-to-play Monster Hunter

Given Dauntless’ knock-down, drag-out fights against an eclectic selection of kaiju, it's hard to avoid comparisons to a certain other game. So yes, this is akin to a free-to-play version of Capcom's hugely-popular Monster Hunter: World, and it’s a comparison the developer, Phoenix Labs, isn’t shying away from. “The more AAA products that are coming into this genre, the wider it’s going to get,” executive producer Jesse Houston told Polygon in 2017, “Historically, the hunting action community has been fairly niche in the West. I’m personally super excited that we’re going to get more than one title in the space on non-mobile platforms.”. So while Dauntless hopes to make online hunting games more accessible - can this freebie set itself apart enough to draw you away from Capcom’s classic?

The answer can be found in the game’s bright, Pixar-esque art - with echoes of Overwatch's vibrant and distinct characters - which sets it apart visually from Monster Hunter's more realistic direction. Furthermore, there are plans to work towards a cross-platform vision from launch that the developer is calling One Dauntless. The game is already in open-access on PC, and will hit consoles in April 2019. You’ll retain all progression, items, and customisation regardless of which platform or console you use to log on, as well as cultivating a universal ecosystem that everyone can enjoy. It’s certainly ambitious, and another sign that cross-platform gaming is edging closer to a uniform expectation - building on the success of Fortnite, or Rocket League, in uniting players from different consoles.

There are plans to work towards a cross-platform vision from launch that the developer is calling One Dauntless

Dauntless has already proved itself, to a large extent, with a dedicated band of Behemoth-bashers having built up since its PC Early Access release way back in 2016. Now, it’s coming to PS4, polished and perfected for console players to sink their teeth into. You’ll be able to venture into these science-fantasy, post-cataclysm Isles with plenty of pals in April 2019.

The PC early access version of Dauntless has already fought its way onto our list of the best online games to play right now