Today we’re going to be taking an early look at the combat found in Dauntless.r In a game where you’ll spend the bulk of your time locked in combat with all manor of different beasts.. this is an important topic.. but it’s also an incredibly tricky subject to tackle as so much of what makes combat good; is feel. The weight behind each weapon swing, the feedback with each key press, the sound design, the animations..
And then when you add in a player’s personal preference.. it can get real muddy, real quick. There is no substitute for getting your own hands on the game.. but I’ll do my best to describe how the action combat in Dauntless behaves. Control wise- Dauntless is rather simple. In addition to basic movement.. we can also jump and sprint.. and depending on the weapon equipped.. perform a dodge roll, quick step, blink.. or just basically a quick evasive move. Offensively… we have a light attack, a heavy attack and a weapon specific special move. We weave certain combinations of these together to perform certain pre-determined combos… and each weapon will also have a bit of flavor to it altering the playstyle even further. For instance.. the Axe has strikes that even mid combo can be charged up to deliver stronger blows.. the Hammer.. doubles as a gun.. and will need to be reloaded throughout the fight while also giving the wield the ability to ride their hammer majestically into combat in one of the most satisfying attack animations I have ever seen.
The weapons kits are also built around certain themes.. where a player could choose the best weapon type for the enemy at hand.. or the playstyle they feel most comfortable with.. the fast and fluid combos of the sword.. or maybe the safety and mobility of the chain blades.. there is no right or wrong choice here. Other than we know real men wield axes. When up against a behemoth.. we are dealing with viscious enemies with powerful attacks that need to be avoided outright- at this time there is no weapon capable of blocking. Armor may help mitage the damage taken.. but you will never get to a point where you can stand toe-to-toe and trade blows and get lazy. Knowing your foes different attacks and nuances to behavior are just as important as knowing your chosen weapon’s combo list.. at first.. attacks may feel like they come out randomly but a behemoth always gives itself away to the observant slayer.. and even an unobservant one may see when a behemoth gets pissed..
Goes into a temporary rage with all new attacks, faster and more powerful attacks and a scary new dynamic to the fight.. which spells trouble. To break it down to a phrase. The core of combat in Dauntless.. centers around identifying and exploiting openings.. and committing to attacks. Many recent action games have chosen to lean on a player’s twitch reactions.. with split second parries, instantaneous animation cancels… and moment to moment decision making… that’s not quite so with Dauntless. The key here.. is in that phrase, committing to attacks. If you use an cead smash with your hammer..
You can’t bail out mid animation because you sense danger.. many attacks have long recovery times that leave you vulnerable.. and each and every action because of this.. becomes deliberate, become tools. Learning not only the speed at which your attacks occur, the momentum and hitboxes of subsequent strikes- and the recovery time that comes with them- but more importantly.. where you can fit them in.. is Dauntless. Where you are rewarded for decision making- over reflexes. What this ends up meaning.. is that offensively.. you are about as good as your understanding of the enemy in front of you and your comfort level with your weapon. This isn’t to downplay mechanical skill. Sometimes if you can’t find an opening you have to make it..
And with precise timing you can create opportunties that otherwise wouldn’t be there.. certain combos are coded to prevent just spamming the button and need inputs to coincide with visual queues- and iframes do exist.. the game just doesn’t rely on them. The skill cap is there.. and oh how I wish the NDA didn’t prevent me from telling you about Dauntless baseball. Stamina, also plays a vital roll in Dauntless. The phrase, risk vs reward.. and stamina management get thrown around by the devs.. and for good reason. Jumping, sprinting and your evasive moves all cost stamina in combat.. but so do a number of your attacks..
Generally the ones that deal massive amounts of damage and are used to punish an opening heavily.. but what you will quickly learn is that openings are not eternal.. and just as sudden as you swoop in and throw hands.. seconds later you may be running for your life and that precious yellow stamina bar is all that stands between you and a dirt nap. This especially comes into play when you play Dauntless as it should be played.. in a group. This changes the rules a bit where suddenly.. your friend being bait and having captured the interest of a particular behemoth.. is just the opening you need. Don’t get careless though.. as not paying attention or leaving yourself without a way to avoid attacks.. is a surefire way to get knocked out if the behemoth decides you’re a more appetizing target..
And you won’t just be hurting yourself.. but the whole team. As during a hunt- the game uses a meter called the Danger Level. It raises slowly overtime.. and increases more rapidly when anyone is knocked down. If this reaches 100- or if the entire party is knocked out at the same time- the hunt will come to a close whether you want it to or not. You are able to pick your friends up from the ground.. but much like everything else.. this will leave you vulnerable to attack. You succeed together.. but also fail together. Unfortuntely for you.. this seems like a trend that even the behemoths have picked up on… There are also some additional factors that I’ll touch on in the future in more detail that can influence combat.. things like elemental attacks, debuffs, consumable items you bring with you, to a persistent equipable item that gives a supporting effect.. to exactly how armor can contribute in ways on top of armor values…
Some of these effects can end up with pretty basic increased or decreased damage.. but some of them can alter the dynamic of a fight.. or even enable interesting combat options. You’ll just have to wait and see. Overall – and this is where my opinion comes in. I know it’s just one person’s opinion.. but Dauntless captures the tension and deliberate nature of the slower and more methodical action combat games you may find in a FromSoftware game or Monster Hunter- the combat that I love.. but then adds a flare of arcadey-ness to it- whether this is because actions happen a little bit faster- or the art style lends itself to a less serious tone- or that some of the fights can end up feeling like mechanic checks from raid bosses while other feel like a war of attrition and other yet just make you say, god damn.
But the combat feels good- especially with a controller. What they have anyway. There are pieces missing.. things that don’t feel right. Like not having a sprinting attack.. or low numbers of combos or even the weapon count for a game of this style.. and I while I don’t want to dress this up.. I think it boils down to the way they’ve decided to build combat up. I remember in a blog post a while back they had laid out their combat design fundamentals.. and one of them stuck with me. “Pick a fight with a rock” – The idea being that if you can make the act of fighting a stationary object feel good..
then.. you can move forward- then you can worry about fighting behemoths- and then after that.. you can worry about things like combos. I think they have their own commitment to a quality level before it moves through the process.. and to us. So what we are left with isn’t.. a lot broken stuff that needs fixing.. but instead the desire for more stuff- an important distinction.. that I can only assume is why this game feels and plays better than 90% of other games I’ve played at similar times in development.. and the guys at Pheonix Labs are kind of obsessive with combat and grilling it’s users on the abstracts about feel and weight.. and the iteration thus far has been nothing short of promising. That’s going to do it for me. Until next time. This is Fevir. Peace..
As found on Youtube