Dauntless: PAX Preview and Pre-Alpha Behemoths
Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!
At this year’s PAX South, Pheonix Labs had a booth for their co-op monster hunting game, Dauntless. I wasn’t there to play it. Though, I did watch a bunch of the footage that came out of the various gaming news sources that were there. While watching that footage, I had a bunch of thoughts and ideas about the combat and the creatures. Today, I’ll be sharing those thoughts and ideas.
A Solid Foundation
I want to start by stating that I’m excited about this game. Even though Dauntless is in its early stages (Pre-Alpha), there is a solid foundation here. While the combat is presently a bit slow for an action RPG, the attacks delivered by players are intended to be more deliberate than spammy. The damage doesn’t happen the moment a button is pushed. The players have to get accustomed to the animations of each attack to ensure they properly land each blow.
The outstanding facet of the PAX pre-alpha preview is clearly the behemoths. These are the massive creatures players will be hunting in Dauntless. The behemoths function like bosses that the players will slowly wear down until being slain. During these fights, players won’t watch a health bar steadily decline but keep an eye on the movements of the behemoth they are facing. Otherwise, they’ll be overwhelmed and be forced to retreat.
The game looks visually impressive for a game in Pre-Alpha. There may still be some tweaks to be done, but Dauntless looks great at this stage. I will say that my focus was mostly on the behemoths because they were really fun to watch. Though, the work they’ve done with the environments is pretty good, too. I don’t have much to say about the player characters (yet), but the weapons they carry look awesome.
I enjoy the art design of the behemoths that were shown in the PAX pre-alpha preview. The Shrike is reminiscent of classic fantasy monsters from properties like Dungeons and Dragons. The Pangar reminds me of a kaiju from the Godzilla-verse or Pacific Rim. It will be interesting to see the diversity of monsters that will inhabit Dauntless. I have heard there will be dozens more behemoths added before the game is released, which is exciting.
Perhaps, in the future, Dauntless will add a behemoth that looks like a giant moth. It could come from the land of Behe, and be known as the Behe Moth. #badpuns
I also enjoy the way the behemoths are animated. They appear to have have real weight to them, except for those moments when the Shrike is as light as a feather. The developers clearly put a lot of effort to give each creature a lifelike quality. Each step of the Pangar feels heavy and as if it is being affected by gravity. These are nothing like bosses from MMORPGs, which can often look quite floaty. cough World of Warcraft cough
An example of the lifelike quality of the animations can be found during the end of a battle. For most of the fight, the behemoth stands upright, eager to take on its assailants. As the players wear it down, they will start to see the behemoth breath heavily, which will happen more often as it gets closer to being slain. This is a visual cue that lets the players know they are close to victory. It is possible that this is a better and more satisfying design choice than having players watch a massive health bar slowly dwindle to nothing.
A Soft Enrage
Despite all the praise I am showering Dauntless with, there is one thing that has left me a tad disappointed. It is a small-ish issue, because Pre-Alpha. But it’s hard for me not to notice it now. Though, it must be said that this is something I didn’t notice until my 3rd (or 10th) time watching footage from the PAX pre-alpha preview. My issue is the little effect the enrage mechanic has on the behemoths.
From a visual standpoint, seeing a Shrike enrage is terrifying. It starts glowing bright red, it spreads its wings and lets out a mighty roar as it sets fire to the ground. While enraged, all of the feathers on its body continue to glow red, and its eyes seethe with hatred for the players hunting it. This moment (seen above) is amazing. However, the fight during the enrage phase appears no different than before the Shrike enraged.
Presently, while a behemoth is enraged, its abilities and attack patterns are relatively unchanged. There are no visual changes to any of the effects used by their attacks. There are no additional animations that give an indication the behemoths are enraged. The only mechanical change I assume happens is that a behemoth’s attacks deal more damage. There is only one attack belonging to the Shrike that is noticeably changed.
Now, I attribute enrage’s lack of affect on animations and ability effects to Dauntless being in Pre-Alpha. A great deal has yet to be implemented to the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Pheonix Labs had plans to add additional animations and alternate effects in the future. They have plenty of time to get to that kind of stuff later. Knowing this didn’t stop me from musing over how enrage could change the Shrike’s attacks, though.
The Shrike’s Modified Moveset
During one of the
several few times I watched footage from Dauntless’s PAX Pre-Alpha Preview, I thought about some possible changes that could be made to the Shrike. I have listed a few of them below. My ideas primarily involve buffing the enrage phase. It’s the one thing behemoths do that I believe deserves to create panic-inducing moments. Or, at the very least, encourage some serious strategy on the part of the players.
I’ll be discussing five of the Shrike’s abilities. For these abilities, I came up with a few tweaks or changes with the goal of adding more challenge or fun (or both) to the Shrike fight. I’ll start with describing the Pre-Alpha Version, which is what the ability actually does. Then, I’ll describe the War Fist Version, which is the change I have come up with for the ability. Lastly, I will explain the thoughts behind my ideas.
Pre-Alpha Version: The Shrike swings its big, bear-like claws twice, dealing damage to players in close range. While enraged, the ability seems unchanged but may deal increased damage. It’s hard to tell from the footage I watched.
War Fist Version: While enraged, the Shrike attacks slightly faster with the two claw attacks, and then follows up with a third attack. This final attack deals increased damage and slams players hit into the ground, leaving them stunned for a bit.
This is one of the Shrike’s more basic attacks, so my version is different only while the Shrike is enraged. The Shrike typically uses this attack against players standing right in its feathered face. The attack is slow and easily avoidable even when one is caught by the first attack. My proposed change would make it harder to avoid during the enrage phase. The stun from the third attack could also leave players open to another attack if it lasted long enough, but it’s probably best that it didn’t.
Pre-Alpha Version: The Shrike uses a big claw to smack a player that is attacking it from the flank, and knocks the player away. While enraged, I can only assume the backhand does more damage as the animation is unchanged.
War Fist Version: While enraged, the Shrike will unfurl a wing and sweep an area at its flank. Players caught by the wing are thrown back a moderate distance, and may need a second or two to get back to their feet.
My idea is to have this ability change dramatically during the Shrike’s enrage phase. Getting backhanded by an owlbear is bad enough, but being buffeted by an owlbear wing would be absolutely
fowl foul. I also think it would be a hoot for the Shrike to make use of its wings in moments when it isn’t soaring into the air. Speaking of which…
Pre-Alpha Version: The Shrike soars into the sky, hovers for a moment, and then crashes down upon the earth. Players caught in the landing zone take damage and are knocked away. The enraged version may deal more damage.
War Fist Version: While enraged, the Shrike creates a gust of wind as it lifts off into the air, causing nearby players to be knocked down. Then, the Shrike crashes down with greater force, creating a larger impact radius and dealing greater damage.
This is a cool ability already. I just thought it could use a little something extra while the Shrike is enraged. These small changes could make it a little more brutal, though.
Pre-Alpha Version: The Shrike hurls a vertical blade of concentrated wind energy at a player after a short cast time. The blade flies in a straight path, dealing damage to players hit. While enraged, the Shrike will fire a second, horizontal blade shortly after firing the first.
War Fist Version: The blade flies in a straight path, dealing damage to players hit and knocking them off their feet. While enraged, the first blade stops players in their tracks, stunning them for a short duration and dealing damage when it hits. The second blade deals increased damage and throws players back a moderate distance. The cast time that precedes the first blade is greatly reduced while the Shrike is enraged.
This attack is typically used against a single player standing far away from the Shrike, or charging at it from a great distance. It looks cool, but isn’t particularly effective. The attack just pushes the player a little bit, momentarily stopping its advance. Though, not long enough for the player to be concerned about being hit again.
I thought it would make sense for this attack to have some crowd control built into it. The base version would push players away to delay their advance for a moment. This would give the Shrike time to either throw a projectile at another player or begin its own charge. The change to the enraged version causes players who fail to avoid the first projectile to be immediately punished by the second projectile, and taken out of the fight a bit longer.
Pre-Alpha Version: The Shrike jumps backwards into the air and beats its wings, creating a tornado that moves quickly in a straight path. Players caught in the path of the tornado suffer a bit of damage, are knocked away and momentarily knocked down. More damage while enraged?
War Fist Version: Players caught in the path of the tornado are pulled inside it. Players will remain inside the tornado until it dissipates, suffering periodic damage for as long as they remain within. While enraged, the Shrike creates a more powerful tornado that is capable of pulling in players caught just outside its central area. Additionally, the damage inside the tornado is increased.
For me, the Shrikenado is the Shrike’s biggest attack. It is already the most imposing thing he does, but I thought it could use a change to make it scary. Through my proposed changes, avoiding the tornado could be imperative to surviving the fight. If players are caught in the tornado at the start of its path, they will take a ton of damage and be taken out of the fight for as long as the Shrikenado lasts. While being caught in the tornado near the end of its path isn’t as bad, I think it is generally best to avoid it altogether.
Dauntless looks awesome! It has a solid foundation for combat, art design and animation. The behemoths are my favorite part of the game. I could use more behemoth footage, perhaps with commentary, because I like what I have seen thus far. I’m excited for what Pheonix Labs has in store for the future.
I discussed some ideas I had to tweak the Shrike a bit. My ideas focused on making the Shrike a truly terrifying encounter, more so during the enrage phase. It will be interesting to see how the Shrike will evolve over the development of Dauntless. It may not end up as difficult an encounter as my proposed changes appear to turn it into. We will have to wait to see the direction Pheonix Labs takes with the Shrike, and future behemoths.
Gotta slay ’em all! BeHéMoTHs.
What do you think of Dauntless? Are you excited about the prospect of hunting down giant beasts? What are you looking forward to from Dauntless? Are you afraid of the Shrikenado? Join the discussion below.
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War Fist out.