Dauntless Reforged Rebuilds the Way You Hunt, but Not the Way You Play

Hunting grounds, a glider, and redone maps make the game even more like Monster Hunter and even Destiny.

Dauntless Reforged might be a good time to let the game back into my life. It’s been puffing along well without me since its full launch, with over 25 million registered users, plus in-game events like the destruction of players’ HQ and its subsequent replacement with a new hub town. Overall, though, the game has remained largely recognizable. It’s a more approachable Monster Hunter. You slay big beasts and craft them into new armor and weapons to tackle ever more powerful foes. The Reforged update continues to borrow from the Capcom juggernaut — and a few other games besides.

This new way to hunt lets players hop into any mostly open island (which float through the sky-world of Dauntless) and battle one beast (a.k.a. Behemoth) after another. The upshot is less downtime between battles. Players can simply stick to an area, hammer some monsters, and return with the loot whenever they feel like it. It’s a change that spells fewer load times in a game where hunts are already considerably quicker than, say, the aforementioned Monster Hunter. Though it does call to mind the Guiding Lands mode introduced in Monster Hunter World: Iceborne last year. Rather than an endgame feature, however, Hunting Grounds seem like the new primary way to play Dauntless.

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That also means fewer opportunities to resupply. Instead, players can refill their item loadouts with supply drops, which each of up to six slayers can call in on a whim. That’s up from the original four-player teams Dauntless featured up until now. And the added supplies should lend some longevity to each longer-lasting mission.

One thing Reforged won’t feature, at least at first, is new Behemoths. Dauntless is instead adding variety through public events — not too different from those found in Destiny 2. These randomly call players to action in the Hunting Grounds. Though they seemed entirely optional in my demo of the patch. They also seemed difficult. I got handily slammed around by two magical monsters I had no idea how to fight.

That probably says more about my Dauntless abilities than anything else. While I’ve fallen deeply in love with Monster Hunter since the free-to-play alternative launched, not all of those skills translate. The weapons — like dual pistols and a pair of fists that charge special attacks with different combos — aren’t tough to learn. But they are quite distinct. And you need to be careful using their comparatively simple movesets when Behemoths can leap through portals and cage you within The Shadow Realm.

Even players who know what they’re doing will find new challenges to navigate. Literally. The game’s 17 existing islands are reworked in Dauntless Reforged. There’s also one entirely new area to tackle in Hunting Grounds. This might have something to do with another new addition: the glider. Players can Breath of the Wild around the maps (or Genshin Impact across them, depending on your point of reference) at any time. Powerful geysers even launch you into the air for a better vantage point. The islands don’t seem enormous, mind you, but this still makes finding wandering targets a breeze.

Topping things off is a more traditional skill tree. This “Slayers Path” is actually how you unlock items such as the glider, elements like crafting, and even access to certain weapons. It feels kind of limiting, to me, a Monster Hunter stan already used to the constant calculus of wielding a Charge Blade. But it doubles down on the Dauntless promise of approachability. It’s already a free-to-play game (with battle passes). The barriers to entry are quite low. Easing newbies into the new and redone concepts might work as an extended tutorial.

By contrast, many free-to-play action games (e.g. Warframe) struggle with feature bloat looks incomprehensible to many newcomers. The aforementioned Genshin Impact, which is just a few months old, is already rotten with a trillion currencies and crafting materials that I struggle to track. And I love these kinds of crunchy games. Dauntless is also young. It can still nip that problem in the bud.

Dauntless Reforged seems like a step towards pushing the game forward while also keeping it in check. I’m not sure that approach is 100 percent for me. I actually prefer the more arduous hunts and inexplicable grinds of Monster Hunter and Warframe, but I’m an outlier. And who knows? Maybe the the Slayers Path and its accompanying updates are my path into a different kind of experience after all.