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Interview: Phoenix Labs Talks Dauntless

Dauntless has received loads of attention since it was announced back in November. Not only is it a 4-player co-op multiplayer game, but it’s also being worked on by former developers of some of the largest game studios in the world. The fact that it debuted at The Game Awards 2016 doesn’t hurt either.

We spoke with the Combat Designer for Dauntless Chris Fox at PAX South to learn more about the game.


Gaming Conviction: Tell us a little bit about Dauntless.
Chris Fox: Dauntless is a 4-player co-op action RPG. In it you team up with three friends, gear up, team up, and take down giant behemoths. That’s really at the core what Dauntless is about. All of your weapons, armor, and gear is made by harvesting the behemoths that you fight.

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GC: What inspired the art style?
CF: I know we wanted to go for a timeless look. It’s kinda flat in its details, but it’s really tense in its lighting. I feel like it’s going to be something that is cool and relevant for years to come. We’re using Unreal Engine 4 and we have some extremely talented artist back in Vancouver.

GC: How far into development are you right now?
CF: Right now we are in pre-alpha and plan on doing an open beta this Fall.

GC: What kind of feedback have you received from the PAX South crowd?
CF: It’s been overwhelming! This is the first time we’ve shown so we weren’t sure how many people would show up and what to expect. It’s been packed all weekend and everyone has been super positive. I think the coolest thing is that when people get feedback they’re just super excited about the game and want to say ‘Hey I think it would be cool if you did this, this, and this!’ To come to a show like PAX South and have this many people come through, play your game, and seriously have no negativity has been super inspiring.

GC: Were there games that inspired your combat?
CF: Oh yeah! At Phoenix Labs we’re all huge fans of games like Monster Hunter and Dark Souls. Those are the kind of games we want to play and we want to be able to share those kinds of experiences with everybody. So that really drove our decision to go PC and make it free-to-play. I think everyone who ends up playing those hunting-style games end up liking them, but it’s hard to convince someone to say buy a 3DS, or what have you. So going PC and free-to-play eliminates that barrier to entry. I can sell myself on free.

GC: What’s your favorite aspect in the combat?
CF: For me I like being able to stare this giant behemoth and just being like ‘Come on! Let’s go!’ I know my weapon and I know my timing. It’s me vs beast so that never gets old. It’s just something instinctual about it about taking down a giant monster. It just never gets boring to me.

GC: Are there going to be special attacks for each character?
CF: Yeah totally! So even right now all three of the weapons have their own special unique ability. The sword charges up by landing attacks and can be unleashed in a big AOE attack. The axe fills its special meter by landing charged attacks. So when you go into Determination Mode you get a temporary boost to damage output. Plus the hammer has a built-in shotgun. You can do rocket jumps, aerial attacks with the hammer, and things like that. So each one has its own little twist and we want to push all of them into their own feel for different styles of gameplay.

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GC: Is there going to be any story element?
CF: In Dauntless you’re a team of slayers and live in a city called Ramsgate. All around you are the Shattered Isles, and they are like floating remnants of worlds from the past. The behemoths are there trying to harvest something called Ether, which is a life force of the earth. It makes them angry and very powerful. It’s also what the players use to power up their weapons.

We do have a full-time writer and we’re going to have full voice acting with our dialogue. The story is going to be something that we’ll talk about later, but it’s definitely there.

GC: Will it have local multiplayer on top of online multiplayer?
CF: Right now our plans are to focus on the online co-op. The four-player co-op is the heart of what Dauntless is.

GC: Any plans on creating even larger monsters like we’ve seen in games like Shadow of the Colossus?
CF: Nothing in the immediate plans, but we’re not ruling that out. We’re super involved with our community for feedback on what kind of things they would like to see next in our game. Even from just our cinematic trailer reveal we’ve been super active with them. A good example of that is from day one they wanted a range weapon, and we really didn’t have any plans to make an immediate range weapon, and not it’s slotted in as a weapon of five. So we’re trying to work on a way that will make it very appropriate to the world of Dauntless and that style of game.

GC: Are there going to be any healers or are we going to be pushed into more of a mêlée role?
CF: We don’t want to force someone into a set role. One of the things with being able to swap your weapons between missions is that you can play how you want to play. So the way we do things like healing is like in the demo you can bring 4 consumable items with you and in the full game there’s going to be dozens of those. You can craft them and do what you want. If you want to be a healer then you can bring all healing weapons to a fight or not. We let you change what your weapon, armor, and gear is to suit your play style for that scenario.

GC: How many behemoths are there?
CF: Right now in our current state there are four. We plan on having over 100 hours of gameplay for the open beta. So it’s basically however many we can make. We’ve got a whole team back in Vancouver who’ve been working on behemoth designs, behavior, and just being faster with each new one that we make. Also because we are free-to-play and a live service we’re going to continually add more and more content as we go.

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