Dauntless (Open Beta) – Mini Review

More Than a Monster Hunter Clone

You’ve probably heard of a “new” game that’s become quite popular on the Epic Games store recently called Dauntless. It’s out for PS4, Xbox, and PC with a Switch port coming soon. Even better than that, it is 100% free to play. So what exactly is Dauntless and why is it so popular?

This game has actually been around for some time, since 2017, but it never gained traction until just recently. Many wrote this off as a buggy and inferior copy of the smash game series, Monster Hunter, but after some time in the oven and a wide release on multiple platforms, it seems things have really turned around for Phoenix Labs.

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I’ll admit that I was skeptical of the game. I don’t like Monster Hunter and it seemed like the kind of grind that would get old fast. However, something compelled me to give this a try and I’m really glad that I did. What I discovered was a game that was great for popping in and out of with a nice community.

As I’ve mentioned, the game is not dissimilar to Monster Hunter, specifically World. The key difference being that Dauntless is more of an arcade-y experience working on a free to play model. Don’t let that scare you though because the game is extremely solid and friendly to those not wanting to invest a cent.

For an open beta product, the foundation of the game is extremely solid. You can choose from one of several weapons ranging from a sword, spear, or guns, called “repeaters” in this game. Each weapon has various elemental forms that can be upgraded and modified as you play to best counter each monster.

What I particularly like about this is the mastery system Dauntless has. As you use each weapon, you unlock mastery in it. This in turn grants you new ways to further customize your weapon of choice. However, the game also gives players an incentive for keeping a more well-rounded approach by having quests and challenges that grant rewards tied to getting just a little bit better with every weapon.

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As for micro-transactions, there are some. The worst of the bunch is the needless “Hunt Pass” which is a weird battle pass thing in a free to play MMO type game. That said, it only grants a very minute bonus to resource gathering as well as additional premium currency that you otherwise wouldn’t get right away. At least, that’s all that it impacts in terms of gameplay. You do get several cosmetic items by purchasing the pass but it is by no means necessary.

Free users still gain rewards on the Hunt Pass, just a lot less after the initial few levels. Still, free users do gain many of the same things the paid users get, just in smaller quantities. What you’ll largely miss out on is cosmetic items.

Having put in several hours over the course of two weekends, I can confidently say that the Duantless has a solid playerbase that is ready and willing to help new players. It doesn’t take long to get to a pretty competent level either. I’m already at some pretty high-end stuff with multiple sets of highly leveled gear.

Fighting the monsters has been largely rewarding. Only a few are slightly frustrating but each is pretty different than the last. When I was talking about weapons earlier, you really are rewarded for having mastery over a couple because some weapons do way better against certain monsters. As you play, you pick that stuff up in an organic kind of way and it is really satisfying.

It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Every now-and-again, the servers seem to be overloaded. You may disconnect in the middle of a 15 minute battle and lose out on all that work. Also, the devs haven’t implemented loadout slots yet so you are constantly needing to shuffle around gear.

These are things that can be, and will be, fixed though. If you like games like Monster Hunter and don’t mind a bit of a grind, than Dauntless is something you should check out. It being free and on virtually every platform with a linked account across each of ’em, there really isn’t much risk for just popping in. You may just find a new favorite like I did!

You can check the game out in more detail on the Dauntless website. If you would like to play with me I am available sporadically on the weekend. The game has crossplatform play, so even if you aren’t on PS4, we can play together. Let me know in the comments if you want to add me or send me a private message on my Twitter (@JS_Reviews) so we can get that sorted.


Let me know how you’ve been enjoying Dauntless and if I convinced you to check it out. Even if you hate the game, I’d love to hear why. If you want to support my writing here please consider a donation by hitting the Ko-fi button below. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy day to read and have a good one!

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ISLANDERS – Mini Review

Casual Rougelite, City-building?

Not too long ago I decided to pick up a little game called ISLANDERS which is self-described as a minimalist strategy game about building cities on colorful islands. However, it got some media buzz where folks were saying it brought together two genres that normally shouldn’t mix:  citybuilders and rougelites. Was this just a passing fad or something worth your time?

For a studio I didn’t really know anything about, GrizzlyGames absolutely knocked it out of the park with ISALNADERS. It’s deceptively simple, something you can play for five minutes or five hours, and does so while offering a decent puzzle challenge. Let me explain how you play a bit.

Each phase of the game you are given an assortment of buildings that you need to place in order to gain score. In essence, this is a score attack game, so how high can you go? Buildings like and dislike certain things which increase or decrease your score accordingly. If you make enough score in that time, you get to select a new “pack” of buildings and keep going. All the while, you are working towards unlocking the next island, because eventually, you will run out of moves and need a fresh start.

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It’s really that simple! While this may seem too minimalist, its actually something that will manage to hold your attention for several hours. It’s easy to say to yourself, “Just one… more… turn…” which is something you want to see in a game like ISLANDERS.

The more you play the better you’ll get. There’s a weird psychology to the game where you want to make an aesthetically pleasing city, but you also need all the score you can get. After a few runs, you’ll get really good at planning your cities out in advance to achieve both goals simultaneously. That, or you’ll throw beauty to the wind and really get some high scores!

Either way, there isn’t really a “wrong” way to play this one. You may think that needing to hit point goals may make the game a little stressful, but it doesn’t. Play occurs at whatever pace you are comfortable with, there are no time penalties. Failure isn’t a big deal either. Usually, it results in you having made a mistake or just not being prepared for upcoming buildings.

When you are new, this may be slightly frustrating because you will lose games to not optimizing for the late game, but that’s also part of the fun. It never felt unfair to me, there always felt like I had a chance at success even when first starting. Even with 8 hours under my belt, I still figure out new ways to do even better on future games.

The game has a set way it progresses through the islands, which offers variety while still letting you plan ahead accordingly. Really, there is very little randomness in the game. You choose what will come up next most of the time, though you don’t know the exact things a pack will contain, and the packs come up in a certain relative order. Eventually it’ll start giving you random pieces, but at that point you are doing really well on an island. Once you move to a new area, the cycle repeats.

That’s really all there is to ISLANDERS. It has received a few updates which tweak the balance, they have added new buildings, and seems like it will receive further support. For a $4.99 game, it may be a bit expensive for some, but for most it will be worth the cost. I highly recommend this one.


Have you played other strange genre mashup games like ISLANDERS before? What two genres would you want to see mixed? Let me hear your thoughts on this game and those in the comments. If you want to support my writing you can do so via the Ko-fi button below. Thanks for reading and I hope you have a good one!

The Plant – My Kinetic-Novel Release

I Released Another Thing!

If you follow me over on Twitter (@JS_Reviews) you’ve probably seen me talk about my latest project release, The Plant, a kinetic-novel inspired by a post I did back in December 2018. You can view that post here. I’m writing this post to help spread the word, but also as a postmortem of sorts, where I talk about things that went well (and poorly) with the project. Before I get any further, be sure to check out The Plant on Itchi.io for FREE. It’s on PC, Mac, and Linux at the moment. Let’s get to it! Continue reading “The Plant – My Kinetic-Novel Release”

Galaxy Trucker – Long-Hauling in a Dangerous Space Time

A Great Digital Version!

Please note that I received a review copy of Galaxy Trucker from the publisher for review purposes.

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As you may know, I have a HUGE board game collection. It sits somewhere just over 200 games, but there are great titles that I don’t have for one reason or another. Galaxy Trucker is one of them. It’s always been a game that has interested me with its real-time, frantic, ship-building action that is mixed with random events that may-or-may-not end up destroying your hard work. There just aren’t a lot of games like it out there, so it is a very unique one on that front.

However, I never even gave it a go in all these years. I tend to not really enjoy real-time games, even digitally, with only a few rare exceptions. The idea of building this awesome spaceship, just to have it (probably) fall to ruin, kind of puts me off too. Plus, in the physical version it is a bit fiddly sounding. When I was offered a chance to take a look at the upcoming release of Galaxy Trucker for Steam I jumped at the chance to finally give this a go. I’m sure glad I did too, and here’s why! Continue reading “Galaxy Trucker – Long-Hauling in a Dangerous Space Time”

Apex Legends – Mini Review

Another Battle Royale?

Almost out of nowhere, Respawn Entertainment, the creators of Titanfall, released the latest contender in battle royale (well, outside of Tetris 99), Apex Legends. EA has a rocky relationship with fans, and the burnout in this respective genre has been pretty real. You may remember that I did not at all enjoy Fortnight and the last battle royale (BR) title I enjoyed even a little was Realm Royale. So it wasn’t surprising that I had my fair share of skepticism towards Apex.

I first saw a commercial on YouTube for this game when it launched. At first I thought it was a spin-off game from the Borderlands series, but after my friend told me how great the game was, I was very quickly corrected. Having enjoyed Titanfall and its sequel immensely, I figured I should at least give this one a chance.

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Boy am I glad I did! Apex Legends is definitively the only BR game that I’ll play. My only grumble is that I can’t play the game on PC due to my internet situation. However, on the weekends when I have access to my PS4 (it’s in a different location, with better internet) it’s been my go-to game. This has sucked away time from Kingdom Hearts 3 and other titles I’ve been trying to finish, which is no small task.

Here’s what makes the game feel so great to me:

  • Balanced – Nobody feels too strong or too weak. I feel like I could jump in with any legend and do well.
  • Team Based Play – You always have teammates who can make up for skills you lack (at least in theory).
  • Quick – Matches never take longer than 30 minutes from my experience.
  • Kills – Nobody ever feels like they can soak a billion damage and you can actually get them. Looking at you Fortnight…
  • Movement & Map – The map is big but you can get around very easily.
  • Updates – Apex Legends receives pretty regular updates and it hasn’t been out long at all.
  • Ping System – Apex has the single best off-mic communication system in any game I’ve ever played. It is extensive and very useful. You can ping just about anything for any reason, and the game generally knows what you want to convey. It’s awesome!
  • FREE! – I really like that it is a free game because I’m poor.

That said, there are a couple of things I absolutely do not like. Some of these may need to change if EA wants this game to do well long-term:

  • Expensive! – Even though this is a free game, if you want to purchase cosmetics or unlock the legends, you are going to invest either a lot of time or money. I have about 10 hours in the game and still haven’t unlocked another legend. If I went the real money route, it’s faster, but you are paying through the nose for stuff.
  • No Punishment for Poor Sports – What I mean by this is you can’t report players who are rude, leave the game for no reason, etc… Apex doesn’t even have a leaver penalty. This really needs some kind of implementation because, I’ve had matches were another player obnoxiously pinged the map, screamed into the mic nearly the whole match, and have had players leave because they didn’t like you playing a certain legend.
  • Menus – It’s obviously designed for PC first, so some of the menu navigation doesn’t feel good. For example, moving equipment in the inventory is annoying because you can’t drag and drop things. This isn’t something I think they could easily fix, but it makes the game harder to play, for me at least.
  • Settings – I did not like the settings menu. There are a lot of options, but again, the navigation of the menu and getting things setup is not the best. For whatever reason, you can’t mute other players in-match either. You should be able to disable the mic at the very least.

Still, the positives far outweigh the negatives currently. The community is largely very kind and I’ve been having a lot of fun. I even win fairly regularly, and I am not very skilled when it comes to shooters, especially with a controller. The game rewards tactical play, and that’s something I excel at, so I appreciate the fact that it encourages that type of play.

I’m not going to go into any more depth on the game. This is just me saying it is awesome and that you should check it out. Even if you aren’t a big fan of BR games, or shooters in general, you may just find yourself enjoying Apex Legends. Given how the game has a solid roadmap for at least the next year, I think this one is here to stay. I really look forward to getting more games in and seeing how things change throughout the year as well!


Are you playing Apex Legends? Tell me your favorite part of the game in the comments. If you would like to support my writing, please click the donation button below. Of course, thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!

BalanCity & Frost Game Reviews – Two Unique Games, Two VERY Different Opinions

Two Reviews in One?!?

I’m doing something a bit different today and reviewing two games instead of one. Normally I’d do a Mini Review for each game here but then I thought, why not combine the two? Especially since both games offer a unique spin on their respective game genres and both are relatively quick plays for the more casual gamer looking to kill smaller chunks of time while bored. We’ll take a look at BalanCity first and then Frost, so let’s get to it! Continue reading “BalanCity & Frost Game Reviews – Two Unique Games, Two VERY Different Opinions”

Artifact – Great Game, Bad Execution

Predatory Practice

Valve announced, much to the displeasure of many, the release of their newest title since Dota 2 in 2013, a card game titled Artifact. Being an avid player of card games, and having reviewed several of the biggest ones in the market currently, in some form or another (Hearthstone, Shadowverse, and others), I was afforded the opportunity to take a look at this one as well. What sets Artifact apart from those games is that it is not free-to-play, features designs from world-famous Richard Garfield, and mimics the real-world TCG scene seen in games like Magic the Gathering with its closed economy system. There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s waste no time and dive into just what you get with your $20 purchase of Artifact and if it is ultimately worth your money! Continue reading “Artifact – Great Game, Bad Execution”

The Mirror Lied – Mini Review

Halloween Leftovers

I love Freebird Games’ To the Moon, so whenever they release something new I check it out. Well, this is more like a re-release of a 2008 title, The Mirror Lied. The game is pretty abstract and only takes about 30 minutes to beat 100%. It was one of the games I tried out for my brief spooky game play session this Halloween. The big question here, is this any good?

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Really, I have no clue what to think of the story. It didn’t exactly make a ton of sense. Though I am not without some theories. There is a lot of referring to a birdie and a portion of the game where you look at, what appears to be, a virus under a microscope.

My best guess is that some epidemic is, or was, about to take place and that is what the story is about. Past that, your best guess is as good as mine. It is very much up for interpretation.

When it comes to the atmosphere it is kind of spooky but this isn’t a horror game at all. Stuff kind of just happens, the creepiest being a phone ringing with cryptic messages (if you answer). The Mirror Lied has one song for its soundtrack, which I liked ok, but it isn’t the greatest.

As far as an initial impression goes, this is something to check out if you like more experimental games. With such a short playtime it isn’t really asking much of you either. If anything, it is something different.

The creator, Kan, put out a video explaining everything so here you go:

Finally, all the questions answered!


Give the game a go, or not, it is free. What is your best guess for what happened in the story? Let me hear your voice in the comments. If you would like to help me out a bit please click the donation button below. As always, thanks for reading and hope to see you back here again soon!

Angels of Death – Mini Review Part 1 of 2 (Episodes 1-12)

Is She an Angle or is She a Witch?

Image result for angels of death animeThis review is a bit of a more unusual one since I’m having to split it into parts. Episodes 1-12 of Angels of Death finished airing for the Summer 2018 season but it still has four more episodes to go starting early October. These first twelve episodes are largely setup for whatever the final four episodes have in-store for us.

The premise of this one is that a young girl, Rachel Gardner wakes up in a strange building. There she is attacked and analyzed by various, “residents” of this bizarre structure. After her first encounters with a Dr. Danny and scythe wielding serial killer, Zach, Rachel longs for nothing more than death. She teams up with Zach in order to escape and have him make her wish come true.

Each string of episodes has the gang exploring a new floor and dealing with a new person. Zach yells and hits stuff and Rachel uses her brain to solve problems. Rachel begs to be killed and Zach tells her to smile. Rinse and repeat.

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Angels of Death is an adaptation of a video game of the same name. I haven’t played it but it has good reviews and people really seem to like the story. This had me pretty excited for the anime. With a solid first episode, the show really declined in quality for some time following that. It wasn’t until Zach was given some depth, and eventually Rachel required to be the sole person in the spotlight, that the show really managed to do anything interesting.

With J.C. Staff at the helm for this one I can say that there are some really great moments visually but things are bogged down quite a bit by trying too hard to emulate the game experience. There are a lot of dry and dreary moments of not a lot going on. The world even has video game mechanics in it that just feel out of place. For a lot of people this is going to be a deal breaker.

I wouldn’t say this show is bad but I wouldn’t say it is good either. It is competent at the best of times and mediocre at the worst. In this slower season though, it made for a decent watch to slot between things I was more excited about.

Perhaps the most standout moments of the show came in the form of the Zach’s backstory and witch trail . Zach really needed fleshing out and given more of a role beyond yelling, being stupid, and hitting stuff. It actually made him a sympathetic character. The witch trail was far more interesting as it looked into Rachel’s character and presented some of the more dynamic moments in Angels of Death (both visually and between its characters).

One other aspect of the show that I particularly enjoy is the ED and the presentation of what the next episode will be. Generally the music is pretty standard, with an alright OP that rises just above that, but it isn’t particularly good. As for the title card and other such fare, it is really standard. The eyecatch looks good but it isn’t impact. Something about the ending works really well and is kind of something you just have to take my word on or experience for yourself since explaining it with text is kind of impossible.

As it stands, these twelve episodes weren’t fantastic and I’m largely going to be finishing the series just for the sake of completing it rather than for finding it compelling. The final episode gives you a, “revelation” in presenting something that shouldn’t be one for the audience and because of that I’m not really sure what the show can really do. The story seems like it only has one straightforward way it can go but maybe I’ll be wrong on that. We’ll explore that in part 2 though.


What did you think of Angels of Death? Was this one you stuck with or did you decide to duck out early? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments below. If you would like to support me and my work here please hit the button below. As always, thanks for reading and hope to see you back here at Jon Spencer Reviews again soon!

 

SRPG Studio – I Made a Game!

Well… More Like a Concept Demo

Recently I decided to fiddle around with the newly released English version of SRPG Studio that launched on Steam. For those unfamiliar, it is the engine used to make games akin to Fire Emblem, meaning you can make tactics based RPG’s with it. Even the creator of Fire Emblem, ‎Shouzou Kaga uses the software for doujin games. I made a full concept demo using just the free demo version in under 24 hours. Let’s dive into that experience and review the software some. Continue reading “SRPG Studio – I Made a Game!”