We didn't realize how badly we wanted a massive hammer that doubled as a shotgun until we equipped one in Dauntless. At that point, we'd already been playing Phoenix Labs' upcoming multiplayer action role-playing game for a hunt or two, but wanted to change things up to see what the different weapon loadouts offered. After using the hammer to hunt down a massive frost-powered owl creature, we became enamored with it. Not just with the hammer gun mind you, but with the co-op action at the core of Dauntless.

Teamed up with several Phoenix Labs developers, we found ourselves on one of the many floating islands of Dauntless' world hunting down Scraev. The owlish creature was one of nearly two dozen Behemoths roaming the lands, each of which was further endangering humanity by gobbling up all the world's ether. The bounty we took up was one of many posted to the board in the town square, which acts as the community hub. As we were already working together, we didn't need to wait for any other potential hunting mates to search out our quarry. After picking up the contract, we went to Scraev's recent stomping grounds in a quest to bring a bit of peace and safety and rare loot to the people of our home village.

Phoenix Labs

Scraev was actually the second bounty we took part in. Prior to that, we took down Gnasher, a beaver-like Behemoth, that acts as the introductory creature for Dauntless. Armed with the standard armor and sword, we dispatched the Behemoth rather quickly, divvying up the share of harvested materials to make better, stronger equipment for later hunts. Earlier this year, we got to go hands-on with Dauntless, and found it easy to compare the Phoenix Labs project to Capcom's successful Monster Hunter franchise. At E3, we spent quite a bit of time with a more recent build of the online multiplayer game, and found that likeness was still there.

However, the comparisons are mostly easy to make because both games focus on tackling larger-than-life creatures with a small band of willing heroes. Monster Hunter has an equal onus placed on the hunt, whereas Dauntless is more focused on combat and multiplayer action. Hunting Behemoths does require a tiny bit of legwork, but that's mostly in just using some of your ether as a compass to point you in the right direction. After that, you're on foot with your companions looking to lay down some beatings with swords, chain blades, and of course, hammers.

Oh the hammers, dear friends. They are slow, as they should be compared to the likes of swords and dual-wielded blades, but they hit hard and heavy. The weighty feel of those laborious swings is all worth it when they connect, dealing damage that anyone with a sharp weapon would envy. Plus, you have the bonus secondary ability of a shotgun, which delivers a close-range burst of pain that can give everyone standing nearby a breather to heal. That's not to say the other weapons don't have their advantages, but none of them also doubles as a shotgun, so they may as well be shiny pieces of trash.

Phoenix Labs

Even when a Behemoth is changing up its tactics, and bum-rushing you with heavy frost attacks, Dauntless never becomes overwhelming. It's got a rather intuitive control scheme that makes it easy for newcomers to grasp, even if they are lapsed PC gamers. You can also use an actual controller if the mouse/keyboard combo isn't your style there's almost no difference in combat save for targeting speed —but both are more than capable of getting the job done. Most of the action is in melee attacks, but you will have a lantern handy for more potent abilities like healing and defense buffs. These area-of-effect powers can be customized just like everything else, and merely rely on a cooldown to activate. Knowing when to use them is key, but it's not that hard to figure out if you've got a team that's good at communication.

Behemoths like Scraev have multiple stages to each fight, with a half-time of sorts where they'll run away to another part of the map. You'll have to track them down again, but it's nothing too complicated to handle. That said, we did only play on maps where one Behemoth would spawn, and Phoenix Labs has plans for areas where multiple creatures will be lying in wait. Those could get a bit hairy as you only have a limited number of supplies with you on a given bounty, but that's a problem to worry about when it happens. No sense getting worked up about eventualities when Scraev is still flying around causing mayhem in the moment. Especially considering that when he's near death, Scraev goes into a rage, doling out more damage more frequently than before.

But hey, that's what they made hammer shotguns for, right?

The three hunts we took part in each took about 20 minutes, though we were playing with the developers and we did have access to some primo armor and weapons we otherwise wouldn't have had in our armory. Even with that in mind, it's easy to understand the addictive nature of Dauntless and its bounties. There's a definite feeling of wanting to do another battle immediately after finishing one, and it's not just because you want more of those exotic items; it's because Dauntless is genuinely fun and easy to play. It's still in the early stages of development, but Dauntless is already a game we're looking forward to playing more.

Dauntless will enter Founder's Alpha on August 18 on PC.