I’m actually going to start off with Dauntless to help set the stage. The game is solid, if a bit on the shallow end. You have a few weapon types, some rather simplistic combos (I’ll get to strikers), elemental attacks, slotted gems, and monster weaknesses/breaking parts. Oh, and there’s some very rudimentary gathering for potions in game. Behemoths have flat resistance/armor based on their level, and a strength/weakness to a particular element. It helps to use their weakness, but due to the way weapon skills are balanced, it often is best to ignore it.
So let’s cover balance for a second. All weapons (except strikers) have simple combos. You need to know when to use them so as not to get hit, but they don’t necessarily chain into something larger. Strikers though… they have an interesting buff mechanic where if you apply the buffs, your damage starts reaching crazy levels. It’s a high skill ceiling weapon, and since it’s been around in late summer, has been leading almost every chart. Combine that with a specific skill set to increase attack speed and critical hits… then it’s a walking death machine. Cue calls for nerfs – when in reality it’s the other weapons that need a similar overhaul. To be fair, this is only a concern when you’ve killed every single Behemoth, maxed out most of your gear, and are farming mastery levels. Until that point, the game is a blast.
There are 14 types, and each one is entirely viable for the entire game. Speed runners with max level gear will likely end up with the Heavy Bow Gun due to some rather ridiculous boosts within, but it comes with some major defensive drawbacks. Longswords provide a lot of damage, with some OK counter ability. Charge Blades are opportunistic and can deal the highest single attacks in the game. Hammers can chain ledge-jumps to easily stun almost every monster. Insect Glaives keep you off the ground more almost the entire fight.
And each weapon comes with an upgrade path that is not simply “more numbers”. They get more decoration slots, different critical values, different elemental attacks, more (or less) augment slots. In specific cases, it will change the type of ammo you can use, the recoil from attacks, and the reload speed.
I’ll compare 2 Charge Blades to illustrate a point.
- Deep Schnegel II – 900 dmg, 0% crit, 480 ice damage, power phials, level 10, 2+1 decos
- Luna Eostre – 1044 dmg, 10% crit, 420 poison damage, impact phials, level 12, 2+2 decos
On paper, the Luna Eostre (LE) is better in almost every regard. It does more base damage, it has a higher crit, it does poison (which deals lots of damage over time), it has impact phials (which can knock down a monster), is a higher level, and has better decoration slots. If you had this weapon, honestly it would be pretty amazing.
Deep Schnegel II (DS) is 2 levels lower, meaning it gets MORE upgrade options. And there’s a particular armor set skill (Namielle’s 4 piece) that boosts elemental damage by 150, and with Ice Attack 6 (from a necklace) you’re looking at even higher. Combined, that 480 ice damage climbs to over 1000. Since elemental damage can’t crit, and isn’t impacted by wounded parts… you don’t need to aim as much as you would with the LE, and can therefore attack much faster. The challenge here is that you will find some monsters that are immune to ice, so you’ll need to swap to another element. It will absolutely demolish Shara.
And that only covers 1 weapon. Heavy Bow Guns are even more complex due to ammo restrictions and play styles (sticky ammo for distance fighting, or spread ammo for close up), let alone the bit about reloading while ledge jumping, or the dodge evade increases.
And I haven’t even gotten into the various monster parts that have varying levels of defense/weakness… which can change during the course of battle too.
It feels like a rabbit hole. The beauty of which is that this “hyper optimized” numbers game doesn’t at all detract from your personal playstyle. Unless you’re doing something extremely wrong, you will always beat the clock to kill a monster. And if you’re having fun that way, hell, all the more power to you.