Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Monster Hunter Tri - Is The Third Time The Charm?  

Games: Started playing Monster Hunter Tri (Wii) today. I won a free copy in a contest via Twitter (Thanks GameZone!) so I had it on hand, otherwise I probably wouldn't have gotten around to it until summer, or even later.



Why not? Well, if You've been keeping an eye on retail shelves, you might have noticed that there are an absurd amount of games coming out lately. I'm not talking about off-season shovelware stuff, I'm talking big-name, big-recognition titles. With all of these things to play and review, the usual slow period enabling me to go through the backlog and catch up on older things just hasn't materialized. I really hope things cool off over the next few months, though. If this pace keeps up and my backlog keeps growing at its current rate, I'll be able to sustain my gameplay habits until sometime in 2024 without ever buying another game.

Anyway, Monster Hunter Tri.

Back when Monster Hunter first appeared on the PS2, I can remember seeing one of the first trailers for it a few months before the game hit. At the time, it was utterly mindblowing and promised potential that players had only dreamed of. Even today, the trailer still looks extremely exciting and full of action.

Check it out, if you've got a minute or two.

Unfortunately, the reality did not match up to the level of action in that trailer. Stiff controls, a very steep difficulty curve and heavy emphasis on grinding for resources flew in the face of the tone set in that trailer, and I quit the game in disappointment pretty quickly. That said, the trailer never left my mind and I would often wonder when developers would tackle something like it.

Many have come close, or at least skirted it. Shadow of the Colossus is one that shares the scale, although not quite the same level of balls-out-ish-ness that's implied. (And don't get me wrong, I loves me some SotC. This isn't a criticism.) Closer to what I was craving was Lost Planet, oddly enough, also from Capcom. The scale was great, it added mecha to the mix, and in general I was pretty satisfied with it, although it did not have the same fantasy- medieval tone. Despite these titles and a few others that have similar themes, none quite scratched the itch that the idea of Monster Hunter instilled in me. It's kind of absurd when you think about it, since the game that inspired this desire didn't even live up to the promise itself.


Now we come to Tri, the most recent (third) game in the series.

Despite having a deep suspicion that it was going to be more of the same, I was thrilled when I won the Twitter contest. I immediately began hoping against hope that Capcom had revamped the formula enough to win me over and finally provide the monster hunting experience I've been after. After putting in a few hours today I can say that it definitely feels better than it was, but I can't shake the feeling that I'm headed towards disappointment again.

Putting all issues about the Wii’s hardware aside, the game still relies heavily on menus and resource procurement/management. For something seemingly all about giant swords and enormous reptiles, there's an awful lot of emphasis put on collecting things and leveling up equipment. Don't get me wrong, I'm no stranger to this stuff, but this all strikes me as a bizarrely disparate relationship between the reality of the game and its image. My eyes are telling me that this should be a high-octane, intense and action-packed title, but my hands are telling me that I'm mining for iron ore, farming small monsters for their pelts, and searching for rare mushrooms.


I certainly haven't given up yet and I will say that it was an enormous relief to get past the extended tutorial phase and start doing quests proper… tackling groups of large lizards and finally getting knee-deep in some combat was extremely welcome even if the action still feels completely stilted and slow. However, I'm starting to wonder how long it'll be before I hit a wall and need to straight-up grind in order to progress. I desperately want to like this game and finally be able to enjoy the kind of adventure Monster Hunter eternally promises, but I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, I'm headed for another heartbreak again.

What next?

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3 comments: to “ Monster Hunter Tri - Is The Third Time The Charm?


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    Have you read Michael Abbott's piece on Monster Hunter Tri? http://www.brainygamer.com/the_brainy_gamer/2010/05/preparation-h.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+brainygamer+(The+Brainy+Gamer)

    I can understand your frustration that it's not as much crazy giant monster slaying action as you'd like, but he argues that spending so much time putting in the grunt work for a big quest makes it that much more gratifying when they occur. I've not yet played it myself, so I can't comment on how it effects me, but I could understand the grind making the epic encounters feel that much more so.


  •  

    You bring up a good point, and I actually hadn't read that post before.

    I definitely think there is something to what Michael is saying, but for my taste, the game leans too far towards the grind/prep side of things and too little towards the actual hunting.

    (Before going any further, let me just preface these comments by saying that I did not finish the first Monster Hunter, I did not play the PSP version at all, and I am extremely early in Tri.)

    Basically, the way the game presents itself to me is that of an extremely explicit and overt ‘system’, meaning that there is no attempt made towards immersion or believability.

    For example, the areas I've seen so far are open and essentially blank with the exception of a few renewable resources that the player must go back and collect as needed. Mushrooms, iron ore, etc.
    It's made extremely clear that in order to build a weapon or upgrade armor, the player will need XYZ items in XYZ amounts, so it's up to them to go out and collect those things. These are specific transactions that must be completed in order to progress, and doing the actions in order to harvest these resources (to me) is extremely tedious.

    Simply looking at how much needs to be done can be disheartening, and a disincentive towards pushing on.

    (Granted, I'm not far enough in Tri to see how the developers have reportedly eased back on the grind or incorporated in-game systems that reduce the player’s olbigation towards these tedious activities. I have heard from other players that there have been tweaks, but I'm just not that far yet.)

    The game’s reliance on menus and stats is a little overdone as well. It all feels very structured and artificial.

    For example, I had been through a particular area several times with nothing noteworthy occurring. After selecting a specific quest (from a contrived job board) I went back to the same areas I had previously traversed and all of a sudden there were entirely new creatures that had never been there before. It was a very transparent, mechanical way of getting me to do this quest and to hunt these creatures, and it didn't feel organic or convincing at all.

    I certainly enjoyed cutting them down and getting my great sword a little messy, but I didn't feel like a hunter or even a virtual character in this make-believe world. I felt like a stat-grinder going out to do a very specific task in order to fulfill another task, which would in turn enable me to create a piece of armor which would let me survive a later encounter.

    Rather than being on an adventure, I feel as though I'm at the bottom of a very tall mountain, and my path to the top is completely laid out in very clear terms. Seeing how much there is to do and potentially how long it might take me to do it strips away my urge to discover and explore.

    I have a great desire to kill big monsters and wield a giant sword with urgency, but (so far, anyway) I feel completely mired in the grinding systems which I do not glean much enjoyment from.

    With all that said, I do want to reiterate that I am extremely early in Tri and I have somewhat committed to pushing on and actually getting through the game. My opinion could completely change another five or ten hours, or it might well be reinforced… it's hard to say, but with all my years of reviewing and my great experience with video games, I have to admit that the writing on the wall seems pretty clear. I'd be willing to bet that my initial impressions will hold true for the length of the game, but at the same time, I am trying to keep an open mind and let the game unfold as it will.

    Fingers crossed!


  •  

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