Monday, May 6, 2013

The Monster Hunter Testimonials, Day Four!  


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Although it's been slightly delayed (darn you, real life!) I'm quite happy to present the final round of Monster Hunter testimonials! Well, the last round from people who aren't me, anyway. I'm going to close out the series with my own words on the game, but I'm still cooking those up.

For now, please enjoy these final entries from my friends and readers!

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I've never understood grinding.

That's not to say I haven't done it in games. I’ve certainly fought the same few monsters over and over again, waiting for levels to pop or rare items to drop, but it's never something I've sought out or particularly enjoyed - there's a reason I haven't played an FF game since 7.

I'm the type of person who, when forced to grind in JRPGs, always looks for a workaround - like using rubber bands and carefully placed weights to trigger an endless series of fights I can automatically win and then just letting the game sit for a few hours.

Really, I'd do anything to keep from having to watch some spiky-haired person kill the same monster over and over again. This antipathy has bled over into games with loot drops - even if a game is fun, I could never quite grasp the attraction of sifting through a dozen swords/guns and trying to determine which of them was slightly better-suited to my play style. I'd essentially cut myself off from entire genres of games.



Then I discovered Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.

I was completely spun by the revelation that scouring a map for a few pieces of ore could be a thrill. I would never have occurred to me that I could love fighting the same monster four times in a row just to grab a few more of its fangs. What turned me around? The core gameplay mechanics.

It's impossible to say too many good things about Monster Hunter's combat mechanics and enemy AI. The developers have created monsters that - due to their vast changes in size and appearance - each feel unique, despite the fact that they frequently draw from a common moveset.

Fighting any large monster in Monster Hunter is a challenge, but a rewarding one - not just because of the visceral thrill of defeating an imposing foe, but because the game does a great job of laying out the stakes: take this thing down and next time it'll be a little easier, because you'll have put together armour and weapons every bit as tough as the creature you sliced the parts off of.

That's why grinding for parts not only works in Monster Hunter, but actually enriches the experience.

The fights are always good, but the loot/crafting mechanic adds another level of depth - the player chooses which monster they want to fight, and it's always with a concrete goal in mind. There's no intangible 'experience points' being earned, just a chunk torn off the sea serpent that was just slaughtered.


Fighting monsters never feels like an obligation to move the characters forward so that they can further the plot - it's an end in and of itself, giving every fight the kind of gravity that most games only manage in a few action setpieces, and every beast conquered feels like an unmatched accomplishment.

When Monster Hunter tells me that I'm going to need six Dragon Claws to build a new sword, intellectually I know that it's no different than any JRPG telling me to go and find a hundred thousand experience points, but the developers have so inexorably tied the absolutely best parts of their game to what would, in any other title, be total drudgery, that I'm unable to object to the demand.

100K XP is a wall that content is hiding behind. Six Dragon Claws? That's a challenge to be met.

…Not to mention a perfectly good excuse to play some more Monster Hunter.

-- by Dan Weissenberger, @GC_Danny

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I originally came into Monster Hunter way back on PS2, with the very first game.

Even back then it just felt different. There was no magic, no spells, no flying boots... instead it was a game about you vs. the monster.

A number of months later I imported MH2 on PS2, and my love for the game really cemented. It was a pain to play and translate on the fly, but eventually I was hunting with the craziest of them. Since then, I've played every MH they've brought over to America. 

In all the years I've been playing, in all the versions, the core joys stay the same. Monster Hunter is a game about seeing a monster, learning how it thinks, and eventually making a hat out of it.



The monster will not give up that hat easily, so instead of just buying the best sword or axe, you have to become better. Your character doesn't level up, so it's on you to gain skill. Each new area, each new monster is a new skill set to learn.

There's little in gaming quite as epic as the first time a new monster rears its head -- the first time you see Rathalos roar or see Fatalis fly down from the sky, you know you are in for a serious battle. Then again, you might run into the Kirin and underestimate just how deadly that bloody horse is.

Monster hunter isn't perfect. The controls could use some work, it's a slow starter (a problem with many crafting centered games), and occasionally the random number generator hates you when you try to loot. But, I've yet to find a game that lets me hunt giant monsters with giant swords, huge hammers, high explosives, and sonic grenades. I can't wait to see what they do with Monster Hunter 4

-- by James Barry, Editor at Colonyofgamers.com, and diehard Monster Hunter fan.

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I’m dropped into the middle of the frigid tundra, alone, with one goal: slay a Barioth. 

If you’ve never seen one before, they look like a sabre-tooth tiger crossbred with a bat -- and, compared to him?  Well, I’m a housecat.  

I chug down a hot drink as my breath dissipates into the night air, and I’ve prepared for this hunt well.  My heavy bowgun can chamber exhaust shots to slow my target down, fire shots to take advantage of its elemental weakness, and poison shots to whittle down its relatively low HP.  But good preparation is only half the battle...



After locating the Barioth, I surprise it with a paintball.  In response, it roars with a pitch that instantly paralyzes my body.  

Touché.  

I immediately begin unloading fire shots on its front wings, hoping to break them and lower the beast’s speed.  We exchange blows, and soon the Barioth’s attack patterns come back to me.  My evading, blocking, and reloading all become part of a familiar, choreographed dance.

With one broken wing, the Barioth’s lunges throw it off balance.  

This small opening means I can squeeze off an extra shot each time I block or avoid one of its attacks.  He’s getting sloppy...  Perhaps realizing this, the beast hastily flees to another zone.  I chamber my exhaust shots, specially designed to rob monsters of their stamina.

Following the trail of the paintball I tagged him with for easy tracking, I locate the Barioth attempting to feed on a recently-killed herbivore.  If he finishes eating, his stamina will recover and I’ll be on the receiving end of his renewed icy wrath. I’ve got to stop him. 

I aim my shots between his eyes and fire.  Recoil rips through my body, but I have to shake him from his kill.  On the fourth shot the Barioth stumbles backwards, foaming at the mouth.  

No time to celebrate. I continue unloading shots as the beast struggles to catch its breath.  Drool runs down his amber tusks, now shattered by my assault.  

On my last round of exhaust shots, the Barioth loses consciousness, clumsily flopping to the ground.  I quickly load my Poison shots, and in no time the venom has taken hold.  When the beast regains consciousness, he immediately escapes.

Even though the effects of my paintball have worn off, I know where the Barioth is headed: his nest.  After the thrashing I gave him, the Barioth will attempt to sleep and recover his health.  

While I want to avoid letting him recover, I also know that a sleeping monster is vulnerable.  I’ll have two options: place explosives near the sleeping foe and detonate them for immense damage, or set a trap under him and capture him alive.  Unfortunately for this Barioth, I need pelts --  I’m going for the kill.



Upon locating the slumbering beast, I place two large barrels filled with gunpowder right next to his head and step away -- far away.  

My crosshairs center on the barrels.  

The tundra is deafeningly quiet now.  My numb finger wraps around the trigger and slowly squeezes. The resulting explosion is instantaneous, and deafening.  Flames leap into the sky and surge over the beast’s body.  My target has been eliminated, and I step forward proudly to carve my rewards.

When I get back to the hunter’s tavern, some friends have appeared.  They’re drinking, cheering, and talking shop.  “Up for a hunt?”, they ask.  

You bet I am.

-- by Roy Blakely, @kotowari, author of the Monster Hunter Beginner’s Guide

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Still want more?

While I wasn't able to contact him with enough time for a new piece, Michael Abbott (@BrainyGamer) has written about the series several times and wanted to share. You can find some of those articles here and here.

I'll close things out next time with my own writeup, and this blog will go back to business as usual afterwards. Thanks very much to everyone who expressed such enthusiasm over hearing the stories of fellow hunters… and apologies to everyone who isn't a fan of the series, and has probably been bored to death over the last couple of weeks.  ^_^

... Or maybe you've been intrigued enough to try out one of the games for yourself? If so, I would love to hear from you about your first experience. Drop me a note and let me know!

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