I’m ashamed to admit that I underestimated Monster Hunter for many years. However the last year has led to a series of epiphanies – this is a game that calls for more thought than most games, encouraging you to improve with the promise of a thrilling and compelling experience just out of reach.
The community is at the heart of that experience – so here’s what Monster Hunter feels like to play with them in tow.
Fighting through difficulty with others
Camaraderie is at the heart of this game, and that works because of how the rewards and drops are independent to other players, there is very little sense of competition, and the balanced etiquette of play means that the focus is on information sharing, helping each other avoid failure by striving to make a strong group. The deepest criticism about this game is the steep learning curve, but ultimately all that is needed is time to learn each monsters patterns, made infinitely easier by a group of friends willing to spread the difficulty between them. Even the vastest struggle becomes a series of battles made fun just because of the thrill of play.
So all at once what was once a slow, unwieldily weapon, transforms into the tool right for the job, utilized with new-found precision and fluidity, no levels have been gained, no experienced unlocked just a better sense of how to succeed. The only thing that has improved is your intuition of how to play, amassed after observing every monster for minute weakpoints, evening the odds over time, and as such each victory feels all the more rewarding.
The balance of tension and humour in this game is paramount, after a hair-raising fight or titanic struggle against a new foe nothing beats the comic relief of playing with others – a perfectly timed comic gesture shared between one another, a playful kick once the fights over – sending someone flying using a powerful attack. With no friendly fire the moments of hilarity are ripe, easing the tension after short, very focused moments of concentration.
So in Monster Hunter success is hinged on the collective skill of your group, clawing back respect from a monster as your group grows in confidence, all with the encouragement and support of each other. This is a game of friendship and initial gameplay complaints aside the synergy between community, the lush environments, and captivating music are a fantastic reward to those bold enough to keep going.
Mind over matter
Like any healthy community there are veterans and newbies, all drawn together by Monster Hunter’s stylish, old-fashioned gameplay elements. The old idioms of risk and reward from 8-bit consoles and older have returned; nothing is for free, everything has to be crafted, bought or grown.
As a result most objects in Monster Hunter come from toil. Money comes purely from finishing quests, meaning everyone has everything to play for – constantly. While it’s a different item mechanic to most other games, starting to gather the money and resources to start a hunting career can be tricky, but this doesn’t mean that the game is punishing, it simply takes more patience to get started.
In the beginning the camera can difficult to manage, the individual weapons take some time to register in the memory, the lack of enemy health bar can be a burden. But slowly but surely over the course of each hour things begin to click and Monster Hunter sprinkles you with hope eternal. Be it in the form of your post-battle reward or the rush of success. Suddenly the game becomes less about constant struggle and more about a comfortable dance around your enemies, as you revel in your new-found mastery of both combat and self-sufficiency.
Over time we become master hunters capable of moving between strict professionalism in the face of danger and comic relief, as we fight enemies methodically with the smartest movements between evasion and attack, we move between the role of hunter and player behind the persona with ease; destroying a foe and then returning to laughter, gestures and drinking, relieved to have succeeded, or simply laughing because of how badly we failed.
With a good party not even winning becomes too important, just the idea of completely escaping the normal online pressures of competition.
For the greater good
This represents the sort of online game we should be getting from developers – a simple to play, hard to master challenge supported by a free drop/in out model that is the antithesis of modern MMOs. Monster Hunter comprises a friendly, co-operative community bound together by a common goal – to succeed and to have fun while doing so.
This is Monster Hunter’s addictive element and it helps to create a game that is vastly improved by the quality and character of others playing.
Most of the appeal at the moment surrounds the buzz of the online version, because it’s a game of vivid experiences and memories, this is the sort of game you think about every waking moment, looking back on your time played years after with nothing but the fondest of memories.
Ultimately this is a game of friendship with each person bringing skills to the table, offering a different tactic or approach, and while Monster Hunter Tri is by far the most accessible by quite a margin, the elements of the gameplay still left explained in both this game and previous iterations are clearly meant to be a point of discussion.
Monster Hunter has built up a ferocious reputation for being hard to master, but this is offsetted by the genuine passion its fans have for the game, they are its ambassadors, helping and explaining its intricacies to others so no one is left behind, and that’s the way it should be.
8 replies on “A love letter to the Monster Hunter community”
Monster Hunter Tri has CONSUMED ME!! But yes, as I’ve mentioned before, It’s a total 180 from the online experience I’m use to. I’ve never seen so many polite people randomly playing on the internet. So far Tri is the most satisfying game I’ve played in 2010.
You hint at it in your article and I know that these things are conflated through forums but there seem to be a lot of ”harcore” players out there who aren’t ‘getting’ Monster Hunter Tri. I don’t know if this is because the hype was misleading, because the internet ”hardcore” are all babies (as in young) who never played proper games, or because MH is particularly tricky to get to grips with. Thoughts?
That’s an interesting point Cunzy, I’m not sure its fair to say that Monster Hunter Tri has been surrounded in hype though, certainly not at the level as other big titles this month. I say this because outside of my normal social circles I’m hearing very little about it in the gaming community as a whole, it still feels fairly on the downlow – despite Capcom’s best efforts.
There are certainly lots of new players around though, this can only be a good thing, but yes Monster Hunter is a challenge, the sort of old challenge we’re used to growing up in the 80s and 90s, whether or not todays Wii audience is ready for that sort of challenge is debatable, I would guess that the vat majority aren’t, but those that do persevere will have a miraculous gem of a game to enjoy, and I’m sure many, many veteran MH players are ready to welcome those who are ready to learn.
I suspect if not very many “hardcore” gamers pick this one up it will be because of the massive list of amazing new games coming out this month too, MH for all its joy is a major timesink, and it’s only worth playing if there’s not much left on the gaming calendar to excite.
I don’t want to sound like I’m desperate to prove a point but MHT has been hugely hyped to the max. The Official Nintendo Magazine has almost been the official We Love Monster Hunter Magazine for the last month and a bit. Check the Nintendo Channel on your Wii. There are near enough 30 MHT videos up there. I don’t know if you watch TV a lot but Monster Hunter adverts are coming up more or less with the same once every two ad breaks at prime time frequency that NSMBW did. Now I put a lot more stock in the above meatspace hype than I do in internet hype because internet hype actually gets to real people and costs money but if you are saying you haven’t noticed it maybe the hype has been in the wrong direction? Or maybe the right direction?
True enough. But that’s always been a known quantity to this. Capcom have always stressed that they are keen to market Monster Hunter in the West, they have an X year plan for it in fact. Although it’s a successful and visible marketing campaign has it really developed the sort of hype that you’re talking about? Hype only succeeds if people believe it after all.
Unless I’m mincing words and we actually both mean PR and marketing drive rather than gamer anticipation.
Not at all Cunzy, I always enjoy your feedback. 🙂
Okay fair point. It has been marketed and the PR people have been working overtime but I don’t think this has successfully been exchanged into positive hype. Personally, I was swayed by the marketing because I own MH and have played MH2 and really not been gripped but when next months paycheck drops I will be picking up MHTri. I do think that a lot of the marketing has been a bit misleading, hence my original comment, putting off a lot of players expecting Monster Hunter Tri to be very different. Out of interest what other titles do you perceive to have been hyped this month?
The thing about the marketing is, that none of it was Capcom’s doing. I can’t speak for America, but in Europe, Nintendo were the ones investing in the advertising and marketing, Capcom waived those rights because they felt Nintendo were capable of doing a better job of it, and by and large it seems to have worked.
I honestly can’t speak for the Tri community and the Wii players, as well as newcomers to the series, but being a relative newcomer myself (I only bought Freedom Unite on PSP in the autumn because it was on sale and my friends nagged me :P), I found the internet community to be a massive help for me, regardless of whether I was playing solo, with my friends, or online via Ad-Hoc Party. Minegarde and Reign of the Rathalos are priceless websites in terms of the information they store on weapon upgrades and hunt strategies, but as well as that, it serves as a good meeting point so you can get to know some of the people before you play with them. And when you use voice chat when playing, it’s great to get over the initial nervousness at barking out orders to people you might not know when you know exactly who you’re talking to and you’re comfortable enough with talking to each other and knowing how they get on.
It took me a while to get into it by myself just playing solo, but after playing co-op with friends for a while while learning the ropes around bigger monsters, it was a massive help and really got me into the game. 250 hours later and I don’t regret a single one of them.
I have a Nintendo Wii, I rented this game, and I was hoping to have a better experience with it, but unfortunately I don’t have any friends to talk too online. Most people I met on there did not have Wiispeak.
I had no idea what I was really doing, I returned the game after playing for 4 hours. I think the main issue is that I just don’t have the time to dedicate the amount MH3 is asking for. It’s not a pick up and play game. I’m willing to give it another go though.