For about a decade, gamers were graced with the gift of hunting giant monsters with Capcom's release of Monster Hunter. From that point on, more games with this "hunters vs. the hunted" dynamic started popping up, whether it be hunting a hulking alien creature in Evolve, sorcerers slaying ghosts and ghouls in Soul Sacrifice, or yet another sequel in the famed Monster Hunter series. These games aren't for everyone; they're quite challenging at points, and without any friends, you might have thrown a controller or two across the room as you watch your character get trampled, smashed, mashed or any past tense verb that results in a game over screen.
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So, what makes these types of games interesting to me? For starters, players are given the chance to take a giant sword and cleave through these massive monsters. If there is a giant sword and anime hair involved, I will usually like the game. Just take note, there is a huge difference between how giant your sword is, and how massive these monsters usually are, and I think that's one of the main pulls to these games. You, as a player, control this normal-sized person with nothing but a bone sword to take down this very large fire-breathing or spiked tail-swinging creature; the game challenges you to go against the odds. I would hope that in the event of a real monster attack, one would bring more than just a giant sharp comb-looking piece of bone to kill it. I mean, props to you if you succeed, but I won't be around long to see that happen regardless.
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And there are a lot of odds: the game is constantly throwing new monsters just begging for the player to carve off its shiny pelt or scales. Monster Hunter provides players with the chance to take down tons of colorful and creative monsters that have surprisingly adapted to their environment too well. Not only do these game designers come up with some of the coolest creature concepts I've ever seen, but they continue to expand on their already massive collection with each new installment in their series. Most of the monsters in Monster Hunter were created with a direction towards not only how they would attack an enemy, but how they interact with their environment. Some are given large horns which they will run players down with, while others use their head as a weapon; bashing their skull or chin wherever they see danger. Some will even use their wings to push players away before blasting them with a fireball. They also take the time to eat smaller monsters if their stamina is low. All of these monsters know what tools they have to kill you, and they will use them in any way they want just to make sure you pull out whatever pointy end you stuck in them. A typical survival instinct of most animals.
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Not only do these games boast a very high learning curve, but players get a taste of progression as each rank brings you to rarer monsters, and the rarer they get, the stronger they become (in most cases). Not only that, but you usually get access to more materials to make deadlier weapons, increase your repertoire of spells, or gain more experience to bring you your character up to snuff and on par with these monsters. Of course, you will find yourself in sticky situations when you bring a fire weapon to fight a monster coated in lava, or you don't bring enough healing items, spells, etc., the game pushes you to rely on your skill and knowledge of the enemy to take it down. Preparation for each mission is key, whether you have the right equipment, or you got that perfect meal in before the fight. Critics argue that the repetitiveness of doing mission after mission makes the game slow. Early gathering missions and fighting the occasional small fry might make the beginning a bit of a stretch, and the bigger enemies might overwhelm you with your rank one gear. As you continue to play the games, and fell each foe, you'll notice your skills at playing the game will get better; you will recognize monster attack patterns, and know what move to execute next. It's nice to see when you get better at something, but this game really gives you the chance to show off everything you've got.
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While these games are fine and dandy, most of them suffer from a fallback that, depending on the person, might force one's hand to cut the power to the system. To get that one piece of armor you need to finish the set, or if you want to make that large katana that will stroke your gaming ego, you're going to have to grind to get that one material you need. Most of these games provide players with a chance to get different materials upon killing (or capturing) their foe, but that's if you're lucky. With Monster hunter, you could be grinding away on the same monster, again and again, for hours, and you might not get that two percent-chance drop that your terribly lucky friend has four of, at which point you kick him out of your apartment in a blind fit of rage. In Soul Sacrifice's case, if you take almost no damage and complete the mission under a certain time, you will get good loot, and in Toukiden, you can get various parts from the different demons you face, so most of these games follow the same formula. It puts players into cycle of repetitive boss battles that can break one's stride by forcing boredom upon them. One easy counter to this, I've found, is to have friends with a lot of patience.
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Or, not so much patience as it is to have a friend willing to help out. Across most of these hunting games, gamers will have more fun if they're playing with a full party. The challenge of taking down this giant dragon, crab, whale, etc. is lessened to a degree with the help of your best pals. It strengthens a special bond between buddies every time there's that one near-death dodge roll, or that one successful trap that landed you the capture. You get the right to brag about it all you want, and while some people may have friends that wallow in their jealousy of your glorious achievements, most others will think you did something cool, which for most games, doing something cool can be kind of nice and new; don't worry, it's good to feel nice, especially after you're carving incredibly shiny and valuable scales off a corpse that tried to drown you when it was among the realm of the living.
Now these games are only heading in a new direction. With the reveal of Evolve, gamers are introduced to a new concept: the player is the monster. We get this sense of innovation, as if the concept of hunters and prey are evolving themselves. Monster Hunter games can bring more large and fierce monsters, and more creative weapons that will be incredibly painful to whatever is on the receiving end. Other games can learn from the image that Evolve has set up by giving players a chance to be the bigger hunter, allowing a more unpredictable and enjoyable future of hunting.
I will say, these games are fun by yourself, but being a loner for too long might ruin the experience. Tackling these great beasts with friends really brings out the best of the gaming experience. While there might be times where you want to kill each other, at the end of the day, you'll all most likely and hopefully be satisfied with the adventure you you just put up with for the past four hours just to get that certain material. I think everyone should at least give these hunting games a shot, and if they’re not the games for you, then don't play them. Let me know what you think of these games in the comments section below.
Stay gold, everyone.