GOTM: Monster Hunter 3 Tri

When Monster Hunter Tri was announced for Wii, I hadn’t heard of the Monster Hunter phenomenon.  I was only glad to hear that a AAA (or at least AA) third-party title was finally announced for the system, and that it was something I would be moderately interested in.

I’m conflicted in a way about Monster Hunter; fundamentally, it’s a game that’s quite similar to Shadow of the Colossus: Much of the time, you’re fighting something much bigger than you, gradually chipping away at the right places and avoiding its spiny parts.  It also requires a good deal more teamwork, preparation, thought, and luck.  But as a consequence, it is incredibly slow to progress.

Part of Monster Hunter’s appeal is its realistic-ish approach to items; you go out into the wilderness and collect bugs, mine ore, and kill/skin monsters to gather ingredients for powerful weapons and armor.  More powerful armor can only be made by killing large, powerful monsters (the primary focus of the game).  This often makes for a chicken-and-egg issue; the best armor to fight an enemy in is crafted from its hide, scales, horns, and various nasty organs.  The pacing works out in its favor, though, because by the time you know all of a monster’s moves, you are also in the best position equipment-wise to fight it.

Speaking of equipment, it’s the only way you can actually progress.  There is no leveling for hunters, so only things you acquire (both in terms of equipment and knowledge) allow you to move further in the game. Ultimately it ends up being similar to leveling; progress may be slow, but there are multiple options. Each set of armor has a predefined set of skills (such as increased resistances, increased weapon sharpness, the ability to sense when a monster may be captured, and so on), along with sockets to place gems in for tweaking of that predefined set. For example, 90% of the time I am wearing a charm which allows me to sense when monsters can be captured, because it often cuts hunts shorter by a minute or more and yields much improved rewards.

Knowledge is by far the most important thing you will gain as you progress in the game. I have turned from a novice hunter, who can only slash wildly at the Great Jaggi as it approaches, to a canny, intermediate hunter capable of using flash-bombs, dung-bombs, both types of traps, and under certain circumstances the barrel-bomb. I know the weaknesses of several types of monsters (which includes which parts can be broken/severed; often it’s tail and head, but many monsters also have vulnerable wings) as well as their primary forms of attack. Preparedness is key; with the wrong set of armor, or even the wrong set of auxiliary items, an otherwise simple hunt might become impossible.

Yet, despite logging over 120 hours in the game, I still find continual challenge. Although all “normal rank” monsters have fallen to my blade (or hammer), I have yet to fight any “high rank” monsters past the Rathian. There remain yet two monsters I haven’t beaten at all, one of which I haven’t actually seen. That said, the grind once high rank is reached is atrocious, and most gamers will probably not find the satisfaction of high-rank hunts worth it.

Most gamers, judging by online mode, do not care enough to figure out how the skill system works. Though it may be a cop-out, this game isn’t for them.  It’s perfect for a highly-dedicated, slow-paced action gamer who is conscious of strategy and places a high value on preparedness. The first part may not be me, but I do enjoy the last ones.

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