I’ve been playing Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate with a friend lately, and I got to thinking about the design of it. I bought the game back in June or July when it was on sale, but never really got around to playing it until now due to real life events. My friend was willing to start a new character, so we started plowing through the game’s multiplayer hunts. It really does have an appeal that few to no other games manage, and I think I’ve figured out a few reasons why.
One of those reasons is that Monster Hunter largely cuts out the baggage with it’s design. It’s a very streamlined setup. You prepare, you fight a monster, you kick it’s ass, you get your precious loot to make better gear, and then you prepare to go kick a more powerful monster’s ass. This feedback loop is very simple and very addicting. The satisfaction of beating a monster never really gets old, because there’s a lot of unique monsters to hunt, each with their own attacks and patterns. The four on one nature of multiplayer also gives it a very David vs Goliath feel, as you tackle on foes that are frequently many times taller.
Another reason is also because of the variety in the skills and weapons you get to pick from. For those unfamiliar with Monster Hunter, there are currently 16 types of weapons as of the latest installment. Each weapon has a completely different handling, which often changes up your playing style. My current preferred weapon is the Hammer, which I can go to town with powerful stunning combos, as well as aerial attacks. Before that, I was fond of the Lance, for it’s defensive properties and allowing me to poke the enemy and play a safe game.
But what really adds to this are the dozens and dozens of skills on the armors. Each armor has points set aside for specific skills, and if you earn enough points in a skill (usually by equipping an entire set of matching armor), then you the skill activates for your character. Combined with the 16 different weapon types, this offers an insane amount of choices for a player. Perhaps you want to take the aforementioned Lance and play super defensive? Or maybe you want to use Sword and Shield while using a skill that lets you chow down on mushrooms for benefits? An aerial style with the Hammer or Great Sword with a skill that makes you good at mounting enemies? The combinations are endless, and the game encourages trying out every style.
Lastly, Monster Hunter is just devoid of the nonsense that tends to plague similar games, especially MMORPGs. This goes back to the first point about the no baggage aspect. There’s no mandatory filler quests, no absurd level grind, no awkward daily quests for a massive reward, no mandatory weekly lockout on loot. This makes it very easy to get into, once you get past it’s (admittedly intimidating) rules.
Sure, Monster Hunter isn’t perfect. Capcom had issues figuring out the online multiplayer aspect at first, especially in installments before Monster Hunter 3. And the franchise has frequently been neglected to handhelds that aren’t a good fit for western markets. Plus we missed out on a key online enabled installment on the PS2, and for whatever reason only got their local-play only equivalents on the PSP instead.
But it’s getting better all the time. Most of the installments are getting English releases now, and Capcom has improved their online play with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter Generations. It’s very easy to get into a game, even if you don’t have a lot of friends
I’m hyped for Monster Hunter World, which finally seems to be a proper high definition installment, and all the improvements that come with that. I can’t wait to play it with all of my friends. Maybe once day I’ll be able to hunt with you too?