I am going to continue talking about Monster Hunter because I’ve spent a good portion of last week playing nothing but Monster Hunter Generations (which I am still going to call MHX because MHGen sounds dumb). Despite the initial slow start, the new styles and changes to the charge blade have intrigued me enough to keep me playing, unlike some other sequel that not only Mankind Divided its fanbase with its shitty marketing schemes and microtransactions, but also Mankind Divided my opinion on it because it is ugly, runs poorly while keeping its great level design and world building.
But talking about divided, there are seriously no games that I love-hate more than the Monster Hunter games. On one hand the game is cheap, or at least it feels cheap at times. Monsters move fast, attack relentlessly and sometimes chain their attacks so fast that your invincibility frames after a knockback aren’t enough to ensure you can dodge the second attack. On a normal size 3DS or New3DS, some monsters take up the entire screen and sometimes you end up looking at a glitched, dark patch instead of what you should be fighting. Some battles make it worse by setting the fights at night and let’s just say the 3DS’s lighting system is not the best. Sight is further obstructed when you are outside and there is natural light shining onto the machine, some battles are null impossible simply because you cannot even see the enemy properly. And in a game like this where i-frames are low, dodges have to be precise, and failure to dodge/block an attack can chain into a series of stun-locks and death (which means losing your buffs, having to run back to the monster and wasting potions, while having an up limit of 3 deaths before the game rules the run as a failure), being unable to see the monster is pretty disastrous.
‘Git gud’ will be most people’s response to my complaints above. And for this game in particular, I may have to agree with the git gudders. On one hand, I hope Capcom gets rid of night battles entirely unless it makes thematic sense for monsters to use the dark to hide themselves, or balance the battle to let non-nocturnal monster to have poorer vision at night too. Perhaps also lower some health bars to let the strength and skillset of the well-designed monsters do their job, instead of making some battles feel like grind like silly old Tetsucabra who just refuses to die despite and does not stop running away to annoy me. On the other hand, there are both in-built and personal ways to mitigate those previously experience setback from the cheapness of the game. The more obvious one of course comes in the acquiring of new armour with new skills to deal with monsters that cause you to stun due to roars or tremors, or negating poison or sleep effects to more easily deal with monsters inflicting those afflictions and exploit their openings when they are stuck in performing those attack animations that have no effect on you. And of course, there is ‘git gud’.
I’ve never liked the term not because it is not true, but because it is used in describing a player’s individual skills in a game inappropriately at times, especially when a game allows you to make a better relatively easier and fairer when you grind for better armour. Secondly, some games do not provide you with the means to ‘git gud’, and it is often more of a case of ‘git better armour’ than ‘git gud’. Soulsborne and Monster Hunter games however, ensures that regardless of what armour you may possess, playing sub-optimally may result in death even if the opponent is not strong.
And that’s what the game is about isn’t it? The monsters are always taller, stronger, faster and most of the time they deal the most damage to you not by firing their special moves, but just simply slamming the body parts into you, falling on you, rolling over you or swipe their paws playfully at you because they are monsters and you are a just a human being. When a Royal Ludroth decides to do its side sushi roll move and because of its weight and much larger body size my human gets crushed anyway if I do not get out of the way, because it makes sense. Monster Hunter is a game that requires attention, focus, and the harder the monster is the more concentration will be required because once again, one wrong dodge can turn into a series of unfortunate events.
And today, I changed up my aggressive tactics and decided to learn how to block with my shield on my charge blade, and my most recent Nargacuga hunt turned into a much more manageable battle. The Nargacuga is a fast-moving cougar-wyvern beast that focuses solely on physical attacks and is quite a pain for a sluggish charge blade user like me. So instead of using the charged-up shield to attack all the time, I guarded when he struck, turned back his assault with energy blast from my shield, and then waited for a chance to launch into a fury of attacks by transforming the sword and shield into a great axe. And if that failed to stun or faze him, I reverted my axe back to sword and shield and played defensively again. This will not work with all monsters, especially those which are slower and allows for me to be more aggressive. The weapons are so well designed in this game and I’d love to learn more of them once I actually manage to master my weapon, which in itself has so many attacks built into it, so many permutations of combos that can be used, and I still screw up my button pressing sometimes because it requires a certain level of muscle memory to make sure I hit the correct button at times.
Speaking for Monster Hunter, I can safely say that the game forces you to react better, have better reflexes, and through practice of the weapon be able to wield it better to make previously impossible battles possible. The core of the gameplay is rooted in the mastery of the systems and mechanics, and not simply learning a monster well by knowing how they telegraph their attacks – because most of the time they just move so fast I feel I’m relying on natural reflexes and skills to fight them than trying to remember and guess how to block/dodge their next attack. Different players may develop different fighting styles depending on their skillset and abilities, and there does not seem to be one absolutely ‘correct’ way to play it. And with that being said, I’m going to get back to playing it now.