Monster Hunted is sometimes what this game becomes as the cougar-wyvern stun locks me into a chain of attacks until I am finally crushed by its deadly claw. It is not always fair, and apart from some truly amazing hunters out there, I’m sure everyone gets their buttons wrong from time to time. And here I am again, after running back to the position my paintball pinpoints, drinking my demondrug and sharpening my weapon, the game to determine the hunter and the hunted begins anew.
My thumb is hurting from the non-stop multitask fiddling of the c-stick and d-pad, and the right thumb even busier because a wrong click of the four buttons means life and death. B A B A R+A R+X B B X+A…R Y Hold R B A B B B B A R+A B R A X X A A c-stick back+X B A A A B A X+A X+A B A. That’s about the work it does in 30 seconds to a minute, sometimes continuously. The Charge Axe rolls up for a Super Charge, and this time I failed to pull back the c-stick on time, or perhaps X is stuck, and it turns into a Hyper Charge and my shield stops glowing red. And shit goes down. The Nargacuga leaps back, he is coming from the back from a claw swipe that I could have easily blocked with my charged shield. But now that I do not have it, I instead leap to the side then run in again, and pray I can quickly land a few blows to charge up the shield again. But on this jump, I land on its back! Normally this will be a good thing, but with the axe uncharged and having no phials to prepare for bursts, this mount is wasted as I will spend the 10 seconds after it topples doing insignificant damage to get back into fighting form.
The combo, the timing, the dodges, the jumps, the switching of weapons, the blocks and the escapes – everything needs to be precise. In the hunt, I do not listen to music except for the ones the game provides, which are tuned soft enough so that my better hearing can make up for my sluggish eyes that can never seem to catch up with the beast’s tail strike. This reminds me of the waterfall escape level in Ori, and the massive rooms with two Barons of Hell and five Pinkies in Doom. This is the moment where pin drops become disturbance. This is a rush of blood unlike any other, as it denies sweat from falling, heart from beating and stomach from churning because, again, breathing too loudly is too much of a distraction.
And suddenly, I am have entered the Trance. A state of absolute clear-mindedness where the entire world stops moving except for me, my cats, and at three times my speed, my prey… or predator? It strikes, the claw slams into my glowing shield and it is fazed for a second from the impact. There is now an opening to strike! It all depends on this moment, this swing, this time I got the timing right and the Super does not deplete all my phials. The monster is stunned! R+X is pressed once more, and with the final blow I deliver another X+A with c-stick back and X at the right time on its head. The monster wails in pain, but my Najarala armour comes with protection against roar attacks. As this moment becomes yet another opening, I leap to the air and strike a powerful blow onto its head again, a deep crack appears on its skull and I know, the tables have turned. The monster flees, and in its escape, I notice it has begun limping. L X X X X X X. It is time for some shock trap treatment.
By this time, I ease my focus a little knowing that the battle is pretty much won. I turn to look at the clock, 20 minutes have passed since I entered the trance but honestly, it felt like just a split second when all that happened.
Some have argued these forms of fights are outward expression of masochism. But I feel the contrary is true. Monster Hunter is a tale of achieving greatness through mediocrity. It is a ladder climbed by doers, adventurers and winners. Compared to the majestic beast, I am but an insect that can literally be killed just by having it fall on me and crushing me with its weight. But the human, armed with tools crafted from his previous preys, who also overpowered him easily in terms of strength, speed and size but were beaten with his skills and wits, is going to take that natural advantage and turn it against the beast. Every time he swings his axe he makes sure it leaves a scar, and every time the beast dares strikes it runs his tail into an elemental burst that burns its scales. If the beast hits him once, he makes sure he strikes at the beast 10 times to repay the damage. To bring down an enemy that you seem to have absolute disadvantage against, it is not a desire for pain, torture, insult and injury, but an adventure for glory, for satisfaction, to fulfil your insatiable hunger for battle and entertain your sadistic heart to see a stronger beast suffer. Whatever he lacks in power, he makes up for it in tactics, preparations and sheer willpower. And the larger creature that looks down on you, it does not understand the focus that is required, it does not possess the ability to stop the world around it – it cannot enter the Trance, the Trance that transforms the human into the unbeatable, the unwavering, the hunter. What does he, the hunter, answers then, he is being called a masochist? Simply answer: I did not come here to lose, I come here to steal fire from the Gods and bring down the Dragons that think they rule Hell and Heaven.