Elite Hunter – A Monster Hunter Tri-report

May 26, 2010

This is unbelievably for myself, but it really did happen: I have played Monster Hunter Tri for 120 hours now. There is no other action-adventure-like video game that I´ve ever played for this massive amount of time. Maybe if I add up all my playthroughs of Ocarina of Time, but even that is highly doubtful. And just to be clear: 120 hours of fun. This is not a play-time that resulted from filler or boring, tedious tasks. It is a hundred percent fun-time. Oh well, it´s less fun when you die, but that´s part of becoming an elite hunter – which I became.

At this point I´m about to grant MH3 the title of “Game with the best learning curve”. I remember when I was at hunter rank 8 and thought “wow, you´re starting to get it”. Then, when I reached HR16, I looked at other HR8-players and thought of them as beginners. When I reached HR21, I felt like I was finally there. And thought of HR16-players as beginners. And now I´m HR34 and I don´t look at other players at beginners – rather, I´m looking at myself, asking “when will I stop being a beginner?”. Even though I got the elite hunter-rank when I reached HR31, tough challenges keep coming. And I´m out there to overcome them all. I know I will.

No problem now

In my previous report I wrote how Barioth and Diablos were my next goal. I can but laugh at these two now. Well, Diablos can be annoying at times, but he´s not the deadly thread anymore he once was. And Barioth? When I first met him, I thought “wow, you´ll never be able to fight this wild, fast beast”. And now I´ve beat him many, many times and it´s a fun hunt instead of stressful, unnerving one. And that´s not all. I´ve also overcome the two highest-ranked monsters available for me to choose: Uragaan and Agnaktor. Uragaan ist one heavy tank of a monster. As a sword and shield-user I can only attack its feet and a small part of its tail. But that´s okay. I´ve learned his attack patterns, his movement, and I know when to retreat. He´s got a lot of health, but will eventually die. And then there´s Agnaktor, who´s higher ranked than Uragaan, but actually a lot easier to deal with, at least in my opinion. But fighting him is pure fun. Especially as a Zelda-fan. For anyone not familiar with MH3: Agnaktor is like Volvagia on speed. Glowing of hot lava, shooting a lava beam at you and digging himself into the ground, only to rise up into the air. As with any monster, you have to pay attention, but he´s really not that hard.

It´s Volvagia! No, Agnaktor!

For all the time I spent playing MH3, I exclusively used the sword and shield. That´s what I am, a sword and shield-user. But I´ve learned to add certain actions into my play-style to be more effecient. I know that I´m not the one that does huge damage to the monsters. But I´m fast. I´m agile. I can do some quick damage here and there, and be out of the monster´s reach before it launches its attack. I use an Azu Dahaki, so I also try to paralyze monsters. And when I do, I back away, giving my fellow hunters the necessary space for their high damage-attacks. But I´m not just waiting while they´re going for the core damage. My nickname is “Tail Cutter”, and that´s my business. Using the un-sheath attack, I jump at any monster´s tail, trying to chop it off. And I´m pretty successful with that. Sword an shield-users are pretty rare in the high ranks of MH3, but I really grew to love my role, where I can function as an overseeing hunter, doing what´s needed, instead of just going for the damage. And whenever I have one, I bring a healing horn with me to heal fellow hunters. I´m sure that all weapons offer very fun, individual possibilities. But to me, sword and shield is the way to go.

The future prey - Deviljho

Now that I´ve no problem defeating Agnaktor and Uragaan anymore, one might want to say “now you´re not a beginner anymore, right?” But then I would have to disagree. Because just last time, when I fought a high level-Qurupeco, something happened. A monster I´ve never seen before appeared before me and my group. It was the biggest non-Jhen Morahn monster I´ve ever seen. And it scared me. No monster managed to scare me before, not the furious dragon Rathalos, not the annoying underwater monster Gobul, and not even Diablos with his devil-like horns. But this giant reptile, without any special features, did scare me. And I´m looking forward to the day when I´ll have to engage a real fight against it. I feel like this is the next challenge. The next step in my hunter-adventure. It´s the hunt for Deviljho.



May 25, 2010

In a recent argument on the web, fans of RPG-games heavily argued about what makes an RPG an RPG. That typically developed into the usual WRPG vs JRPG-discussion. Each of these, western and eastern RPGs, feature very different contents, focus on totally different key aspects. But what is it that makes us call them “role playing games”?

Most popular example on the WRPG-side is Mass Effect 2, the second act in the ME-trilogy, released earlier this year. The argument started when some people criticized Mass Effect 2 for having abandoned most of its predecessors RPG-traits and devolved into just another action-shooter. It´s needless to say that JRPG-supporters hopped onto that opinion. That lead me to thinking about what it actually is, this…”role playing game”.

In my opinion, role playing means that I am actively playing part in a game. For example, where in a shooter like Call of Duty I´m just following scripted events, in games like Oblivion or Mass Effect I´m actively influencing how the game proceeds. I can change it. Make decisions. Some bigger, some smaller. That´s what role playing, to me, is about: Creating your own adventure by playing a role within the game.

JRPG-fans now seem to have a completely different view at things. There seems to be a connection between the term “RPG” and these typical minigame-like combat-systems that JRPGs have. And stats. And grinding. And random encounter. And so on. Here, RPG describes game mechanics. However, there´s also some JRPG-fans that would explain “role playing” to mean “playing the role of a pre-defined character”. Like “you cannot influence anything, you are just playing this character and guide him though his role”. Both of these views are heavily flawed as far as I see it.

Tying certain gameplay details to the term RPG is turning the term ad absurdum. RPG means role playing game. There is absolutely no connotation of what kind of game mechanics that means. Secondly, calling the guiding of a pre-defined character through a set story role playing also ridicules the terms meaning. If that´s what a RPG is, then almost all games out there would be RPGs. See Call of Duty. It still can see how someone could use the term RPG in that way, coming from tradition. But where it gets really ludicrous is when people try to take away that term from a game like Mass Effect 2.

I think I´ve never before played a game where MY decisions allowed me to experience an adventure that individualized. When a player reaches the end of ME2, everything up to this point will have been his personal experience. There is an overarching story, sure, but it is all the different attitudes you can choose from that really bring your Shepard to life. It´s true that ME2 left a lot of ME1´s typical RPG-mechanics, and I hope we´ll get back some of them for ME3, but at the same time, ME2 was such a great role playing-game in the very meaning of this term that I couldn´t care less. In ME2, I became Shepard. I influenced how I talked to people, how I proceeded the story, how I changed the story depending on my very choices. I think I wrote that in my ratio-article about ME2, but ME2 really felt like a “true” RPG. Because IF there is any kind of game mechanic that should be associated to the term RPG, it is choice.

LOST – So am I

May 22, 2010

On special occasions, I talk about stuff that isn´t really related to video gaming. Now is such a special occasion. This sunday, May 23rd 2010, the LOST-tv show will end. The last episode of season 6 is going to air. This will not only mark the end of one, if not the, best tv-shows ever being aired. It will also mark the end of six years of following this unique, once-in-a-lifetime show. Lost will find its end. And leave us lost?

It all started oh so innocent, yet surely dramatic. An ordinary plane crashes while flying over an island inmidst of the vast sea. Many people die, but many survive. One of them being Jack Shepard, a young genius doctor who doesn´t hesitate to use his skills for helping the wounded people around him. Time flies by and Jack finds himself in the position of the leader of the survivors. Now, it´s all about getting off the island. The group stays at the beach, hoping for search teams finding them. But after days and days without any sign, rather than getting in contact with an outside-source, they have to start caring about their survival. Water, to be more clear. One group stays at the beach, one enters the dense island´s jungle. It is only a bit later when  sympathetic fatso Hurley finds out that there´s one person within the group that doesn´t belong to them – An Other.

Instead of simply surviving until someone comes to pick them up, they survivors find themselves confronted with a much more real danger. The Others, as they are called, attempt to kidnap pregnant Claire. They succeed, but Claire can get away. When Jack and Co. don´t agree with that, the Others threaten to kill one survivor each day they´re not getting Claire. By setting up a trap, including the guns of a dead police marshall, they can get a hold of Ethan, one of the Others – and rockstar Charlie kills him, in an attempt of making sure that Claire´s safe. This marks the start of permanent fear and fighting against the Others – whoever they really are.

As if those unknown people weren´t dangerous enough, there is more to the island: Smokey. The mysterious smoke-monster seemingly appears at random  and doesn´t hesitate to kill whomever is in its way. As the survivor´s find out later, the Others found ways to keep Smokey away, by using an electro-magnetic fence. The Others actually are members of the Dharma-corporation that does certain research-projects on the island. For some reason, all pregnant women on the island die. They´re trying to find out why. In the meantime, some of the leading characters of the survivors are caught by the Others. Jack, Sawyer and Kate are being brought to another island next to where they crashed on. They manage to escape and after lots more of hardships, finally they have contact to a rescue team. It is when this so-called rescue team arrives that everything starts going upside down.

The LOST-series managed to develop from its innocent beginnings into one of the most dramatic and fantastic shows ever. Not only have fans all over the world no clue what the ending will be like. The producers and actors managed to develop a cast of characters that are so likable and interesting that you cannot help but care for them. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Happiness, anger, the LOST-series had every emotion you could think of.

I´m here, trying to type some more things about the LOST-series, but I have to admit that I have teary eyes when I think of how all that is coming to an end now. This was not just any TV-show. It was an experience. Something that won´t be repeated that soon. If at all. Six years, drama, twists and emotions – that was LOST. And all I can do now is finish this blog-entry with my favorite quote from my favorite character of the show. A character that really was the hero of the show, and I can but hope that he won´t be forgotten once the finale episode is running:

“Don´t you tell me what I can´t do”

– John Locke

Goodbye, LOST, thank you for an amazing experience for over six years.

New Pokémon in motion – Battle animations

May 16, 2010

Pokemon Sunday revealed the first footage of how the Pokemon are appearing in the new game´s battle-mode. Instead of still sprites, there seem to be several ways for each Pokemon to move, as well as an idle-animation. Besides the new monster Zoruark, you can see Raikou as well as the three starter Pokemon, Tsutaja, Pokabu and Mijumaru.

Pokemon Black & White-battle – video

Personally, I´m very disappointed at how sterile and non-dynamic the combat still looks. Then again, it IS an improvement over previous installments of the series. At least the upcoming Pokemon-movie looks good.

Still Hunting – A Monster Hunter Tri-report

May 13, 2010

No other game has you playing for so long and still feeling like you´re only at the beginning of the game – that´s the quint essence of Monster Hunter Tri. After almost 80 hours of hunting, I am used to many monsters´ fighting-style. I know how to move according to their moves. I don´t forget to bring a basic equipment to each quest. And my armor and weapon is better. But it feels as if the real challenges are only coming now. And oh boy, they ARE challenging.

Offline-mode is where I rest, where I think about what I want to do next. I have to kill Lagiacrus, the cover art-monster. It wouldn´t be my first Lagiacrus, I killed several online, and the offline-versions of monsters are a lot easier to defeat. But I left that quest be and chose to spend my time online. And it was a great time. Only recently did I start to kill Rathalos – the definitive air dragon monster. My former armor, the Ludroth-armor, was really weak against this tough guy. He´d stop me with one of his monstrous screams, and if I was unlucky – which I was several times – he´d charge at me before I could move out of the way and one-hit-ko´ed me. Very frustrating, but maybe a sign that I simply had no choice but to get better armor. That really happened after I tried Uragaan. Haha, no chance. I attempted him with two guys from my friendlist, but after dying twice I wrote them “can you make it or is it okay to fail?”, and they answered “just fail”. Ha, that´s both nice and mean at the same time. But thanks to this attempt I´ve now made up my mind to create myself a full set of Rathalos-armor, and I already have one piece.

Finding random players to do mission in the Hunter Rank 23-range where I´m at proved to be difficult. Either I find complete beginners with a low rank, or complete experters with HR30 or higher. But somehow I always find some, and the friends I made early in the game keep returning for doing some quests. Today, I helped a friend that was HR5 to reach HR8. Did some Royal Ludroths and I have to admit, it was great fun to return to these early quests. That Royal Ludroth couldn´t stay alive much longer than two minutes with all of use slashing into his enormous body. Not even mentioning how fast his tail fell off. And when I played offline a little later, I randomly killed a Great Jaggi and Rathian while running around in Moga Forest – and it felt great to dominate these former boss-monsters just like that, just because I was in the mood to hunt them, not because of some mission I had to do.

All these near 80 hours I played as a sword and shield-user. But just from watching other players I realize how very different the other weapons are. And it makes me, once again, realize how little I have seen of this truly magnificent game. The Great Sword with it´s power, but slow slashes. The long sword that´s faster, but still limits your movement. The lance that is best used in close-combat. The hammer that cannot cut but is great for damaging monsters´ heads. And the morph-axe that I have no idea about. And then there´s the bow-gun that completely changes everything. That is the kind of expansive content that Monster Hunter Tri offers.

My current goals are to defeat a Barioth and to master fighting Diablos. While the former is a real hassle to fight, fast, strong and never standing still, the latter has got the most terrifying scream of all monsters I met so far. But now that I have my new piece of armor I feel more confident. And I know, one day he won´t stand a chance against me anymore – and I´ll have to overcome the overwhelming power of another monster.

Exploration a la Xenoblade

May 6, 2010

You never can be sure when developers praise their own games. In the case of Xenoblade they didn´t lie. “We want the player find a certain spot and simply enjoy the look of the environment“. From simply watching the following trailer, called “Field Introduction“, this appears to be proven now.

Xenoblade-Field Introduction – trailer

The scale of Xenoblade´s world is enormous. Not only is it big, but it looks alive, natural. And enemies aren´t mindless attackers, no, they seem to actually live, walk around, and ignore you. The game isn´t an all around fine looking game, but where you see short comings in the character-models, you see where Monolithsoft spent their resources on. And even though I realize that I´m getting annoying: Will Zelda Wii be able to top this sense of exploration?

The Hunt is on – A Monster Hunter Tri-report

May 5, 2010

Monster Hunter Tri for Nintendo´s Wii-system is out for about two weeks now. As a newcomer to the franchise, I didn´t know if I´d like the combat-mechanics (no lock-on) or the purely mission-based gameplay-style without any deeper story. Now, I´ve played 51 hours…and I won´t stop playing anytime soon.

Maybe the reason why I like MH3 that much is because it shows what games are actually capable of. When you look around, all your typical hype-games are around 10 hours now. Latest example would be Alan Wake. Years of hype, 10 hours of playing. That just sucks in itself. And before you get started on the whole “but I´d rather have a tight, fun 10 hour game than a 30 hour-game with lots of filler”. Well, MH3 is, so far, a 50 hour-game of tight, fun times. And it´s so much more of an accomplishment to create a game that long, while being that much fun.

So what did I do in these 51 hours? You may have guessed that, but as a Zelda-fanatic, my weapon of choice was the sword´n shield. It´s considered a beginners weapon, but once I climbed up the ladder towards the higher star-ranking quests, I hardly met other s´n s-users anymore, so, assuming that people choose those big, high-damage dealing weapons like great sword, long sword or hammer, it makes the s´n s both a beginner´s and an expert´s weapon, as you have to land a lot more hits on a monster. But that´s who I am: A sword´n shield-user.

After the initial tutorial-like missions in offline-mode, like collecting mushrooms or Kelbi-horns, I finally looked into online-mode after I killed my first Great Jaggi offline. Don´t misunderstand that, MH3 is great fun offline, too. But it´s the online-mode that makes it a complete game. I have to say that I never saw a community of an online-game that was so enjoyable. You hardly meet idiots online. Sure, sometimes there´s a silly one that takes more than just one potion and ration (hello, my friend, four peope = one potion and ration for each one!), but in general, MH3-players are great guys (and girls?). While there is a friend-list, I often simply join unknown people and it works out, too. There´s a great sense of supporting each other. Sure, at Hunter Rank 14 I´m well beyond collecting 14 unique mushrooms or killing a single Great Jaggi. But if I meet a beginner online, I don´t hesitate to help him on these quests. Why wouldn´t I, I was where he/she was, too. Where the game really shines, though, is when you go on a mission that´s challenging you, accompanied by three people around your own level of skills. Beating your first Barroth at HR9, or tackling a Rathian later on, is just great stuff. And people are forgiving. As long as you don´t do stupid stuff like collecting stuff from a cut-off tail while the monster is still in the same area, even failing a mission won´t upset anyone. It´ll be taken as additional experience, so mistakes can be avoided the next time. And when you actually succeed, it´s that much more good-feeling.

I´l conclude this report now, as I plan to write more about Monster Hunter Tri at a later time. Just one thing I wanted to throw out there: Never before did a game make me feel like a beginner after 51 hours of play-time, and never before did that feel so good.