Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate reviews are dropping in Europe now. Series virgin Dave Cook charts his journey from lame pig-hugger to fierce beast killer.
I had never played a Monster Hunter game before last week. I went into Capcom’s latest entry a complete noob but quickly became drawn into its colourful JRPG world, addictive resource gathering and extensive beast-slaying quests. I’m enjoying it so far.
Just like I did with Guild Wars 2, I’ve decided to chart my progress from the very first quest, right up to the point I feel comfortable to talk about the game properly, I’ll be tracking my thoughts right here.
But this time I’ve also created a little video diary that shows off some of the game’s key mechanics. The clip shows me slaying dinosaurs with the biggest sword ever, getting myself head-butted by a pig wearing a nappy and making myself sick by eating raw meat. Check it out first then read on.
As I began exploring the game’s grand world, I started to understand why I had shied away from previous Monster Hunter games for so long. It’s because they appeared to have a lot in common with MMOs, with sprawling worlds, multiplayer elements and a lot of grinding. As it happens I was dead wrong.
You can play the whole game solo if you want, and while it could use improved sign-posting, your first tasks are doled out in bite-sized chunks that teach you the game’s fundamentals as you go. It’s really not as intimidating as I first thought.
The game kicks off in a small fishing community that is frequently attacked by a giant sea monster called Lagiacrus. Your overarching quest is to slay the beast, but you need to clear a ton of quests before the final showdown.
As a fan of JRPGs, I found that the first village had a lot of classic charm. Town exploration is very much in effect as you chat with NPCs, visit shops and run errands for residents in need. There’s even a cat pirate that can ferry you to top-tier hunts in his boat.
While these missions are tough the rewards are large, but I didn’t dare hop on the vessel as I’d have been slaughtered in moments. So like a wimp I took to fighting herbivores with a giant Bone Sword that took me a lot of stamina to swing. I then realised that the game’s combat has much in common with Dark Souls.
Stamina is linked to combat and your character’s strength. Attempt to carry a heavy weapon and your hunter will lumber around exhausted, taking a long time to launch attacks. This leaves you open to damage from faster enemies. I decided to switch to play it safe and equip my lighter katana instead.
After defeating a herd of dinosaurs I ventured deeper into a nearby cove. It was littered with resource points full of mushrooms and herbs just waiting to be picked. You quickly grab an abundance of crafting items lying around the world, so it helps that your hunter has deep pockets.
You’re always getting new items from dead creatures or plant-life, and in a weird way it gave me a sense of reward and progression. You can also pick up whetstone that can be used to sharpen your weapon. I quickly realised that my katana was growing dull with each hit and that it needed to be repaired every so often.
I’m not sure if weapons can actually break – as I wasn’t told either way – but that’s the kind of added pressure I’m not a fan of in RPGs. Luckily I found whetstone regularly, so keeping my sword sharp in the early areas was easy.
After clumsily fighting a pack of nimble raptors, I came across the village elder’s son, who was trying to rebuild the area’s damaged guild camp. Ravaged by earthquakes, the site needs repaired to unlock new hunts and a new base where I could manage my character and collectibles.
Strangely, I could only change my weapon and armour at the fishing village. I hoped that this new camp would let me switch up my gear without having to trek back and forth all the time. Unfortunately I hadn’t set up the camp by the time I wrote this blog.
I’ll go into greater detail on these mechanics in my second blog, as this instalment is purely a first impressions piece. I have to admit that while the colourful visuals feel a tad dated, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate delivers the kind of charm JRPG fans will enjoy.
It’s full of odd quirks, such as a strange cooking minigame that sees your hunter roasting raw meat on a spit as cheesy ‘muzak’ plays in the background. At one point I hugged a pig wearing a nappy for too long. It got agitated and head-butted me to the ground before running off squealing. It’s hilarious.
Capcom recently expressed hope that the game could bring Monster Hunter to a wider audience, and I think the recent success of Ni No Kuni and the resurgence of JRPGs in general could see the publisher’s hopes come to pass.
I’m enjoying it so far, but it’s about time I stopped fighting herbivores and small creatures and moved on to bigger, more deadly beasts. That’s exactly what I intend on doing in part two of my blog. Stay tuned to see how I handle the challenge.
Disclosure: To assist in writing this blog, Nintendo sent Dave a copy of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on Wii U. No advertising or merchandise was offered or accepted.
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