It’s Tuesday morning. I just woke up in front of my computer, clutching a 3Ds, with about 50 tabs open in my browser. The last thing I remember it was Sunday afternoon. I was playing video games with some friends. I open up the 3Ds to find I’ve logged 30 hours in a game called `Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate.’ It all comes back in an instant, my head flooded with images of tossing paintballs, jumping onto monsters, and forging a giant toy box full of sharp objects.
MH4U is the newest installment in Capcom’s decade old Monster Hunter franchise, to which I am completely new. I’ve been told tales of greatness since its first entry on PS2, but wasn’t compelled until recently to actually start playing. As a long time lover of hoarding gear in multiplayer RPGs I was delighted to find a rich combat experience in a game that’s kind of like a dungeon crawler, but offers something completely novel.
There’s a lot that you’d expect here. Equipment can be created or upgraded from quest rewards. Armor sets provide skill points, and the weapons offer deep upgrade trees with lots of variety. The type of weapon you choose will dictate your combat style and the combos you will use. Once a monster is dead, it can be `carved,’ which is Monster Hunter’s way of saying it can be looted. You can use the loot to upgrade your weapons so you can kill new monsters, rinse and repeat.
What makes Monster Hunter stand out from other loot grinds is the nature of the grind itself. You’re not engaged in a mindless click fest where the only contest is to see if your equipment is bigger than a crowd of ugly brutes. Before you can beat the loot pinata, you’ll need to find it and mark it. Once marked, you can track its movement on the minimap. A single encounter can lead you all over the map as monsters flee to recover and hunters re-engage (or vice versa!). With a group of friends these battles can feel like heroic boss battles in World of Warcraft; in Monster Hunter however, the bosses roam all over the instance and it’s your job to hunt them.
Multiplayer is the main event, and the colosseum is sure to be packed. Hunting gets a lot more fun with friends. Up to 4 people can quest together online, and it adds depth to the fights. Gear alone will not guarantee prosperity; players need to work together and know the monsters behavior to succeed. Working together to properly position and distract the monster can be the difference between an efficient kill and spectacular failure. Friends can also help farm items from bosses who are just out of reach by yourself.
Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate’s gameplay is fantastic, and the fun is magnified when you hunt with your friends. There are enough items to keep even the most aggressive gear farmers busy for some time, and a combat system rich enough to leave the most sophisticated theory crafters second guessing themselves.
For me, well my rent is late and my landlord is banging on the door– I think it’s time to work on getting my next rank…