My two biggest (and very personal) issues with Monster Hunter World

Didn’t play a lot of Monster Hunter World this weekend. Partially that was because I got it in my head that I was going to finally finish Far Cry Primal (which I did, and wound up earning the Platinum Trophy for it) but part of it is due to two “social” (I guess?) issues I have with the game.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Monster Hunter World. Maybe a little bit too much if I’m being honest. I intend to keep it in my rotation when time permits, which gets me to my first issue.

It demands solid chunks of time. If I don’t know I have an uninterrupted 30-45 minutes to sit and play (and really an hour or more is better), there’s no sense in firing it up unless I just need to farm materials. Most actual monster hunts take me 20-30 minutes solo but there’s prep time and the time it takes to track the monsters down and then there’s those fights that end up taking longer. Quest time limit is 50 minutes and I have failed quests because I ran out of time. Thing is, there’s no pause and no save in the middle of a hunt and that can be a problem for me.

Now to be fair, this is not an issue unique to MHW: any and every multiplayer game comes with the same issue, but that is part of why I don’t play many MP games. I like to be able to pause when a family member (including 4-legged ones) needs me, which they seem to do as soon as I get committed to a hunt. For some reason this seems like a bigger issue in MHW than other MP titles, I think because your whole session tends to be one fight and if you’ve been whittling a monster down for 20 minutes and have to abort, it’s more disheartening than if you have to drop out of a COD match or leave an MMO group between pulls. I guess it’s like having to bail on a raid boss in an MMO. Not that I ever fought raid bosses.

The second, bigger issue, is that I’m kind of an asshole while playing. I find the game so intense that I get really focused on it, and when that happens I start getting really snippy towards poor Angela if she’s sitting with me, which she often is. Because of this, I’ve started to only play when I’m alone. I know I should modify my behavior and I try, but MHW is the kind of game where I get so engrossed that I forget to blink. After a session my eyes are always red and dry from staring intently at the screen. I don’t realize I’ve been being an asshole until after the hunt.

So right now, I play MHW when I know Angela is elsewhere doing stuff and will be for the next hour, and I know that Lola has been fed and taken out and there’re no scary wind storms to freak her out and no delivery men will be coming and… well really just about anything sets Lola off these days. And one last thing…playing it right before bed isn’t great either because I get so amped I can’t sleep after. So finding that perfect time period to play can be a challenge, and this weekend the stars never aligned.

I guess my problem comes down to the fact that MHW is too good and too engaging. How’s that for a complaint?

Monster Hunter World: Godzilla vs Ratholos

When I was a wee lad, every weekend in winter my mother would drop me off at the local movie theater to see a matinee. I’m going back to the 1960s & early 70s now. The theater had one screen so you paid your 75 cents for a ticket and you watched what they were showing. And usually what they were showing was a monster movie.

I’m talking about the classic giant monster movies. Godzilla was the superstar of course, but there was also Rodan, Mothra, Gamera and others I’ve since forgotten. All these monsters tended to fight each other over and over in different films. Think of them like the Marvel characters of today where we see the same characters showing up in many films. Man I LOVED these movies back then, because I loved these monsters. I knew all their attacks and abilities (as did my friends) and we’d nerd out talking about who would win in a fight.

Which brings me to Monster Hunter. Now listen, I’m new to Monster Hunter. I mean I’ve dabbled in a few of the earlier games but was never willing to put in the work to get good at them, so all the monsters in Monster Hunter World are new to me. Part of learning the game has included watching lots of videos and reading lots of blog posts from long-time fans of the series though, and from them I learned that most (maybe all?) of these monsters have been in earlier games. These long-time players talk about them with the same fondness that I had for Gamera, and running up to launch they’d start geeking out whenever they’d learn another old favorite would be in the game.

(Gamera was one of my favorites because clearly a giant turtle who could retract his legs inside his shell and then have jet rockets shoot out of the leg-holes to make him spin and fly is the BEST monster. Sometimes his attack would just to fling himself at his enemy and now I’m wondering if he was the inspiration for the turtles in Super Mario games.)

I’m sure the developers have changed up the monsters in MHW somewhat just to keep things from getting stale, but my sense is that in broad terms, they’re familiar old frenemies come back to fight you again. I’m kind of envious of the people who have a history with these monsters, but at the same time I’m enjoying getting to know them for the first time. Here’s hoping MHW isn’t the last game in the series to hit the PS4/XBox/PC.

Monster Hunter World: Capturing beasties and flinging poo

Last night I took on my first capture quest. I did this solo since it was before dinner and I wasn’t sure when I’d be suddenly called away to eat so didn’t want to involve friends, so I had to figure stuff out on my own.

My “Handler” was there to give advice but her advice seemed wrong. First she told me to grab the trap and tranq bombs from the supply chest, so I did. Then she said to find and fight the monster (one of those dodo looking rock-grabber things…google says Kulu-Ya-Ku) until it was weak. Check and Check. Once it was limping along, she told me to place the trap in its path. Did that. It stepping on the shock trap and was paralyzed by electricity. Then she said to throw tranq bombs at it to capture it. I threw all my tranq bombs at it, to no apparent effect. It either broke free from the trap or the trap expired, not sure which. The Handler, aka Captain Obvious, said “It’s broken free, you’ll have to trap it again.” but I only had the one trap. I forget what went down next but I wound up killing the Kulu-Ya-Ku and failing the quest.

Before trying again, I crafted extra traps and bombs. On my second try, the silly monster died before I could trap it. I dunno if I got a crit or what, but it never went into the limping stage. Quest Failed. Third time was the charm. It started similar to the first attempt. Trapping it, chucked tranq bombs at it, they did nothing and it broke free. This time I had more traps though. I fought it a little more, threw down a trap. It stepped in the trap and QUEST COMPLETED. Huh? So why am I throwing tranq bombs at it? I got the quest complete just using traps. I wonder if the Handler tells you the wrong order? Maybe I’m supposed to use tranq bombs THEN trap it?

I need to figure this out because for sure this one was frustrating. The good news was that each attempt was pretty quick.

After dinner I got social and loaded into a session with the AGE Squad. I started up the quest to take down Anjanath and almost immediately three other hunters joined me. It was a good thing too because in general I was having an “off” night and couldn’t seem to land any decent hits. The game does scale monsters to the number of players so that may have been part of it too. Whatever the reason, they were definitely carrying me in this hunt.

Then a Ratholos arrived and started fighting Anjanath. For a while the two of them duked it out and we were generally content to sit back and let that play out, but then Ratholos seemed to start taking an interest in us hunters. Somehow I remembered a tip I’d picked up from a YouTube vid. I loaded up a Dung Pod into my slinger (made from monster poo, of course) and flung it, hitting Ratholos right in the face. Disgusted, he flew off home to take a hot shower, leaving us to focus on Anjanath once again. I felt inexplicably good about this move…there’s so much happening in MHW that I watch videos to learn to do stuff but don’t retain much of it. Remembering that the scent of a Dung Pod will drive (some) monsters away felt good. Carrying out the attack and getting him right in the snout felt amazing.

And thanks to a lot of help from my friends, Anjanath was vanquished. Woohoo!

After that I returned the favor by jumping into someone else’s quest to defeat Barroth, that mud-flinging pain-in-the-butt. That battle went well too. The person completed their quest and I got the parts I needed to craft some new armor. Everybody wins!

So all in all, a good night of Monster Hunting.

Monster Hunter World: Fainting spell

Tough night in Monster Hunter World last night, but a strange thing happened to me.

I was tasked with hunting Anjanath, the big (early game big, anyway) t-rex with wings and fire breath dude. On my first attempt I took my trusty longsword and went hunting. It was a long and pitched battle. I fainted once early (you get 3 faints per mission) but then I settled into a routine. I hacked off the beastie’s tail and had it limping and struggling to get around. It retreated to its nest for a snooze. I thought the battle was won, and attacked with vigor, but then he became enraged and went crazy on me. He knocked me out twice in quick succession. (Both times I was using the tracking camera — which keeps your quarry in view — and “evaded” into an obstacle. I don’t think I’ll be using that again.) Quest Failed. Time spent was something like 40 minutes.

On the bright side, I’d collected parts from his tail and he’d been dropping scales which may be “intel” and may be materials. I forgot to look. And my kitty side-kick leveled up. Unlike players, the cats do grow stronger as they level. So I didn’t feel like the time was wasted, but still it was a little frustrating.

I decided to try again using the bow, which is new to me. I figured I could stay at range and it would be easy-peasy. It had been the first time I used a bow against a Great Jagras. Another lesson learned. Great Jagras is SLOW compared to some other monsters. It turns out Anjanath can cover the distance between himself and you at bow range really quickly. I was back to evading for my life. I fainted twice pretty quickly, both times when I didn’t anticipate his speed and didn’t evade in time. At about that point an AGE Squad member popped in to help me but it was too late. I fainted a third time. Quest Failed. This hunt had only lasted 20 minutes or so, but I really didn’t get anything from it.

So here’s the strange thing that happened. Instead of being frustrated and rage-quitting because by this time I’d spent my entire night trying to do this one quest and failing, I felt more determined than ever to go back in there tonight. I mean, for sure I was frustrated, but the “I can DO this” feeling was stronger than the frustrations. I say I didn’t get anything from my second attempt but of course that’s wrong. I learned a lot about using the bow against fast monsters. I also learned (the hard way) that the ghillie suit prevents monsters from SEEING you, but they can still SMELL you. LOL

Before I take him on again I think I’ll do some side quests. I’ve been trying to rush through the main quests to get to where I can do the time-limited Horizon Zero Dawn event, but my suspicions are that I’m missing out on some of the tools of the hunter trade by not doing side quests where they are introduced. I think, at the least, I’ll learn about building traps and bombs. When Anjanath was napping, I could’ve set up traps or bombs around him before rousing him, and I bet that would’ve finished him off. We’ll see, I guess.

Anyway, need to start treating the game like a marathon, not a sprint, and special time-limited events can go to hell for now.

Monster Hunter World is frustrating fun

Spent a decent amount of time playing Monster Hunter World this weekend. I think I’ve finally found a monster hunting game that hooks me. The challenge for me has always been the learning curve. For whatever reason, monster hunting games seem to always have pretty wonky UIs and systems, and I think it helps to have a real cheerleader for a game to help you get over that hump. This time out, there’s enough folks stoked about the game that I’ve had that.

For the most part I’ve played “alone” though last night I joined the AGE group and had a great time, but even playing “alone” I was often playing with others due to one really great (to me) features. The SOS Flare. If you’re out doing a quest and struggling you can send up an SOS Flare. Once you do that, back at camp, other players can join your quest to help you out. This has been my preferred way to play with randoms. I figure if they’ve sent up a flare they need help, and my low gamer self-esteem doesn’t prevent me from joining them. Poor help is better than no help, right? I usually hate inserting myself into multiplayer groups because I’m really not a very skilled gamer, and especially so as a MHW newbie. But hey, beggars can’t be choosers and at worse I’ll be a distraction for the monster you’re hunting, right?

Anyway, no regrets on this purchase. I mean, it is a WEIRD game with some pretty frustrating design decisions, honestly. Sometimes it feels like the controls are intended to be a challenge to overcome. Most quests have a time limit of 50 minutes and there’s no way to ‘save’ mid-quest as far as I know. I’ve had quests where I’ve taken almost the whole 50 minutes, too, and if I’d had to quit for real life reasons after 45 minutes I would’ve been pissed. And OMG the “Clan” invite system is a mess. Only the founder of a clan can invite others, and you and that person have to be on at the same time for him to invite you, or you to accept. And you can’t be in a mission to accept. So your friend invites you and you’re in the middle of a 50 minute quest, that friend has to hang around until you’re done so you can accept. Hopefully they’ll get that sorted.

Of course the only screen shot I have is of me and my cat companion, not of a big fierce monster.

One saving grace for me, at least in regards to time management, is expeditions. When you don’t know that you have an hour to play, you can go on an expedition which is basically a free-roam through an area. You can fight stuff (and get parts) as well as gather materials and study monster footprints and such (this lets you track the monster more easily next time you’re hunting one). It’s good to study the maps anyway (once you find something like a rare cluster of mushrooms, that feature will appear on your map in future) so expeditions are a great way to stock up and expand your knowledge, and you can quit them whenever you need to.

It’s still really early days for me. I’m still trying to decide on a “main” weapon and there are a ton of systems I don’t really understand yet, but I’m hooked on “the loop” of fighting monsters, harvesting parts, crafting/upgrading weapons and armor, and repeating. And I’ve had the first inklings of the satisfaction that comes with learning about how a monster fights. The monsters don’t have health bars; instead you have to watch their behavior. Some things are obvious: if a monster starts limping it’s clear that it is hurt. Others less so. Someone last night pointed out to be that if a monster starts to drool, that means it is getting tired/hurt.

If you’re interested, though, do be aware that this is a game about grinding. You’ll fight the same monsters over and over to get the parts you need to make better gear so you can fight a stronger monster over and over to get even better gear. Your character doesn’t have stats so it’s not like s/he gets stronger…all your strength comes from gear and from you, the player, getting better/smarter about playing. On paper that actually sounds terrible to me, but in practice I’m enjoying it. It’s a kick to have a monster hand your ass to you, then come back later and dispatch it easily, knowing that you’re doing so not because your STR stat has gone up, but because you’ve learned how it behaves and how to exploit its weaknesses (and yeah, your gear is better but you had to work to get that gear, too).