Monster Hunter Freedom (aka Raid Basics 101)

(This post inspired by next Tuesday's Monster Hunter Tri release date for the event which may put my WoW playing time in serious jeopardy.)

A few years back before I started playing WoW, my friend and I were obsessed with a Playstation Portable (PSP) game called Monster Hunter Freedom. It's an amazingly simple game that relies 100% on your own skill and ability. Looking back on it now, I realize that the game taught me a few things that carry over very well to WoW raiding - situational awareness and a deep, deep tolerance of failure.

One of the hardest quests. Parts are sped up, but still - look how insane the action is!

The premise of the game is that you are a warrior / bounty hunter in primitive times (metal & bone equipment), that goes out hunting and kills monsters for the village. You return, get paid, then go hunt a different beast, upgrading your weapons/armor with parts harvested from your conquests. That's pretty much it! There's no storyline, no dialogue, no other characters (other than vendors & quest givers), and no experience system. It's just you, your sword, and giant monsters who wants to rip your face off.

When I first tried the combat in Monster Hunter, it was like a breath of fresh air. It's all real-time combat and you have to press the button for every sword swing, dodge roll, block, etc...nothing is done automatically for you. I guess it's a lot like Zelda, except there's no lock-on system, and instead of Zelda's gimmick boss fights (hammer the shield-face! throw bombs in King Dodongo's mouth!) you have to systematically cut, hack and slash enormous dragons while dodging claws, fireballs, tail swipes, aerial dives, etc. with nothing but your own reflexes.

One of the essential skills one needed to develop in Monster Hunter was recognizing each monster's specific patterns and "tells" that hinted what it was about to do next. And we're not talking "Festergut sucks in all the gas in the room!" announcements blaring all over the screen - these tells were minute things like the speed at which the monster turned to face you.

To make matters even worse, sometimes you would also have to deal with terrain like spewing lava, poison swamp pits or charging boars that would overrun you, leaving you vulnerable. Nothing was more frustrating than getting sent sprawling by a charging dragon, standing up & getting run over by a boar, knocking you into a poison swamp, getting up from that and getting stung by a giant bee (seriously), stunning you for a few seconds...just long enough for the dragon to crush you with its immense, spiked (sometimes poisonous) tail.

There's no enemy health bars (the game just sounds harder & harder, doesn't it?), so you never know how close it is to death, though it does show weakness when it reaches a certain health threshold. Oh yeah, and battles are often 30+ minute ordeals intense, non-stop action. You thought wiping on Saurfang after 8 minutes was frustrating? Try restarting a mission after battling a dragon for AN HOUR and having time run out before you can finish it off. (Sometimes your draconic foe is a real son of a bitch and keeps flying away to different zones in the stage, making you chase it down.)

To paraphrase Mick Dundee "That's not a wipe, *brandishes 60 minute failed MH attempt, with cramped, aching hands and sore eyes* -- that's a wipe!"

It's a brutally hard game, with some missions bordering on impossible, but when you finally take down a beast ten times your size after a 40-minute war, through nothing but your own hard work, you get a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. On the flip side, losing such a battle will either temper your patience and willpower like incredible levels...or make you hurl the PSP against the wall in rage.

Fast forward a few years. Even before I had DBM, I was amazed that people were doing things like standing in fire. How can you not see the boss throw a giant patch of flame AT YOU, and not see it INCINERATING YOUR CHARACTER? Or Onyxia's Deep Breath? That's like a thousand times slower than the MH dragon breath attacks, and the 5-6 seconds warning Onyxia kindly gives you seems like a leisurely vacation in comparison.

I realize people may be focusing on health bars or their rotations, but come on - in Monster Hunter you have to focus on offense, defense, positioning, even juggling through the items in your bag, all the while dodging a pissed-off, enormous creature trying relentlessly to devour you. To someone who spent hundreds of hours dodging fireballs and monstrous jaws in Monster Hunter (without a healer to rely on, mind you), something as brainless as standing in fire is almost offensive.

I also have zero patience for people getting all whiny or dropping group after a wipe or two. I want to scream at them - sorry you weren't able to get free loot with zero effort, slacker. I understand raiding in Vanilla WoW was an epic test of patience and endurance. Well, I may have never experienced those days, but after 700+ hours of Monster Hunter combat - including 15+ attempts at an ungodly hour-long mission where you fight two extra-strong/fast dragons in a tiny arena at the same time (the Youtube video at the top is this mission) - it would take a mind-blowing amount of failing to break my spirit and make me quit. If you don't have the fortitude to endure a wipe or two, you shouldn't be raiding - plain and simple.

So Monster Hunter Tri, it is with great anticipation that I await Tuesday, when I am able to dust off my old sword & shield skills and slay me some beasts. If only more WoW players had played your predecessors, raiding would probably be much less painful experience.

(One more thing - Monster Hunter weaponry gives WoW a run for its money in terms of awesome absurdity. See below!)

3 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. gravatar

    You know, this is incredibly weird. Just before I sat down and opened my reader, I mean about one minute before, I was trying to dig out my PSP because I wanted to play MHF again.

    I never got far in it, I think the hardest dragon I ever killed was a Rathalos, but I've loved the series since I got the first game of it for the PS2.

    Like I said before, a weird coincidence!

    April 17, 2010 at 11:03 AM

  2. gravatar

    Haha, that IS weird. Next time you go on a trip or have a lot of time to kill you should pick up the PSP version again! Some of the fights that come later on are legendary.

    April 17, 2010 at 3:16 PM

  3. gravatar

    Holy shit, that sounds so insane!! Sounds way too hard for me =( I have horrible movement/placement, definitely something I need to work on. I mean I don't fail much but the user UI is a lot busier in WoW compared to Monster Hunter. Still, monster hunter sounds so much harder just because of the length of the fights and how concentrated you have to be just to complete it. I just don't know if I have the stamina for 1 hour long boss fights... wow...

    April 20, 2010 at 4:44 PM