If Rick Astley has taught us anything (aside from it being OK for a man to wear a trench coat in the sewers and another to randomly jump into a wire fence – look it up!), it’s that we should never give up. And if ever a Demo version of a game needed a theme song, then Rick and his coiffed brown hair would be able to put a very good case forward for his to go alongside the demo of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate.
The premise for those not in the know is that you take on the role of a Monster Hunter who must traverse various landscapes and complete various monster-related missions within a given time limit. If you die 3 times or your time expires, then you fail the mission. There are 2 missions present in the demo version of the game – one ranked “Easy” and the other “Hard”. Both missions revolve around defeating a large monster within a time limit.
Naturally, your first instinct is to dive right in and pick the “Easy” option, get a feel for the game mechanics and controls, before working your way up to the “Hard” option, right? That was certainly my train of thought as I started the demo. So upon picking the “Easy” quest, I’m tasked with taking down Lagombi within 20 minutes. Sounds simple enough… Next I’m asked to choose between 12 different characters sporting 12 very different weapons, each having a brief description next to them. As a fan of Legolas and Lloyd Irving, I went for Twin Blades as my weapon of choice, and then bam, I’m sent into the field.
It was at this point I was expecting a brief tutorial of sorts so that I could get my bearings, but it soon dawned on me that no guide was forthcoming and my clock was already running down, so despite my reservations I ploughed on regardless, assuming things would begin to make sense as I played through. I pressed on to the next area of the map and came across my first monsters.
“Aha, the Lagombi” I thought – wrongly assuming that Lagombi was plural and I merely had to eradicate them from all areas of the map – and proceeded to test each of the buttons to see which one might make a sexy swish of my blades, and after running around and drinking a potion by mistake, I had unsheathed the beasts and was unleashing hell. Within moments they were killed, and I stood victorious over their carcasses. I even figured out how to pillage their bodies, and found items I didn’t know how to use. But that didn’t matter, right now I’m king of the world, I feel like Crocodile Dundee.
It was only when I glanced up at my map to see something significant marked on it in the next area that my confidence wavered slightly. As I entered the area, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. What can only be described as a giant pissed-off bunny rabbit hurled itself towards me, knocked me clean over, and took with it a large chunk of my health. Perspective now focused on what must be the real Lagombi, I got to my feet and began to smash seven hells out of my foe. Or at least I hoped I was. It hadn’t occurred or bothered me before that no “life bars” exist on any enemy so you have no idea about their remaining health – even Dark Souls gave you that!
A few things became apparent very quickly to me during the uber-bunny duel. The first was that this game was no longer an easy hack and slash, the second was that I was going to have to learn the enemies movements and attack patterns to survive, the third was that I was glad I had accidentally figured out how to use healing potions earlier, and lastly I finally understood why I had been given 20 minutes to kill one enemy. To say I was left crestfallen when I died twice and ran out of time would be a polite way of putting it – being close to rage-quitting would be more accurate.
The game itself is meant to be as realistic as a fictitious monster hunter game can be, so you will face powerful enemies, and like in real life, nothing has life bars. Our health isn’t made up as numbers, despite what most RPGs want to make us think. It’s just us against the wild, armed only with our instinct – and whichever of the 12 weapons we chose naturally. Learning, tactics and technique come through playing and experimenting, much like the aforementioned Dark Souls. The problem this game has initially though is that the demo doesn’t lead you in gently – like I am assured the full game itself does – it assumes a certain amount of prior knowledge of controls and skill for you to be able to succeed, and it will most likely mean that most will fail the first few times of playing.
It’s a dangerous strategy. Most of us like a challenge – in fact it’s one of the reasons games like Dark Souls or Ikaruga get praise for daring to break the norm of leading us by the hand – but even in difficult games, we’re given some sort of starting direction. Some perspective on what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and normally a basic how-to in terms of controls are normally provided. And whilst the demo is not representative of the game in this respect – it could be doing more harm than good as it could put off more people than it entices with its unforgiving demo.
Luckily for me on my next attempt, with a new weapon, some tactics and a keen eye on the potions, I managed to slay the rabbit and succeed in the mission. With this comes the sense of achievement you get in difficult games. You can see the layers of strategy required in the game that shines through if you are prepared to put the time in.
This is the crux of what to take from this demo. It is very indicative of what to expect from Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate when you are into the game a bit, and when you look past the unforgiving nature of the game to newcomers, you will uncover a game with plenty of depth and shine.
Another addition to the full game that is missing in the demo is the option to go online and play cooperatively with other hunters. This large chunk of the fun should also allay any misgivings about struggling with certain areas for too long, and reports from previous consoles on this aspect are glowing and positive.
So in conclusion, my advice would be to try this game out – but understand that it is a very unforgiving demo. It’s not a starter level or a tutorial – it comprises of two missions that are partway through the game which would come after initial moves and strategies will have been built up on a normal playthrough. Therefore understand that if you feel a bit overwhelmed to begin with, do not worry – it’s almost expected.
In essence the demo is Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate’s own acid test. If you can survive the demo and come out the other side wanting more, then stand a high chance of enjoying the full game experience. You will realize this game is about all aspects of hunting – with equal focus on combat, tactics and learning. Those who prefer a more hack and slash approach however, may find this a step too far in the other direction for them.