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This Sunday I want to give a shout out, TRL-style, to a personal fave in gaming. Not any one game in particular, really, but rather to games where there is no story incentive to play the game.

This may come as a shocker to some people out there. But not all games come fitted with a tacked on story to make people play. Not all games bother with poorly scripted cutscenes and dialogue just because it “should” be there. Some games are just inherently so awesome they don’t need any story. Games that fit into this category are among others: Monster Hunter, Mount & Blade, Flotilla, etc.

So, what makes these types of games great? Why do you play? If we use Monster Hunter as an example. Monster Hunter puts you in the position of a person who wakes up in a remote village where hunters live. And then you’re told to go hunting. Why? Who knows. They just say that you should. Now, someone too infected with the story norm may be put off by this. And if they decide to not play because of it, they’re missing out. Because Monster Hunter has a rich world, filled to the brim with fantastic.

Hunting Lao Shan Lung is a bit like hunting a mountain

In Monster Hunter you hunt monsters. After you’ve downed a monster you carve its innards out so you can string your bow with its guts and whatnot. After that you hunt a bigger monster, subsequently locking up new tiers monsters to slay. While there is no story in Monster Hunter, there is still progression. Usually progression comes from the story. Some important event happens to tell you “we’re this far along in the process of the game”. But a game without story needs something else. In Monster Hunter’s case there is always something bigger and badder to gut after the monster you’ve slain, and there is always better gear to make. If you haven’t played Monster Hunter you may well write that notion off from the get go. It sounds like you’re playing it for the gear right? Well that’s where you and your preconceived notions are wrong! I already told you that Monster Hunter’s world was rich and wonderful, and there is something about the atmosphere of the game that fills you with the joy of hunting. It feels as real as a game where you slay dragons rightly could. The various dragons and monsters all behave in certain ways that make you remember them. Everyone who has played the game remember their first encounter with the beast Tigrex. And from fighting Tigrex you instinctively know, even if  you haven’t thought about it, that Tigrexes are vicious and brutal and will eat your brains if you happen to miss a dodge. Just from the way the creature reacts to your actions and from the way it moves you know it’s the most aggressive monster in Monster Hunter. So to put it as easily I can, it feels right.

There is a parallel to draw between Monster Hunter and Mount & Blade. M&B is an open world game where you choose what to do with your life. If you want to join the Nords and create an army of Huscarls then go for it. You can do it just the same as you can become a horse archer and make a mounted army of Khergite. And while this freedom of choice could be limiting and make the game feel unfocused, it doesn’t. There is a realism to the medieval setting that’s always there, a nice vibe that sees you through. Something that makes you feel like a knight in the dark ages.

Just a man and his horse

For both Monster Hunter and M&B I’ve brought this feeling up. That Monster Hunter feels real and rich, and that M&B actually dons you the armor and puts a lance in your hand. These feelings can’t be superimposed on someone else, so they are of course subjective. But my opinion is that good games don’t really need story if the setting of the game makes you feel you create your own.


One Comment

  1. Oh, Monster Hunter seems cool. If it is anything like M&B, which I have played since the 0.4xx Beta somewhere to now (I bought it for like 6$ back in the day), I might be in for a treat. I don’t even want to know how many days of my life has gone into that game. I do miss Zendar and the black knights… oh well.

    Thanks for the tip!

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