This week, I ordered a new copy of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate for the 3ds. My old copy was lost in the move last year, and with a new move coming up in a couple months, I knew I had to get another one (so I could lost it again).

I really like Monster Hunter, at its core. For those who haven’t played it, the series started on the Playstation 2 and continues to this day, with the newest installment being a 3ds exclusive. It is a gear-based ARPG, where Your job is to hunt increasingly dangerous and deadly monsters in a low-tech, no-magic fantasy land.

The gameplay is presented in Quests, which set up predefined maps with a certain layout of items and monsters, and give You an objective to complete in a time limit. Completing certain quests unlocks others, and as You unlock more and more quests, the challenges get much more strenuous. But, the rewards get much better, too.

“Leveling” in this game is entirely based on the gear that You craft. As You progress in the game, You get more and more varied items from which You can craft new armor, weapons, accessories and items from, which effectively let You take and give much more in battle. Which is all well and good… But I’ve noticed something. Something I am sure many of You out their may have noticed too, especially if You’ve spent any time in Azeroth or Norrath.

A lot of these things would not be out of place in an MMO.

Now, I am not a huge fan (or even a small one) of MMOs. Something about that combination of kitsch, social observance, and endless, pointless grinding just doesn’t click with me. It just isn’t something I enjoy to play, though I am very much into other types of games that have these same traits.

So, realizing this made me go back and examine my experiences with MMOs, and I think I may have found the major (for me) difference between them and Monster Hunter.

I grew up playing some MUDs online, alongside many, many single player jrpgs and wrpgs. MUDs are the spiritual predecessors of MMOs: Entirely text based (or tile based, in recent years) games where You explore a world with a plethora of distinct areas with set enemies, and grind for experience and gear in order to grow Your character alongside many, many other people also playing the game.

But MUDs avoid those three things I mentioned earlier, for the most part. Most of the ones I frequented don’t have glaring MUD-ness stamped onto every bit of scenery. The ones I’ve played all take themselves fairly seriously, but don’t lock You in that way, either: They simply let You experience the world.

You can easily ignore the other players: Just don’t look at or talk to them (kind of like in real life) and they will mostly leave You alone too. For scenes and quests important to Your character specifically (like the intro level), You are taken out of the multiplayer section and put in an area without a bunch of other people running around being told they are also a chosen one who is destined for greatness.

When You want player interaction, the MUDs I frequent all encourage or enforce. Which prevents that MMO-talk from cropping up and being used, for the most part.

And perhaps the biggest, most crucial difference (at least to me, and in my experience): There is no end game. The game is over when You get tired of playing and leveling the character, and doing those things isn’t just something to do in order to hit the level cap and play end game.

And that is probably the biggest difference between MMOs and Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter is a game of failure and success. It is a game where You play to overcome challenges, prove Yourself, and help other people in ways that aren’t blatantly lame… It is a game about a journey, with a clear end goal (beating the last, most difficult monster) that is achievable if You are tenacious and determined enough.

MMOs, on the other hand, are more about the destination. You want to have this, get that, level this, beat that. You’ll suffer through a bunch of tedium and stress, not because it is something You enjoy… but because of what You’ll get afterward. In an MMO, You are more concerned about the things You find than You are about the way that You find them.

Or at least that has been my experience. YMMV!

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