Think of the program and your brain soon switches to a skeleton that’s rolling forward, right? Or an electrified goat that rolls over. Or a bald man gossiping as he kicks you in a ditch. And of course, the deceived boss fights off deformed dragons and Fell Omens from the West Country.
Since I’ve been playing Monster Hunter Rise, which is pretty much a series of escalating boss fights with large lizards, I’ve started comparing these brawls to Elden Ring’s boss fights. And I think a lot of their differences are down to the simple health bar, or the lack thereof.
Wander through the fog door of Elden Ring – or any Souls game – and you’ll be faced with a horrific game something And his equally horrible health bar. You’ll hook your boss to your stalker and keep a close eye on whether the health bar is reacting the way you want it to. Either you’ll see a nice hunk evaporate, at which point you’ll be charged with renewed energy, or you’ll barely experience an aberration in it, at which point you’ll likely open your arms and accept the warm embrace of death.
Of course, the health bar isn’t an Elden Ring exclusive feature – you get that. But it’s something I’ve become more aware of since I bounced between Monster Hunter Rise and Lands Between. In the heat of battle, I not only twist and weave between some claws, but I also collect information from a horizontal bar in red. On the most basic level, it tells me how much pain I take out with each stroke, but beyond that, it’s also a timer that doesn’t stop unless I act on it; A reminder that if I come out victorious, I have to hit the hourglass and make that sand budge.
The large lizards of the Monster Hunter Rise do not have health bars. I bumped their scales and some damage numbers popped up. At first, it’s a strangely esoteric process, where you have a barrage of 7, 31 and 14 and have no way of deriving their meaning, except for turning orange on occasion if you’ve tickled a weak spot. But then you learn to follow your intuition and learn how to show those big orange numbers, which is the first step from an amateur hunter to Gon Freecs. And as you learn to follow your gut, you learn that monster behavior equates to that red health bar and a complete rejection of it too.
At first, the monsters in Monster Hunter are like athletes who are taught not to give up on anything emotionally, and to enjoy blows like it’s nothing. However, make those numbers pop up, and you’ll start to tire, wobble, and even flee the scene altogether! Elden Ring bosses don’t do anything like that, only get stronger if you trim them enough.
Both games look at the challenge differently, I think. The Elden Ring bosses want you to feel like you’re facing insurmountable odds and use their healthy bars as a tool to exert pressure and encourage courage. At all times you can see the finish line dangling under your nose and the key – literally – hit the villain and not get hit by the villain. Meanwhile, Monster Hunter struggles are chaotic psychic scraps that can last up to an hour, where the challenge is more not picking at a monster’s behavior and knowing they’re weak just like me: the one who hits them on the head with a beep. big hammer.
The Elden Ring chiefs are gods and rulers. Spectral beings and dog statues circling a very powerful tree. As soon as this health bar appears, it is an indication that you must prove that you can survive an encounter with a creature that requires excellence. Beat them, and you erase an irreplaceable being. Compare this to Monster Hunter, where monsters – no matter how threatening or large – are resources. You build a routine to harvest them more efficiently, even wearing their skin to improve the process. It’s scary and powerful, but it’s not far-fetched.
As I adore Elden Ring and Souls and appreciate the euphoria of undermining a terrifying boss for the first time, I’m beginning to recognize Monster Hunter’s apparent lack of them. Yes, they’re two completely different games with fights that serve a different purpose, but without health bars, you really get to get along with the monster you’re fighting with. The Elden Ring certainly outperformed Monster Hunter in terms of the sheer size, size, and importance of their creatures, fueling the imagination to outsmart the likes of a savage and deformed ear vesicle, but I’d argue that their health bars keep you at arm’s length, reducing all interaction with these mighty creatures to A one-way relationship.
Aside from turning into a rage or a snippet of dialogue, Elden Ring – and plenty of bosses from other games beside him – rarely shows any signs of weakness. You might be bombarding primal mucus from each other, but regardless of their health bar that says their health is low, you won’t know. They are devoid of emotion, rocking in your face as if you hadn’t participated in this battle for twenty minutes already.
If you’ve moved on to Monster Hunter, you really feel like you’re on the scrap with an object acknowledging the situation. Remove the health bar as if big lizards have been opened emotionally and physically, showing their strengths and weaknesses through behavioral change, rather than standing tall and pointing at a meter going down.
Listen, I’m not saying I want all healthy bars to go away. I love the joy of emptying the bar to zero. I just think Monster Hunter’s rejection of such a basic gameplay adds more than it subtracts, making battles a true show of character from both sides, not just one.
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