RIP Alpha Doshaguma, the doomed dragonfighting guinea pig of my Monster Hunter Wilds demo

This piece is written in memory of the Alpha Doshaguma, a huge furry quadruped with the belly, gait and mournful disposition of an orphaned St Bernard, which – no, who was sleeping blamelessly in a canyon when Capcom’s demo presenter strolled up and bopped it with a bayonet howitzer. The demo in question was for Monster Hunter Wilds, which they probably should rename Monster Hadron Collider in that a major selling point appears to be making the megafauna converge and murder each other. It’s possible to do this in previous games, especially 2018’s Monster Hunter: World, but not like this. Not like this. Alas for the Alpha Doshaguma. Getting rocket-speared in the bum was only the start of its worst day ever.

Monster Hunter Wilds is the usual deluge of new additions to – and, just as importantly, subtractions from – the long-running dragon-skinning series. We’ve got, errmm, let’s see here: a swanko new longsword of some description, excellent for those combos where you strike a pose between chops. Cheesemongers who say “cheese and thank you”, because if you absolutely must, Capcom. Pop-up Palico tents where you can rest and restore yourself while out on manoeuvres, and which monsters may destroy if they’re left unattended. The seeming absence of loading breaks betwixt village areas and the field, though it looks like those villages are still secure against monster invasion. The corresponding removal of the ritual of choosing a target from a questboard before sallying forth to claim its head – now, all you need to do is stumble on the thing while exploring, and as the case may be, rouse it from an innocent and unsuspecting slumber with your nasty handheld artillery. A feathery new player mount, the Seikret, in whose pockets you can store a second loadout. A new open world-ish region to fill with steaming dinosaur corpses, and a hell of a lot of bad weather.

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It can be difficult with sequels such as these to identify the throughline, especially if you’ve fallen out of touch with the series. I loved/was intrigued by World, but missed its hefty Iceborne expansion, barely dipped a toe in 2021’s Monster Hunter Rise, and haven’t so much as watched a trailer for the recent cross-genre spin-offs. I look upon Monster Hunter’s on-going development with a mixture of hope and familiarity and exhaustion, like a man sprinting towards a bus whose driver has closed the doors but not yet toggled the turning indicators. Still, I feel fairly confident in saying that the headline attraction this time is engineering very open-ended turf wars, which brings us back, sadly, to the Alpha Doshaguma.

When our demo handler discovered the beast, it was chilling with its pack, denser monster herds being another new-ish Wilds feature. Initially, the demo player attempted to fight them all simultaneously up-close, but this meant that all we could see of Wilds was massive furry buttocks clipping together against a soundscape of outraged tuba noises, so after a moment or so, we beat a tactical withdrawal aboard our Seikret, using a projectile of some kind to tag the Alpha Doshaguma and lure it away from the throng.

Then began a brisk 15-minute exercise in finding every last new feature in Wilds and making the Alpha Doshaguma run into it. To begin with, our demo player led the Doshaguma herd into a pack of velociraptor-type things, who leapt aboard the bellowing juggernauts and nibbled at them unsuccessfully before getting stamped on. Then, we took the Doshagumas on a tour of some thorn bushes, which successfully blocked the advance of the lesser Doshugama, allowing us to focus on the Alpha. And then, a quick scramble up a dune and into the territory of some kind of burrowing leviathan, who conjured a quicksand whirlpool into which the Alpha Doshaguma dutifully tumbled.

It was able to escape after much pitiful thrashing about, and you know, a kinder soul would have put the creature out of its misery and shown us a few of the new biomes, perhaps walked us through a crafting menu or two. But no. Having aggroed the Alpha Doshaguma once more, our Capcom presenter guided it into a thunderstorm which wasn’t actually a thunderstorm, but the mobile meteorological lair of a bloody great dragon, the region’s apex predator.

A herd of small scaly monsters fighting big furry ones in Monster Hunter Wilds

Huge monsters fighting in a storm in Monster Hunter Wilds

Image credit: Capcom

The storm dragon pounced on the Alpha Doshaguma, ripping off its tail with a single blow. The aforesaid burrowing leviathan then caught up and tried to strangle it. I was, you’ve hopefully deduced, firmly rooting for the Alpha Doshaguma at this point, though I did enjoy the fancy weather effects and the attendant noticeable impact upon such specialised hunter techniques as “moving around” and “seeing”.

The Doshaguma survived the storm, somehow, and again, a merciful antagonist might have stepped in to finish it off hand-to-claw, but that would have meant passing up the opportunity to demonstrate some new destructible terrain elements, so off we went to visit some caverns abundant in paralysis-inducing electrobugs and dangerously loose stalagtites – perfect for shaving away monster health at a few hundred points a pop. Also in the caverns, a Chatacabra – or giant rocky frog – with whom the Doshaguma briefly merged into a roaring, belching ball of scales and fur.

After taking a couple of stalagtites to the head, the Alpha Doshaguma was bristling with wounds, these being a system of glowing weakpoints you can target using a new “focus” aiming mode, which applies across all the weapons. By this point, the creature was evidently pretty sick of being Capcom’s demo assistant and decided to head home for a snooze. Ah, Monster Hunter’s limping animation. Is there any greater source of pathos in all of videogaming? The Doshaguma needing a time-out, however, was not consistent with Capcom’s desire to show off the ability to roll exploding barrels down hills. In this case, the exploding barrels missed their victim, so our demoer decided to call it quits by summoning three other hunters on Seikrets to smash the remainder of its face in.

I’ll be honest, the final couple minutes of the demo are a blur for me. There was talk of new weapons, and some thrilling displays of grappling and mounting, but I had by this point, filled up my brain with different methods of Doshaguma-bothering, and could only glaze over in sorrow as the big, beautiful beastie met its end.

A herd of spiny four-legged creatures walking down a riverbed in Monster Hunter Wilds
Image credit: Capcom

What do you do after you’ve slain an Alpha Doshaguma? Despair of the inhumanity and take up a new career as a villager? A cheesemaker, perhaps, dispensing puns alongside the fromage to hide the swelling dark clouds of self-loathing, not so deep inside? No, you suddenly come over all David Attenborough. The presenter wound up by pointing out some small avian critters perched in a tree and, I shit you not, suggesting that we “take some time to enjoy nature”. You absolute fucking bastard, I mouthed at him from across the auditorium, smiling and offering a thumbs-up. You filthy bear-baiting scumbag. Vengeance! Vengeance for Monsters! Vengeance for the Alpha Doshaguma!

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