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Archery In Video Games - Part 2, theHunter: Call of the Wild

Hands down one of the best video games I have ever played.

theHunter: Call of the Wild (I've no idea why they opted for the lowercase, mashed up title) is a hunting simulator, produced by Avalanche Studios and entered the world in 2017. Since then it has been extended over and over with new, extensive maps, animal species, and hunting equipment to the point where this colossal game covers environments the world over.

Whilst there is an array of hunting techniques for the players to adopt, I shall be looking at archery in the game.

theHunter: Call of the Wild is not an easy game, then again it is less a 'game' and more a 'simulator'. The player must prioritise traits like diligence and patience; sound, smell, line of sight are all taken into consideration with some animals more sensitive or alert than others.

And regarding the animal species, there is a tremendous amount, 96 as of this article, ranging from passive waterfowl to herd animals to predators such as wolves, lions and even alligators and crocodiles. As of this article, there are 14 maps to explore, (all but 2 are DLC) and these are not tight, simple 'levels', they are extensive to say the least, and as well crafted in a virtual sense as any exquisite landscape painting. The maps cover diverse environments, the world over, including New Zealand and Siberia, with the distance across them measured in kilometres! Helpfully there is the option of fast travel, and ATVs are available for just getting around. For hunting, this vastness adds to the immersion through the seemingly never ending virtual wilderness. Atop each mountain there is a whole new area, with lakes, and beyond every forest, a new clearing with more hills and valleys to explore as the map continually unfolds before your virtual footsteps. Whilst 'missions' are a part of every map, these feel completely optional and the player can just hunt to their heart's content instead.

From the outset, that is, in the base game, the player has compound bows at their disposal. However, traditional bows were added to the game through DLC, firstly with horse-bows, and then with a longbow - more recently a traditional recurve too.

Right off the bat, archery is well represented, so much so that I often forget that other hunting weapons are available. I can play the game as if it were a bowhunting simulator.

Naturally some animals are harder to hunt with the bows than others.

Archery within the game is fluid in how the bow is aimed and drawn, with a mild level of sophistication in that the player must use the correct weight of arrow against the specific class of prey they are hunting. In order to get a the maximum award and the points available on the animal, certain criteria needs to be met: hitting a vital organ, using the correct ammunition for example. This can add a sudden mania to the game, for instance, the player could be crawling along the ground, stalking, or looking for large game, when suddenly a wayward fox, or turkey, comes into view as a great target of opportunity. Then the player must quickly navigate the numerous menu options in order to switch arrow weights - all as the game continues to run, and the virtual world goes on, and that animals gets closer and closer to spotting the player. An option is to carry another bow, equipped with another arrow weight, certainly. However, there is a weight limit for the player and when other hunting items, from callers and lure, to tree stands and tents are taken into consideration, it may not be a practical option for the player.

Aiming with the bows is not difficult either. The compound bow has a few sights which can be utilised, including a range-finder sight. For the traditional bows, it is a matter of gap shooting and I happen to know that the point-on for the longbow is 40m. The gap of the horse-bows is greater than for the longbows. If using the latter, I recommend getting within 25m and aiming a little below the kill-zone - or try to get everything from 40m, but a turkey is harder to discern at that distance.

All this is true-to-form, though I find, within the game, that I am having to gap shoot, with the use of field craft - far removed from how I do archery in real life, due to the fact that I am holding a Playstation controller and not a bow. Of course this isn't archery at all. It's a game after all, and at best a simulation.

As bows are more challenging than rifles and other firearms, there is, on one of the maps, a virtual archery range to get your eye, so to speak.

One aspect which grates at me is how the player can draw any of the bows whilst in a prone position, and by draw I mean, as if they were standing up right and drawing the bow... It's a little thing, but it always feels underhanded and silly to draw on a target whilst flat on the ground. Another issue which has been solved in the recent DLC, was in how the longbow arrows did not cover all the species in the game. What I mean by this, going back to earlier and mentioning that the correct ammunition must be used on the right animal, there is a gap in the weight of arrows available, jumping from 320gr to 540gr. Therefore certain species can not be hunted with the longbow, or at least without receiving a penalty. If you are a hard line trad archery like myself, the addition of a compound in your inventory just feels a little off. However, with the addition of a traditional recurve, the arrows used by the compound bow are utilised by the traditional recurve - hooray!

This game will take up a great amount of time in your life. It takes a long time to accomplish anything, which isn't a surprise, because it's a hunting simulator. The notion of casual play fits with it both very well and not at all, but not in a paradoxical fashion, it is simply a matter of perspective.

A player can spend a rainy evening playing theHunter, just wandering through the numerous, exquisitely crafted environments and trying their hand at taking whatever game comes their way. Alternatively, there are options available for this game to take over your life and spend day after day on it. There are 'Great Ones' to be found on maps, animals of outrageous trophy value, so elusive you would need to put in hundreds of playing hours to even find one. Every harvest by the player is logged and recorded for reference, and there are even trophy lodges available for the player to fill with game, and show off their hunting successes.

When using any of the bows, this game becomes one of extremes. As mentioned before, it is not an easy game, and when using the bows, it becomes even more difficult. But, if a hunting simulator is what you want, then rejoice, because that is exactly what you are getting. I have read criticisms of the game, typed out by people, surprised that a game described as a 'hunting simulator' had been developed and built to be a hunting simulator.

The strategies for the archery focused player are numerous and depend on what game you would be going after. The basic starting point is following tracks, patiently and warily. Then various lures can be used to attract an animal, with deployable hunting stands and blinds available to aid the player. All of this overlaps of course with the other available hunting weapons, and naturally, all of this takes a lot of time.

This is a tremendous game in and of itself, but the archery is singularly defined for the purpose of simulation hunting and takes the player through significant challenges and beautifully, very meticulously, woven together worlds. For hardcore archers looking to get into something serious and gruelling, this is the game for you, but if you're after something simple and casual to spend an hour or evening on, this too will suit you.

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