Monster Hunter is that one franchise that never fully caught on. It has a passionate cult following, rivaling Pokemon in Japan. But for Western audiences, Capcom’s action RPG has always been a little too complex for its own good.
Enter Monster Hunter World. Moving away from incremental installments on handhelds, Capcom has returned the series to consoles. In addition to a modern coat of paint, the developers have shaved down the more opaque and off-putting fluff. This has lead to one of the most satisfying hack and slash RPGs out right now.
Edge of The New World
The minute you boot the game up, it completely envelops you in an exciting atmosphere of swashbuckling adventure. A world full of hardy explorers, excited earnest scholars, and expressive adorable sentient cats. A community that you will be a part of after spending some time in a staggeringly impressive character creator.
From there, you are introduced to the New World. This large uncharted country full of bountiful resources and mysterious monsters is where you will be planting your flag. After that you simply pick up a weapon that you like, head out into the vast open wilds, find the giant monster you’ve been assigned to kill, and beat them down in a pitched boss battle. You then carve up that monster for crafting materials to make better equipment. Which you will use to fight more dangerous monsters.
It’s a straightforward set-up but it shines thanks to small touches. Combat in Monster Hunter has always been slightly slower than most conventional action games, which gives each strike a satisfying weight and punch. Monsters don’t have health bars, their entire physical state is expressed through gorgeous animation like limping or panting for breath. Portraying them more as predators in a natural ecosystem. Smaller creatures and various plants in the environment will react to the monster’s attacks and can even be used against them. These can be as small as unleashing poisonous spores or as devastating luring the target into a sinkhole or tricking them into breaking a natural dam in the environment, hitting the monster with a devastating tidal wave.
It can be overwhelming at first, but the feeling that comes with conquering these beasts after ten or even twenty minute long brawls is exhilarating.
This helps since Monster Hunter World puts noticeable emphasis on the “world” part of the title. There are four new areas to explore in this game, and each one of them are unbelievably large in scope. I’ve actually gotten lost several times. But despite each one of these locations having multiple levels, biomes, and creatures running around, every single part of it felt deliberately placed. Even in locations as alien as the Coral Highlands, which looks like someone emptied out the Great Barrier Reef and the Marianas Trench, there is still a cohesive sense of location and habitat.
There is a story mode but it’s forgettable. A mystery of sorts involving the rampage of a large lava-spewing dragon. Mostly an excuse to string multiple hunts together. But what’s particularly odd is that a lot of time and effort has gone into presenting this story. Fully voice-acted cutscenes play out with multiple characters, complete with hammy larger-than-life presentation. There is some excitement and fun seeing these cutscenes happen, especially when they’re used to introduce brand new monsters. But a lot of the production is towards a plot that is only skin deep.
Hunt, Gather, Hunt Some More
Although the name is in the title, Monster Hunter has been a series saddled with a lot of confusing, even counter-intuitive mechanics. To counter this, Capcom have introduced a large swath of quality of life updates.
There are too many of these small changes to list, but they all add up to a much leaner experience. The intense hack and slash combat is much faster and agile. Gathering materials has been made a lot faster. There’s even an auto-craft feature so you can make healing items on the fly.
There’s even an in-depth research system. Since the new areas in Monster Hunter World are large interconnected areas with no loading screens, trying to locate a single monster can be like finding a needle in a haystack. But by finding various footprints and signs left behind, you can track down the monster yourself. Learn more about that particular monster and you can even figure out its various weaknesses, making future encounters that much easier.
But the most inviting change is the overhaul to armor and weapons. While each weapon has their own progression trees, and armor has been greatly simplified. Originally, if you wanted a particular perk like immunity to poison, you would have to wear a full set of armor of one particular type. Now, each piece has a certain perk attached to it, encouraging you to mix and match.
In addition to the main story being an easy thirty to forty hours of healthy hunting, there is a ton of optional material. Sidequests where you hunt multiple monsters, deliver eggs to a camp site or collect rare materials. Limited time Event quests that can yield special rewards. Finally there are Expeditions where you can explore and hunt freely.
All of this already gives Monster Hunter World hundreds of hours of rewarding gameplay, but that’s just the start. Capcom have also announced free updates to the game, adding new hunts and challenges as well as re-introducing old franchise creatures in new devastating forms.
Dangerous To Fight Alone
Another major selling point is online co-op. In addition to creating groups of four with friends, there is also a way to call for help. By firing an SOS Flare, you’ll get help from other players. A good option to have in case you bite off more than you can chew.
But Monster Hunter World’s handling of this online connectivity still feels behind the times. Online lobbies still use a password system, which feels both tedious and unnecessary since a simple game invite gets the same result. There is also an online chat system but it’s practically buried in the user interface behind multiple menus and tabs. There are also a few baffling conditions when it comes to joining people on story quests like not being able to join their game until all in-game cutscenes conclude.
Monster Hunter World has so much to unpack. The sheer and utter joy and energy pumped into something as simple as ordering a meal at the canteen. The exciting and challenging new monster designs. The way it constantly dripfeeds new ways to play. The list goes on.
It all boils down to a simple conclusion. If you love fighting large dragons and dinosaurs, playing with friends, and enjoy a lighthearted experience full of pulpy action, you will love Monster Hunter World. The story presented isn’t exactly one for the ages and there are some nitpicks to be found with the control scheme, but it’s a game that sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go.
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