It feels like an eternity since the Monster Hunter series graced home consoles. After finding massive success in the East due to its portability on the Nintendo 3DS and PSP, Capcom’s flagship JRPG has finally found its way to the West and a wider audience in Monster Hunter: World. Despite its attempts to bring on newcomers to the series, the game still retains everything that made Monster Hunter such a cult hit in the first place. From grinding gear and building your ideal hunter to slaying terrifying beasts and partaking in group hunts, there’s no shortage of activities to do in this absolutely massive new installment. Does Monster Hunter: World do justice to the series or fall flat in trying to be too accessible?
Monster Hunter: World presents a more coherent story than any of its predecessors. After spending a healthy amount of time creating your character and adorable palico cat companion, you’re instantly thrust into some eye-opening action sequences that almost feels alien to the Monster Hunter franchise. It’s a huge risk that Capcom took in making the game more cinematic, yet it still relishes in the same quirky nature and keen sense of awe-inspiring adventure that made past games so enthralling. After a lengthy tutorial getting to know your hub area, Astera, you’re thrown headfirst into some dangerous hunts, and this is where the Monster Hunter formula truly shines, and in some cases, excels beyond its predecessors.
The characters aren’t the most fleshed out, but they serve their purpose when the plot demands it, rather making them pawns for moving the game’s story forward than meaningful companions. Yet, this doesn’t actually detract from the story as the pacing remains so tight-knit, that they ultimately don’t need to leave some profound impact to be likable; it’s in their small character quirks that define them.
Veterans of the series might be familiar with the variety of things to do in the hub area, but it can be quite overwhelming for newcomers at first glance. Item management plays a key role in the way your hunter naturally progress through the game. Astera is littered with NPC’s who all offer something new to aid you on your quests. From harvesting ingredients that allow you to create potions and antidotes, to the charming smithy who you’ll be visiting a lot when crafting new armour and weapons - there’s a lot of cogs constantly turning in the machine that needs to be fully grasped before you can make the most out of the experience. While you’ll be spending a lot of time travelling back and forth from Astera, it’s the large sections of the world where you’ll constantly be on the hunt.
Monster Hunter: World features half a dozen varied semi-open world biomes that usually shelter up to four or five monsters per map. Hunting these monsters is where the entertainment factor comes in, but preparation is also a necessity, as being unprepared before a hunt can be fatal. Thankfully, instead of having to travel between the hub area and maps to craft items, you can craft everything on the go while exploring. By simply picking up resources spread across the environments, the game instantly crafts potions, antidotes, and useful items that you can use during quests. This not only keeps the momentum going while on the hunt, but also makes sure you’re focused on your objective at any given time.
The combat is another highlight of World. It's fluid, fun, and quite easy to pick up but difficult to master. The game offers 14 different weapon types, each with varying degrees of power depending on the monster parts you use to craft specific elemental weapons. Furthermore, it accommodates all play styles. Whether you prefer ranged combat with a trusty bow or want to get up close and personal with faster weapons, World offers plenty of freedom when it comes to weapon experimentation and finding your niche.
The monsters in Monster Hunter: World are among some of the most dazzling and challenging in the entire series. Each monster features an unique design and abilities, including strengths and weaknesses, that the player must exploit in order to come out victorious. For example, using water elemental damage weapons against fire-based monsters makes quick work of them, and this process must be taken into account before each hunt. Monster Hunter: World does slightly tone down the difficulty in the first half of the game for accessibility, but it doesn’t necessarily hold your hand either. Once the larger, more intimidating monsters come into play later on, the gloves come off and this is where the game unforgivably punishes careless players.
After a certain point in the game, there’s a huge difficulty spike that might deter new players to the game. Even for most veteran players, the second half is a hellish ordeal as the monsters become far more aggressive and leave little room for the player to catch their breath. However, this is also the most exhilarating part of the journey. The sense of accomplishment that comes with taking down a particularly nasty beast is unparalleled, and encourages players to get better at the game so that they can reap the benefits of conquering their monstrous foes. Luckily, those who prefer playing solo won’t feel alone in these hunts. Your palico acts as a great support, constantly providing you with healing items and being a distraction when you need to retreat for a moment.
It’s truly unfortunate, then, that Monster Hunter: World’s multiplayer is a bit cumbersome. In order for other players to join you on story-specific hunts, your entire squad will need to watch the cutscenes first, exit the quest entirely, then regroup in the hub area to officially create a party. I can see why Capcom did this, but it breaks the pacing of the story way too often if you prefer playing through the entire campaign with friends. However, outside of the story quests, the multiplayer is relatively easy to use as you can simply post a quest or investigation and allow others online to join in on your session. Hunting in a team also changes up the gameplay as there’s now more focus on strategy than simply going in alone and hoping for the best. It’s a blast to group up with friends and overwhelm a monster that’s been giving you a hard time – especially in the latter half of the game.
Monster Hunter: World is easily the most visually impressive entry in the series to date. Each map is stunning, densely populated, and almost magical thanks to the amount of detail packed into creating a dispersed but coherent fantasy world. The Coral Highlands is one of the most gorgeous areas I’ve ever seen in a video game, using bright pink and white colours to emphasize a powerful sense of other-worldliness. It also helps that the creatures you do encounter on this map boast incredible visual designs too, such as the ballooning fuzz ball, Paolumu, and the elegant but deadly Legiana. They’re among the most memorable fights in the game because of their grandiose visual spectacle alone.
The sound design is excellent too. Each monster is given a very distinguishable gut-wrenching screech or roar that adds to the ambiance of the world, yet still feels organic enough to co-exist with the environment. The score is fantastic as well, using bombastic orchestra and catchy themes to capture the intensity or curious exploration of every moment in the game.
Monster Hunter: World is the most well-rounded, visually spectacular, and overall best Monster Hunter game in the entire series. It manages to be very accessible to newcomers while giving die-hard fans more of the same incredibly addictive and rewarding gameplay that the series has become known for. Despite some fickle multiplayer issues, World is still a triumphant and unforgettable JRPG experience that proves that the Monster Hunter franchise is the new force to be reckoned with in the gaming world.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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1 February 2018
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