“Choose your target, track it down. Quickly, now, pick up the pace.
Bash it, slash it, break its crown. And wear the pieces on your face.”
That, my friends, is the Monster Hunter series in a nutshell. The general flow of the franchise consists of racing the clock to track down a vicious beast and engage in a long, exciting battle. Victory rewards you with items, typically broken or skinned off your prey, to fashion new weapons, armor, and accessories so you can hunt even bigger creatures in style. It’s a simple reward loop, but one that has created an ever-growing cult following of diehards since 2004. Monster Hunter: World brings the beloved series into the current generation with an abundance of welcome enhancements. As a long time fan, I can easily say this is one of, if not the best iteration of Monster Hunter yet, but not without its faults.
The developers really brought their best to tackle this project. The standout improvement is the graphical update World brings to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC later this year, a huge leap in fidelity from previous entries on the PS2, PSP, and 3DS. The world is lush, detailed and full of life. Characters wear intricate armor and carry vicious looking weapons as they stroll around the larger than life town of Astera. Monsters have been given a life-like overhaul, patrolling the large open environments as they go about their daily lives and fight for territory. The greatly enhanced presentation must have been a huge gamble for Capcom, but it paid off both in my personal opinion, and the record-breaking sales achievements so far. Monster Hunter: World is a beautiful game in all respects.
And it plays like a dream as well. The gameplay is top notch, as has always been the case, but it’s taken to the next level with much smoother controls, new mechanics, and more interactive environments. The world itself is much larger in scope, now fully interconnected instead of splitting off into separate zones, and it just feels good to move around. Scoutflies are glowing bugs that help you navigate the large areas and point out objects of interest such as monster tracks and collectible items. The new multi-function slinger accessory allows hunters to equip various types of ammo to fire at foes and the new destructible environments. It also allows for unique movement options such as swinging from high places and mounting monsters, adding a new layer of strategy to the fight. To top it all off, item collection has been significantly streamlined making it far less tedious to mine, fish, and harvest materials. No longer do you need to equip pickaxes and paintballs before setting off to hunt.In fact, multiple consumable items have been tweaked to either have infinite uses or be crafted using far fewer materials. These changes really emphasize Capcom’s ultimate goal with World: get more people playing as quickly and efficiently as possible.
For the most part, they succeeded, but newcomers may still have issues figuring out what the game wants from them. Previous titles essentially forced you to learn the ways of the world through a multitude of tedious tutorials, but this time around things are tied to the story as an attempt to direct players. This approach, unfortunately, leaves out a lot of useful details but at least it gets players fighting larger monsters very quickly. Quite frankly, the story is a bit forgettable and I ultimately feel it was unnecessary in the long run, but the cutscenes are well done and add a sense of adventure missing from earlier titles. The biggest issue here is the fact that both single player and multiplayer have been combined using these cutscenes as a gate preventing friends from joining in the fight until they’ve played out. It’s an odd choice that makes multiplayer more difficult to manage than usual. The gathering hall is still around to meet up with other players, the new squad function ensures friends always end up on the same server, and you can send up S.O.S. flares allowing anyone to join a fight in progress. But utilizing these features requires a bit of trial and error to figure out at first, and could stand to be a bit easier. Despite these flaws, if you’ve never played a Monster Hunter title before, this is hands down the best time to jump in, choose your weapon, gear up your kitty companion, and join the hunt.
Speaking of, all 14 weapons from Monster Hunter 4 & Generations have returned with new tricks up their sleeves, and the additions are wonderful. Gone are the complexities of Generations’ Hunting Styles as World opts for a more traditional approach though it does utilize a few of the same move sets. The heavy hitting Greatsword gains the insanely powerful True Charge Slash, and the love of my life Switch Axe can now attach to a monster’s face to release the Zero Sum Element Discharge. The Dual Blades can perform the Heavenly Blade Dance, slicing down the length of a monster’s back like a buzz saw, and the Heavy Bowgun now fires off a hail of machine gun fire, Rambo style. Every weapon has been rebalanced or overhauled, and I feel each weapon is now extremely fun to play. Ranged weapons in the past were not very popular due to the control limitations on their respective platforms, but now with the addition of a standard second analog stick, they’re incredibly easy to control. And I have no clue how they pulled this off, but the Lance, the plain-old non-explosive Lance, is now one of my favorite weapons. My head is still spinning from that realization, and I couldn’t be happier. Online, the Long Sword with its new counterattacking Foresight Slash seems to be the weapon of choice for most, and the Hunting Horn… still exists, I think? You never see the poor things out in the wild, but those who love them, including myself, really appreciate their support skills and raw power. Unfortunately, the Prowler mode from Generations is gone, which allowed you to play as your Palico companion. At least you can equip various useful tools and craft the most adorable armor in existence for them.
Crafting and armor skills have also been simplified for the better. Weapons now display their full upgrade tree when crafting and some weapons can even be downgraded, returning materials in the process if you make a mistake or want to try something else. Armor types have been combined into a single set as there is no longer any differentiation between blademasters (melee weapons) and gunners (ranged weapons). Monster Hunter: World opts to grant a defense or elemental resistance boost depending on your weapon instead, so the effect is roughly the same. Armor skills have been refactored to simply grant the effects of a skill when equipping a piece of armor that contains it. Equipping more pieces with the same skill will now improve the effect so mixing and matching different sets is now a viable option no matter your play style, though full armor sets still grant special bonuses. Charms and Decorations, accessories that can be crafted or found randomly after quests respectively, can also boost skills, adding even more customization to your hunter. Lastly, augmenting allows you to take things further, adding more attack power, elemental damage, or decoration slots among other things to your existing gear. Crafting is the name of the game, just be prepared to spend a lot of time to get exactly what you want.
And spend a lot of time you will. This game is pretty packed with content, taking roughly 60 to 80 hours to reach the end of the story. After that, it’s up to you to continue on raising your Hunter Rank by fighting more monsters, doing more quests, and crafting more gear. As a veteran, however, I can’t help but feel a slight tinge of disappointment at the endgame and monster selection for World. There just doesn’t seem to be as much to do in the late hours as previous entries (not even considering the expanded versions often released in the West) and I feel there are too many missing monster types from this entry (No insects, toads, snakes, or spiders? Where’s my Tetsucabra/ Zinogre/ Kecha Wacha!?). The game could have used a bit more variety, but it’s understandable given how much work this must have taken and I’m really not complaining about what is there. Besides, Capcom has been pumping out updates regularly and new monsters will be released in the near future, starting with everyone’s favorite murderous pickle, Deviljho. Monster Hunter: World is a near masterpiece, a wonderful addition to the series, and a great foundation for the future of the franchise. It has its faults with the multiplayer complexity, generally lackluster story, and tedious endgame grind, but in the grand scheme of things, none of these issues get in the way of what is easily a top contender for your free time.
Monster Hunter: World is available for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One family of systems. The PC release is currently slated for autumn 2018. But who wants to wait that long? Seriously, go buy a system if you have to. And show the Hunting Horn some love. It really deserves it.