For years, Monster Hunter has been a franchise that has been isolated to Nintendo consoles and nearly solely followed by a passionate, cult-like group made up of gamers who regal each other with tales of their favourite hunts. Finally, a chance for more to join this prestigious band has come as Monster Hunter makes its way into the mainstream spotlight with Monster Hunter: World, an expansive RPG with a world that longs to be explored, filled with monsters that beg to be slain. It doesn’t exactly execute a perfect landing when accommodating new players with its ridiculously ambitious and close to overbearing amount of mechanics, but it does win you over excellent exploration, crafting, and online play that really makes people realise what they’ve been missing all these years.
Monster Hunter: World’s plot follows you (a brave hunter) and your Palico (a cat-humanoid companion) venturing to the new world after an elder dragon (a really, really big Godzilla-like monster) migrates to the continent. For most of the game, you and the hunters’ guild are on the job, tasked with unraveling the mystery of why this colossal beast makes the journey, but honestly, by the later stages of the game, the story takes a back seat the invigorating hunts and numerous gameplay factors that make up the game.
The main focus of Monster Hunter: World is a familiar gameplay loop that can be boiled down as such: Kill monster, craft armour and weapons out of said monster’s remains in the goal of killing an even bigger monster, rise, repeat. It’s a formula that, from the outside, seems easy to understand, and, at first, appears simple, but the game is anything but.
Monster Hunter: World ditches hunter arts from Monster Hunter Generations, and instead, your style of combat is entirely dictated by what weapon you choose to use. (There are 14 weapon types in total, so there’s plenty to pick from.) Some conform to the normal style of weapons you’re used to, like the classic sword and shield, dual blades, and the bow. Others are much more fantastical in nature, like the Gunlance, a huge lance revolver hybrid that allows you to simultaneously shoot and stab your prey, or the Bloodborne-esque Switch Axe, a trick weapon that has two forms and unleashes devastating damage when used masterfully. And just to make the weapons system slightly more complicating, they all have individual inputs for combinations and unique systems, too.
You can switch back and forth between anyone of the weapon types at anytime you’re back at base camp, meaning any playstyle is at your fingertips at all times, but with the sheer variety of the collection, players will have more than enough to handle when mastering just a few of the weapons that are up for offer.
Several hours into your Monster Hunter: World journey, you’ll realise there is much more to keep track of than just the weapons you’re holding. The armor on your back; potions, charms, resistances, bombs, traps; and hundreds of other various items to craft all become something you have to manage. It sounds overwhelming, and it most certainly can be, and the fact that it took me ten hours of game time before I figured out there was a weapon practice area located via a Palico NPC in the main camp is a slight issue, even more so for players unfamiliar with the Monster Hunter franchise.
Despite this, developer Capcom really does streamline several of the existing systems in order to soften the growing pains some may find when playing World. Crafting systems have been radically simplified in comparison to former titles, and the upgrade trees for each of your weapons and armour feel meaningful and dynamic. Items and scrap you pick up on your hunts all go towards crucial items you didn’t know you even needed until the perfect time, and never once in my 60-plus hours of gameplay did I feel I was farming materials for nothing.
This all results in a snowball effect of interlocking gameplay mechanics and self-upgrading that leads you down a monster-hunting rabbit hole that you don’t want to find the end of. It’s super satisfying watching your hunter grow and finding your place within the world, and it sets off a chain of events that has you completing one task after the next as you master systems and climatize to the game around you.
Now, of course, this wouldn’t be a Monster Hunter game without online co-operative play, and World most certainly delivers in the department. Monster Hunter: World makes the smart decision of integrating village and guild quests together this time around, meaning quests can be completed both online or with a party, and you aren’t required to play through them twice. There are several ways you can join others. Firstly, you can start a quest solo in an online session and wait for friends to join by finding your session or simply throwing them an invite. Secondly, you can search for a session through the quest board, requesting people of a certain hunter rank before joining. Finally, if you’re playing alone and you run into some trouble, you can send out an S.O.S flare that will open your game up and allow a stranger or a friend to jump in and assist you. The difficulty will scale with each member in your game, though, and the only caveat to the whole thing is that the party leader must either watch story cutscenes filled with terrible lip-syncing or discover a monster before others can join.
If you feel like taking a breather or showing off your sweet armor, you can do that to by just hanging out without your buddies in the hall, where you can partake in an arm-wrestling mini game, drink ale, and feast. Also, if your meathead friends are too busy show boating in the camp, you can head out alone and start a quest without them. This is also a great feature if you want to watch over a friend who’s new to the franchise and who doesn’t always want you holding their hand.
If you find yourself in an experienced group, however, you’ll notice just how deep World‘s online play is, as good groups will decide pre-hunt what rolls to fill like tank, healer, damage, and support. My favourite moment in the game so far has come when I coupled up with a player using an insect glaive, which is used to mount monsters, and a horn-wielding hunter that gave us extra stats. I genuinely felt like I was a part of a hunting party, working together perfectly to take down our quarry. If I wasn’t already in love with Monster Hunter: World, this moment would have affirmed my infatuation.
Perhaps the most important aspect that really makes Monster Hunter: World a roaring success is exactly that: its world. Creatures take the spotlight here, each cooler than the last. Some resemble beasts from 1950s monster movies; others look like something that a child would have drawn, made from a mix of animal parts both realistic and fantastical — like my personal favourite monster, the Pukei-Pukei, a wyvern-like monstrosity with the head of chameleon, that spits poison after luring you in with its giant tongue and peacock-looking feathers.
Monster Hunter: World‘s areas also get a similar treatment of care and imagination, and vary in both climates and verticality. I was especially impressed by the Coral Highlands, an ocean floor-like area filled with large coral formations that captured the beauty of a reef without the pesky requirement of underwater mechanics. These beautiful expanses also have their own ecosystems, and after spending a while in each area, you begin to understand the pecking order of the local creatures, who exactly is the hunter and who is the hunted.
Though these areas are large in stature, hunting monster through them is made much easier with the added scout flies mechanic, which will highlight the direction and pathing of the creature you are hunting once you have gathered enough intel on it through discovery of its footprints or poo — which is great, because these monsters seem to poop a lot.
What makes exploring these areas even greater a delight is the fact that there are no loading screens, as each area is funneled together, really creating the feeling of a grand world. This achievement is due in large part to the game’s modified MT Framework engine (used since the original Dead Rising), which does a great job rendering large areas and loading the game at a decent framerate.
Monster Hunter: World is a huge monster in and of itself, and once you recognize how to get into the belly of the beast, it all starts to make sense. By the end of it all (and I use the term “end” very loosely, as I still have hundreds of hours to go), Monster Hunter: World had captured me, grabbing me in its giant ambitious jaws and making me love every damn second of it. If you manage to survive Monster Hunter: World‘s learning curve, you’ll be rewarded with one of the deepest and most satisfying RPG experiences found on modern consoles. Happy hunting.
Monster Hunter: World: Review Summary
Almost perfect/almost flawless.
A game that receives a score of 9 doesn’t quite reach the level of mastery that a 10-scoring game does, but it still holds many of the same wonderful characteristics and assets. It is a game that can be influential and inspiring, but it is also one that is very impressive. It may fall ever-so slightly short in a certain aspect, but the game remains astonishing and incredibly enjoyable. The reviewer enthusiastically recommends this game.