Monster Hunter: World Review
Monster Hunter: World
Release Date: January 26, 2018
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One (Played on PS4)
A household name in the East, but always struggling to find its footing in the West, Monster Hunter is a peculiar franchise. Ever since the release of the first Monster Hunter in 2004, the series aimed to offer a unique action-adventure experience with heavy influence from JRPGs. With many American games of that era such as Half-Life 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Halo steering the masses towards fast-paced genres, Monster Hunter was not able to find its place. Its popularity continued to grow in Japan, while it was barely recognized anywhere else.
Its heavy reliance on JRPG elements can be blamed; the games often feature endless grinding, a cliff-like learning curve, and enough mechanics to fill a book. After reassessing its foundations, the series now follows the path of Resident Evil, The Legend of Zelda, and Tomb Raider of recent years. Monster Hunter: World tries to reboot and reinvigorate the series for a new generation by focusing on one key aspect that it’s ignored for the past 14 years: accessibility.
The result is a game that not only welcomes newcomers but also provides a new experience for veterans. With an estimated 5 million units shipped in the first three days, the developers have managed to successfully reintroduce the game to a global audience.
Hunt, Loot, Craft, Repeat
At its core, the cycle of a Monster Hunter game is more straightforward than others: hunt monsters, loot materials, craft gear. If you ever find a monster too challenging, go back to farm better gear. How can this short loop translate to hundreds of hours of gameplay? The game as a whole is anything but simple; a plethora of in-depth features and mechanics wrap the core.
First, the monsters are anything but a pushover in this game. They tower over the hunters, with most of bigger than an average house. Research is a necessity for battles to abuse each monster’s unique weaknesses and making sure you’re covering your own. Crafting and proper inventory management is required if you want to survive every situation. Even with all this preparation, it’s a test of endurance as most hunts last 20 to 30 minutes on average. During this time, monsters will use everything in their power to kill you: they all have a unique set of attacks that define the battle and change up how you should approach each hunt.
Fourteen different weapons with unique looks, movesets, and abilities fill your arsenal. These are not simply variations of each other, each weapon caters to a varying use-cases and play so differently from one another that each one could warrant a separate game. Mastering even one takes dedication; typical hunters opt to stick with one or two different choices for the duration of their playthrough, but still find it hard to understand all the intricacies. With an upgrade tree system that provides different elemental damage and status effects, the game opens up to every type of hunter.
The game provides a similar range of options for armor sets to define your defense. Each hunter can wear five pieces of gear, each with unique appearances and features. Do you want to increase your stamina so you can run for longer? Consume items faster, so you’re not in the open as long? Get critical hits more often? With the ability to mix and match parts, there is a way to fit every need.
Outside of hunts, there’s still much to do. Most of your planning and crafting will take place in the Astera Command Base, where you will be able to upgrade your equipment, buy and sell items, eat meals that provide you with temporary buffs, and harvest crops.
Welcome to the New World
The game starts with the player taking the role of a Hunter that travels to the New World to help a group of researchers study creatures. The New World is a newly discovered continent separate from the Old World, where the older games in the series to take place. This new continent is not a change for the sake of the story, but a metaphor for all the new upgrades that the entry brings.
Capcom spent a lot of time bringing accessibility into the game but made careful choices to not alienate long-time fans. Previous games were often criticized for not teaching the players how to play. In Monster Hunter: World, there exists a tutorial or an optional reading for every mechanic. Weapon commands are now available through a moveset dictionary, and a training area is open for you to test and practice combos. Even with all this help, you find yourself unable to overcome a hunt; you can shoot an SOS flare to invite other hunters to help.
Quality of life changes are not only for newcomers but veterans as well. Capcom has done well to resolve the issues raised by players in the past, addressing them directly. Gone are the days where players need to have a spreadsheet next to them to track drops or skill values. For the first time in the series, hunters can now see how much damage they are doing to monsters. Smart scaling of monster health means hunters can enjoy the game on their own if they wish. And finally, after 14 years, you can now join your friends midway through a hunt even if you were a few minutes late to join the party.
There are changes made to the core hunting gameplay in the spirit of accessibility as well. Monster Hunter games were known for its clunky, slow controls, with flailing models. The handling in the new engine is responsive and doesn’t feel like you’re fighting against the combat system. Hitboxes have been updated to fit the models so that you won’t be hipchecked from across the map. Every part of the game has been rebuilt from the ground up to make sure as many players can enjoy it as possible.
Unfortunately, this is just a good start that leaves much to be desired. There are too many errands to run between hunts that break the flow of the game. Making sure to pick up my harvest, fertilizing my crops, checking on my felyne expedition, talking to the bounty crew, checking in with your biology researcher make up a checklist of tasks after every hunt. These activities pad the game with unnecessary playtime when they could have been automated or at least, placed close to one another.
It’s mandatory to mention that accessibility does not mean dumbing down the content. The developers did not take away any critical features from the past or make the game easy. The intricacies and deep mechanics are still present. The learning curve has been smoothed out at the beginning, but the low rank still serves as than effective tutorial before you’re thrown into high rank where the real challenges await.
New Hardware, New Rules
After spending the last two iterations on handheld devices (Monster Hunter X on the Switch was an HD port, not a brand new game), Monster Hunter: World marks the series’ return to a household console after9 years. Gone are the limitations imposed by the slower handhelds. Maps are bigger and better; spanning multiple vertical levels and sporting many breathtaking vistas. Loading between zones is a thing of the past, as you can walk from one end to another without having to look at a single black screen.
It’s not just the environment that got an upgrade. The interaction between the maps, monsters, and hunters has been given a large emphasis as well. A Diablos can now hide behind a sand waterfall, jumping out to catch hunters when they least expect it. Hunters can break a dam holding thousands of gallons of water to drown out a Rathian. Entire parts of the maps can collapse and be destroyed as monsters and hunters duke it out. Monster Hunter: World can implement interactive worlds that many other games can only dream of doing.
Multiplayer has been polished to the highest degree. Jumping in and out of hunts with your friends is intuitive and hassle-free. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t run into any synchronization issues or get dropped from any hunts during my entire playthrough. There’s no semblance of lag or rubber-banding whether you’re playing with someone in the same city, or halfway across the globe. Considering how so many other recent games have had issues with their online, I was happy to see that Monster Hunter: World did not suffer from similar problems.
It’s important to note that these upgrades aren’t without fault. Questionable design choices crop up from time to time. For instance, verticality becomes an annoyance with monsters that like to move around a lot, causing you to climb up and down cliffs for most of the hunt. The addition of fast travel makes the random zone drop-off in high rank more of a nuisance than a challenge, as you can simply go back to camp by opening the map. Cutscenes that are scattered in the middle of hunts, although beautiful to watch, have to be viewed alone before you can group back up with your squad.
Although the hunts themselves are load-free, long loading screens plague the rest of the game. The Gathering Hub, the only multiplayer area in Asteria, is a prime example of this issue. You cannot return to it by default after a hunt and requires a separate load to enter. This would be fine, except that all the things you would want to do before a hunt: upgrade gear, buy tools, and harvest plants, are not available in the hub. I found myself actively avoiding the hub as it provided no extra value for me and only prolonged my time in loading screens. It’s a shame as they were marketing this feature pretty heavily during the pre-launch period but turned out to be such a disappointment.
Saving the World
Story has never been a high point for the Monster Hunter series. Unfortunately, Monster Hunter: World turns a blind eye to the problem and refuses to address it at all. You are still the silent hunter with a blank slate that offers no personality. A lot of the problems and solutions throughout the story seem to be too convenient for the sake of gameplay. The reasoning behind why we need to hunt the monsters are laughable.
It’s understandable that they wouldn’t spend any effort to fix these issues. Due to how these games are played, there will be huge stretches of time between story points. Why waste time fixing something that many players will not pay attention to or forget?
There is, however, one new addition: English voice acting also makes its debut in Monster Hunter: World, replacing the gibberish language that was spoken in the previous games. Although I appreciate the effort, the execution and direction are subpar most of the time. I consider these points the weakest part of the game, but it’s such a small part of a grander experience that it didn’t affect my opinions.
Monster Hunter: World will keep most players occupied for a long time, with my playtime clocking in at around 45 hours before I was able to defeat the final boss of the main story. After completing a lot of the optional quests and grinding my Hunter Rank, I found myself at around 65 hours.
Although this is a lot of value compared to other AAA titles; I thought it was a bit short compared to previous games in the series. There is a distinct lack of monsters, and the only replayability in the end-game comes from grinding better accessories. High rank usually meant the end of the second arc in previous titles, followed up by G rank, but it is completely missing. Fortunately, Capcom has reassured fans to let them know that additional content will come with time. Deviljho, a fan favorite, has already been announced for release later this Spring, and collaborations with Street Fighter has recently been shown off at EVO Japan. Going by the older games, we can expect regular content updates for at least the next six months.
Overall, I feel like they were able to create an excellent foundation with Monster Hunter: World. The developers were finally able to hook an audience that they weren’t able to reach in the past. The improvements are a refreshing change for long-time players, and Capcom was able to revitalize the series for a new generation. With a game that’s truly deserving of its subtitle regarding reach and depth, I’m excited to see what’s ahead for this franchise.