It would be an understatement to say that Capcom’s Monster Hunter series is one with a rabid fanbase. The franchise has enjoyed most of its historical success on handheld systems like the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo 3DS, but because the best games in the series have mostly been on handheld save for some enhanced ports on the Wii and Wii U, it hasn’t exactly taken off in the west until now. Built from the ground up using the raw power of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Monster Hunter: World might be the definitive Monster Hunter experience and the most approachable one as well.
What Is It?
At its core, Monster Hunter is an action RPG. In each game you play the role of a hunter embarking on expeditions, exploring various worlds and their inhabitants, then reporting your findings to the researchers back at camp. As you’d expect, each world is filled with different monsters, and in typical gaming fashion, the only way to learn about these monsters is to fight and kill them–maybe even capture them for the sake of science.
But it’s hardly ever really about the science or the story, something this version of Monster Hunter focuses on a great deal.
The joy of hunting monsters and looting them for their parts and materials for the sake of getting better gear is something no other game in the genre has really replicated to the extent that Monster Hunter does. It’s pretty strange, as you can say Monster Hunter is the game that paved the way for other RPGs and open world games like Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Breath of the Wild, where you’ll oftentimes run into monsters that you won’t be ready for until you’re 30 hours deep into the story. It all plays into its charm, and the fact that you don’t have to do it all alone makes it even more appealing.
Why Should I Care?
What sets Monster Hunter: World apart from any Monster Hunter before it is its approachability. Now that the game is specifically designed for modern consoles, it includes all sorts of quality of life additions that newcomers might take for granted. One such feature is the guide bugs, which allow players to set waypoints on the map to more easily explore your surroundings. Previous entries in the series only had cursors representing you and the game’s various beasts, relying on your own map-reading abilities to find every monster in each world’s zones.
Speaking of zones, going from one zone to another was a gargantuan task on a handheld. Because of the lack of processing power, going from zone to zone resulted in a bunch of painful load screens while the only load screens in Monster Hunter: World happen when you traverse between the game’s levels or its central hub. It’s a more streamlined experience than in previous games, as the game no longer makes you feel like your big hunt is taking place on a bunch of little arenas where you can hide in random zones and find safety–it’s all happening in one huge place, and it actually feels like danger is lurking around every corner.
Even more head-scratching is the fact that turf wars didn’t happen in the past. Now monsters will actually attack other monsters in Monster Hunter: World, allowing you to carefully watch in the hopes of getting all the credit for the work another monster did.
Other differences are more miniscule yet significant. Take the tent at your camp for example. These allow you to change equipment and manage your inventory when you’re on location. Previous Monster Hunter games didn’t even have that flexibility, so if you ventured out into a level and equipped the wrong gear, you were stuck with that gear unless you quit the quest.
All this stuff aside, while Monster Hunter made its killing on handheld, Monster Hunter: World seems even more at home on console with its MMO feel thanks to the game encouraging you to work together with other hunters to get some of the slaying done, complete with voice chat.
Again, this is all extremely easy to take for granted, because underneath all these improvements is the fact that Monster Hunter is still an intimidating and challenging experience that newcomers will take some time adjusting to, even with the game’s wealth of tutorials.
The game gives you a wealth of weapons and equipment at your disposal and while you’re strongly encouraged to try all the weapons out to find your comfort zone, it makes the process of having fun in the game more lengthy. I’m a newcomer to the game myself, and I tried out the katana and the great sword when first starting out but found myself being the most comfortable with the hunter’s bow. At that, it wasn’t doing much damage, so I eventually started maining the hammer. If you’re diving in expecting an easy and responsive hack and slash ala God of War, you’re not going to get it here.
Choosing the weapon and equipment you want to focus on is one of the deeper aspects in the game’s meta. Early on, it’s easy to try all sorts of stuff out, but you’re only given so much currency to upgrade your equipment, so if you spend too much time trying to discover your comfort zone, you might find yourself out of resources to really put time into improving the equipment you like the most.
Luckily, aside from the assigned quests that progress the game’s story, you have a bunch of optional quests and expeditions you can go on to try to farm as many materials as possible from the game’s various wildlife and environments, earning money along the way–this is what Monster Hunter is, and never has it been easier to share the experience with other hunters.
While the series has always been big on multiplayer primarily through ad hoc, dedicated servers on home consoles have given the game a more authentic MMO feeling. Hunters can enjoy single player all they want, but players (especially newcomers to the series) looking for a little extra help can fire an SOS on most missions and fairly quickly get help from other humans looking to lend a hand.
This feature contributes to the game’s deep meta on its own and shows off the willingness of the community to constantly help others. There were countless times in the game where I struggled just because of its sheer challenge, and seeing that Japanese people joined my game to help me out always brought a sigh of relief. When you do this, you end up splitting the money you earned, but you still get all the gear you’ve collected, which is really all you’re playing for. (I’m not afraid to admit that I was horrible at the game and still am, and it felt great to finally understand how it feels to be the guy in the group project who did nothing but still got an A.
The fact of the matter is that the game is incredibly deep. There are hundreds of different ways and styles to play the game to suit you, and if you think you’re doing something wrong, it’s easy to be corrected. Did you bring the right equipment? Do you have the right weapon? Does your gear have all the right attachments? Did you eat before the mission? These are all questions you’ll be asking yourself in preparation of what’ll totally be a thrashing. The tutorials only scratch the surface with what you can do, and while they leave a lot to be desired, there’s something to be said about how much you can learn regarding the game on your own or with a series veteran joining you.
As great as the game is online, keeping a constant connection has been spotty at times, forcing users to actually power down their consoles when experiencing a network issue even when on a wired connection. This combined with the rather long load times contribute to a rather frustrating experience that has nothing to do with the game’s intended meta, but when everything works, the amount of options you have online are daunting in a way that keeps you coming back.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
If you ever thought about getting into Monster Hunter, this is the perfect time to do so. Yes, it can be hard. Yes, it will require a lot of time in order to really understand what it is you’re doing. But once you get it, the fun you’ll have is pretty unique. As approachable as it is, it’s still a daunting experience, so if you’re not much for action games, this probably won’t change your mind, but you can also have peace with the fact that there will always be someone to help you if you’re interested, and that’s a unique feeling on its own.
Gamers have heard for years about how great the series is, and no Monster Hunter game demonstrates that better than Monster Hunter: World. The game is constantly cycling in new content to blend in with the game’s main campaign and meaty post-game with the bulk of it being free, making it hard to not praise Capcom for this feat.
Monster Hunter: World is simply a fantastic game and even when you’re “done” with it, it’s great to know there’ll be more waiting for you when you come back.