Monster Hunter World is a game where you get exactly what it says on the tin. This is a series all about hunting monsters, gathering their parts (and other materials) and using them to make better gear in order to defeat even bigger monsters.
As you may have gathered, this is also an adventure about discovering a new world. Fittingly then, Monster Hunter World will also be exploring new territory for the series. Capcom’s latest brings the franchise to PC for the first time in the West. With the PC port still a way off though, we opted to brave the hunt on PS4.
Braving New Territory
Once every 10 years, the Elder Dragons make a pilgrimage to the new world. It’s a beautiful sight, but thanks to the jaw-dropping size of these creatures, their arrival causes a fair bit of ecological terror. That’s where you come in. In Monster Hunter World, you’re a part of the 5th expedition — an elite hunting unit tasked with researching the cause of this phenomenon.
You’ve gotta crawl before you can walk though, and that means first securing your beachhead. After you’ve set up camp, you’ll delve further and further into this new world, encountering more dangerous beasts, as you attempt to uncover the secrets of the Elder Dragons.
Still, it’s not all about massive monsters. Here, the World of the game’s namesake is arguably just as big a star as the massive beasts that roam it. No longer held back by the sub-HD hardware of the 3DS, Capcom’s devs have really gone to town with their first proper HD Monster Hunter.
Quite simply, this game is gorgeous. With huge and beautifully atmospheric landscapes for you to hunt and gather across, the new graphical grunt afforded to the devs has resulted in a brilliantly immersive world. Little plants retreat when you walk near. Colourful insects flutter and glisten across the horizon. It’s a functioning ecosystem designed with love and care, and the locales you find yourself exploring are every bit as memorable as the monsters themselves.
‘World’ is More Than Just a Name
Despite what a lot of sites were reporting, this is not a traditional open world. Instead of being thrown into the sprawling landscape of say, Breath Of The Wild, here players find themselves roaming a far smaller map that has been divided into numbered sections. Each of these numbered plots of lands plays home to different beasts, serving as its own entity that loads separately. But despite lacking the scale of your average Ubisoft open world, each of these locales still give players a fairly large area to explore.
Even more impressively, each of these subregions have their very own ecosystems to pay attention to. This creates a ton of brilliant little moments, where we often found ourselves entering a new area to see a herd of giant beasts quietly grazing… Only for a screen-filling predator to ruin their picnic. In Monster Hunter’s latest entry, the world is not going to stop just because you’re fighting.
A few hours into the game, we found ourselves locked in a tense battle with a Tobi-Kadachi, when all of a sudden a Great Jagras pounced on-screen to join the fight. These things will happen to you. Refreshingly, none of it is scripted, with these chance encounters all being a result of the game’s many clever systems colliding. Still, that’s not to say it’s completely random.
Monsters have certain walking routes, specific areas that house their favourite food and natural enemies they have turf wars with. With that predictability comes the power to help you plan for these game-changing encounters.
It’s not just the surprise appearance of a new enemy that can change the tide of battle without warning. This time the environment around you also becomes an invaluable weapon. Whether its dropping rocks on unsuspecting monsters, electrifying them with toads, baiting other behemoths to fight your prey or one of the many other environmental traps, it makes you wonder if you could take out a monster without even wielding a weapon.
Weapons Maketh the Hunter
Speaking of weapons, the arms you wield in World are undoubtedly are one of the coolest parts of the game. In a nice touch, you don’t have to grind for hundreds of hours to try them all out either. Hunters have the basic versions all available from the start. Some are better at stunning, others allow for acrobatic moves, and a few weapons even have nifty effects like letting one attack build power while the other releases it.
And although some weapons are clearly meant for multiplayer…
..Everything’s been well-balanced enough that you can still pretty much tackle any quest solo or with a group.
For the uninitiated, the game’s bread and butter is its hunting missions. Just to make life a little more difficult for you, these missions are timed and will scale with your group size. With your group only allowed to die a certain number of times before the mission is judged a failure, taking down your prey in co-op requires some serious coordination.
If that all sounds a bit too stressful, players can instead choose to forgo these hunting missions and just go out and explore an area. Maybe pick up some crafting materials, or try to find one of the (many) adorable villages full of cat people.
Still, it’s not the cats that shine here, it’s the screen-filling beasts. While taking on a seemingly never-ending series of giant dinosaur-looking creatures could easily get repetitive, each monster you encounter feels surprisingly unique. A lot of this comes down to their animations. Clearly a ton of love has been given to each beast’s movements. If you want to earn some grade A materials, you’ll need to pay close attention to these tells.
Just as players have to learn each new locale, in order to take down the toughest foes you’ll have to carefully learn their behaviour, spot their vulnerabilities and watch how they respond to the environment around them. Like a true RPG, winning here is equal parts planning and execution.
And of course, other preparations…
Slower but No Less Intense
Still, no matter how much you master the game, some of those later fights are going to stay hard.
This combat system is a close cousin to Dark Souls. Actions take stamina, and you have a certain amount of invincibility on your roll. A monster’s hurtbox might pass clean through your hitbox, but you’ll take no damage if you time your roll perfectly.
There’ve been some UI improvements to make the mountain of info more manageable. But nothing particularly game-changing. For example long time players will notice that there’s now the option to “favourite” an item, and when you have all the necessary materials, it’ll notify you.
But mid-combat UI remains the underachiever of the series. Cycling through items to get the one you need is painful in a pinch. The new selection wheel is an improvement. You can see the team has made a real effort to try and help make item management less stressful mid-battle. Sadly, it still didn’t quite hit the mark.
To first-timers, this may initially make Monster Hunter feel like a daunting experience. Your enemies can be unforgiving, and the controls might feel a little sluggish. Especially if you’re lugging around a big ol’ hammer around.
All of this is very much intended, but some people still might find it frustrating. Thankfully though, for the first time in the series, the game actually takes the time to explains its systems. Once everything begins to click, combat becomes an incredibly satisfying test of endurance.
Is ‘Monster Hunter World’ Good?
For this reason it’s kind of okay that swing animations are slower than other games, as everything has a bit more weight to it, making battles feel like a more considered affair than most action titles. It can sometimes feel annoying when bosses effectively stunlock you. But in the end, that’s where the planning comes in and you will only have yourself to blame.
In short, Monster Hunter World is a fantastic addition to the series. It’s never been on this many platforms before, so for many, this will be their first Monster Hunter game — and happily, Capcom has built a world that is sure to keep players coming back time and time again.