Release Date: January 26th, 2018
Play It On: Xbox One, PS4, PC (Fall 2018)
An excellent way to start 2018, Monster Hunter: World has proven itself to be more fun than I originally expected and my expectations were high. My introduction to the Monster Hunter series was the 2015 3DS release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. After a month of playing, I remember being surprised at having played 30 hours into a 3DS game and still feeling like I had so much more to do: monsters to hunt, armor to craft, weapons to master and combos to try. The controls were a bit cramped on the handheld, and many of the features were clunky (menus, crafting), but the game was still a blast. Naturally, when E3 2017 brought us the announcement trailer for Monster Hunter: World, I couldn’t wait to see what Monster Hunter on console would bring; 2018 could not arrive quickly enough.
World begins with players on a ship full of hunters and their Palicos (ferocious feline friends), bound for a new land full of new monsters to hunt. Before the journey is complete though, Zorah Magdaros, an Elder Dragon, surfaces in the ocean and by virtue of it’s size alone, destroys the ship. The rest of the game sees your hunter and trusty Palico companion tracking down Zorah Magdaros, while exploring the new world and fighting increasingly difficult monsters.
The first zone that you explore serves as a wide-grinned greeting card to veteran and new players alike. The Ancient Forest is a vividly detailed and dynamic environment that brings just as much diversity with it’s flora and small wildlife as it does with it’s monsters. It is also complimented by a robust soundtrack that rises and falls as you hunt and gather. There seems to be no end to the materials that you can collect and the forest proper offers an excellent chance for players to learn how to use the environment to their benefit when hunting or battling: setting up traps, leaping off ledges, swinging from vines and finding new crawl holes to an unexplored area or monster den.
This game is just fun. That certainly won’t go down in history as my most eloquent description of a game, but it’s hard to say it any other way. Once I understood how to organize my menus, what items I should be prioritizing for crafting and how important being fed before every mission was, the hunting itself really clicked into focus. World promotes a learn-by-doing philosophy; there was never a sense of monotony to the various tasks though.
Instead, the lack of hand holding felt like a bonus adventure that traveled parallel to my own throughout the game. It awoke in me a curiosity and eventual satisfaction, as I learned to take time between missions and plan ahead, create item and equipment load-outs to better suit the monster I was hunting, decide on which meal would benefit me most and whether my goal was to trap a monster or kill it.
Speaking of equipment: did I need more fire resist for this monster versus the last? Would bringing down the Odogaron be easier with a bow or with dual-blades or was there a weapon on this list of 14 that I haven’t tried yet that might work better?
Every one of those 14 weapons can be effective against any of the monsters you’ll find yourself fighting but there are some that might make fighting said monster easier than another; being able to choose a fighting style and weapon is part of the fun. As an example, there was an Elder Dragon who, I swear, laughed at the arrows I shot it’s way. Instead of being greeted by a series of numbers that represented the damage my arrows were doing, I saw groups of zeros and a graphic where my arrows struck harmlessly against the dragon’s scaly skin and clattered to the ground. So I went back to camp and grabbed my Dual Blades and gave the Elder Dragon another go, this time successfully taking it down.
Once you’ve completed the story proper, there’s a whole second half to Monster Hunter: World called High Rank. It not only recycles all of the monsters you’ve fought before by making them stronger, beefier, faster and a whole lot angrier but it also fills out it’s roster with another handful of Elder Dragons. If that’s not enough to keep you busy, there are also dozens of optional quests and investigations to complete.
What Monster Hunter: World could have done better: The story line was underdeveloped and the NPCs that you adventure alongside, even more so. The voice acting did not sync up with the NPCs either, which, combined with the lack of depth made them all together insignificant. While the lack of hand holding offers much for players seeking a challenge, it can be intimidating to first time Monster Hunter fans or more casual players.
What Monster Hunter: World did well: The game is packed full of fun, start to finish and offers a world that feels alive, above and beyond hunting monsters. The menus and sub-menus are also much more accessible than previous Monster Hunter games. The hunts themselves are dynamic enough to keep players interested, even 50+ hours in, and the game sets obvious difficulty checks. In order to progress, players are invited to take the time to learn at least some of the other features including crafting, gathering, research, investigations and optional quests. The “learn by doing” system is rewarding and the sheer amount of options for crafting and customization offer their own senses of excitement and accomplishment.
The game does not offer a high appeal for replay-ability (starting from scratch), since players are able to obtain all weapons and all armor types on just one character. However, there is much to do once the main game is “finished” and weekly events alongside content updates promise continuous challenges for the foreseeable future.
Overall, Monster Hunter: World is a refreshing take on the Action-RPG genre and provides hours of fun as well as ample reward for those who take the time to figure out some of the more subtle game-play systems. I’ve heard it said before that Monster Hunter is not a series for everyone and at some point in the past, that may have been true. Monster Hunter: World though is a game that has opened it’s arms to the few and the many, ensuring that long time fans have enough content to munch on, while first time players can ease themselves into the hunt with intuitive controls, exciting combat, vividly detailed zones and monsters of all shapes and sizes.
My suggestion? Borrow it from a friend and play for a few hours. Once you’re completely hooked, feel free to message me so we can play together on Xbox One 😉
As always, thanks for reading!