Monster Hunter is a series of inspired iteration, with each new generation developing the good ideas and trying to mitigate the bad. Even a cursory glance over the major features of each title will see certain items of gameplay wholesale deleted due to the problematic nature of them – underwater combat, for example, was entirely removed in the 4th generation of the game in favour of adding more verticality to the game’s sprawling world.
Monster Hunter: World represents a culmination of the series’ greatest ideas, let loose on the impressive power of the current ultra HD generation of consoles (and PC!). It’s taken fourteen years to reach this point, and there is a lot to be excited about.
Allow me to carve up this beast for you…
There appears to be an obstruction to my path
World’s story is a thinly veiled effort to get you out exploring the world and murdering whatever megafauna might cross your path. You are a member of The Fifth Fleet, a group of elite monster hunters that have crossed the seas to witness a great migration of elder dragons to a feral landscape known as The New World. Soon after arriving however your ship is scuttled by one such monstrous bloke (who is roughly the size of a small mountain). After this explosive introduction into the ‘World’ of ‘Monster Hunter: World’ (spoiler: everything wants to eat you) you are tasked with finding your place and working to aid the other fleets who reside here.
Interspersed with introductory cutscenes for beasties and new friends, the experience feels dynamic and interesting. Right when you might feel your enthusiasm waning, the game will throw a huge narrative set piece at you to keep you on your toes – developing the New World right before your eyes. As events unfold, parts of the landscape become available to you in organic ways – a massive fissure rent through the earth will reveal a forest of coral, for example, and your hunting grounds will suddenly expand to this unique biome.
My Kitty companion is prepared for anything – even water!
With new environments, come new monsters – and truthfully, they are the star of the show. The creatures that inhabit The New World range from colossal threats, to insignificant nuisances – but all are part of an ecosystem that work in a cohesive, believable way. Large herbivores will scatter if an enraged apex predator comes storming through their habitat, small scavenger beasts will descend in a pack the moment your quarry is slain – in a first for the series, some creatures will even choose to assault each other under the right circumstances. Anjanath, a T-Rex impersonator, is a giant grumpy bastard that will fight anything that catches it in a bad mood. I have seen lesser creatures make the mistake of encountering it at an inopportune time, and sure enough they would pay the price. When two large creatures meet, the display of dominance between the two of them looks like something out of a nature documentary – roars of power and guarded stances as they stare each other down. The rocky Barroth has a particularly hard time dealing with a slippery landshark known as the Jyuratodus, as the Barroth enjoys coating itself in the same sticky mud that Jyura calls home. For a hunter, this means that quite often you will need to prepare yourself for the inevitable fight that breaks out when the landshark decides it’s had enough of your prey screwing around with its mud. Do you slay the Jyuratodus to get rid of the nuisance? Do you let them fight each other and claim whatever victory you can? These dynamic ecological situations keep the game interesting even after you have slain something the umpteenth time.
This brings me to the act of slaying itself. In a world of big monsters, there are also big armaments to ready yourself for such a task. Over a dozen weapon types are represented, collecting every which way you could imagine killing something from over four generations of Monster Hunter games. Weapons are not tied to classes, and they each represent an entirely unique way to play the game. For the burly bruiser there are giant swords and hammers to milk huge damage numbers out of your prey. For the nimble folks, smaller blades and shields allow you to deal death by a thousand cuts. If you prefer taking a step back to offer death from afar, you can make use of a giant bow, crossbow-like cannons or a massive mortar-slash-machine gun to pepper your target with projectiles. There are even more technical weapons to add a unique twist to the regular assortment of blades and boomsticks – such as a bladed polearm that shoot insects, or a massive horn you can either use to play music to buff your friends, or beat over a creature’s head. Weapon attacks have an almost freestyle flow to them, utilising a straightforward methodology of heavy and light attacks, where you are free to weave combos together at your leisure, depending on what the situation calls for.
You can also upgrade, or even craft new and improved weapons and armour within the game’s robust crafting system. Just as pivotal to the Monster Hunter series as the act of hunting said monsters, harvesting their components easily represents a crucial aspect of the game. A player progresses within Monster Hunter by way of crafting better gear – an endless (enjoyable) treadmill that sees a player kill a monster to get the items to improve their weapons and armour, so they can kill a bigger monster to get the items to improve their weapons and armour, so they can kill a bigger monster to get the items to improve their weapons and armour… you get the picture. The very nature of Monster Hunter is the act of testing yourself against more powerful prey, and outside of your own skill level the other factor is what you wield, and what you wear. Past games have at times been criticised for being a little obtuse with their crafting systems, with players pouring over fan-maintained wikis to get the information they need – not so much the case with World. Plenty of player-friendly tooltips and explanations help arm players with the knowledge they need to get started on their crafting journey, and helpful options such as the ability to ‘wishlist’ materials (like a shopping list when you are out murdering) assists you with staying on track to craft your next shiny thing.
Monster Hunter: World represents a new generation of incredible battles for Veteran hunters, and a launching platform for newer players to finally see what the fuss is about
Weapons also can be upgraded and customised to do unique, nasty things to your prey. I rocked the insect glaive for a long time, and after killing a Pukei Pukei (a chameleon-eyed bird that spat poison) I realised that I could use the beast’s components to make my weapon poison enemies. I geared up to slay a few more of these Pukeis, and took it to the smithy to work his magic. What came out of his forge was a bringer of death – a glaive that could spit out insect clouds that would explode into a poisonous mist, causing the monster to gradually lose health – all while purple muck would drip and bubble in their mouth. In the hunts that followed, on occasion I would notice that a monster may attempt to flee from me – only to choke and die from the poison a few feet away. If I could have hugged this weapon, I would have.
The final aspect of crafting, beyond your weapon and gear, are your tools. Consumables, bombs, traps – all manner of nice and nasty goodies that you can scrounge together from your environment and combine into something helpful. As you traverse the landscape you can frenetically gather whatever isn’t nailed down, from herbs to rocks to mushrooms to bugs to seriously whatever. With your bag now bulging full of organic matter, you can open your own personal crafting screen (away from the smithy) and start your dark work. Potions can restore your health, and can be crafted in more potent versions, poison antidotes can help when you are wasting away and traps can immobilise or paralyse your target. There are also a variety of buffs you can employ upon yourself or friends, such as increasing your attack damage.
A skilled hunter will even take their gear tailoring to it’s inevitable conclusion – by way of the in-game monster manual. As you encounter, slay and are slain by creatures, your interactions with them all contribute to researching the beast. Even the simple act of tracking them will teach you about their habits – and eventually, their weaknesses. Within your ‘Big Book of Monsters’ you can see their break points – areas that can be destroyed to give the monster a disadvantage. Doing this can also reward you with unique items you may require to craft. The most simple example of this in action is the act of cutting off a monster’s tail. By targeting this area, you can eventually sever the item – allowing it to be gathered – but also causing the monster to now struggle with it’s balance; larger creatures can find themselves stumbling, or even falling over entirely. You may target a monsters throat to damage it to the point where the monster may be unable to breathe fire, or spit poison. Researching this kind of information beforehand can make all the difference when you set out on a hunt. You may even consult your monster manual to see that a particular monster has an elemental weakness – and take a weapon to capitalise on this. Thunder damage on a water creature? Sounds a little like you are battling pocket monsters, but the opportunity is there to achieve great things.
Like a Pokedex, only not
So far, all of this does feel like an amazing single-player action RPG. But the boiling point of this game’s appeal (at least to me) is just how fleshed out the multiplayer component is. There is no competitive element – you won’t be fighting other Hunters – but instead, a group of four players can elect to group up and work together. You could be co-operating to bring down big prey, or instead just enjoy a material run as you all meander through a zone at your own pace, picking flowers. When hunting as part of a team, the dynamic of the game shifts into a whole new area. Your objective is still the same, where you might be working to slay or capture a fairly nasty beast, but the question of ‘how’ suddenly has a lot more answers. One Hunter could work entirely in a supportive role, blowing their musical horn-mace to buff their friends. Another more nimble hunter may flit about the place striking the monster and deploying traps. A stalwart hunter may stare the beast down and face it head on, while the last hunter takes aim from further away with a ranged weapon. This situation is entirely decided based off personal preference, with each hunter playing to their strengths for the benefit of the team. I personally played alongside many a random hunter and marvelled at how differently they played compared to me. During the beta of Monster Hunter: World, my friends and I even went out of our way to try and engineer encounters to our benefit – myself firing paralysing bullets while they struck the enemies with giant, devastating blows.
The range of armor and weapons just keeps going
The act of joining others has been designed to be as seamless as possible. When playing, you can choose to flag your session as ‘open’, allowing others to drop in and assist if they wish. You could instead choose to flag your session as private – ensuring that NugToker720 doesn’t rock up unannounced. Or you might simply choose a friendly-only environment, so familiar faces can drop in whenever they wish. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also choose to matchmake from the town hub, and the game will seek open session and drop you in there. I mentioned in my first impressions article that while sharing a session with someone there is no commitment to do the same content. You can share a session with someone, and never see them if you wish – but while in this environment you can see at a glance what the other is doing, and if you choose, join them. I joined a higher ranked hunters session, and immediately saw that he was tackling foes that were far beyond me – so I opted to stick to killing prey more my speed. After failing a particular hunt twice, the bloke sharing my session sent me a message: ‘Need Help?’ When a player starts a hunt/quest, it does alert others in the session (so they can elect to join them if they wish). He had obviously seen that I had started the same mission more than once, as my shame was openly on display. I didn’t hesitate to say yes, and together we worked to take care of Anjanath together. This interaction was a perfect example of the odd co-habitation you can opt for within World.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was just a pile of bones – until it tried to eat you
Then, there are SOS flares, a form of emergency help request that you can choose to utilise if things within your session get hairy. Bitten off more than you can chew and require some assistance? Activating an SOS flare will flag your session as ‘Seeking Help’. From the same screen you choose to enter matchmaking, a player can choose to actively seek SOS flares, entering a session where someone may be struggling. Veteran hunters have already praised this system, as they know the learning curve for a Monster Hunter game can be steep – and this may allow them to step in and assist newer hunters.
This focus on accessibility is a recurring theme throughout the game. The developers have worked carefully to make sure the initial bar of entry is low enough that people can grasp it and get hooked, and work up to the gradual learning curve. In my time playing it, the game never appeared to ask something of me that was beyond my ability; my own experience with failure came at a time where I knew I hadn’t reviewed my gear recently, and was likely being a little slack. This lack of success didn’t deflate me, instead it prompted me to double down and apply a little more preparation in future – unlike previous titles that tended to be fairly daunting with difficulty spikes that were insurmountable in these novice’s hands.
Big n’ Nasty, just the way I like ’em
It’s easy to praise Monster Hunter: World. The game is gorgeous, its gameplay exceptionally tight, and its longevity present in spades. But the real praise has to be directed at how the creators of the series have managed to open the doors to every scrub who ever showed interest in hunting monsters. Monster Hunter: World represents a new generation of incredible battles for Veteran hunters, and a launching platform for newer players to finally see what the fuss is about. It is a testament to how a passionately created project can evolve throughout the years, without compromising what made it incredible in the first place.
Reviewed on Playstation 4 | Review code supplied by publisher