I somehow missed the Monster Hunter series in the past. Even though I knew about it from friends (after I realized it wasn’t a spin-off of Monster Rancher) and though my interest was piqued, the new ones I recall coming out were always releasing on handhelds or only in certain countries. I was worried about my first foray into these games with Monster Hunter: World, so I recruited an expert hunter and friend, LIQUIDSOLE, to show me around. He tried to prepare me for what I was getting into, but lost me quickly in his passion for the series.
After making my character look ruggedly handsome, then giving him a scary looking cat companion, there was a really nice intro scene that sets up the new adventure. Though the story still seems pretty broad, there is a fun clear motivation tracking the migration of these Elder Dragons and working for the Research Commission, but I understand that there is a lot more story here than the titles usually have. After this though the opening area has so much going on and it is just a lot to take in, especially when everyone is shouting, “hey,” at me because I’m still reading and trying to find certain NPCs. It’s like Navi from Ocarina of Time, but coming from several different voices. It wasn’t long before I was settled in my own quarters and the really important decisions began.
Picking a weapon feels incredibly important, as many of them have different skill levels and they all seem to fit into an individual’s unique style. Each one has its own set of perks and flaws, while mastering all of them seems almost impossible. SOLE tried to explain this a bit to me ahead of time, outing himself as a Great Sword apologist, and saying I should probably stick with using a Long Sword. I thought I’d break the mold and go for quick dual blades, but that turned out to be more typical than I had realized — it just felt right.
After that, it’s off to the races, where the investigating, tracking, and hunting really begins, but it might be helpful to realize how much stuff the player actually needs to keep track of out there. It isn’t just about watching one’s health and stamina, but also concerns sharpening weapons, cooking and eating food, gathering, and everything that can be done back at the home base. There is a lot to do and it can require some micromanaging for sure, all made extra fun by several item wheels and a cluttered inventory system. It is possible to run out and just do things, but there is a lot more than I first realized and it was a ton all at once, while some things that I felt should have been obvious I didn’t realize until much later.
There is a metric ton to read in this game, throwing tons of information at the player back-to-back, that there is no way to remember everything. There was so much it hurt my eyes reading, even after I found out the text size could be adjusted slightly, there was just a lot and the color combination of the text and backgrounds didn’t help. It was a good job I had someone to pose a lot of my questions to, but even with that I’m sure there is a large amount I still don’t know. With these new waves of insights, I felt like I was becoming a better hunter, but without SOLE’s help this growth would have come a lot slower. Although the NPCs and tutorials say a lot, not everything is explained well, requiring some more investigation or trial and error.
“It’s a mean new world, dude.”
They say you learn faster on fire though, and that is a good thing as this is not an easy game. I was warned and was still not quite prepared, even if this may wind up being considered one of the easier entries in the series. There is certainly a learning curve, and some monsters and quests are simply there to test an adventurer’s gear and skills, almost to the point of feeling unfair. Even the terrain itself is out to kill everyone, and it wasn’t long before my death counter started to rise. Players get three attempts to fight most of the big monsters, but getting carted away is no fun, and it is easy to get frustrated. I also have to commend the monster AI as it can surprise at times and adapts the timing of their attacks. It took me a moment to get out of trying to block, but rather just not being in the path of the attack when it happens. It also bothers me that I can’t see the enemy health bars, but the damage the character does is displayed with numbers, which is apparently not common in the series.
I learned to try and look for weaknesses, especially elemental ones, and to consider trying different weapons, even if I wasn’t comfortable with them. When I did find my target, time permitting, I would watch them at first and try to look for a pattern, or if they attacked another monster, to see what they could do. Combine this with the tracking portion of Monster Hunter: World — which, again, isn’t too hard after working out the mechanics and has been made easier with these glowing bugs that act as a guide — I really began to feel like a great hunter myself. That feeling is always crushed when I’m fighting a big boss and another decides to interrupt our fight by killing me.
The fighting controls take a bit of getting used to, and some of that is simply learning how to move when being attacked, and the other part is finding the right weapon. SOLE was telling me that the keyboard and mouse controls for the game are actually pretty good, but I need my controller. The camera honestly didn’t mess me up as much as I thought it would, considering how some of the fights go.
Thankfully, the game itself and the world have this very welcoming aesthetic with its natural greens and browns while having some of the most beautiful, calming sunsets. The graphics are stunning on the PC, even if my machine didn’t run it well on the high settings, but the water effects and monsters were truly glorious on medium. The game performs well in 1080p in a borderless window but was always just under 60fps, based on Nvidia Geforce GTX 1060 6gig, Intel Core i5-7600k @3.8GHz, and 16 gbs DDR4 of RAN. I never had any framerate issues or slowdown, no performance snags in single-player at all, and the textures are of course better than the console counterparts, giving an excellent continuous visual presentation.
The world is lush and dense with life, making it fun to traverse, even if it is a little generic feeling in some parts without any real monuments or standout features and I kept getting lost because of this. There is of course this anime aesthetic in several places, but nothing that was overdone. The world is split up into these zones, but offers a lot of freedom while still being dangerous. It is easy to wander into a fight that will mean death, and unlike many RPGs, no amount of grinding will help prepare you for that.
“Why is this pig wearing a onesie?”
Players will need to focus on getting items, crafting gear, upgrading that and weapons, and there is a lot to it. This aspect of Monster Hunter: World gives plenty of options and allows a good deal of versatility. These items are where the majority of the stats characters will need come from and navigating the extensive crafting and upgrade systems are as important as finding the right combination between the two, while many monsters will cause players to rethink those ideas. With knowing how packed the game is and how much there is to keep track of, it might be hard to see how this entry was actually aimed to be more inclusive to new players. Even the title, Monster Hunter: World, was carefully chosen over numbering it as the fifth main title in an attempt to seem more welcoming. They did this without sacrificing the difficulty or core gameplay that long term fans came to love, however.
Monster Hunter: World encourages people to work together, as the online is a big component, and many of the hurtles in the game are there purposefully to promote teamwork. It can be played solo, thankfully, and joining others means that the monsters are much stronger and lives must be shared. Sadly, the few days that I really gave the online play a try, it wasn’t working well, either unable to find my friends or kicking me from the server so I cannot comment much on that, other than that Capcom seemed to be working on it. The PC port gave them the chance to fix a lot of small issues the player base had with the console editions, though.
The game has a nice lengthy story, tons of different types of quests, and a plethora of other small things to do, but most in the Monster Hunter community would say that the real game doesn’t even start until after the main story is beaten. There are tons of extra encounters that have been added while Capcom is promising more, and they are even encouraging players to enter their world frequently with login bonuses.
I could play this game for so many more hours and still feel like I was learning something new and just scratching the surface at the same time. Monster Hunter: World isn’t going to be for everyone with its challenge and controls, but for those who embrace the life of the hunter, there are so many good things to experience.