I’ve played several Monster Hunter titles in the past, but I’ve always been very much a casual fan of the series. I was never the type to be teaming up with buddies to take on huge quests, and I wound up spending way more time with Monster Hunter-style games (Toukiden, Ragnarok Odyssey) than the series that started the trend. Those games were simply more accessible, and felt less stiff than the very calculated combat that Capcom’s series was known for. It also didn’t help that the series had been relegated to the 3DS’s small screen and makeshift control scheme. Now Capcom is releasing Monster Hunter: World, the first proper console installment in years, and one that has a real opportunity to take the series to a new level of popularity.
A lot of what defined Monster Hunter was its rigidness. It was about going on long hour-long quests where you’d have to cook your own food, carefully find a place to hide before consuming anything since it stopped you in your tracks, and each map was separated into zoned off areas. This formula had worked for years, but thankfully Capcom went against the conventional wisdom of “don’t fix it if it’s not broken,” as they’ve finally brought the series to a more modern feel thanks to three key changes: maps are fully open, you can move while eating, and combat is less stiff.
That first change is the biggest, and it’s a large reason why Monster Hunter: World has the subtitle that it has. Each of the game’s handful of maps are a multi-layered ecosystem filled with wondrous secrets. In my many hours with the game, I never stopped discovering more about each environment, and Capcom has done a fantastic job of crafting a world that is governed by logic. For every aggressive monster that you’ll have to hunt, there’s dozens of smaller creatures that make the world feel alive. It’s quite the accomplishment, and I loved exploring every inch.
Fight the Good Fight
Of course, it’s not just all about exploration and finding craftable objects within the environment (although there’s plenty of that). The big draw is that players will be going head-to-head against some of the coolest fantasy creatures seen in video games. The art design has always been fantastic in Monster Hunter, but this is the first time that the series really gets the chance to wow players graphically. There are over a dozen different monsters to hunt during the game’s core story (and even more in the post-game), and each has their own properties, attack patterns, and challenges to master.
The in-game ecosystems also come into play during these hunts. It’s not uncommon to see two of the huge beasts coming across each other during a hunt, and there were even a few instances where I saw three monsters going at it. The player can even try to lead monsters into the same path if they want to tempt fate, as this can be used to their advantage. These sort of dynamic moments make the game truly special, and separate it from the rest of its competitors.
As mentioned previously, hunting a monster can be a lengthy affair. These powerful creatures don’t go down without a fight, and this means that missions often last over 30 minutes. If you don’t have powerful gear (which requires grinding many of these battles in succession to pick up specific drops) then one good hit can take out a giant chunk of your character’s health, so it’s really a war of attrition as players slowly chop down the foes. As long as you’re appropriately leveled, these fights are a blast as they become real tests of strategy and keeping your calm during tense situations. One of my most memorable battles saw me faint twice early on due to sloppy play (if you faint three times you fail the mission), and then I basically had to fight a mistake-free fight for the rest of the battle. This resulted in one of the most tense moments I’ve ever had while playing a game, and it felt so satisfying when I finally conquered the beast.
Of course, the flip side is also a very realistic possibility. It’s totally possible to fail a mission after spending nearly a whole hour on it, and that feeling totally sucks. Players have to learn from their mistakes, though. There’s always a lesson to be learned in Monster Hunter, and with each successive hunt I felt that I was getting a better grip on my weapon, its combos, and how I could effectively use them. Things really started to click after the 10-hour mark, and I found myself having a blast.
You Don’t Have to go Solo
One of the coolest additions to World is that the story quests can be done in multiplayer, rather than just additional ones. That said, there are some arbitrary restrictions that show that Monster Hunter hasn’t been fully modernized to the extent it could be. For example, if a story mission has a cutscene in it, a player must encounter the cutscene first by themselves, then the other player can jump in. That coupled together with an overly confusing menu system to simply play with a friend makes things more of a hassle than it should be.
Those multiplayer quirks are overcome quickly, though, and I enjoyed my time the most when I was playing with friends. It should be noted that the monsters get considerably more difficult in multiplayer, but it really makes the hunts feel like a team effort when completing them. It all results in a really satisfying gameplay loop of gaining different types of armor, collecting specific drops, and learning your weapons. There’s always something more to do in Monster Hunter: World.
This is the modernization that Monster Hunter definitely needed. Not only is it the most dynamic title in the series to date, it’s just a fantastic action role-playing game. Even if you’ve bounced off the series in the past, I highly recommend giving Monster Hunter: World a try. It’s where the series finally truly clicked for me, and that is very much by design. Capcom has updated their formula for a new generation, and it’s a real treat for all.
Monster Hunter World review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.