Written by: Marius Speider Sørum Moe
Name: Monster Hunter World
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (coming to PC Q3-Q4 2018)
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Acquired: *A self bought copy of this game*
Monster Hunter World has returned to the major consoles for the first time since the era of the Playstation 2. The return is a glorious, clunky, fantastic and complicated one.
Monster Hunter World, for those unfamiliar, is the best kind of entry point in a series. In addition to being a new chapter, it is also a kind of a re-boot. Your journey starts on a ship that’s part of the Fifth Fleet, the fifth of a group of explorers and settlers (and, yes, monster hunters) who are following a massive, mountain-sized elder dragon. You are on a mission to find out why the elder dragon is migrating to another continent.
Capcom have used their cinematic and storytelling tools very sparingly in order to have much of the story (or in this case, world) be presented through player investigation. At certain points you get flashy and dramatic cut-scenes, enhanced by the fact that your player-made character has a starring role in all of them.
However, like everything else in Monster Hunter World, you won’t be given anything else than the most superficial of stories unless you personally take time to explore the world and engaging with it. The approach is not something everyone will like, but is a perfect fit for the type of game that MHW is. A linear game presented in the same way, would have been over in a weekend, or maybe an evening. With MHW‘s approach of story as a reason for you to go out in the wild and explore for hours, this changes quite a bit.
By itself, the story wouldn’t make for a compelling movie, but I cannot fault Capcom for using it as an efficient as a tool for setting up the world and incentivizing players to do their own thing. The story does exactly what it’s supposed to do, in a good way, but nothing more. And that’s perfectly fine.
Monster Hunter World is beautiful to look at. Built on an improved version of the game engine that Dragon’s Dogma was built with, it is apparent that the people using it are experts, squeezing the last bit of juice out of their engine. It is also apparent that MT Framework, the engine, was made for the last generations of consoles.
The draw distances aren’t spectacular, there is pop-ups, and there are other slight “scratches” on the surface, all vestigia of a toolset that hasn’t been as updated as we would wish.
On the other hand, the people who made this are masters at their craft, and instead of having vast, open, empty landscapes, you get to play around in dense vertical jungles, cavernous coral reef mountains, rugged badlands, volcano roots, and oozing monster sewers. Every single environment or map has distinct locations with it’s own unique visuals, wildlife, and verticality. In order to work around texture pop-up and area streaming times, the developers have made areas that, while smaller than true open-world games, are still richer on unique sights, paths, and encounters per square foot than any of those same games.
Populating these dense areas are the titular monsters, an incredibly varied bunch of creatures, from electrical fox-lizards, to fire breathing t-rexes, to butterfly-winged frost-salamanders and rhino-horses who roll in and pack themselves with mud for protection. Each of these monsters have a unique look and unique animations. Discovering these in their habitats is truly awe-inspiring, and the art direction brings this out in the absolutely best possible way, despite the somewhat aging toolset it was made with.
Monster Hunter World isn’t for everyone. But it can most certainly be for anyone. By this, I mean that MHW has a very specific rhythm of play to it, like Dark Souls, that not every player will enjoy. Hunting monsters aren’t easy, and if the thought of fighting a dragon for 20 minutes before defeating it sounds horrible to you, then MHW might not be for you. In addition, the game offers very little help, and to truly understand how to best fight monsters, you have to do more investigation than just reading all available “tips and tricks” that the game presents to you. When you do, however, the game opens up considerably.
On the first level you choose one of 14 weapons, all with their different strengths and weaknesses. You forge an armor with different resistances. You bring along some health potions. This doesn’t take long to learn, except if you’re trying to learn ALL the 14 weapon types. These are the fundamentals of Monster Hunter.
But, Monster Hunter World is a very systematic game, and it has gameplay-affecting systems permeating each and every facet of every decision you can make. An advanced player looks up the monster they’re going to hunt, and notes its resistances and weaknesses. Then, they change/forge/upgrade their armor to protect them the most, while at the same time combining different armor bonuses from different armor sets in order to reduce or entirely negate different effects the monster can produce. THEN they forge/change/upgrade their weapon in order to maximise damage and exploit elemental weaknesses that the monster might have. Then, if they have a ranged weapon, they bring specific special damage. Then, they craft traps, and fill their inventory for the hunt. And then, just before they leave, they go to eat a custom meal, designed for health-bonuses, specific weapon bonuses, and weapon-specific feats. And then, finally, they hunt.
Monster Hunter World is as much a game about preparation as it is tracking and hunting, and is something I love about the game, but it does have an acquired taste.
In addition to the story quests, where people who have seen all the cutscenes are allowed to join on most of them, the game has a plethora of hunts both for single- and multiplayer. Having to invite another player to your “lobby” before you can invite them to your hunt, is a bit counter-intuitive at first, and several things in the preparation area could have been streamlined without removing complexity or challenge. But, Monster Hunter World is a game that demands that you “get good” in order to beat it. And it gives you more than enough tools for the job, even though it sometimes does a poor job of telling you that those tools exist, or where they are.
Monster Hunter World has done something amazing. It has 14 vastly different weapon classes, all equippable by every person, and each so different that they could functionally be from a different game. There is such a variety in types that the hardest choice I had in the entire game was where to start(!). Are you a fan of first-person shooters? A light bowgun should be similar to what you’re used to. Military sim more your style? Heavy bowgun, with its slow and tactical, but hard-hitting approach. More of a fantasy-game enthusiast? I present to you the bow and arrow. Fan of Dark Souls? Here’s a sword and shield combo, or the slow, but deadly buster sword. Third person action games like God of War or Devil May Cry are more your style? Dual daggers, with their speed and mobility might tickle your fancy. Not sure what you want, but you like support-classes? What about a healing bagpipe-club that can buff your allies?
Every weapon has a very distinct playing style, but the types of attacks are also mapped similarly on the controls, so your brain doesn’t have to “re-wire” just because you switch to a brand new weapon. For ease of use, possible controller inputs for different weapons are displayed to the top left of the screen by default, something that comes in great use as you are testing out and experimenting with new things.
The game demands a lot of button presses, and from time to time it can feel a bit much, with two button presses needed to climb a wall instead of the singular one I still keep wishing for, but climbing that wall without stowing my weapon away wouldn’t be believable. I still have more weapons to test out, but from my experiences with 10 of 14, this is just another thing that the developers have iterated on and balanced even more from the previous games.
Monster Hunter World is all about replayability. You use your tools to overcome a monster. Then, you repeat that action until you can use it’s hide and claws and teeth and scales to forge a better armor and a better weapon. Then, you set your sights on a tougher monster. Playing through the story isn’t the end of the game, it is just a huge set up for continuing to play the game. After the story is done, the main game is open, and new challenges await. New monster types and weekend events, new armor, arena hunts with time record attempts, and more. The possibility of repetitiveness is absolutely there, but if you seek challenges, and take care in picking them up with variety, then Monster Hunter World will have your back for a long, long time.
If you have the time to invest in Monster Hunter World, it is a game that will reward you for doing so. With more than 100 hours of gameplay and knowing there are still challenges I haven’t started yet, and monsters I haven’t seen, I have no second thoughts about diving back into this expansive, colorful, demanding game.
– Rewards effort
– Lacking in tutorials