I’ve always dabbled but never really got into the Monster Hunter series. I own Monster Hunter 3, 4 and generations on the 3DS and 3 on the Wii U – I’ve put in over 100 hours combined, yet they all felt like a grind and less like a welcomed entry to the series for newcomers – which personally, I felt like I was. Capcom has worked really hard on making Monster Hunter World accessible to new players and veterans of the series by improving on every aspect of the game whilst still offering the deep nature of Monster Hunter games. This is an early look at Monster Hunter World as I’ve yet to finish the main campaign and at 35 hours in, I feel like I’ve only touched the surface.
Monster Hunter World is the latest main entry in the long-running franchise which is both developed and published by Capcom. The series started out as a PS2 game which progressed to the PSP and then moved over to Nintendo – via the Wii and 3DS – which would be it’s home for the next eight years. These games were fun but obviously had their limitations with the small cartridge space, limited graphics and poor framerates.
Monster Hunter World truly embraced the subtitle of ‘world’ as Capcom has managed to bring to us a game which fully immerses you within its lore and environments without having to conform to system limitations. Previously, in earlier titles and even in other games in the same genre, you would feel that the world revolves around you at times – you’re in the centre and everything happens because of you… Monster Hunter World plays differently, it makes you part of an eco-system which is happily surviving without you – creatures hunting other creatures and even eating each other in some cases. Every time you enter the hunting ground you feel like you are a tourist, a watcher, David Attenborough – as you walk around and watch everything surviving in their own way.
The game looks great, it performs great and it keeps you entertained and interested throughout the entire campaign and beyond as you grind your way to the best gear and status’. Monster Hunter World is fully supported by both the Xbox one X and the Ps4 Pro, offering various graphical settings so you can pick whichever works best for you. The game was once classed as being very niche due to the nature of the combat and the way the game worked, however, with Capcom announcing it has now shipped over 6 million copies world-wide, I don’t think people are referring to it as niche anymore.
The story of Monster Hunter World will be an all too familiar one if you have played previous titles. You begin on a boat, along with a bunch of other hunters and their handlers (a person who helps you out but doesn’t get involved with the actual hunting). Suddenly, your boat seems to be attacked out of nowhere, as you run outside you find that you are actually on the back of a giant creature. As you escape the massive beast, you land upon an island which you proceed to work your way across in search of other survivors. Along the way, you are given the basics on how to hide, attack and run from enemies until you meet up with a fellow hunter who takes you to the nearby village which has been erected.
This is where the story begins, you must work with the Captain and the other hunters as you take on quests and investigations which leads you through the campaign as you discover what this giant beast is and how you can all work together to take it out. You must also hunt and capture various other monsters in order to both improve your weapons and armour and also get intel and information on the creatures who inhabit the island you are on. Technically, you could B-line the main story and I’ve seen people report that they have completed it in 20-30 hours; however, if you wish to stand a better chance against the later creatures, especially if you are playing solo, then you must take on random investigations in order to stock up on money and materials to craft powerful weaponry.
This is where the gameplay will split people as I believe a lot of people will have bought the game without ever playing a Monster Hunter game before and they aren’t aware of the combat style. If you are new to it, think Dark Souls/Bloodborne weighty combat mechanics crossed with Jurrasic Park. Some creatures can take between 30-60 minutes to take down based on what weapons you have and if you are solo or with other people – this isn’t a game where you can just run in and hack and slash your way through everything like Dynasty Warriors – it takes planning, strategy and patience in order to take a lot of the later creatures down.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the style and I love hunting the creatures as it feels so satisfying when you finally take one down and cut it open to receive new resources which you can now craft into new gear; however, due to the nature of the long-winded battles and the fact the game is technically built around playing with others – you are best either jumping in with other players or having them join you as it feels this is the way the game has been created. If we take another game in the genre for example – Toukiden Kiwami/2 from Koei Tecmo – same process, you must hunt large creatures and slaughter them in order to receive materials and progress which can also be played with up to four players. The difference being is in single player mode you can have up to three CPU players accompanying you – in Monster Hunter World the game doesn’t offer you any support other than slightly lower the creatures stats if there is only one of you fighting it.
Returning back to the mechanics of the game – Monster Hunter World will punish you if you run head first into a mission without being prepared. If you are heading into a mission where you must capture the creature then you should read up on what it is weak against, create the relevant items and put them in your bag – failure to do so could mean you waste up to an hour trying to capture the creature with the wrong gear. Similarly, if you have been tasked to take down multiple creatures then you want to make sure you have the best weapons with you and the best defences against it’s attacks – all of which you learn about as you kill more of them and gain new intel. You could progress without taking these measures if you are lucky, but the game wants you to do your research, even though it isn’t very clear on this. It gives you all the tools, info, analysis’, and the guides but it is up to you to bring these up and read through them – this game doesn’t hold your hand.
There are five different types of quests currently within the game. ‘Assigned’ are the story-based missions which will progress the main story and can’t be avoided if you wish to move on. ‘Optional’ are missions given to you by NPCs around town – these aren’t required to be completed but doing so will give you various rewards and increase your knowledge of certain creatures. ‘Investigations’ are like the optional quests but these are given to you by the research team and they have a time limit on how long you have to complete them. ‘Arena’ missions are mainly hunts involving killing or capturing certain creatures. Finally, we have ‘Events’ – these are special limited time quests which offer you unique rewards – the first of which was a watchers costume for your companion and coming soon is the quest to receive Aloys bow and costume.
Up to four people can participate in every single quest and as I mentioned above, it feels like the game was built for four players by default. You can play online in private or public modes with the ability to even be part of a clan and either instantly jumps in to help out others in your clan or start a new clan-based hunt if nobody else is in one or it is full.
The game thrives on the social aspect as it pushes you at every step to play with others and help random people out. This is great if you have friends who are playing online or you are big on multiplayer games but if you would rather play on your own then the game has to try and connect online and then you need to set up a private room so people don’t randomly pop-up as you play. Personally, I wouldn’t mind others joining in, but if there is more than one person then the rewards are evenly split and the creatures get a boost in their health and attack.
If you do start a private room and become overwhelmed with a monster, you can fire an ‘SOS Flare’ which basically opens up your game and allows anyone to join. This is good if you are really stuck and need someone to jump in and help you out. Same rules apply though – the more people who join in, the fewer rewards you each get.
In-between taking on quests, there are certain things you will end up doing automatically, without even realising you are doing after a while. You will head off to the Blacksmith to see if you can upgrade your gear – if not then you will be setting items into your ‘watchlist’ so the game alerts you when you have the correct materials to upgrade in the future. Next, you will head up to the cafe area to eat some food – different food will offer different boosts in your next hunt, boosts such as increasing your attack or defence. The final thing you will usually do is hand in your research to read up on uncovered info about the creatures and turn in any bounties you have completed whilst proceeding to accept more. Bounties are special requests which stay active no matter what your doing – for example, you may have one for collecting X amount of bugs or harvest X amount of mine deposits – if you complete these at any time then you receive a reward.
When grabbing a bite to eat you will be served by the Palicos – a race of cat-like creatures who walk upright and live alongside the humans. Your companion in the hunts is a Palico which you can design when you first start a new game and you can purchase/craft new weapons and armour for it just like you do for yourself. In battle, they will seek out health insects in order to heal you and they will occasionally join in the fight with you. You can also find random ones out in the field who will join you for that mission only – these range from mining Palicos who will just mine anything you walk past to combat Palicos who will attack anything they see.
The research you give to the researchers is obtained in various ways. The most common research you will receive is pressing circle on footprints, claw marks and bodily fluids as you scourer the field. The more info you collect, the more help you get in regards to certain creatures. You use fireflies to help you find the location of creatures based on the evidence you find – as you level up your knowledge of certain creatures, they will appear on your map as soon as you land for a hunt or if you aren’t that high level yet, the fireflies will show you where they are fast than usual. What I find really useful is the information you get when you have killed and harvested a few of the same creature – this unlocks diagrams which shows you the creatures weak spots, what items they drop, and even what they are strong/weak against.
The weapons are what makes this game remain interesting and exciting. There are a total of 14 different weapon types, each with their own advanced development trees which you can work your way through as you obtain new materials and level up your hunter level. Every weapon feels different and allows for different playstyles. Personally, I’m a bow guy – I’ll stand back and shoot three arrows at a time into the creatures weak spots whilst rolling out the way if it begins to charge at me, whereas when playing online I saw others with massive swords jumping onto the creatures backs and riding them around whilst stabbing them in the back.
The game lets you experiment and play the way you feel most comfortable. Usually, in this instance, you would look at the weapons and see a clear winner – a weapon you must use as it’s OP and will take out everything with ease – however, Monster Hunter isn’t like that. True, some of the massive weapons may be more powerful than my bow but I can dip my arrows into poison or fire and deliver devastating attacks which they are weak against and cause long-term damage.
Graphically this game is amazing. It’s compatible with the Ps4 Pro and the Xbox one X and offers three gameplay modes on these consoles. A ‘4k’ mode, a ‘Higher Graphics’ mode and a ‘Higher framerate’ mode. Personally, I played the whole game on the ‘4k’ mode on my 1080p TV via the PS4 pro – I did this because the game, in this mode, runs at around 32fps (according to DF) and the game felt smooth and consistent with only the occasional frame drop whilst offering an amazing image. The Graphics mode is supposedly all over the place with the framerate at 1080p and the framerate mode is around 45-50fps at 1080p and on the graphical level of the base PS4. This mode isn’t bad, but you can really see the difference between this and the ‘4k’ mode – so I sacrificed the inconsistent framerate for clarity.
There have been reports of the game running a little sluggish (25-30fps) on the base PS4, however that was also from Digital Foundry – they said the Pro version at ‘4k’ was sluggish as well, yet to me it seemed smooth to play – so take what they say with a grain of salt as they base their info on numbers and not actual gameplay. Either way – on all versions of the consoles, the game looks amazing. There is an active eco-system which grows and evolves around you, the creatures are highly detailed and have their own personalities, and the general environments are full of life.
For example, as I was walking around looking for a certain creature to capture – I found one and as I was sat there waiting for it to walk into my trap, another creature came out of nowhere and swallowed another creature whole in the background then waddled off – I felt like I was Bill Oddie! In regards to the creatures, each one has it’s own style of movement and attack. After you have inflicted a certain amount of damage (no health bars so you never know when this will be) the creatures begin to retreat to their nest to rest. As they do so, they will be limping or visually in pain as they retreat. Little things like this really help bring the game to life.
The audio design is also amazing. From the cries of the monsters to the sounds of you hitting them with your weapons – it’s all perfect. if you are playing this with a full surround system or even using headphones, you are in for a treat as you hear the creatures all around you. There is nothing quite like stalking a creature only to hear another bigger one right behind you, ready to eat you up! This mixed with the fantastic soundtrack is a treat for your ears. Each creature commands it’s own theme and walk-on music style audio which really gets you in the mood for taking them down. With the music slowly fading out if you run and hide or move on to another creature.
Monster Hunter World is an ever-evolving game which will never be over. It appears the game is following its 3DS counterparts with free content being added regularly in order to keep things fresh and new. Sure, some of the hunts can take a while and the game is clearly built on a social platform rather than a single-player experience, but it’s enjoyable in both aspects and delivers a game which you can enjoy both on your own and with other people, even if they are strangers. This game requires you to invest a lot of time into it, but what you get back in terms of enjoyment and progression is a lot more and well worth your time and effort. I believe this game will still be fresh by the end of the year and most likely open for the GOTY in the game awards in December.
Monster Hunter World
- Fully immersive world
- Lots of weapons and attack styles to keep things interesting
- Free in-game DLC and missions
- Sound and music design is excellent
- A great title to introduce you to the series
- Game is built around four players - so playing solo will be much harder
- Some battles go on for a long time - with no health bar, you don't know how close to defeating the creatures you are
- The game does involve grinding if you want the best gear
- Doesn't hold your hand - so you must invest time into reading the in-game guides to get the most out of the game