Eastern parts of the world have enjoyed the Monster Hunter series for some time now. Recently, Capcom made a dedicated push westward for the acclaimed series with its recent release of Monster Hunter: World. Capcom released a game that meets every long-time fan’s expectations, while managing to invite a new wave of players as well.
The title itself reveals what this game is about in its simplest form. Players will be hunting monsters, and plenty of them. To start the game, the playable character hunter crossed the ocean from the old world and embarks on an adventure to slay monsters inhabiting the new world. There are odd migrations happening across the ocean, and the environment is a major hazard to all human life there. Who better than you to take out each and every one of those monsters?
There really isn’t much of a story here; unfortunately the narrative side of Monster Hunter: World never flourishes into anything worthwhile. Many quests consist of “Hey, there is a monster and we need to track it, can you kill it?” If this were any other RPG, that’s a serious problem. There is a reason the game has been so big for over a decade in the eastern part of the world; the Monster Hunter design and combat leaps far ahead of most games.
Combat in Monster Hunter: World is a focal point for the entire game. There is a lot to learn, and plenty of different ways to approach it. There are 14 weapon types to chose from, each offering a completely different hunting experience. If you want to stay at range and hail down attacks on beasts with precision and agility, use the bow. If slaying a monster up close and personal with grace is more your thing, wield a longsword. Maybe you are a more unconventional player and you want the best of both worlds. In that case, a sharp lance with a gun for a handle is calling your name. The point is, option and variety are a huge part of Monster Hunter, and there’s a play style for any kind of player.
In my playthrough, I picked up the longsword and never looked back. Hours into the game, I was still learning new ways to maximize potential with the weapon while learning new skills along the way. Each swing that connected could be felt, and there was nothing quite as satisfying as completing a full combo or landing a major attack.
The act of combat plays much like a Dark Souls game. The large monsters of the world are equivalent to a boss. They can be incredibly strong, and some even possess the ability to knock you out in one or two hits. Much like in Dark Souls, dodging is your friend. That is where the similarities between the two games end. Unlike Dark Souls, there are no health bars in the game, which is frustrating at first. Instead, you must pay attention to the monster’s body to understand its health status. Signs like a limp, slower movement, or cut off parts are the replacement for a health bar.
Preparing before a fight is also an important and engaging part of Monster Hunter. Eating a fresh meal prepared by your muscle-bound feline chef will boost health among other stats. Bringing items like traps and flash pods give the ability to stun a monster and make it vulnerable. If you’re a team player, you may choose to take along some health boosters. There is a plethora of items in the game, and choosing ones to assist your hunt is part of the fun.
There is a reason why you’re going killing these monsters. Hunters aren’t bloodthirsty animal killers; they just want some cool armor. The story gives a little more motivation than that, but truthfully there is no other reason. Killing monsters rewards you with different parts, such as hide, fangs, claws and such. Once you get enough currency and parts, you’re able to craft corresponding armor or weapons. There’s an absurd amount of armor sets and weapon trees in the game, each with unique bonuses and stats. End game armor sets offer open spaces for gems with their own stats, essentially giving any player a-near infinite amount of armor customization. Weapons have different elemental effects and sharpness, allowing for a weapon in almost any situation. However, if you are like me, looking good while hunting is more important than having better stats. The options are endless though, making hunting monsters a worthwhile endeavor.
If you want to show off your fancy armor and unmatched skill with a weapon, that option is available in Monster Hunter as well. Online play is a major reason the game is a success. You can play with up to three friends and can choose to create a squad for any friend to join. Hunting is much better with friends at your side, and it changes the way the game is played. Fighting becomes harder with a group, but with good preparation, communication and skill, any monster can be taken down.
As fun as Monster Hunter multiplayer can be, it isn’t without blemishes. When starting out in the game, every new monster will have a unique cutscene that ties into the story. For some odd reason, you must complete the cutscene and then quit the hunt before you can play with a friend. This is an annoying and unnecessary feature that stunts the multiplayer experience. Once you get past the story and start fighting high rank monsters, this problem no longer exists. The feature becomes aggravating when you spend around forty hours playing story and side missions. Even worse, the game never informs you about cutscene completion.
Such a small bump in the road doesn’t define the game, and a majority of the game will not face that problem. Whether you choose to form a squad or go solo, you forget the hiccup as soon as you enter any of the five zones. Each zone has a unique environment, with differing fauna and large monsters. You can track monster prints, collect plants or even go fishing; the world you explore and hunt within will never fail to hold your attention. From the lush plant life of the ancient forest to the exotic pastel colors of the coral highlands, each environment has the ability to captivate the player.
Games like this don’t come around often, and you can tell that Capcom poured immense effort into creating something special. Even after playing hours into the story and hours into high rank monsters, I still find myself going back. It could be for the fantastic squad gameplay, the addicting combat, or the desire to craft the best armor set possible. Regardless of the motivation, Monster Hunter: World offers so many reasons to come back; each one is done with incredible rigor.