Genre: Action, Adventure, RPG
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (late 2018)
Rating: T for Teen
Monster Hunter has been a staple Capcom franchise for 14 years since the PlayStation 2. In recent years, most franchises in Capcom’s stable have had something of a drop of quality in titles like Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and Street Fighter V, but Monster Hunter has stayed constant in quality. While a major hit in Japan, Monster Hunter has slowly been winning over the Western audience in recent years.
Monster Hunter started as a franchises on the PlayStation 2 in 2004, and has been wildly successful in Japan but not as much in the West. When I bring up the name Monster Hunter in a video game-related conversation, most people have a confused look on their face, having not heard of it. I personally had not heard of it until Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate‘s release on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, near the series’ 10th anniversary. While my interest was piqued, I did not dive in until Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate in 2015, the game that was considered the most beginner-friendly title in the franchise; I was blown away. The world size, the weapons, the gameplay loop, and the monster hunting got me hooked. A new hunter had entered the fray.
When Monster Hunter: World was announced at E3 2017, it was a big moment for me watching the trailer being played. I could not be more ready to jump in to the new game Capcom had crafted for the home console hardware. There had not been a title in the series released on a home console since 2013, and to have one on the PlayStation and Xbox was mind-blowing given the Nintendo-only releases previous. The day came for release, and the hype was well-warranted.
Violence: If the title itself was not obvious enough, Monster Hunter: World is about hunting and killing giant monsters. You can kill or capture creatures that drop materials for you to use for making better armor. Blood splashes from wounds you inflict on the monsters, and you can cut off the tails from some of them during battle. This is not done in a gratuitous fashion; they just fall off and can be looted for materials. Explosions, slashes, stabs, and the like are used for attacking. Larger monsters will get into turf wars in the world, and can be quite intense. That said, Monster Hunter: World features nothing you would not see in something like Pacific Rim or Godzilla (2014).
Language: P*ssed off is used to describe a monster after your hunting party tries to capture it.
Spiritual: Characters say “May the Sapphire Star guide you.” This is used as a parting greeting along the lines of “May the Force be with you.” It is unclear what the Sapphire Star is, but it could be interpreted like the Force or something else mystical.
Drug/Alcohol Content: You can drink alcohol at the Canteen restaurant, which can trigger a drunk animation where you fall on the ground or collapse on the table. This does not affect gameplay, and is completely optional. Characters in cutscenes carry around flagons that are what one can assume is alcohol.
The moment you start the game you are thrust into the story. You play as a member of the Fifth Fleet heading to the New World tracking the Elder Dragons. Every decade, the Elder Dragons always migrate to the New World, but nobody knows why. You are sent to assist the previous four fleets—based on the previous Monster Hunter generations—in discovering the reason for their migration. I’m not going to lie to you, the story itself is not a great one. It will have you engaged enough to care about what is going on but will not have a long lasting impact on you like other narrative driven games. The core of Monster Hunter is all about the gameplay.
In every installment of the franchise, you are tasked with tracking and killing monsters to gain parts. These parts are used to craft more powerful armor and weapons to track and kill bigger monsters. This game-play loop is persistent in World as well. Before, you could only craft a complete set of armor from parts, in World you can make individual pieces. For instance, if you are going to face a monster that uses fire attacks but the armor with high resistance to fire has a bad defense rating you can mix both sets for greater chances of surviving.
There are fourteen different types of weapons you can use that each play differently. There is a sword and shield that, while basic, is the only type that allows you to use items with weapons drawn. This weapon would be more effective in the hands of a Dark Souls player. Hunting Horns creates different notes from attacks to play songs that give your teammates a better advantage and would be right at home with players with a more support role in mind. Heavy Bowguns will allow you to attack from a distance and would work better for Gears of War players. Weapons also have different stat changes as well. One basic weapon made from bone will do more damage than one from ore until upgraded to its fourth or fifth iteration. Each weapon can be associated with one element at a time; if you are going against a monster that uses water attacks, it is better to use a thunder weapon instead of one that uses water. Sharpness is also key to dealing damage.If you do not keep your weapon sharp, it will eventually do nearly no damage. The sharper you upgrade your weapon, the more damage it will do to thicker pieces of a monster’s body. If your weapon is at a yellow level sharpness, it will not do much damage to a Barroth’s thick head until you upgrade to blue level sharpness.
As with real life, you need to eat, especially before a hunt as it is vital to your success. If you do not eat, your the role of hunter and hunted will inevitably be reversed. As with armor and weapons, each meal is different. One meal will give you more defense or more attack; another will give you smaller doses of each. If you complete quests for the Meowscular Chef (he is a muscular cat), he will give you better meals that give you better buffs for your upcoming hunt.
Let me not forget that you can customize your character and Palico Felyne companion. Your character’s looks can range from Thor to your grandparent if you so please. There are so many options to choose for your character you could spend over an hour or two doing that alone. You want to look like a sumo wrestler, an actor, or maybe the stuff of nightmares? You can do it in this game and Your companion is less customizable, but you can still do your best to make them look like your family cat if you so desire.
These things would not be complete without an open world to enjoy them in. The New World features multiple open areas to explore and hunt in. There is the home base Astera that has all you need to prepare for the next hunt. It has a smithy for crafting and upgrading weapons, a tradeyard for purchasing traps and other materials, the botanical area for growing ingredients for crafting items to use on the hunt, the Canteen for eating meals, your room for a little touch of home, a training area for learning how to use the fourteen different weapons effectively, and the Gathering Hub for getting together with your squad (Monster Hunter: World‘s Guild system). The worlds you play in are beautiful, detailed, and each have their own theme. The Ancient Forest features a humongous tree in the center that has multiple ways to trap your prey. Wasteland Spire is a desert region with an oasis host to deadly amphibious monsters. Coral Highlands is basically an above ground Great Barrier Reef. Rotten Vale is home to the most poisonous and monsters inside a vast monster graveyard. Lastly, the Elder’s Recess is the volcanic home to the Elder Dragons.
Every area is hosts its own ecosystem and monsters. You will not find the same monster in a different sections, which is a good thing. This helps make every area feel distinct and separate from the previous. Sometimes I would find myself going on expeditions with no target goal in mind just to see how each species interacts with the next. Giant monsters will eat the smaller ones, sometimes in one gulp. These giants will even fight each other in turf wars where they fight almost to the death. You can choose to interfere for some loot or let them be so you can change the odds to you favor in a future hunt with your new knowledge.
Hunting with your friends is even more fun than going after these beasts solo, as is with most games featuring multiplayer. The game party system has a few too many menus that could be fixed with an invite system that a great majority if not all games have these days. In order to join your friends in a story quest, they have to have seen the opening scene of a mission before you can all play together. After every story hunt, the party is disbanded and has to be reassembled. This is the weakest part of the game. It is not a major problem, merely a pebble on the highway to fun. Optional quests will let you continue to expedition with your party so that is nice. This system is nice when you get into a bad group of hunters at least. If someone is not doing their part on the hunt, you do not have to play with them.
Overall, Monster Hunter: World is the real deal. You can play solo or in multiplayer and you will have a blast either way. The learning curve plateaus once you get to the top. This is easily the most newbie-friendly entry in the franchise, and it deserves a spot in your library. Hunt on to victory!
The Bottom Line
Monster Hunter: World is a gorgeous RPG that gives you the freedom and encouragement to experiment with the tools you are given. The gameplay loop keeps you hooked and does not let go, and you will allow it to take hold like a hug from a trusted friend.