The Best Monster Hunter Ever
What’s more satisfying than taking down a colossal fire breathing dragon with a giant sword-axe hybrid and an anthropomorphic cat sidekick? Not a whole lot, and when you do it as well as Monster Hunter has done, it makes for one of the best gaming experiences around. Monster Hunter: World is the best Monster Hunter game ever, and coming from a longtime fan that is saying something. This title has done so much right in terms of streamlining what has already existed. This makes for not only an enjoyable affair for veterans, but a solid entry point for newcomers. This game was designed to be much more accessible than any previous entry, and it does so in a way that works, but also does not deter longtime fans.
Monster Hunter: World is the newest entry in the long running franchise by Capcom, noted for being extremely popular in Japan, and received rather lukewarm in the west. This game is really living up to the world in its title, and I believe that the changes and new features make this one that even westerners can enjoy. If you have been somewhat interested in Monster Hunter in the past – get this game now! If you are rather apprehensive, allow me to show you a whole new world… full of dragons.
A Whole New World
Monster Hunter World took everything about previous entries and cranked it all the way up when it came to presentation. The game is bigger and more beautiful than anything before it, which is more than likely due to the game being on current generation consoles. For a long time now, the games have been released on handhelds, and while this had benefits, it did limit what the vaunted series could achieve graphically. However, Monster Hunter: World flaunts its beautiful graphical fidelity right from the get-go with some sick cinematics and gorgeous art design.
Monster Hunter’s style of down to earth tones and textures, combined with its over the top creature feature design has always been charming and one of the franchise’s best features. Seeing the amazing armor sets, monsters, and environments rendered on modern hardware is quite the visual treat. The fact that all of these things have some of the best design elements within the whole franchise, and you got a game with enough visual charm to spare and then some. Also this game has the best character models of any Monster Hunter title, finally not looking like a PS2 era potato.
Another huge improvement from previous iterations is how much movement there is on screen. Previous games always had snappy animations for the monster and player (more for how combat works than anything). However, the environment always felt lifeless and dull; just the bare minimum. The levels were designed well but never much to look at. This title’s levels have so many moving parts, intractable objects and moving fauna, it never looks static. You can look at any video of gameplay and see how beautiful and alive the game feels. Combined with the great monster and character animations the series is known for, and you got a good looking game when in motion.
Unfortunately, not all is perfect. The title’s biggest graphical flaw is its framerate. The FPS when in combat is great, and I never noticed any frames dropping while moving or anything of the sort. However, when looking out into the distance in the big beautiful, you might stumble across creatures moving at very choppy framerate, really breaking immersion. I also had issues where sometimes after loading into a map, it would take a while for textures to fully load in. So yes Monster Hunter: World is a gorgeous game in almost every regard. It’s got a great art design, moving levels, and the crisp animations the series is known for. However, that framerate is really a noticeable issue. While it is not game breaking, it is a distraction.
A Glorified Tutorial
Monster Hunter has never been known for a good story. To be perfectly honest most of the time I forget there’s a story in previous games, but like everything else in this game they really take what was there and take it up a notch. This is truly exemplified in the presentation and cutscenes.
World has much more cutscenes than any Monster Hunter game before it, making the game incredibly cinematic. The series has always done great when making cinematics that introduce new monsters, but this time it’s better than it has ever been before. It also helps that this time around the game also has more voice acting than any previous entry, giving new life to what would be a standard NPC. So overall, the game’s story is presented much better this time – not hard when everything was just text boxes before.
While the story has been given a much needed face lift, it is still unfortunately the same type of story as before. There’s a gigantic monster called an elder dragon who is causing havoc in the game’s setting, The New World, and it is your job to find out why it’s there, and stop it – like every other game. The plot is iterative to say the least, and while the new addition of voice acting and pretty cutscenes helps draw you in, it is still as paper thin as ever. There are side characters, but most if not all of them are just shallow NPCs that don’t do much. Except for the new handler character, who I’ve enjoyed more than not and is a useful companion for new players. Monster Hunter’s plot is the bare minimum, and would honestly feel more inclined to speak about it negatively, if it wasn’t a damn good long form tutorial.
Monster Hunter’s lackluster plot is somewhat mitigated by the fact that is a very good newcomer’s tutorial session. If this Monster Hunter has done anything better in terms of accessibility, it is the pacing. The first story beats start you off by introducing you to the world and its setting, and it doesn’t take too long to do so. After that you are quickly sent on your first hunt, and the game also teaches you very basic mechanics in the process. Rather than putting one off tutorials in separate hunts, the game teaches you a couple of mechanics and tips each hunt. So each mission you are given you are learning a steady pace that is neither too fast, or too slow. Which is good because with a game that’s as much depth as World has, this is great for new players.
The plot is is paper thin, and barely passable given how good video game stories are as of late. However, what the story provides is a very good and well paced learning experience for players. What it lacks in rich plot it makes up for in very good visuals, and valuable game knowledge.
Hunt, Loot, Craft
Monster Hunter as a series has been known for having an extremely unforgiving and difficult combat system. It is much more tactical and slower paced combat that what a lot people are used to in action RPGs. It is more about finding opportunities to attack and lessening the risk of you getting hurt – and damn these monsters hurt. While combat is relatively the same from past games, there are a ton of quality of life changes.
A big change is the feel of weapons and movement options. Overall weapons are much more forgiving in terms of the each weapons’ hitboxes. This makes weapons much easier to handle, but not so much so that it means you can ignore animations. All weapons in Monster Hunter have very specifically timed animations, and learning when you can use certain attacks without being punished, is an integral part of combat. This iteration also has more movement options than in previous games, like being able to dash while charging a bow for example. These new movement options make it easier for new hunters to get accustomed to the harsh combat, while giving experienced players options. This makes combat intense regardless of what you are hunting, and with 12 weapon types you are bound to find a weapon you enjoy hunting with. Monster Hunter is certainly not lacking in the weapon variety this time around, and with the addition of different skills and elemental types for each weapon class, there will be a lot of room for experimenting.
This iteration of Monster Hunter also introduces the slinger, a sort of MacGuyver tool that can be used for many things. This includes, but is not limited to being used for swinging, shooting various projectiles, and pulling down parts of the environment. Along with this handy little device, there is also the addition of the new scout flies which will help you find useful items on the map as well as your prey. These additions plus the better UI, use of shortcuts and less clutter when gathering, make for a game that is challenging but not as tedious and clunky as past games.
Monster Hunter’s addicting cycle is to craft and prepare, hunt, loot and repeat. This may sound like your standard rpg grindfest, but there is a lot of depth to be had. Most important milestone items in World cannot be bought, rather, crafted from items collected in the world or off monster parts. So with what you have you craft better armor and weapons to take on even harder beasts, in turn getting material for better and more items. This loop of hunting, gathering and crafting, make for a good time when paced properly.
You Can Do What?
The game has a ton of content in terms of quests and craftable items, with the endgame items and quests being particularly awesome. This is even more fun considering you can play with up to three other players. Monster Hunter really shines when coordinating and playing with others, because the task of taking down behemoths with the tools at your party’s disposal feels so satisfying. And if you don’t have a friend to play the game with, you can also use a new feature called the S.O.S. flare. The flare can be used after a story cutscene or at any point during an expedition or optional quest. After using it other hunters can join you and help you during the quest.
Monster Hunter has certainly made strides in making combat feel smoother, adding quality of life changes, and making multiplayer more intuitive. This game is the most fair in terms combat and progression, and really helps you learn as you play. The gameplay improvements have made what is generally seen as a very difficult action RPG, into a very difficult action RPG – at least it’s far more accessible.
Monster Hunter: World is not only the best Monster Hunter ever, but a promising move going forward for the franchise. The most surprising thing about this title is that while everything that has been changed may not be perfect, it is an improvement from past games. There is also so much content that going through the minutiae of every mechanic would take days. I have very little in terms of complaints, and while this franchise might not still be for everyone, it is certainly the most accessible entry point with all the accessibility features added. If you have friends who can jump in and help you, you will have one of the best gaming experiences of the year. When all is said and done, this is a wonderful world to lose many hours in.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One ; Publisher: Capcom ; Developer: Capcom ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: January 26, 2018 ; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Monster Hunter World.