Monster Hunter series has been long associated with a handheld. While the first few Monster Hunter games were released on consoles and the most recent entry was also available on the Nintendo Wii U, the potential of the series was always limited by the nature of handheld hardware. The release of Monster Hunter World marks an important milestone for the series which has so far has been limited to the Japanese market. It is a game that is built from the ground up for consoles and marketed to attract the Western audience.
Monster Hunter World still retains most of the charm of the series even though it has changed a lot from its predecessors. The sense of discovery and hunt of monsters is the core of the game. Gathering the loot from monsters to developer weapons or armor remains an essential part of the game. It is now more open in its design and world and perhaps the bigger improvement is for the visuals, which are gorgeous and colorful with HDR implementation on top of it. It easily remains as one of the finest Monster Hunter experiences to date while retaining the soul of the series, and what made it great so far.
Capcom has tried to deliver a single-player campaign in Monster Hunter World with high-quality cutscenes for the main story. The plot is relatively simple and puts you in control of a Hunter that is on a journey to an Island called ‘New World’. The Hunter as a character is entirely customized by the player and his/her appearance is reflected in cutscenes which look great. The story deals with establishing a base in this ‘New World’ and exploring it to capture or kill monsters as tasked by the Research Commissions whose purpose is to study them. You are also hunting down an Elder Dragon who has been apparently spotted heading to the ‘New World’.
You won’t be hunting alone in the world of Monster Hunter. If you play the game in single player, you will be always supported by a Cat-like creature called Palico. These are actually fairly competent hunters and can help you in combat either by attacking the monsters or healing and supporting you. They can also prove to be a useful distraction in the middle of the combat if you need to use an item. Since using an item in the middle of combat will require some time for the item use animation to play out, especially if you are sharpening a dull weapon, the distraction can give you some valuable time to do this in peace.
Your main hub in Monster Hunter World is a base established by the Research Commission and you will initially start with just one part of the Island unlocked and gradually discover and open more locations on the Island once you clear certain missions. The main story missions and the optional side missions are all given on the main base. You can accept missions or the optional quests from a noticeboard or your ‘Handler’ who is also a part of your journey through these quests. The story quests will feature cutscenes that are highly detailed and usually expand on the lore of the Island. They can also introduce a new type of monster that you will have to fight later. Quests are not the only thing that is featured here, but you can also take on expeditions which is essentially free roam in each unlocked region of the Island letting you set up different camps that can act as checkpoints.
There are a grand total of 14 type of weapons in the game. These weapon variants can be further upgraded if you have the necessary materials for them. You can also buy or forge new equipment with the materials that you gather during exploration. The issue with the combat is that it feels clunky and at times, difficult to master. There is a training area available that lets you test out these weapons and learn their combos before you can actually utilize them in combat, but it will take some time to master the controls here, and even then, there will still be moments when you are left with a feeling of disjointed combat. This is not to say that the combat is bad, it depends on a lot of factors like the weapons that you use and the chain of combos, but it is easy to get bored with the same weapons after some time. This is why it is best to go through all the available weapons and keep rotating through them.
One of the reasons why the combat can take a while to master is the slow rate of damage that you deal to monsters. It will take a lot of hacking and slashing at the big monsters before you are able to kill them, and this can be cumbersome for newcomers to the series. As you upgrade weapons, it will become much easier to deal with combat and grinding for upgrades is something that you shouldn’t miss out in Monster Hunter.
Hunting the monsters is fun and uses a unique mechanic called Scout flies that can guide you through the tracks of a monster leading to their hideout or current location. This is another system that I feel suffers from repetition while initially looking rather cool. I soon realized that it was just best to keep pressing the circle button while following the Scout flies since you will automatically pick up the tracks this way. Once you have found a certain number of monster tracks, like a footprint or a skid mark, you can essentially get an icon on the World Map that lists the location of the monster.
The actual Monster Hunt is exciting but the ability of monsters to run when they hit a critical state can lead to annoying chases as you try to stop them. Some monsters are fast so they will be hard to catch but others are easy due to their size and will run rather slowly. The game also offers you to lay down traps for capturing these monster so killing is not the only option here. Sometimes these monsters can also start fighting with each other which looks rather impressive. When this happens, they will ignore you and instead start attacking each other giving you ample amount of time to plan your strategy for taking them down. It is possible to get some great loot after killing a giant monster. The loot that you collect here comes handy in upgrading your weapons or preparing special foods. Foods are important because they can provide you status or stat buffs which are needed before you head out for a difficult fight.
As good as the single player campaign is, it can also feel overwhelming in the start. The multiplayer portion of the game is also rather ancient in term of design requiring you to go through some hoops in order to establish a party for a mission. When it does work well, it is easily the highlight of the game as you slay down a giant foe with your fellow hunters. Unfortunately, it is just not designed well and the learning difficulty is a bit too high for newcomers to the series. While I reviewed the game on the PS4 where the matchmaking issues are much better, there are reports of the issues on the Xbox One. There is enough single player content here that you can easily last more than 30 hours just for the main story, and even then, you can go through the optional content or weekly challenges, or try your hand at the multiplayer for a co-op experience.
Monster Hunter World Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Monster Hunter: World is an action role-playing video game developed and published by Capcom. A part of the Monster Hunter franchise, the game was released for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles worldwide in January 2018.
The essential Monster Hunter experience that you can't afford to miss. Despite the clumsy nature of the combat, the game is well tailored for newcomers and veterans of the series alike.