In recent years we’ve seen a spike in big-name titles being released in the traditionally quieter January window – 2015 saw Dying Light, 2017 had Resident Evil 7, and 2018 saw Monster Hunter World. A new chapter in a long-running franchise, Monster Hunter World feels fresh but I’ve known a lot of people that have been put off by the series reputation for being a grind full of micromanagement. While undoubtedly still obtuse, Monster Hunter World is also one of the most refreshing gaming experiences of this console generation.
First impressions are where it counts, and Monster Hunter World is a mixed bag on that front. Some of the worst lip-syncing and voice-acting I’ve seen in video games are tempered by beautiful areas and incredibly detailed monsters. Needless to say, these monsters are the stars of the show and you’ll get to know them intimately without even realizing. You’ll slowly learn their attack patterns, sure, but before you know it you’ll instinctively expect them in certain locales, what they fight, what they’re scared of and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
The story setup is simple – you’ve traveled to a new world and are looking to learn about monsters in order to kill an ‘Elder Dragon’ called Zorah Magdaros. The story also isn’t compelling, but it does serve as an excuse to shuttle you from one beast to the next. Most missions are a 50 minute wander through beautiful locales searching for clues as to where your prey may be. If a monster leaves mucus or footprints behind, you’re able to track it. Catch enough of a trail and your ‘scout flies’ will lead you straight to it. On the way you’ll be able to grab materials and items to use once you get there.
This is where the fun starts. In Monster Hunter World, you have a choice of FOURTEEN different weapon types. Huge swords? A bolt gun? A staff you can use to jump like a pole-vaulter and then slap a big ol’ dragon around the face? You got it. There really is something for everyone, each with it’s own control scheme. Attack from above and you may even manage to grab the monster, slashing away at it while it tries to throw you off. Combat is weighty but responsive. A misstep can lead to a strategic retreat or a breakthrough. Every encounter feels dynamic, especially when other monsters interrupt your hunt.
This can lead to showdowns between huge beasts while you sneakily grab parts of them that fall off, hoping they don’t spot you. One thing that surprised me was a lack of health bars for monsters – how do you know how much damage you’ve done? Monsters will change their animations as they take damage and begin to display scars. They’ll flee to nests in order to recover, or simply fly across the map to get away from you. You’ll need that respite, however. Once you’ve dealt damage to a monster, your weapon of choice will become dull and need sharpening with your whetstone. If you’ve been hurt during battles you’ll need to find healing herbs.
If you become poisoned you’ll need to craft antidotes. This may sound tedious, oppressive even, but through numerous quality of life improvements its all pretty much effortless. For example, potions and antidotes are crafted automatically when you collect the items required, and even that only requires a single button press. Crafting is something you’ll be doing a lot of in Monster Hunter World – every monster slain, every horn lopped off or piece of armor broken is a chance to build new weapons or armor. One of the first monsters you’ll fight is the Great Jagras, a large lizard that feels like it takes an age to kill.
Before long, you’ll use pieces of other monsters to create a new weapon and find it takes less than half the time to kill it. Each set of armor looks distinct and has it’s own properties, and most can be upgraded a few levels if you don’t want to let go of them just yet. This sense of progression is at the heart of Monster Hunter World, but as with most loot-driven titles it’s only as good as the content it offers. In this regard, it puts many of it’s contemporaries to shame. The campaign can take around 50 hours to complete and completing gear sets will take a bit longer than that, as well as side quests (with varied objectives).
Since launch, Capcom has supplemented the game with numerous new quests including returning favorite monsters from earlier games in the franchise. The bigger the monster, the cooler the gear, and it’ll certainly keep you coming back for more. Monster Hunter World is a perfect place to drop into a franchise that is wildly popular in Japan, and it isn’t hard to see why that is. Its makes smart decisions prioritizing accessibility and doesn’t get let anything get in the way of slaying monsters.