Having never played a single Monster Hunter game, I came into Monster Hunter: World with high levels of intrigue and enthusiasm. Monster Hunter: World is no stranger to the media spotlight due to Capcom making one hell of a heavy push as far as promotion is concerned. The concept alone is massively enticing, but what makes this game truly stand out is how each and every single mechanic and system has been crafted in such a way that it remains accessible yet in-depth, throughout. Unfortunately, Xbox One copies of this game could not be handed out to the press until the day of launch due to the day one patch. Sony allowed reviewers to download the day one patch prior to launch, but those on the green machine never got this opportunity, which is likely due to how certification is handled differently. This has already caused some concern within the community, with several fans wondering whether or not there’s something to hide when it comes to the Xbox One versions of the game.
Well, I can safely say that you can cast your doubt aside. Despite some connectivity issues and small lingering flaws, Monster Hunter: World is possibly the best RPG game of this generation so far. Players take on the role of a hunter, a member of the Fifth Fleet. This much is made apparent as soon as you have finished creating the appearance of your character, along with your feline Palico helper. The game allows you to customize these appearances via a wide range of different options and tools, not too dissimilar to creating a new SIM. Once you’re done perfecting your look you’re introduced to a number of key characters. Soon after that you’ll find yourself plummeting into the ‘New World’, tasked with tracking down the legendary Elder Dragons. The game does a good job at feeding you the basics of play through a large number of miniature non-invasive tutorials. Each aspect of play is briefly explained to you as you come across them, giving you a firm insight as to how the game and its world functions.
The strongest element of an open world game arguably goes to how well it encourages exploration, and on this front, Monster Hunter: World is among the finest of examples. The world is a living and breathing landscape that’s home to a shed load of unique monsters and beasts, all coming with their own habits and routines. On one of my early hunts I was tracking down a particularly nasty creature, slowly chipping away at its health with my long sword as it cleverly continued to retreat from my attacks. Using the ability to keep on top of its footprints to locate where it had moved to, I tracked it one final time to a nearby beach. Drawing my long sword once again I jumped forward to finish it off, only to witness an even larger and more deadlier beast pounce on it and take it away. I was informed at the time not to aggravate the larger beast due to its power, so I was left with no option but to hide in a bush and watch all of my hard work turn into a meal. This is just one example out of many as to why this world is so intriguing.
The vast and gorgeously designed land is full of life, a place in which you have no idea where on the food chain you sit, but it’s clear that it’s nowhere near the top. The overall world is split into a collection of different areas, each housing its own unique design. Fast travelling from one area to the next is possible, as well as using your grappling hook to rapidly climb and swing to and from structures to quickly get to where you want to be. Players can even slide down cliffs and mountains, or clear large death-drops via the aforementioned hook. You get a glider too, which is a neat addition to the game. Movement is as straightforward as can be, tethered to a generous stamina bar that rapidly replenishes when you stop for a quick breather. Irrespective of the fact that I have uncovered most of the map, there’s still so much for me to see and achieve that I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface. The world is multi-tiered, meaning that it’s crammed with hidden pathways, caves, and other like-minded secrets just begging to be discovered. What makes the game especially captivating is that even when you’re as powerful as can be, the world remains dangerous ensuring that you never feel overly confident.
Pulling up your world map will greet you with that much need lay of the land, complete with monster sightings, monster positions, wildlife, flora, points of interest, available quest locations, and more. It’s important to collect as much as you can. My rule of thumb, if you can pick something up, pick it up. Every object and item in this game has a use in one way or another, be it for crafting better gear, completing bounties, brewing potions, or for selling to a vendor. It can indeed be overwhelming at first, but the simplistic UI and learning curve helps to alleviate this. Forging better gear is by far the most important aspect of play. The core gameplay typically has you taking on monsters, farming their remains, and then using these remains to craft better gear that can be used to take on tougher monsters. It’s a dreadfully narrow goal that’s engulfed by a pool of deep and meaningful systems, ultimately resulting in an experience that’s thoroughly engaging and hugely rewarding. What’s more is that Monster Hunter: World never feels repetitive or dull, thanks (in part) to how satisfying it is to finally nail one of the world’s many gigantic inhabitants.
Monster Hunter: World enables hunters to call in some help if they find themselves out of their depth. Sadly the game has suffered with some connectivity issues on the Xbox One, but these seem to be picking up as the days go by. Finding online aid is fairly simplistic and you can utilize the several options within to cherry pick what sort of player you want to game with. You can indeed play the entire adventure alone, but some of the best moments I have enjoyed with this game has been when I’ve played alongside others. Co-op play also brings some added benefits with it. For example, certain monsters have an impenetrable skull which will swiftly degrade your weaponry if you strike it head-on. Having one player distract the beast while the rest of you attack it from all sides is a good way to go about taking it down. This again is just one example out of many as to how diverse Monster Hunter: World is, and sussing out the strengths and weaknesses of each foe never gets old.
Having a game with a world as deep as this would mean very little without a solid combat system, and this is yet another aspect of the game that Monster Hunter: World nail remarkably well. There’s a targeting system that helps you to keep your opponent in your line of sight, but it doesn’t give you any lock-on ability to lean on to follow your attacks through with. That’s not to say that it’s a useless function, on the contrary it’s quite a necessary – at times mandatory – tool to utilize when you come up against a foe that regularly dances around the environment. Combat typically consists of swift movement and trading blows in an attempt to uncover a monster’s weak spot so that you can dish out maximum damage in the hopes of staggering it. If you successfully stagger a monster, you can unleash a chain of attacks until it gets back up. You can also straddle a monster and hammer it in rapid succession before serving up a final special attack.
This isn’t guaranteed to finish a monster off, far from it, but it is a neat sequence to behold nevertheless. The slinger is a particularly useful gadget that can fling multi-functional objects as well as bring down aerial monsters. It’s never abundantly clear as to when a monster is soon to take a dirt nap. Throughout the course of a battle little pieces of them will start falling off, but even when this has occurred several times over, any given fight can still go on for quite a length of time. The only real indication a player is given is that monsters will gradually flee more often or limp away, giving you the opportunity to chase them down and make the most of their weakened state. Monster Hunter: World has a total of 14 different weapons to make use of, ranging from long distance, mid range, and close-up. These, alongside the wide range of armor sets, can all be purchased and upgraded. Each weapon handles differently to other and comes with their own strengths and weaknesses, encouraging players to try out different tools throughout the course of their adventure.
The hunter doesn’t have a level up system, and instead has you relying on bettering your weaponry to keep you on-par with harder quests. Quest structure is usually straight forward and explained very well. Prior to each quest you can equip your loadout, grab potions and other helpful one-time use items, eat a meal for added buffs, and so on and so forth. You’re then sent to follow the trail of scoutflies, glowing worms that will lead you to your objective point. These scoutflies will enhance their directional capability if you investigate the necessary requirements, such as footprints, bodily deposits, scales and other helpful tidbits. Although not required, investigating as many world items and trails as you can will work towards unlocking Research Points, which will benefit you in unlocking new items and events. There’s a massive portion of things to do in this game outside of the main quest-line.
Expeditions are my favorite despite there being a bulky amount of side content, simply because you can roam the land at your own pace and do whatever you want to do. This is especially useful to cross off optional bounties, investigations, and assignments that you can obtain from the vendors stationed at Astera. Astera is Monster Hunter: World’s main hub. Here you can visit a wide selection of vendors to take on the previously mentioned activities, as well as visit Smithy to upgrade your gear. The canteen is where you will eat. Different meals will gift you with temporary buffs, such as increased health. It doesn’t matter too much if you skip out on some chow when in Astera due to being able to eat a meal at camp, prior to heading out on a quest. The Palico partner that your hunter groups with proves to be a handy sidekick. Your Palico will fight enemies with you and heal you periodically, often in times of great need. This little feline saved my bacon on several occasions.
I’ve been killed several times over, but Monster Hunter: World is that alluring that it never feels punishing when you fail. Instead it just fuels your motivation to get back out there and deal with whatever nasties you were getting trouble from. There’s nothing quite like testing out the different forms of weaponry against the several forms of monsters, paying close attention to their habits and traits. The same can be said about the ecosystem, which I’ve only lightly touched upon so far. Each area within the large map is unique and engaging, almost to the point of distraction. The monsters and other lifeforms that occupy each area all have their own routines and way of life, which is mesmerizing to observe. I found myself constantly drawn to not only tracking down beasts, but holding out on attacking them in favor of watching how they live. It truly is a remarkable sight and something I hope to see applied in other games moving forward. Final Fantasy XV is the closest example of this system, but doesn’t quite live up to the same quality.
There’s a loose story to follow in Monster Hunter: World, and although it does follow a linear and predictable thread, it’s still pretty fascinating, especially for franchise newcomers such as myself. The story is padded out with interesting characters that help to drive the plot forward and keep it in focus. Oddly enough I thought the game mirrored a mature version of How to Train Your Dragon, with Astera serving as Berk and the world serving as, well, the world. What really impressed me with the game is how it constantly pushed me towards something grand and exciting, with a difficulty curve that suits the fields of play extraordinarily well. Despite some lengthy loading screens, there’s little to complain about. The design across every inch of the game is simply outstanding, with heaps and heaps of content to keep players on their toes for tens of hours on end.
Monster Hunter: World effortlessly meets its high expectations and delivers what may well be the best RPG of this generation. The world is as fascinating as it is beautiful, jam-packed with wonders and dangers of equal measure. Each and every system within has been carefully crafted and seamlessly feed into one another magnificently well. The game remains in-depth yet surprisingly accessible throughout the entirety of play, welcoming and uniting newcomers and returning fans alike. It’s a truly breathtaking adventure. Simply put, and I don’t say this lightly, Monster Hunter: World is a masterpiece.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.