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Monster Hunter: World- Review

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You’re in the woods. You turn to your left, a herd of normally-docile dinosaurs are looking like they’ve just discovered their bank account is in double-digits. Insects in the air glow an ominous red. You see gashes line the ground around you. This is no horror game, however, and you’ve already fought this beast plenty of times before. It goes down again, like clockwork, and you return with a sweet new hat.

Monster Hunter World (World as I’ll refer to it from now on) really needs to be reviewed twice. For the new players, prepare for your gateway drug into one of the most rewarding game franchises ever, combining pattern-based bossfights with co-op and an enjoyable loot grind. For the returning fans, take note: This is Monster Hunter at the best it’s ever been.

Presentation

Monster Hunter World has always had an interesting art direction, which often becomes a point of contention as it constantly combines gritty design elements with goofy animations and ideas. After several years on the various Nintendo consoles, World comes to the PS4 and Xbox One (with the PC version coming later this year) with a somehow grittier, albeit slightly washed out palette.

The result is a game that truly embodies the Monster Hunter design philosophy: to not be realistic, but to feel believable. The locales are gorgeous and distinct (visually, the Coral Highlands are a personal favorite of mine) and the monsters do too. They aren’t just walking attack animation sets, rather each monster has its own behavioral actions and habits. Monsters leap, dive and roll towards you with the ferocity of an untamed beast, and when they don’t see you can be seen doing things like marking their territory on trees or rocks .

Unfortunately,  most monsters lack their own theme music, rather sharing in their locale’s music. This is slightly disappointing to me, given previous games giving plenty of individual theme music for its bosses, not just the really big ones. But the music that is in the game still remains top-notch, ramping up as you begin to fight one of the game’s many bosses.

Some of the new monsters in this game are straight-up horrifying. For example, Mr. I-Got-Tired-Of-Waiting-For-Bloodborne-2-So-I-Wandered-Into-This-Game.

Gameplay

For new players, the game is a series of boss fights. Pick a quest that tells you to kill a monster, find the monster, kill it. As you’re rewarded parts for killing it, make better gear to better survive the next big one thrown your way.

To this end, the Hunter’s Guild gives you a choice of one of 14 weapons, each unique in its playstyle and fully capable of laying down some grade-A hurt on your prey. While every weapon is balanced enough to kill any monster, a hunter of variety will find that some parts are more easily broken by certain weapon types than others, which of course means better rewards.

New to the series is one large map, rather than the smaller zones of previous games. Emphasizing the Hunter portion of the game, you now start your hunts more often than not tracking your quarry, using your hunter’s scout flies to locate your prey before you bring the fight to the monster.

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It’s a rare sighting- a game that lets you do cool things but will not give it up without a little wine-and-dine effort on your own part.

The boss fights are very much pattern-based, meaning you’re probably going to fail a quest or two while you get used to dodge timings, safe spots and optimal times to punish monsters. Understanding your weapon is key here, I recommend looking up Youtube tutorials or consulting the ever-supportive subreddit to become fully acquainted with your weapon of choice.

While the pace of combat can be a bit jarring for new players, the only way I could describe the combat in Monster Hunter is comparing it to a Nina Simone song- It’s Feeling Good. It’s a rare sighting- a game that lets you do cool things but will not give it up without a little wine-and-dine effort on your own part. That sense of accomplishment from landing every hit of your flashiest combo or even interrupting a monster’s most dangerous attack with the environment is a huge part of this game’s efforts in rewarding the player.

Returning feature: customise your Guild card and basically hand them “Call Me” notes.

Content

This time around, the Monster Hunter team has decided, rather than separate quests for co-op and single player, to merge the two in a style that gives off vague hints of MMO. At certain points in quests (usually after cutscenes are done) you can fire off an SOS flare, and other Hunters can drop into your hunt to lend you a hand.

The plot, while a little meatier than other games, is still pretty bare-bones. Mass Effect this game is not, and anyone who came to Monster Hunter looking for a riveting story is probably in need of an expectation check.

On top of the game’s story and optional quests is a kind of randomly-generated-and-acquired quest called Investigations. These have different randomizers on the quest conditions, for the reward of providing better loot. These randomizers can be as gracious as extra reward money or as brutal as reducing the maximum capacity of a hunting party, or straight up minimizing the number of times you can faint to a monster. I find these quests great for encouraging drop-in Co-Op, as you can scan your online session for other players doing these quests and join them mid-hunt.

Most important to this game is the acquisition of loot and gear. Collecting monster parts lets you build armor which have specialized skills, which can alter your play style depending on how you choose to set it up. The armor sets are all cool and unique, each evoking the spirit of the monster you’ve nearly run to extinction in order to make it.

The blandness of upgrading your weapon only to find it shares a silhouette with the weapon at the bottom of the upgrade tree is a black mark on this game’s shiny record.

I can’t talk about the loot in this game without bringing what is in my opinion one of the biggest flaws of Monster Hunter: World. In previous games, the various weapons made from monster parts often looked unique, much like the armor did. In this game, however, for whatever reason, most weapons share the same base model, with only a few minor aesthetic differences making them little more than the starter weapon but with an animal pelt on it. Considering how varied the rest of the game is, the blandness of upgrading your weapon only to find it shares a silhouette with the weapon at the bottom of the upgrade tree is a black mark on this game’s shiny record.

On top of hunting monsters, the game is chock full of things to do, but never so many that they distract from the loot grind. The new Capture Net lets you capture endemic life (read: not lethal and trying to kill you) and install them as pets in your quarters. Side quests from various NPCs will do things like improve your kitchen, unlock support gear like mantles and clear campsites to make hunting more efficient. As with any big map there’s fishing, gathering and crafting, but addition of features like auto crafting make it so that your most important items are automatically crafted as soon as you have the materials gathered.

Like Monster Hunter games before it, World contains promotional tie-in quests offering special gear for the player and their cat. At the time of writing, the Horizon: Zero Dawn quest allows players to obtain a Watcher armor set for their cat, turning their felyne companion into a cool robot whose headlamp glows red when you’re in danger. Previous trailers have also talked about a Megaman skin for your cat, as well as a Street Fighter event letting players be Ryu or Sakura from that game.

Technically, this game should also count as a third person shooter

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Verdict

The Monster Hunter series has a warm place in my heart for its rewarding gameplay, amazing monster design and straight-up fun co-op. World takes all of that and adds quality-of-life adjustments that make the game more accessible, on top of new tools to make each hunt worthy of a cool story. On top of all that, it’s also got a plan for free content update adding new monsters, giving you a reason to come back to the game.

If you’re deliberating on whether or not this game is worth it, I have several questions for you: Do you enjoy a lot of repetitive tasks for the most noble goal of looking cool? Are you a big fan of co-op with both strangers and friends? If you answered yes to either of those, I strongly recommend picking up this game.

In a nutshell, its Monster Hunter: World is a game that focuses on a great gameplay loop, then builds outwards from there to add plenty of smaller enjoyable things for your brain to snack on until you’re ready for the next hunt. How well you do can be bolstered by things like gear, but unless you put in the time to master it, you’re not going far. Or as the game itself says, ‘You’re the one to get it done.”


Game reviewed on PS4, Copy purchased by reviewer.