Monster Hunter: World Review
Bold and newly beautiful, this RPG demands to be played on its own terms.
Game subtitles so rarely tell us anything about what’s inside the box. How can warfare be infinite, who was actually doing the reckoning in Kingdoms of Amalur, and what the hell is a ‘Breath of the Wild’ anyway? It’s almost a shock, then, to discover how perfectly “World” sums up Capcom’s achievements with the newest Monster Hunter.
Its hunting grounds feel expansive, each a separate ecosystem that would tick along nicely by itself without your involvement. It presents a near-overwhelming world of possibilities for customisation and specialisation. Most importantly, it’s somewhere in which you could end up spending so much time you might as well be living there.
Monster Hunter has always been a series that offers much and more. Its games are, broadly speaking, action-RPGs built around a single gameplay loop. Like in many modern crafting games you begin with nothing but a flimsy weapon and the chainmail on your back, but as you take on monster-hunting quests you harvest materials from your prey and the environments they live in, use them to build stronger gear, and then use them to take on stronger monsters to get even more gear. The beauty is in how many ways it offers for you complete that loop.
High-Rank’s “post-game” content essentially doubles the amount of gear to lust after.
Each of 14 weapon types makes combat feel like an entirely different game, from the grace and familiarity of a sword and shield, to the explosive pummel of an ammo-switching Bowgun, to the downright oddity of the Hunting Horn, a massive hammer that plays stat-buffing tunes.
Monsters themselves come with a wealth of strengths and weaknesses and many, many materials to harvest, all of which can be used to create tens of possible items. You also have an adorable cat companion called a Palico which can be outfitted with its own gear, all offering different bonuses for your character. And when it all seems like you’ve got it sussed, along comes High-Rank, Monster Hunter’s “post-game” content, which changes some monsters, adds new ones, and essentially doubles the amount of gear to lust after.
The deeper you look, the deeper it all seems to get – and that sheer level of complexity has historically been what stops Monster Hunter from offering mainstream appeal. But let’s get something out of the way: there’s been an assumption among the waiting audience over the past few months that – despite the protestations of Capcom itself – World would simplify the series’ more obscure ideas to help court a western audience. After just the first few hours, it becomes abundantly clear those concerns are unfounded.
Monster Hunter has always been opaque, its menus pebble-dashed with byzantine statistics, and its combat purposefully designed to be methodical and challenging in a way that feels strange next to modern action games’ fluidity. Practically none of that has changed. This remains a game where learning is as important as doing, from potion recipes to intricate combos.
World is decidedly not a my-first-Monster-Hunter experience.
What’s changed in some ways is how they’re presented. Quality-of-life improvements have smoothed off a few rough edges, making crafting simpler, armour skills more abundant, and introducing quicker, more efficient looting. But many difficult-to-grasp aspects still remain (it’s still crazy to me that weapon tutorials are still so meagre), and few have been made with the first-time player in mind. Playing in a party alongside new hunters, I’ve been bombarded with questions ranging from the simple (“Where can I change my weapon again?”) to the slightly more specific (“Why does my glaive come with a huge insect buddy, and what does the dust it leaves behind after sucking the juices out of a lizard do?”). The bottom line is that World is decidedly not a my-first-Monster-Hunter experience – this is full-fat, waterfall-of-information Monster Hunter. In that respect, it’s the same as it ever was.
Those coming in looking for an all-encompassing adventure story will find World a little lacking, too. The central plotline – of travelling to a new continent in the wake of a migrating Elder Dragon – is a neat one, and pleasantly naturalist in tone (well, as naturalist as you can be in a game about killing mythical creatures to make shoes), but it’s nothing more than a pretext for the near-endless hunts ahead.
But as far as opportunities for new experiences go, World just never seems to stop providing them – and I love that feeling. 50 hours in, it’s still regularly throwing crafting possibilities, monsters, even entirely new systems at me and expecting me to put time into learning how they can benefit my character.
One of the most consistently exciting, satisfying, and gratifyingly absurd games I’ve played.
But no matter how much I or any other fan tries to convince you, there’s a chance that a game that requires this much management alongside its maiming simply won’t be for you. I urge you to at least try. Find an experienced friend to guide you or sit down for a few video tutorials, because Monster Hunter: World is one of the most consistently exciting, satisfying, and gratifyingly absurd games I’ve played since, well, the last Monster Hunter game.
A disclaimer: though I’ve completed the story quest, I’m absolutely nowhere near “finished.” Side quests are clogging up my menus, I haven’t touched the majority of the weapons, and even the end of the campaign opens up a second, much more difficult half. This isn’t an admission of guilt, it’s a demonstration of what kind of game we’re dealing with. Above and beyond anything else you can say about World, there is a lot of it. It’s still stupendously generous with content and, better, matches that with consistently making your time feel well-spent instead of wasting it on empty-feeling grinding.
World’s mechanical changes are near-universally designed to make that loop even tighter.
Capcom’s series has worked toward perfecting its rewarding gameplay loop since the mid-2000s: World’s mechanical changes are near-universally designed to make that loop even tighter. Weapon upgrade trees feel more labyrinthine, forcing you through a wider gamut of quests to get to what you want. Take how I earned my Rathian Charge Blade, a frankly ludicrous combination of sword and shield that transforms into a poison-dripping axe: I had to scavenge monster bones to build the base model, carve up several Jyuratodos (giant, furious walking fish) for a mid-tier upgrade, and then slice the tails off of several flying Wyverns to harvest their poisonous barbs for the final version. It’s not just fun – every weapon you make becomes a document of the quests you went on to make it, like a map of memories.
In the process, you’ll amass leftover rewards and carved-off materials that can be used to make armour sets, with each piece now offering extra skills that can turn the tables on a previously tough fight. The Jyuratodos materials I didn’t need for my blade soon became muck-resistant mail, letting me take on the mud-spewing Barroth without much fuss. The Barroth’s materials, in turn, allowed me to make lightning-resistant armour for my next campaign quest – and so the cycle begins again. The entire game is precise, clockwork engineering, sending you ticking from one task to the next, crafting better and better equipment, gradually building a toolbox of murder weapons tailor-made for World’s increasingly dangerous enemies.
Perhaps the most fundamental change is in how you find the monsters in the first place. In previous games, tracking big game was a matter of wandering between zones, hoping to spot your prey and chuck a paintball at it to illuminate it on your map. The new bioluminescent Scoutflies are an excellent replacement for that sometimes-tedious task, at once more useful and more grounded in the fiction. At first, your flitting, neon swarm leads you to trackable markings left by monsters in real time – footprints, scratches, globs of mucus – and, once you’ve gathered enough evidence they’ll catch the scent of the target monster itself, leading you straight to it with a marker on your map.