Monster Hunter: World on PlayStation 4
If I had to pick one aspect of Monster Hunter: World and use it to define the game’s core experience, it would be that little animation my character does at the end of a successful quest. Brushing off the debris from her armor, she and her trusty Palico stare back into the camera with a goofy triumphant expression on their faces. This is what it feels like to best a hulking monster after spending forever trying to wear it down. This is what Monster Hunter is all about.
I won’t mince words here; Monster Hunter has never put all that much effort into telling a coherent plot or story, and World is no different. After creating your character and Palico, you’re off on a ship that takes you to the New World. You meet your handler (read: quest giver, and all-around annoyingly chirpy assistant) along with some fellow hunters. It doesn’t take long before things start to heat up. Your ship is attacked by an elder dragon named Zorah Magdaros, and you and your handler are separated from the rest of the crew. After being treated to a picturesque view of the Ancient Forest and barely escaping with your lives to the resource center, it’s time to get down to business.
While Monster Hunter: World doesn’t really waste any time in getting you into the action, the learning curve is much gentler this time around. After a rudimentary starter quest that has you hunting a few weak Jagras, the game deems you ready for your first big hunt against the Great Jagras. The hunt feels like it’s just at the right level of difficulty for newcomers and veterans alike – not too hard to turn away new players, but not too easy that you can just breeze your way through the fight. That first assignment took about 30 minutes on my first solo try, as I spent time tracking it and figuring out which limbs and parts would be susceptible to sharp damage.
Right from the get-go, players are given the freedom to choose their preferred weapon types. The dual blades and long sword are friendlier types meant to cater to newcomers, while the gunlance and bowgun are there for the veterans and those more familiar with the series. Though Monster Hunter: World might be the most accessible entry in the series yet, the combat system is still full of intricacies for you to learn to be efficient. You’ll have to consider the weapon sharpness meter, the type of damage each weapon can deal (blunt for armored parts, sharp for hacking tails off), and know which weapon types are better suited for which enemies.
Unfortunately, Monster Hunter: World still doesn’t do that great of a job of explaining all this to new players. The tutorials are sufficient for learning the basics, but it’ll take hours for a new player to master the game’s combat.
Still, once you find a weapon type that speaks to you, it’s an absolute blast to play. My weapon type of choice was the insect glaive, a spear that attacks swiftly and provides such a diverse move set that looks stylish while dealing good damage at the same time. The glaive gives you the ability to summon a kinsect that can provide an assortment of buffs and debuffs, from healing to poison effects. Using the kinsect to attack different parts of the monster is the key to mastering this weapon type. It can take a while to learn the ins and outs, but the process is invariably satisfying. And if that doesn’t sound appealing, there are plenty of others to choose from. The switch axe is a badass weapon that transforms between its sword and axe forms, while the heavy bowgun lets you deal a ton of damage from range but can also punish you for reloading at the wrong time.
In fact, this is the best tip I can offer anyone looking to jump into the series for the first time: find a weapon type that you like. Monster Hunter: World’s combat system is complex and can be difficult to get into. If you’re using a weapon with a move set that you don’t like, you’re not going to have a good time. Find one that suits your play style, and everything else will fall into place.
Every monster you encounter during the main assignments is distinct, with unique quirks and weaknesses. There’s the Rathian, a vicious fire-breathing dragon that can end you with a crushing combo, and the Barroth, a hard-headed dinosaur (literally) that moves a little slowly, but can be destructive when it starts tossing its weight around. The variety of monster and weapon types makes for some seriously fun encounters. Certain weapons are more effective against specific enemies, but you can rest assured knowing that every weapon is viable in the end; it’s just a matter of working out a strategy that works for you. If you’d like, you could weaken the monster with traps and poisoned bait. If not, just find a way to target its weak spots until it falls. And if you wanted to switch to another weapon type to deal with a monster, you can simply nip back to the nearest campsite to adjust your equipment before heading back into the fight. It’s as if Capcom took note of every little inconvenience and annoyance from past games in the series and rectified them in Monster Hunter: World.
The various locales in World are also a sight to behold. The Ancient Forest serves as a wonderful beginner area, filled with herbs and Vitalillies if you’re ever in trouble. The difficulty curve ramps up ever so slightly in subsequent areas; where healing resources gradually get more scarce, the areas themselves are no less beautiful: The Coral Highlands pop with color, while the Rotten Vale is gross in the best way possible, with oversized bugs crawling over the inescapable rot. Each location comes with its own ecosystem, its own turf wars, and its own unique terrain for you to familiarize yourself with and learn how to use it to your advantage in a fight.
If there’s one complaint to be had, it would be the obtuse nature of some of the game’s multiplayer aspects. Like all Monster Hunter games, World is best enjoyed with a friend or three. But you can only join in on a friend’s main quest if you’ve already encountered the monster. Joining quests via the quest board is also slightly confusing, where it’s more reliable to search for SOS Flares instead of Available Quests. It’s an odd design decision that hurts the early hours of the game, because Monster Hunter: World truly is at its best when played online. Having a full party equipped with different weapon types is pure fun, and taking down a gargantuan monster together is extremely satisfying.
Outside of regular quests, the game also offers up extra content in the form of Arena quests, where you get to fight previously encountered monsters with preset loadouts and equipment. These can be tackled in co-op, and your goal is to beat the monster as quickly as you can, and see if other players can top that score.
Yet, while this is quite possibly the best entry in the Monster Hunter series, it’s not going to convert any naysayers. The core gameplay loop and grind remain the same throughout. Each quest sends you to confront a monster, and you’ll soon find yourself repeatedly grinding for monster parts to craft that cool set of armor you’ve been eyeing forever. When you’re done with the main story assignments, there’s even more post-game content to get through, including tempered monster hunts, which are reserved for only the most hardcore of hunters. Ultimately, if you weren’t already into the quest grind, there isn’t much here that will change your mind. But if you relish the idea of facing down monstrous beasts with a group of friends, you’ll feel right at home with Monster Hunter: World.
Every hunt in Monster Hunter: World demands so much attention from the player. There is a 50 minute time limit precisely because your prey are so tough to kill, and the game makes sure that you put in the effort and dedication required to take it down. Spending nearly an hour chipping away at a Rathian and getting it down to critical health before dying and failing a quest is devastating. But when you finally take it down after hours of repeatedly failing, you’re overcome with a sense of accomplishment. By the time you beat that unbeatable quest, the monster parts and extra rewards don’t even matter anymore. The careless shrug of your character and the cheeky grin on your Palico’s face are enough to cement that moment of triumph.
Score: 4/5 – Great
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