Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One (Coming later to PC)
I had the Anjanath on the run. Monster Hunter’s version of a Tyrannosaurus Rex decided he’d had enough of my hacking and slashing, and fled to higher ground. I chased after him, winding up the trees and branches in the Ancient Forest. We reached a nest-like clearing and faced each other, prepared to duel it out again. A terrifying roar signaled a newcomer to the party. We’d wandered into the nesting grounds of a dragon, the Rathian.
The 10-year old within me excitedly cheers as the giant monsters battle each other, the dragon picking up the T-Rex and dropping it from its nest. When the Rathian turns its attention toward me, I make like the Anjanath and run like hell.
Monster Hunter: World excels at capturing these emergent, exhilarating moments, and creating reactive areas where your hunter exists among larger, even deadlier hunters.
Big Game Hunter
Monster Hunter: World features a simple gameplay loop of killing monsters, obtaining body parts as loot, and crafting better weapons and armor to hunt more powerful monsters.
The hub town of Asteria has everything you need to prepare for a hunt, including a workshop for forging, merchants for supplies, and a canteen to grant temporary buffs. A training ground lets you experiment with different weapons. It’s a good idea to get practicing, as the game starts you off with all 14 weapon choices.
Your weapon of choice dramatically alters the combat and how you approach a battle. Practice the rhythm of a sword and shield transforming into a giant axe with the Charge Blade, hurl through the air and mount beasts with the help of the Insect Glaive, and fire off a bombardment of mortar shells with the Heavy Bowgun. Like everything in Monster Hunter: World, it’s initially overwhelming, but the skill sets earned from learning the combos of your favorite weapons and attack patterns of your foes is incredibly satisfying.
Quests come in several different varieties, most of which you can tackle with up to three other hunters. Expeditions let you explore the large, detailed zones without a set objective, hunting local monsters and gathering resources. Investigations give you quick hunting quests to jump into, while Optional and Event quests offer a bit more structure.
The progression of crafting better gear and hunting more dangerous monsters comes at a steady, satisfying clip. The amount of content is staggering, but it’s also designed to be repetitive. You’ll need to hunt monsters over and over in order to gain enough resources to craft and upgrade weapons and armor.
Thankfully the combat remains fun and exciting thanks to the way the monsters interact with the environment and each other. Each of the beautiful, dangerous zones, from the labyrinthine trees of the Ancient Forest to the dizzying heights of the Coral Highlands offers a number of ways to tackle any particular hunt. The monsters themselves don’t simply wait around for you to approach, they patrol the areas and fight among each other. It creates a living world that remains fun to explore and battle within for dozens of hours.
Brave New World
As enjoyable as it is to explore and battle monsters with friends, Monster Hunter: World falls flat on its face when it tries to tell an actual story.
Your team of hunters and researchers arrive at a new continent called, literally, The New World. Everyone’s hunting a giant volcano monster that would make Godzilla seem cute. When the main story missions force you into going after Zorah Magdaros the tasks become tedious and awkward, like firing cannons at what amounts to a background animation, or running around on the creature’s volcanic back avoiding its fire. Character animations are not exactly designed for emotional cutscenes. I found myself wishing the action returned to standard hunts as quickly as possible. Thankfully the majority of my time was spent having a blast hunting monsters with friends.
Monster Hunter: World stumbles a bit with its online matchmaking. Playing with friends is amazing but we had to jump through a few hoops to get there. The easiest way was to create a Squad (MHW’s version of guilds) and then use the Squad Session feature to create our own private sessions. From there it was easier to jump into each other’s quests and hunts – with one major exception.
If a player has to watch any cutscenes (like in main story missions), no one can join until those scenes have finished. It’s an annoying restriction that prevented us from grouping together for most of the main story missions. There’s plenty of other content to enjoy cooperatively, from Investigations to optional quests, but for a game strongly advertising its cooperative multiplayer it’s a bad misstep.
Monster Hunter: World has been rated T for Teen for Blood, Mild Language, Alcohol, and Violence. You play as a hunter who’s constantly maiming, killing, and even severing body parts of giant monsters. Things get a bit cruel when a monster is on its last legs – it physically limps and audibly whimpers as it retreats. Truly we are the real monsters.
While I could always see the appeal, I have never been fully drawn into a complex Japanese action series like Dark Souls or Monster Hunter, until now. Monster Hunter: World is still obtuse in many ways, from obscured information to mountains of menus. But it provides just enough of a life preserver in its ocean of complexity to keep me afloat until I learned to swim. Monster Hunter: World continually rewards your persistence and mastery, and provides exciting backdrops for tackling large scale boss battles with friends.