Title: Monster Hunter: World
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC.
Release date: Out now, PC release coming Q4 2018.
TL;DR: An action RPG about hunting monsters with your mates (when it’s working).
Price: Xbox One: £50 / $60
PlayStation 4: £50 / $60
Family Friendly?: Click here for more information.
It’s been quite a wait for this incarnation of the Monster Hunter franchise, but has it been worth it?
Personally, I’ve been waiting five years for a new Monster Hunter, since finishing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U, and once I heard that Monster Hunter: World was in development, I’ve been checking forums and blogs religiously. Now it’s here, I’m super excited to dive in head first and start slaying the game’s behemoths and collecting all the armour sets and weapons.
Traditionally the Monster Hunter games have had a cult following in the East, and have catered for that audience by being challenging and very grindy in its gameplay. The games have primarily been on handhelds, with remastered versions available on consoles. Although I love Monster Hunter games, I’ve also been equally frustrated with some of their failings. The graphics and engines of earlier games haven’t really improved over ten years, and the camera position and controls have done there best to force tears of frustration. I was hoping that this version of the franchise would keep what makes Monster Hunter great and improve upon or replace all of the niggles, like the camera tracking and annoying cut scenes when collecting plants and mushrooms; so far, I have not been disappointed.
Monster Hunter: World has now opened up this long-running series to an even wider audience, by making the game far more accessible for Western gamers without taking away from its core ethos; the hunting of gargantuan monsters. But alongside the hunting, there is a lot more, deeper gameplay in this action RPG.
After you have spent a while crafting your avatar and cat companion, a “Palico,” in the detailed character creation screen, you start off gently with a long cutscene which introduces you to the beginning of the Story Mode, and how you, the latest recruit of the fifth fleet, are on there way from the Old World to the hunting grounds of the mysterious new continent. It doesn’t take long before you are rudely interrupted and your adventure begins.
The gameplay of Monster Hunter: World hasn’t changed; there are the same fourteen weapons as previous titles, and each offers a unique and balanced play style. I’ve normally been a fan of the switch-axe (an axe that transforms into a sword for power attacks), but this time around I fancied a different starting challenge and so, have opted for the charge-blade. The charge-blade is a weapon not really suitable for beginners, as it has a combination of complicated attacking combinations paired with slow powerful attacks that need to be executed with some skill just to land them on target; add to this the managing of power vials, and transferring the power between the axe, sword, and even shield attacks, makes for a weapon with a lot of depth and a very varied play style.
Weapons vary from melee weapons like large swords, giant hammers, sword and shield, twin swords, and lances, to ranged weapons such as bows, light bow-guns, and heavy bow-guns. Finding the right weapon and play style for yourself is key, and the difference between enjoying the game and loving the game. Luckily Monster Hunter: World has a training area, accessible from the palico housekeeper in your accommodation, and this is essential for trying out the feel and movement of your weapons, and also learning the starting combos, thanks to handy combo instructions on the screen of the training area. The more you practice with your weapons in here, the more effective you will be out in the world.
Once you’ve picked your weapon and had a wander around the central hub of Astera, it’s time to set out on your first missions and begin hunting. This time around, Capcom has opted to ease new players into Monster Hunter by actually offering some tuition into how the game works. Tips are offered by your handler on how to perform the crucial tasks in the game, from crafting ammo, traps, or potions, to how to pick up new missions and bounties. But like previous Monster Hunter games, there is also a lot not explained. Some of the menus and how you navigate and use them properly are only learnt from having a play around with them, but you do find that as you progress through the game, you are on a steady progression path that lends itself to you learning as you go.
Now that you have your first mission, you are able to group up with three fellow hunters from your online session group (composed of 16 other online players) and start tracking the roaming giants. This was an issue for me on Xbox, as unfortunately the online portion of Monster Hunter: World has not worked since launch, bar a few hours, at the time of writing. Perhaps if they had beta tests on both consoles and not exclusive tests on the PlayStation 4, this issue may not have occurred, but hindsight is such a wonderful thing. Hopefully, once the game is patched, I will be able to take advantage of help from other players in taking out the beasts, so I can farm more rare parts for my weapons and armour.
After playing the game for a while, even players new to Monster Hunter will start to discover that there is more depth to this game than meets the eye. Yes, you have to go out and farm and kill the same monsters over and over again to get a chance at looting the parts you need to make that next upgrade on your chosen weapon, but you soon start noticing that monsters do certain attacks using various elements. That’s right, each monster’s attack can be combined with an element like fire or water, and if you want to negate some of that damage, you can wear gear which has resistances to those elements. Combine that with the fact that your main weapon can also deliver elemental damage, you can pick the weapon upgrade that would be most effective against the monster you want to fight, as all monsters are susceptible to extra damage from some elements. This means it is very handy to make and save lots of different weapons and armour load-outs in the equipment section, so that you can easily switch when you take new missions.
Graphics have been given steroids to make this one very good looking game, especially on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, with both premier consoles offering graphical tweaks for how you want the game optimised. You are able to choose between better resolution, higher stable frame rates, or more graphical detail, which includes shadows, draw-distances and environmental objects. The in-game graphics themselves are absolutely beautiful, especially the zones of the new continent. Each area has its own unique look and feel, with a living, breathing world created around you, from lush dense ancient forests to barren desert areas, and on to alien locations made of what looks like sea coral. All of the zones help to immerse you in the world of the monster hunter, and even after 70 hours of gaming, I’m still finding new little secret areas opening up hidden camps and secrets. These zones are a real treat to explore.
What makes this game, though, are the monsters; amazingly animated with immense detail put into them. They limp when you are near to killing them, they get enraged and furious after you have severed parts from them, and they seem to chase after you as soon as you try to get some distance to heal yourself. The AI is really good, and you feel such a sense of achievement as you slay them after leaping and rolling around slashing at their weak spots for twenty minutes. The combat is so fluid; when you chain attacks together and successfully hit the boss whilst dodging and weaving away from poisoned dragon talons, you know there is a massive smile on your face.
Overall, Monster Hunter: World is the game I hoped it would be. Yes, the missions are a little repetitive, but you don’t realise this so much because of the epic battles and the engaging environments that you are fighting in. There is also so much progression to be made with upgrading your gear and the added challenge of the monsters becoming harder as you level up your hunter rank. This game, in particular, is the most accessible Monster Hunter to date, and I think developer Capcom has done an amazing job of making this game more welcoming to gamers that haven’t tried the previous titles. With the promise of ongoing support and new monsters being added, I can’t see how this game won’t be one of the biggest hits of 2018.
- Epic monster battles
- Deep armour and weapon tree customisation
- Beautifully rendered environments and monster movements and animations
- Multiplayer online sessions not currently working since release on Xbox One
- Heavy grinding with RNG for monster parts
- Repetitive missions
This game has been rated ESRB: Teen, and PEGI: 16. The game contains some moderate violence in regards to possibly getting gnawed upon by giant monsters, with the occasional death.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Xbox UK for the purposes of this review.