Review: Monster Hunter: World

Since its original Japanese release back in 2004, a new Monster Hunter title has released almost every single year following. Although it became a huge success in Japan, it was a niche series in the west for many years that managed to make itself a bit more well known when it began launching on Nintendo systems. Now the latest entry is making a brand new debut not only on the latest from the line of consoles it started on with the PS4, but also making itself readily available to those in the west with Xbox One and eventually PCs releases as well. Monster Hunter: World sets itself to be a complete overhaul of the series while keeping the things players love intact and the battles have never been bigger.

As World begins, a fleet of ships is seen sailing the ocean to the mysterious new world. This is the fifth fleet to make the journey, and each ship is filled with hunters and researchers alike. As these travelers get together and begin talking, suddenly a gigantic elder dragon rises up from the water, taking one of the fleet ships with it. A single hunter and handler aboard are thrown overboard and begin working together to make their way off the back of the giant beast, and manage to make their way ashore to the new world. They make their way through the forest and finally to Astera, the city studying the wild life they’ve discovered. The giant elder dragon is known as Zorah Magdaros and is taking part in the mysterious elder dragon passing, so it’s up to the new duo to help and discover what is causing this before things go bad.

After going through the introduction, creating a hunter and finding their way to Astera players are given a run down of how everything runs. The workshop is used for purchasing and upgrading all equipment, while the classic canteen run by Felynes is available for a pre-hunt meal. Hunters have a home of their own where they can change minor parts of their appearance and find a variety of items for sale. In addition to the usual places to visit, they are introduced to many other NPCs who will help by offering additional missions, the ability to farm select items and even research monsters. After picking one of the fourteen weapons that they can choose from, they then head out on their first of many hunts to come.

One of the biggest changes to Monster Hunter: World from previous titles is the huge emphasis on story. Although Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate was a great start, World manages to hit the perfect balance with a silent protagonist who truly feels apart of the story while interacting with the characters. Going off what past titles have started has the story building deeper into the lore of the franchise, which generally took a back seat in past entries and was mostly for those who enjoyed diving into all the details of monsters and weapons. All story missions include a cutscene of some kind, whether introducing a new monster or simply the characters discussing their next plan of action. The only flaw is that while all these missions are available for multiplayer, everyone else is unable join in until the main player has finished watching all the cutscenes, which could be around three to five minutes of waiting depending on how quickly they get through everything.

Although there is a much larger story this time around, Monster Hunter’s main focus has always been in its combat against giant monsters, making it a series of one boss fight after the next. There will be times when hunters will be going out to fight smaller creatures or gathering items, but for the most part the emphasis is on learning to take down the variety of beasts in the way. With fourteen different weapon types there’s quite the variety to choose from, most with an element or status effect attached to it. Unlike previous titles, World brings with it damage numbers while hitting the monsters. The numbers are fairly helpful and can indicate where attacks do the most damage on the monster allowing them to see where their weapon is most effective at all times. Despite the numbers, monsters do not have health bars and the main way to tell when they are weak is through their actions which can be drooling when tired or limping when near death.

While it is considered an RPG to some extent, hunters don’t get stronger by gaining levels. Instead the only way to become a stronger fighter is to improve weaponry and armor. After fighting a monster the reward comes in the way of their various body parts, from shells to tails, and these are used to craft the armor and weapons players will use. One hunt will likely not yield all the items needed for an entire armor set and so begins the grind of Monster Hunter. To complete a set of armor, or even build and upgrade weapons, monsters need to be fought multiple or numerous times. While it might at first sound a bit like a nuisance, any annoying notion is tossed away by how simply fun combat is. Every monster has a unique move set, and learning to be stronger against them means learning how they move in order to become a better fighter. Early monsters will teach basic attack movements that are likely to be used by stronger opponents, while easing them into the idea of how to avoid strong attacks. Each monster is still different, and learning how to watch their movements can be the difference between victory and defeat.

One of the greatest new additions is one that doesn’t include fighting monsters at all and that is the training area. With fourteen unique weapons, there’s a lot to be learned when it comes to combat. While they may be similar, no two weapons are alike, each with its own unique combat style. The training area will teach the simple basics of each weapon, and from there offer combos that can be used to maximize damage and skills while fighting. This area contains no monsters, but instead barrels and boxes to try attacks on and see how much damage each one typically does. While previous titles did offer some training sessions, they were limited in how much was explained and put them up against a monsters making tensions while learning will still high. This is a safe way for people to learn new weapons before taking them out into the wild, in addition to the best weapon tutorial the series has ever offered.

The way weapon creation is handled has also seen a great overhaul to help hunters see what’s coming later and determine which route to take. When creating a weapon in the past, the next weapon upgrade displayed were the only ones immediately presented. World gives players access to the entire weapon tree and as long as they have collected most or all of the items for a weapon it will show up complete with its stats to compare. The weapon tree starts out small but expands once high rank quests have been unlocked, revealing the rest of the weapons available for creation. This makes it much clearer how far weapons can be upgraded and if it’s worth making or saving for later.

Making a return from previous entries is the expedition mode, which allows the exploration of the new open maps without a time limit or death limit. Large monsters will appear during this which can be defeated for extra research points and bonus items when leaving the expedition. In a completely new fashion these expeditions will offer additional side quests while out and about. Some require the player to track certain monsters while exploring, while others can be turned in once returning to town for items. Exploring the map is also how extra camps are unlocked, as they need to be found in order for the handler to recommend it as a new location. Certain items will be required to set up a full camp to use and this is worth accomplishing as soon as possible in order to allow quick transportation while hunting down big monsters.

Tracking down monsters can take a bit of time especially with maps as large as these ones. Luckily for hunters, they have scout flies to lead their way. These green creatures will find items and tracks left behind by the large beasts. Collecting a few of them will allow them to be a guide directly to the monster in question. Finding these tracks will also build up information on monsters, which can lead to helpful information such as weak points and the items they drop. The scoutflies aren’t just great for the biggest of beasts either, as opening the map allows the selection of small monsters and even items available for the scout flies to lead towards. This saves a lot of time when trying to find certain materials or while on a quest to hunt small enemies.

The monster AI has seen some interesting improvements as well, and while some of their movements such as limping away are predictable, they can cause some great reactions in battle. In each map three monsters will typically spawn, each one having their own ranking in terms of strength. If these monsters come into contact, they have a chance of attacking one another in a turf war. These deadly fights can lead to monsters taking even more damage and in some cases even killing one another in the process. These can be used to the hunter’s advantage, as luring a weaker monster towards a stronger one can help take them down even quicker. The environment in areas will also now affect monsters by the way of poison, paralysis and even trapping them temporarily which makes it well worth seeing what’s in the nearby vicinity to help take them down.

While most quests are added as the story progresses and taken from the quest board, there are a few new ways to pick up outings to hunt monsters. A hunter can select up to six bounties, which are mini-challenges that are usually completed over the course of multiple quests. Some may require harvesting a number of select items, while others might need a certain amount of large monsters to be hunted. These typically reward research points and armor spheres to upgrade gear making them worthwhile to always have available as an objective in the background. Collecting monster tracks from the scoutflies will begin to unlock investigations, which are quests that can be taken a limited number of times. These are often more challenging, sometimes requiring multiple monsters be defeated or captured instead but are worth it for extra rewards upon completion. Both of these alternative quest types add a whole new amount of variety and reason to always be collecting things while out in each map.

Perhaps the biggest drawing factor for Monster Hunter is its online play. Hunters gather up in groups of four to take on beasts of the largest variety, but a bit more was added to make things even more cooperative. Those interested in taking the lead are now able to assemble squads, allowing fifty others to join into a guild-like group. These squads let friends group up and get started hunting quickly, while still allowing outside players to jump in if they want. While out on a hunt and in need of assistance, the new SOS flare allows anyone to immediately join into a quest when sent out. Hubs are no longer restricted to four members, as a total of sixteen can band together at once. Joining an online hub also doesn’t necessarily mean completing quests together, as single player quests can still be completed. The change World brings is that anyone else playing can freely hop in and join if someone is on a quest in the same hub together. For those who might not want any random Joe joining their hunt, there’s a setting that can be changed in order to accept or reject randoms wanting to join, but for the most part having others join in the midst of a fight is usually a pleasant surprise.

While the series has always looked good on its respective platform, Monster Hunter: World is a gorgeous sight. The series has of course seen many improvements since its first release on PS2, but the leap into World is downright stunning. Every little detail is well placed, and the things to be discovered be it in town or out in the wilds is truly wonderful to see. With small animals scattered around the world that aren’t just there for pretty aesthetics, everything truly feels alive. The music is on par with music quality in the past, strong memorable beats whether in a town or deep into a fight. The themes fit the scenario and never get tiresome, which is just what one wants from a series that is built on fighting the same monsters continuously. There are occasional framerate inconsistencies, but these generally don’t interrupt gameplay too much. Loading times between areas can also be a bit long, but this is likely due to having to load large open maps in each area.

For those who enjoy voice acting, World has found a great cast that helps the dynamic story of the title. There are, however, multiple language options and Japanese with English subtitles is available for those who would prefer it. Anyone looking for the classic Monster Hunter grunts can also go that route and skip out of traditional voice acting all together. The handler, who players will usually see for quests, is the most heard character due to her dialogue during quests and expeditions. She doesn’t talk constantly, but those who find her chipping throughout a little bit annoying can turn down her voice in the settings without taking away from the rest of the sound.

Closing Comments:

For the first entry into a new generation, Monster Hunter: World wastes no efforts in making itself a sprawling experience with enough content to keep people going even without the planned free DLC quests. There’s something for every kind of hunter, whether looking to strategize or just go in with brute strength, in addition to those who like taking a break and exploring all there is in the new world. Monster Hunter: World marks the beginning of even greater things to come in the future. It re-imagined the series from a wider perspective, while keeping the core of what so many players new and old will continue to enjoy.