Monster Hunter is a mess.
I don’t just mean this game, but the whole series of games is a mess. Its unique combination of familiar mechanics, paired with rocky and inconsistent localization, has given it a long and complicated history within the United States. But, if raccoons have taught me anything, a mess can be appreciated. Monster Hunter: World is the pinnacle of what a Monster Hunter game is capable of, while still holding true to some of those nuances for which the series is so well known.
To better understand what World is, it helps to understand what the series was. The first Monster Hunter released for the PlayStation 2 in 2004 and became a massive hit in Japan. It was a refreshing step away from the common hack-and-slash hero in favor of a small human tasked with hunting intimidatingly massive beasts. The immense satisfaction of succeeding in a long and difficult hunt made the games stand out in a unique way. Despite this, the series’ subsequent games would be localized to the States with only mild success, possibly due to Western audiences being unfamiliar with its play style.
In the Monster Hunter series, it is clear that there is more to being a hunter than having a big weapon and lots of determination. It takes planning, observation, preparation – understanding your target’s behavior, gearing up properly for the job ahead. To play Monster Hunter is to see that with wisdom any monster, no matter how big, can be defeated. This is what makes a successful hunt all the more satisfying, and what makes the series so different from other series.
Monster Hunter: World holds on to many of the hardships of the past games while adding in a few new ones for the sake of advancement. The game puts little effort towards explaining its abundance of features. Whether it comes to the crafting system, the armor, or the weapons, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the in-depth mechanics, especially when they’re explained only once through a splash screen of summarized text. I have personally seen countless newcomers express confusion as to how major features work, with even seasoned veterans at a loss to help. While the information is available via community-managed wikis and guides, why should people have to do homework to enjoy a game?
More often than not, new players go to game veterans in search of guidance. This is such a common occurrence that there are websites dedicated to pairing players with mentors. I recall playing with some strangers, and one was losing all of his health faster than normal, causing us to fail the hunt. I asked him if he had been upgrading their armor. He told me he had not because he weren’t sure how the upgrade system worked. A short explanation and upgrade later, we successfully took down our target. Playing with randoms isn’t always a smooth experience, and not everyone has friends or a community to help them. People who play this game solo are likely to feel alienated and confused in the end.
New players aren’t the only ones left confused, either. Even longtime veterans are scratching their heads at the new multiplayer functionality of the game. Monster Hunter: World is unique in that it contains a feature is simultaneously the best and the worst it’s ever been.
In previous installments, four players could meet up in a lobby before going out to hunt together. You were either matched with random players, or you could join a session with your friends. Capcom scrapped this in favor of a new system of room IDs and Guilds. Now, up to 16 players can gather in Private, Public, or Guild lobbies. This system opens up a world of features for the game. You can join in-progress hunts, do story-related hunts together, and even rush to people calling for aid in other lobbies. The Guild system makes joining a lobby with your friends a quick and simple process. So what’s the catch?
Unless you’re playing with strangers, it’s a picky and unintuitive process. For friends to join the lobby you’re in, they need to input the randomly generated session ID, which changes every time you play. But wait, what about Guilds? Sure, Guilds are a great way to get instant and easy access to lobbies for just you and your friends — except that the Guild owner has to be online and in a lobby with you in order to invite you to their Guild. While this may seem like little trouble for smaller social circles, it’s a nightmare for larger communities. When the host of The Carve, a popular Monster Hunter podcast, opened up a Guild for the fanbase, he had to dedicate time out of his day purely to add new members. This created a bottleneck in the community’s ability to interact. Capcom somehow managed to find a way to alienate even their established communities.
Still, hidden behind the intimidating wall of confusion is a goldmine of quality. Capcom took what made Monster Hunter great, polished it, and accessorized it with features we didn’t even know we wanted. Even existing features got much-needed makeovers
No longer is there any one weapon class that feels awkward or uncomfortable. In past games, I hated the bowguns and the lances. Their movements felt unintuitive and the low damage and mobility meant they weren’t worth the headache. With Monster Hunter: World, the bowguns’ aiming mechanics have changed to a third person shooter, and powerful secondary effects have also been implemented. This makes shooting more accurate, and successful shots all the more satisfying. Lances have become defensive powerhouses. The ability to take nearly anything a monster throws at you, and return the damage back to it made me feel unstoppable against the might of my giant, lizard-like foes. These are only two of the 14 weapon types available. When every weapon type is enjoyable to play, the game’s variety and freedom opens up exponentially.
The exciting and varied arsenal is only one of many reasons hunting is the best it has ever felt. The world and all the monsters therein also went under the much-needed knife. Before, hunters wandered aimlessly until they came across their target. Once they did, if they didn’t periodically throw globs of paint at the monster, it could easily slip away, forcing the player into another round of hide-and-seek. Now, the player has scoutflies. These bloodhound-like insects track monsters by scent, and are activated by examining monster tracks. The way the tracks are generated in the world makes sense relative to the monster’s current location, enough so that by the time I had beaten the game, I could tell where the monster was on my own. I actually felt like I was hunting, not just meandering around.
Outside of hunting, there are a number of quality changes. Items needed for upgrading weapons have been given simpler names, so it’s easier to find you need. A new wishlist feature notifies you when you’ve collected everything needed to craft an item. Autocrafting allows you to focus less on tedious logistics when gathering. Each small improvement stacks onto another for a fluid and fun experience.
Monster Hunter: World has an extraordinary degree of longevity. The expansive list of weapons, armor, and monsters offers enough variety to keep things fresh. You’re given a sense of well-deserved satisfaction when you play. Whether it’s for game progression, helping others, or just casual play, it feels good to hunt. When I’m not hunting, I’m browsing potential armor pieces, hoping that someday I’ll find that most fashionable chest plate. Or maybe I’m looking at other weapons to work towards. As soon as you’re done with one fight, a voice pokes you in the back of the head, saying “just one more.” Before you know it, it’s 3 AM and you’ve fused yourself to the couch. By the time I had completed the main story, I was 82 hours in – and yet I wanted to keep playing.
Monster Hunter: World is in a class all its own. Continually exciting gameplay, massive playtime-per-dollar, and a unique sense of satisfaction make this the best Monster Hunter game by far. Unfortunately, the road to enjoyment is plagued by some fairly large potholes. While these issues are short-lived, they are a noticeable damper to the game’s initial experience. Newcomers will be turned off by the confusion, and veterans will be annoyed by the complications. All things considered, Monster Hunter: World is worth your time – given enough patience, that is.
- Unique and Creative Universe
- Satisfying Gameplay
- Massive Playability
- Overwhelming to New Players
- Explains Too Little
- Complicated Multiplayer Aspects