Available on PS4 (version tested) and Xbox One, coming this autumn to PC
Monster Hunter World is Capcom’s big push to make the series a mainstream hit in the West. Attempting to make the game more welcoming to new players while not alienating an already vast and dedicated fanbase is a very tough balancing act. As a newcomer, World is so fantastic it makes me wonder why I’ve taken this long to jump on board. This is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever experienced – full of variety, depth, challenge; a game that often verges on perfection.
Fans of Dark Souls, Nioh and others that challenge your every skill will feel right at home here. Monster Hunter is a game about stats: every weapon, item, armour piece, attack and skill has numbers attached to it. In order to be the most effective hunter in the Fifth Fleet as you research this New World, hoping to learn about it’s flora and fauna, and understand why the monsters within it behave the way they do, you’ll need to become familiar with these stats.
And there are hundreds of things to learn, each with different stats attached that you can appreciate and compare. It’s an analyst’s dream. This may well sound intimidating, but World does a brilliant job of easing players into its systems. Much of this complexity isn’t in the forefront in the early hours of gameplay, leaving you free to hunt World’s incredible monsters in its beautiful environments.
PS4 Pro and Xbox One X players are also treated to additional graphics options. You can choose to prioritise visuals, frame rate or resolution – depending on your preference. You can choose between having a more lush environment, steadier performance or the sharpest visuals your high-end console can offer. Note that when opting for frame rate on the PS4 Pro, you’ll still be aware of minor dips in more intense combat sequences; but most of the time they’re barely noticeable.
The opening few hours of Monster Hunter – in particular, its brief tutorials introducing the hub area and core mechanics – are so well done that you’ll be free to head out into the wild almost immediately and begin hunting. The drip-feed of information over the first dozen hours is so perfectly paced that I was almost learning by osmosis. There were no prolonged cut-scenes where an NPC dictated information to me, laboriously trudging through pages of text to learn how a potion works. Instead, it was learning by doing.
I initially ignored the information about armour defences against different elements, or a weapon’s damage output, instead opting for what I thought looked cool and learning the intricacies as I went along.
It’s a great way of giving newcomers breathing room to learn for themselves. For the experts, the information is still right there, but it only becomes essential later, when feistier monsters become a real handful, and you must become more strategic in your hunts. By that time you’ll be so engrossed in the world of Monster Hunter, you’ll be pouring over its every detail, no matter what your skill level is.
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Letting players enjoy the experience also allows them time to take in World’s simply stunning landscapes. Every new world you visit is completely different from the last, but each full of rich detail and plenty to discover. From the rich flora of the Ancient Forest to the barren deserts of Wildspire Wastes and beyond, it’s a feast for the eyes and worth taking the time to appreciate.
It can be argued that, ostensibly, you’ll be doing pretty much the same thing in each of these worlds: rushing around, collecting herbs, digging through bone piles and, of course, following your Scout Flies as they chase down the latest monster. But since it’s all such fun and satisfying, it never gets old. The combat with each monster is varied, and each battle will play out differently to the last. Thanks to World’s vibrant ecosystems, you’re never exactly sure what lies ahead.
And the combat is the jewel in the crown of it all. Unlike many other RPGs, rank and levelling isn’t tied to your character. Instead, you get better by killing more monsters, looting their carcasses. This in turn allows you to build stronger weapons and armour, improving defence and attack against the bigger beasts.
There will be times you’ll come up against a monster that’s so formidable it will seem impossible to overcome. However, head back to previous locations, go on hunts against lesser foes and acquire enough materials to improve your arsenal, and soon enough that behemoth will fall.
If this fails, you can always team up with three other players and work together to take the monsters down. Monster Hunter: World’s sense of community is excellent – although its execution is a little fiddly at times.
You can post a quest and invite up to three players to join, but everything is tied to the “quest master”, so if you didn’t post the quest then there will be much time spent waiting for other people to activate the start of the mission. If they’re still eating a stat-boosting meal or sharpening their tools or crafting traps, it can be annoying to be sat twiddling your thumbs. This is the reason communication is key; headsets are recommended for the experience to play out as intended.
But the choice is left purely to the player. There’s no greater reward for playing with friends. Whether you prefer to take on a monster on your own, or enjoy playing the numbers game to take down the monsters in each land, the choice is entirely yours – and both are truly excellent. Having that freedom, and also that sense of community, is rare in a modern game.
Not since Dark Souls and Bloodborne has a game fuelled such an old-school sense of discovery and pen-and-paper obsession. I was jotting down notes to learn how to craft items, where monsters are located, what I need to craft certain armour and weapons. I was learning which weapons work best against an enemy through experimentation and experience, rather than through Google. It’s an absolute joy.
Monster Hunter: World is one of the best RPGs you’ll ever play, and the most inviting the series has ever been. It’s clear to see why the franchise has such a dedicated following, and now that fanbase is set to grow ever larger thanks to the incredible steps the developer has taken to make this game more welcoming to many more players.
For those with a penchant for punishment, a soft spot for stats, and a crush on brilliant combat – you simply have to buy this game.