Monster Hunter: World PC, PS4, Xbox One
Why Capcom’s cult favourite isn’t dumbing down, but opening up
Capcom may have rung the changes for
Monster Hunter: World, but the biggest of all was the announcement itself. An E3 reveal, after all, says much about where the publisher’s priorities lie, as it looks for ways to match the series’ phenomenal Japanese success on foreign shores. What better way to prove your commitment to overseas players than by showing off your new game to the huge audience watching the west’s biggest videogame show? When series producer
Ryozo Tsujimoto talks about “keeping an eye” on the reaction back in Japan, an acknowledgement that Capcom hasn’t yet had a chance to talk directly to its largest fanbase, it’s clear the company means business.
Tsujimoto attributes its success at home to a “perfect storm” of conditions. The series only really took off with the first PSP entry, since Japan’s population density and the prevalence of portable hardware made it easier for people to play together. Joining a hunt was simple when you already had allies nearby without having to specifically seek them out. He acknowledges that the situation is rather different over here. “In most western countries outside of the largest cities, finding another person who even has a portable game console, let alone owns and wants to play
Monster Hunter, is a lot more challenging for a lot of people,” he says. “I think that’s always been something that’s held back the explosive success of Japan transferring to the west.”
He happily concedes, too, that localisation delays and separate servers for each territory have made it challenging for Capcom to foster a truly global hunter community. “I think the smallest gap we’ve had has been about six months, but often up to a year or more has passed between the Japanese and the western release,” he says. “A couple of iterations ago, we merged the western servers, so you’d have North America and Europe together, but Japan was still separate. With Monster Hunter:
World, we’re not only merging the servers into one global online community who can all play together, but we’re also going to have a simultaneous launch window where the titles come out pretty much at the same time around the world. I think that’s going to have a big impact on how the game does in the west.”
Any lingering doubts, meanwhile, that this wasn’t a ‘proper’ entry in the series, but rather a spin-off along the lines of Monster
Hunter Frontier, have been quickly dispelled. That initial footage was notable as much for the established idiosyncrasies that were absent as the new additions. We have to admit, we’ll miss the muscle-man pose your hunter would pull off after glugging down a restorative. But perhaps we’re just fusty old
traditionalists, and most of the minor changes seem eminently sensible. You can now pick up items as you pass by them rather than needing to stop, while certain environmental items will activate as soon as you grab them – such as plants that instantly heal you or boost your stamina. “It’s about having a smoothness to the experience that reduces that slightly stop-start, staccato style we’ve had in the past,” co-director Kaname Fujioka explains. “By eliminating those little bumps in the road, we can make it easier to get to the more enjoyable parts, like the hunting actions.” That streamlining has led to a significant change in how Monster Hunter handles tutorials, helping chivvy things along for a series notorious for being a slow starter. They’ll now be fully voiced, so rather than having to tap through reams of text before you can properly begin, your handler will bring you up to speed, from detailed combat tips to basic explanations of the natural flow of a hunt. “Hopefully that smooth in-game experience of learning while you play will assuage the issues people have had with the game in the past,” Tsujimoto says. “When you actually get into the meaty action of the game, it’s really satisfying to play. But perhaps in the past some people have not been able to quite make it that far: to really get to grips with the concepts the game is built around, and learn how the gameplay flow works.”
It is, of course, a matter of balance, and Tsujimoto is well aware that any sops to newcomers will be viewed by some as dumbing down. When he says his team is “not about to throw out the baby with the bathwater” it’s evident that he’s concerned about the response to the changes they’re making. “The core experience is pure Monster
Hunter through and through,” he insists. “We just want to take a look at the stuff outside of that core, and critically reevaluate it.” Which means, essentially, bringing it up to speed with modern western games. Rather than being segmented into zones, the map is seamless, but while hunters can move freely around, so too can the monsters. If the idea of healing on the go might be anathema to some players, consider that you can no longer retreat to a ‘safe’ zone to recover and re-sharpen your weapon. In other words, don’t expect Capcom to suddenly go easy on you simply because you now have radial menus and the ability to switch weapons mid-hunt.
Ah yes, the weapons. All 14 types are here, and though Generations’ hunter arts and styles are no more, a few moves have been lifted from it. Beyond a new forward hop, the Lance doesn’t appear to have changed much, though the Hammer now has a quicker pummelling attack that’s ideal for landing a succession of hits on downed creatures, and there’s a gorgeous, exaggerated hit-pause on its whirling attack. Dual Blades are more acrobatic than ever, with a spinning move letting you cartwheel over the back of monsters, while refined movement and aiming controls might even convince some to switch to the Bow for the first time. Then again, why leave behind the Insect Glaive, when it now allows airdashes, prompting the kind of flashy combos that would look at home in a Platinum game?
Grapple hooks and ghillie suits offer new escape and stealth options respectively, though we’re rather less sold on a third addition to your hunter’s arsenal. Investigate a monster’s footprint, for example, and you can send out a cluster of fireflies that will leave a neonyellow trail that should guide you to your quarry. Though World has mostly borrowed intelligently from western sandbox games, we’re not convinced it needed a detective mode. We hope that this will be optional.
Still, tellingly, the reaction from fans so far has grown more positive as more has been revealed, initial reticence shifting to a wider acceptance of the tweaks to the series’ longstanding formula. “All the things we’ve described are going to make it easier to pick up,” Fujioka says. “But at the same time, once you’re in, you won’t want to put it down.” Time will tell whether Capcom can indeed have its cake and eat it, but the prospect of a truly global community of hunters for the first time is a mouthwatering one indeed.
Nature of the beast
It’s obviously the bestlooking Monster
Hunter game to date, but Capcom’s using more powerful hardware for more than just shinier, furrier monsters. “We wanted to see how we can use that not just to up our game with the visuals, but in terms of creating a living, breathing ecosystem, with rich interactions between the different monsters in the game,” Tsujimoto says. The idea of a proper food chain has been only hinted at in past games – a Seltas Queen will eat her male counterpart for sustenance, while Deviljhos aren’t fussy about who or what they’re attacking – but the sight of a Great Jagrass (a lizard-like newcomer) gulping down a lumbering Aptonoth suggests you’ll be able to use other monsters as a distraction during hunts. Indeed, plenty of the bigger creatures won’t even acknowledge you until you start attacking them.
“When you actually get into the meaty action of the game, it’s really satisfying to play”
Series producer Ryozo Tsujimoto (top) and Kaname Fujioka, co-director