As a famous saying (almost) goes, the bigger they are, the more fun it is to make them fall over. One of videogaming’s most enduring fantasies is the gigantic end-of-level boss, but these days the rank and file fodder are often the size of buildings, too.
Indeed, that’s precisely the reason for Monster Hunter’s success, and it’s a concept that’s being taken to new heights in the series’ latest entry,
Monster Hunter: World (p34). Yes, the world is bigger and more open. There are myriad quality-of-life improvements for series fans to chew over. And it marks the series’ return to powerful console hardware after a decade on portable devices. But the real hook here is the beasts – great wandering colossi which now, rather than kicking their heels and waiting for a team of humans with melee weapons to show up, are part of an ecosystem, and will scrap between themselves. The appeal is obvious.
Capcom is joined on its quest by Phoenix Labs, a Canadian studio whose debut game Dauntless (p50) is clearly inspired by Monster Hunter and its ilk. As a free-to-play open-world RPG, it naturally has a delicate balance to strike: of being monetisable without being grubby, and of offering progression without feeling grindy. But what will ultimately decide its fate will be how satisfying it is to kill massive things. The fantasy has to come first.
A key part of that fantasy is progression: you don’t get to fight Godzilla at level one, but must work your way up to it. It’s a concept put into delightful, surreal context by Donut County (p52). Essentially an inverted Katamari
Damacy, you control a small hole in the ground that expands with every creature or object that falls into it. Eventually you’ll be able to swallow up things so large that not even Monster Hunter would dare put them in front of you – and without a sword being swung. If only you could loot the corpse.