Monster hunter: worl d
A primeval playground of relentless hunting, tireless grinding, and incredible encounters
From monstrous iguanas to fire-breathing dinosaurs, we’ve hunted the lot – and we’ve done it with an adorable kitty cat at our side. If you don’t know Monster Hunter, you need to get on board now. If you do, get ready for perhaps its best entry yet.
It’s been eight years since the Monster Hunter series has seen a mainstream console release, and its upcoming iteration, Monster Hunter: World, is the first time it will have been cross-platform. With unconventional Japanese action-RPGs like Dark Souls and Capcom’s own Dragon’s Dogma finding success on these shores in recent years, it’s the perfect time for this traditionally Japan-centric series to really grab the West by the horns.
The premise of Monster Hunter: World is much the same as its predecessors. You’re a custom-created adventurer plonked into a mesozoic world dominated by creatures that teeter on the evolutionary chart between dinosaurs and dragons. Dotted around these primeval landscapes are camps, villages, and other enclaves of civilisation, where you pick up errands to take out the ‘monsters’ that terrorise the local populace. As you hack down the beasts, you level up your existing weapons and equipment, gather materials for crafting new ones, and progress onto bigger prey. You’re free to wander off into the semi-open world to grind your character and harvest materials, but don’t expect to build up a shopping list of side-quests or find profound, multi-layered stories out there. This world is, for all intents and purposes, your hunting ground.
Pain in the Jagras
So we go hunting, though our first major encounter is a somewhat disorderly one. Running out into the wilds without a quest, we use our scout flies to track the footprints of a Great Jagras – a bloated iguana-like creature residing in a swampy corner of the Ancient Forest region. Arriving in the opening where it is resting, we find it surrounded by raptor-like small Jagrases. The creatures immediately swarm us, although with the help of our Palico (a small anthropomorphic cat who’s a mainstay companion throughout the Monster Hunter series) and some wild swings of our steel axe, we quickly dispose of them. Our furry pal even
manages to convert one of them to our side with his sneaky feline magic.
But as we prepare to charge the Great Jagras, what can best be described as a cross between a giant turkey and a T-rex comes bounding through the foliage straight for the Great Jagras’ throat. Feeling left out, we too get stuck into this horrifying, magnificent melee. With perfectly timed dodges honed from years of Souls games, and increasingly flowing combos targeting the Jagras’ weak midriff, we take down our target… and duly flee from ol’ Turkey Rex (which is officially known as an Anjanath).
It is a baptism of fire, all too literally when the Anjanath goes into its enraged state and begins spitting flame all over the shop. This, however, is just an appetiser for the kind of emergent, unpredictable chaos that awaits players in Monster Hunter: World. More so than its predecessors, World has a touch of the sandbox about it; it’s a big, hostile playground where the game’s systems – in the form of giant voracious reptiles – collide in the most spectacular ways.
Returning players may be a little disappointed to find that there are no new weapon types in World. For newcomers, though, the variety of playstyles these offer is still impressive. Among the various features that make World a little more accessible than its predecessors are star ratings, telling you how newbie-friendly a given weapon is. To that end, you might want to try your hand at an Insect Glaive, a speedy spear that can be used to pole-vault onto the backs of monsters, with a special attack that summons little bugs that do all sorts of things, from attacking monsters’ specific body parts, to giving you buffs. Do as we did and test the (awesomely named) Iron Gunlance, on the other hand, and a whole different strategy is required – one that will take you many hours to master. Despite its friendly presentation, from your cutesy cat sidekick to the quest lady who insta-cooks you the roastiest of roast chickens, offering temporary stat boosts, Monster Hunter: World is a deep, grinding game, where you need to be as mindful of your equipment loadouts as you are about how you take down your prey. Button-mash, and your stamina will quickly drain, leaving you a frustrated, stumbling wreck waiting to be tail-whipped into a pile of dino-dung. Again, though, this is a post-Souls world we’re living in, where players are used to Japanese design quirks like unpausable menus, awkward inventories, and stamina-based, dodge-based combat. Unlike with the last main Monster Hunter release, we’ve now had years of training with this stuff.
The environments of Monster Hunter: World are formidable and lively, teeming with fauna ranging from little dino carrion birds that feast on fallen monsters, to those behemoths we mentioned earlier. In the Wasteland Spire region, vertiginous shards of rock surround a craggy arid valley, which becomes the stage for our most memorable encounter.
Playing co-operatively with three other people, in the desert we track down the Barroth, a stone-armoured monster with a clubbing tail and wide, virtually indestructible, head. The battle’s going swimmingly as we take it in turns to mount the creature, keep it off-balance, and even manage to lop off
“a hostile playground where the game’s systems – in the form of giant, voracious reptiles, collide in spectacular ways”
its tail (on a sidenote, the ability to mutilate monsters and their evident suffering when they try to limp away, felt a tad cruel given the lack of narrative justification and otherwise chirpy presentation – animal lovers be warned).
Suddenly, we hear a screeching, and look up to see that the sun’s been blotted out by a horned dragon descending from on high. It lands next to the Barroth, there’s a moment’s pause as we try to process whatever the hell we’re witnessing, then suddenly the ground gives way beneath the two creatures, plunging them and one of our party into an underground cavern. The rest of us hurtle down after them, falling hundreds of feet to continue this most unexpected of three-way battles.
Here be monsters
We should probably fade to black and leave it at that, but in the interest of disclosure we’ll admit that the dragon swiftly slaughtered our party (despite us subjecting it to a good 20 seconds of rodeo). The encounter left an incredible impression. While we’ve seen little in the way of story, maybe that doesn’t matter when there will be so many stories told among players about the earthshattering battles they experience in this wild, monster-packed world. And it’s these kinds of stories, conjured up by a game’s unpredictable systems, that tend to be the best ones.
Give it another million years, and this oddity will evolve into a regular household chicken. Though we’re just going to kill it now. Tough luck, Darwin.
Take a moment to enjoy the scent of this lavender field, another part of Wildspire Waste. Just be mindful of the monster with the spiked-club tail.
Why hunt alone? You can team up with three other fellow hunters online, with drop-in, drop-out co-op making its debut in the series.
At any point during a hunt, other monsters can join the fray from the land or skies, leading to some memorable battle royale brawls. There are 14 types of weapon to choose from, including a bagpipe that plays songs to increase your strength, a spear that summons flies, and this fine cleaver. Each major monster has its weak spots and resistances that you’ll have to suss out without help from a health bar or other visual aids
The environments really capture that ‘Land Before Time’ feel, minus the friendly talking dinosaurs. Which is good, given the damage you can do to them.