Mon­ster hunter: worl d

A primeval play­ground of re­lent­less hunt­ing, tire­less grind­ing, and in­cred­i­ble en­coun­ters

Games Master - - Contents - Robert Zak

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).

Mon­strous li­aisons

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.

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