Mon­ster Hunter World

Sets up a re­verse Juras­sic Park sce­nario and adds high fash­ion to make dragon mur­der in­fin­itely

PCPOWERPLAY - - CONTENTS - JAMES DAV­EN­PORT

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Mon­ster Hunter: World is an ac­tion game about dom­i­nat­ing the food chain and look­ing good while do­ing so. It’s renowned for its endgame, where you go on chal­leng­ing hunts in search of rare items needed to craft an ar­mor set that’ll crown you the min-max cham­pion of the world, but Mon­ster Hunter’s essence and great­est strength is its pro­longed, des­per­ate, and tragic fights with beau­ti­ful beasts.

Un­like the story, mur­der­ing World’s dozens of in­tri­cately de­signed mon­sters has a point. There’s no lev­el­ling up and skill point al­lo­ca­tion in Mon­ster Hunter, so craft­ing ar­mor and weapons is the only way to per­ma­nently buff your stats. Gear crafted from mon­sters re­flects their strengths and weak­nesses, so if you’re hav­ing trou­ble with a thick­skinned fire type crea­ture, you’d best go take down a flame-spout­ing ratha­los for a set of fire-re­sis­tant ar­mor, and seek out a poi­sonous mon­ster to cre­ate a weapon that does a bit more dam­age over time.

All 30-some­thing mon­sters (with more on the way via free up­dates) have dis­tinct per­son­al­i­ties brought to life through re­al­is­tic an­i­ma­tion, ob­serv­able be­hav­iors, and de­tailed mod­els. My fa­vorite, the paolumu, is a fuzzy pink and white bat crea­ture that bal­loons like a blow­fish when threat­ened.

Hunts work the same through­out the en­tire game. You ‘post’ a quest in the hub area, eat a quick meal to buff your stats, and if you’re play­ing with friends, you and up to three oth­ers em­bark on a hunt. From there, you’ll wan­der an in­tri­cate en­vi­ron­ment in search of your mon­ster. Scout­flies, sen­tient com­pass bugs, will point you to nearby craft­ing ma­te­ri­als and mon­ster tracks.

Prob­lem is, biomes are pop­u­lated with mon­sters be­sides your tar­get, and they’ll prob­a­bly in­ter­rupt your fight. Let­ting them duke it out while you hide can work in your fa­vor, but stay­ing out of the way isn’t easy. En­vi­ron­men­tal haz­ards com­pli­cate hunts fur­ther.

Mon­sters have no vis­i­ble health bar, but they’ll ap­pear tired and in­creas­ingly scarred the weaker they get. At cer­tain in­ter­vals, they’ll make a break for it and try to find a place to sleep or hunt prey of their own to eat in or­der to re­gain HP and stamina, turn­ing hunts into fren­zied chases. Know­ing your en­vi­ron­ment, where the mon­ster might be headed, and the fastest way to get there only comes with ex­pe­ri­ence.

That’s okay be­cause World’s com­bat is strong­est when it feels like a strug­gle. Swings with a great sword take lit­eral sec­onds of an­i­ma­tion, the ham­mer re­quires get­ting too close for com­fort, and even the mo­bile ranged weapons feel like un­wieldy, clunky ma­chines. I’m par­tial to the switch axe, a weapon that stores el­e­men­tal dam­age and re­leases it in ex­plo­sive bursts af­ter trans­form­ing into a glow­ing sword.

Re­gard­less, you can and will get poi­soned, par­a­lyzed, burned, stun­locked, put to sleep, and be­come sub­ject to ev­ery at­tack your quarry can muster while you’re help­less. Swings and shots from your friends can in­ter­rupt your own, and your ev­ery at­tempt to ex­haust your move­ment abil­i­ties will also ex­haust your char­ac­ter. Com­bat isn’t fun in the way of Devil May Cry, which re­wards con­stant, fluid com­bos and per­fect tim­ing, but it is al­ways tense, and of­ten hi­lar­i­ous.

But so much gets in the way of that crunchy feed­back loop. If the in­tent of craft­ing and gear man­age­ment (the usual down­time ac­tiv­ity be­tween hunts) is to make you feel as if you’ve cul­ti­vated food, cu­rated your looks and per­formed the proper re­search

... you can and will get poi­soned, par­a­lyzed, burned, stun­locked, and put to sleep.

re­quired to take down what­ever big boy is next on the list, then ab­stract menu in­ter­ac­tions aren’t the most in­ven­tive or sat­is­fy­ing way to go about it.

As busy and com­plex as the craft­ing and item man­age­ment ap­pears, it’s pain­less in prac­tice, sim­pli­fy­ing the series’ formerly com­plex sys­tems to such a de­gree that they don’t even re­sem­ble the sys­tems they’re sim­pli­fy­ing. Why not rein­vent them at this point?

Mon­ster Hunter: World also opens by bash­ing you over the head with text-heavy tu­to­ri­als. You’ll learn how to craft dozens of items im­me­di­ately, most of which won’t mat­ter un­til hours in. Mean­while, vi­tal tips are glossed over. The bulk of Mon­ster Hunter: World’s in­ner work­ings are only ac­ces­si­ble through wikis and hearsay, the as­sump­tion be­ing that you’ll fig­ure some stuff out on your own, or col­lapse and turn to Google.

Mon­ster Hunter: World changes sig­nif­i­cantly once you reach high rank play. Hunts are remixed by adding lay­ered ob­jec­tives, like de­feat­ing mul­ti­ple mon­sters in a short­ened time frame or by juic­ing the el­e­men­tal abil­i­ties of a pre­vi­ously weaker mon­ster. New mon­sters con­tinue to ap­pear in the endgame, of­ten re­quir­ing raid-like plan­ning with a full team of four. As you progress fur­ther into high rank mis­sions, small mis­takes are met with mas­sive pun­ish­ments, and the study and prepa­ra­tion for a sin­gle hunt might re­quire a whole new ar­mor set and weapon.

It can be frus­trat­ingly slow, es­pe­cially af­ter the breezy hunts of the story cam­paign. And yet, ev­ery chal­lenge is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of the com­bat sys­tem. Grind­ing out the best gear for a tough hunt is a smart, of­ten nec­es­sary, idea, but if you know when to swing and when to run, you’ll be al­right.

Like your char­ac­ter, World dresses its breath­less com­bat in ev­ery as­sort­ment of the most ar­bi­trar­ily com­pli­cated garb, all in the name of va­ri­ety. It is an abyss of re­playa­bilty, an ex­er­cise in pa­tience and ob­ser­va­tion for the ul­ti­mate pay­off: An in­fi­nite black sea of in­vig­o­rat­ing dragon mur­der. And a new hat.

A to­tally nor­mal re­la­tion­ship.

There’s some­thing dark be­hind those eyes.

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