Monster Hunter World
Sets up a reverse Jurassic Park scenario and adds high fashion to make dragon murder infinitely
DEVELOPER CAPCOM • PUBLISHER IN- HOUSE • PRICE $ US60 www.monsterhunterworld.com
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.