Mon­ster Hunter: World

Mon­ster Hunter: World sets up a re­verse Juras­sic Park sce­nario and adds high fash­ion to make dragon mur­der in­fin­itely en­ter­tain­ing.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By James Daven­port

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 thick-skinned fire type crea­ture, you’d best go take down a flame­spout­ing 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. Clear affini­ties be­tween be­hav­ior, aes­thetic, and the hard num­bers that gov­ern mon­ster stats make de­cid­ing which mon­ster to hunt next and what gear you’ll need to ruin them quite easy to de­ter­mine.

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. The kulu-ya-ku is a big dodo bird that uses big rocks as its first line of de­fense. The an­janath, a fire-breath­ing, chicken-winged T-rex, would be a fi­nal boss in most games. Hit­ting one un­til it stops mov­ing for the first time is an im­mense, sad ac­com­plish­ment.

And then a rathian plunges from the sky and cap­tures an an­janath in its claws, flail­ing your former fi­nal boss mon­ster around like a ragged teddy bear. Some­how, they get big­ger yet, with crea­tures that re­sem­ble fallen, very grumpy gods.

Gods or do­dos, 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, al­ways nudg­ing you to­wards an in­evitable fight.

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. Do you try to lure an an­janath un­der a mas­sive boul­der strung up by vines above? Loos­ing it with your sling­shot has a good chance of flat­ten­ing you, too.

Gods or do­dos, hunts work the same through­out the en­tire game

Fan­tas­tic beasts

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 in axe form and re­leases it in

ex­plo­sive bursts af­ter trans­form­ing into a glow­ing sword that’s the size of a teenager.

It still looks tiny to a bur­row­ing sand wyvern. Big sword or not, 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. Jump while sprint­ing to dodge an at­tack, and you’ll leap for­ward and fall flat on your face.

Hit­ting the mark

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. And when you can walk the line and land a rare, right­eous combo di­rectly on a rathian’s scaly dome, the feel­ing is eu­phoric.

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 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.

When the hunt­ing por­tion of Mon­ster Hunter is so vividly ren­dered via mas­sive, be­liev­able crea­tures and lush en­vi­ron­ments, dig­ging through menus to turn gath­ered herbs into po­tions and po­tions into mega po­tions lacks the same cer­e­mony. For 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, like how you can use pierc­ing pods to pre­vent mon­sters from run­ning away, or how to craft and use some of the most es­sen­tial items. 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.

World isn’t a per­fect port ei­ther, a de­cep­tive re­source hog that likely won’t run at the high fram­er­ates you’d ex­pect it to. But it is sta­ble, and built with PC users in mind. Fully con­fig­urable key­board and mouse con­trols are as cozy as any con­troller, and ex­ten­sive graph­ics op­tions will get it run­ning just fine on older rigs with enough tweak­ing.

Killing time

It doesn’t take long to kill most of the mon­sters and try a few weapons, so World com­pli­cates and ex­tends it­self by fo­cus­ing on minu­tiae. It’s why many will tell you that ‘the real Mon­ster Hunter ex­pe­ri­ence’ doesn’t re­ally start un­til you fin­ish the main quest. The first 20 hours of low rank play are fun and worth see­ing, but to an ex­tent it’s true. 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.

High rank mis­sions may come across as an artificial way to ex­tend in­ter­est in Mon­ster Hunter: World, but the se­ries has al­ways been pre­oc­cu­pied with grind­ing for ob­scure com­po­nents to make a hat or sword with a dif­fi­cult hunt in mind. It is Min-Max­ing: The Game. Grindy, yes, but the grind is good. With so many mod­ern games out now com­pet­ing for time as much as money, Mon­ster Hunter: World avoids feel­ing like an in­sa­tiable black hole by au­tomat­ing the usual busy­work.

Boun­ties, small col­lec­tion mis­sions you can of­ten com­plete dur­ing hunts, grant you items and up­grade ma­te­ri­als. A green­house in the hub area al­lows you to cul­ti­vate herbs be­tween mis­sions, elim­i­nat­ing the need to col­lect them at all, even­tu­ally. The Tail­rider Sa­fari is a group of three ad­ven­tur­ous pal­i­cos you send on mis­sions to re­trieve a ran­dom as­sort­ment of items from spe­cific biomes, soft­en­ing the need to grind out lower level hunts. And ev­ery ar­mor set is unique, pulling in rec­og­niz­able el­e­ments from the mon­sters they’re made of, ar­ranged in ec­cen­tric, stylish de­signs. They are worth the hard work.

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.

Ev­ery chal­lenge is a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of the com­bat sys­tem

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