|System: PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Initial Release: January 26, 2018|
|PC Release: Fall 2018|
|Players: 1-16 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence|
by Sean Engemann
The Monster Hunter series has garnered plenty of success in its native Japan, yet remains a relative stranger to western audiences, apart from a devout minority of fans. The steep learning curve, unwieldy and complex controls, odd narrative, and limited platform selection for many of its entries simply hasn’t appealed to the most populace western demographic of gamers. Monster Hunter: World has the potential to cleanse that stigma and reach global acclaim, with an engaging curriculum for newcomers to adapt to the gameplay, staple features, and improvements to satisfy veterans, all on consoles that can showcase the beautiful backdrops and menacing monsters to their fullest splendor.
After some story exposition and a crash landing on a new continent, you’ll find yourself in Astera, the HQ of the hunting commission where you can prepare for your next Monster Hunter: World assignment or relax after a rough day at work. This hub village may be compact, but it has all the amenities you need to quickly take care of business and get back out into the wild. There are quirky humans and Felynes (anthropomorphic cats) that wander around offering hints and sometimes fetch quests, your own cozy bedroom where you can manage inventory and test out different weapons, a gung-ho armory always ready to upgrade or craft new weapons and armor, a resource center and quest boards to fill up your to-do list, and a gathering hub to mingle with other players and hook up for some co-operative expeditions. Once you’ve buffed up with a bite to eat at the canteen, it’s time to head out and work off some of that food.
At first, everything may feel intimidating and overwhelming. The crafting list looks excessive, the weapons are bulky, firefly-like insects guide you to a wide array of interactable spots, and colossal creatures, both docile and deadly, wander about. Capcom has tried to alleviate some of the initial burden by providing guidance from NPCs and on-screen button displays for combat and other actions. But really, Monster Hunter: World just needs you to take some time to sink your teeth into it. Try the different weapons out in the field, step back and do a little fishing when needed, study the monsters attack patterns, and you’ll be itching for bigger prey in no time.
Since the monsters are massive, you’ll need equally imposing weapons to hack through their tough exteriors. Each of the fourteen weapons has its own specific control scheme, and mastering all of them requires a dedication to practice. From lightweight swords to hulking hammers, as well as various ranged weapons, each is tailored to a particular playstyle. You could stand stalwart with a lance and shield as a beast rears to attack, taking the blow and countering with your own. Or you could study the patterns more acutely to memorize exactly when to dodge with your lightweight dual blades, then fly in with a vicious flurry of strikes. Or you could vault from the ground with the insect glaive, mounting the monster over and over, jabbing at its carapace as it tries to buck you off.
“World” is by far the most fitting noun to ingratiate the title, as it is the world, the environments, and the flora and fauna within that are the true stars of the game. Unlike previous Monster Hunter games, where the action was stunted by loading screens separating slices of the map, here the maps are fluid and bereft of pauses. Most missions incorporate a time limit, so even when your mark retreats, skillfully working your stamina bar and memorizing where key harvesting ingredients are located doesn’t leave you many moments to stop and smell the needleberries. Also, because each map is home to multiple monsters, some of who don’t follow the territorial rules very well, often times an uninvited guest may join in the fray or you may inadvertently (or purposefully) upset the other residents. Striking various toads to trigger status effects or lassoing a flying wyvern to pursue your mark are just a couple of ways to use the environment to your advantage.