Monster Hunter has been a long cherished franchise of mine. Originally starting Monster Hunter on the PlayStation 2, eventually moving to Monster Hunter Tri and sticking with the series at each iteration. While each entry has made its changes and improvements, none such match the number of enhancements and changes that Monster Hunter World has made to make the series more approachable and enjoyable than ever before.
Monster Hunter, as the name suggests, is a game about hunting monsters. Large, small, gigantic, and everything in between, you are tasked with taking down these large beasts to progress through the game. Monsters serve as the main source of resources in the game, defeating them grants you resources, allowing you to craft new weapons and armor that enable you to hunt even more challenging monsters and scenarios. This is the basics of Monster Hunter’s feedback loop, defeat monster, gain resources, craft better gear, rinse and repeat. On the surface, this might seem rather repetitive, but Monster Hunter World manages to keep it continually interesting by having variety in nearly every process and scenario surrounding the main aspect of the game.
Monster Hunter World features 14 different weapons that all play and handle vastly different between each and every one, offering a nearly endless amount of ways to play. For instance, the Hammer focuses on strong attacks with a fair amount of mobility that deal lots of blunt damage. The drawback to the weapon is that to make the most use of the weapon, blunt damage must be dealt to the head of the monster in hopes of knocking it out. Putting the player at risk of getting hit by the monster fairly regularly as you must be facing them to be the most effective. Conversely, the Great Sword does a massive amount of cut damage, with the ability to cut certain parts of the monsters off (yielding more resources). However, the Great Sword suffers from needing a fair amount of time to charge the weapon up for each attacking, making the player vulnerable as they strengthen their attacks. There is additionally a series of technical weapons that can offer a variety of different playstyles intermixed from the game’s standard weapons. The Switch Axe can change forms from sword to axe, the Gunlance can shoot shells allowing it to effectively do cutting damage while easily being able to break monster parts, and the Insect Glaive controls an actual insect to attack and gain buffs from certain monsters. Finally, there are range weapons as well, adding a whole other perspective compared to melee weapons that have also found new life now that dual analog sticks are standard on the PlayStation 4. Regardless of your play style, there is something for everyone, but that is only if you are willing to put the time in.
While many of the weapons have received new or altered movesets, as a longtime Monster Hunter fan it is quite easy to pick up on the changes and how they function. For newcomers, however, this is most likely not the case. Monster Hunter World may do more than its predecessors in providing a tutorial of its mechanics, but it’s still largely lacking compared to most other games. The controls are complicated to learn, how the systems all interact are difficult to understand, and there is a certain rhythm that you must abide by to succeed. Much in the same way that Dark Souls or Bloodborne punish players by not playing the way the game wants you to play, Monster Hunter World does much of the same thing, even if it has relaxed some of its restrictions this iteration. Actions in Monster Hunter carry weight, meaning each decision or action comes with consequences as you are largely committed to that action once you initiate it. If you drink a potion then you will begin the animation and action of drinking a potion, which for those uninitiated, will slow you down and restrict your moves to just that until you finish drinking it (which can take some time).
As a new player, there is no possible way for you to understand and learn these systems without failing (or having a guide/friend), the multiple info boxes that pop up explaining these systems fail to properly teach the player, they simply provide the player information and expects them to absorb them fully without any interactions with them. It creates a tough situation for new players where they should expect failure when learning or will need the help of a guide or friend to teach them of what the game expects.
Thankfully, while the learning process is still largely lacking compared to other games, it’s still an improvement, and other systems have been made dramatically more friendly to veterans and newcomers alike to further compensate. Crafting is largely broken up into two different sets of items. There are consumables, items that you use on a hunt that allow certain actions or effects and your weapons and armor. Consumables previously required a little figuring out, needing you to discover what is mixed with what to create certain items. The goal of this unknowning-ness never truly panned out, players could easily find an entire list of items on the internet and the items were largely made the same from generation to generation. Monster Hunter World has aimed to streamline this process by providing many of the most common consumables that are craftable with their recipes already known. In addition, rather than needing to manually craft items every single time, the introduction of auto-crafting streamlines much of the process, enabling the need to craft essential items while on the move makes it effortless and available instantly.
Crafting weapons and armor also need a significant improvement over previous entries, each armor set by each monster is clearly listed out as you encounter new monsters, making it easier than ever to determine what gear you should craft next. As part of this process as well, the old point system of armor bonuses is gone. No longer do you need to worry about hitting certain thresholds for armor attributes to work. Instead, they all provide bonuses, but the more of the same bonuses you have the more powerful that particular bonus will be. It completely streamlines the system, requiring one less spreadsheet for the player to need to know. Weapons received a similar treatment by now can be plainly seen the paths that your weapon can upgrade to. Again, in previous iterations, this just created an annoyance for the player by needing to look up the charts online to see how they should upgrade their weapon most efficiently. Now, the player has little need to seek outside information and can find everything they need when they are ready to craft their new weapons.
There are other new additions to Monster Hunter World that added much-needed life to the setting, giving a strong sense of a living, breathing worth. The most impactful of these is the slinger. A new tool that all hunters have access to that can be used to the propel the hunter in certain areas or can launch various projectiles with different effects. Much of the ammo for the slinger is found within the world itself, with each of the many ammo offering a different effect. One might offer a water effect that cleans mud, or another might set flames on the ground that continually damage a monster. It adds another element to the world Monster Hunter is trying to craft, that the world is alive and breathing. There is a purpose to find an item in one area to only use it in another, not just to serve as crafting material but an item to be used in the hunt. With the introduction of the slinger, the introduction of creatures or things in the world that can be interacted with it has also been added. Perhaps there is a plant that spreads poison when hit, using the slinger can now cause that plant to erupt with poison from a distance, poisoning the monster and sparing you. Adding a new element to not only the monster you are fighting but how the world can interact with the hunt itself.
Monsters to have seen an upgrade in how they function. No longer does a monster rarely interact with others, instead, this is a regular occurrence. Monster fight, encroach on territory and kill each other. Sometimes this is to your benefit, others it is to your hindrance, but it provides a much-needed sense that this is an ecosystem you are entering; its a jungle out there.
While nearly every aspect of Monster has seen a significant improvement, how the multiplayer functions works are perhaps most stuck in the past. Previous entries had a simple lobby system, filter the types of lobbies you would like to see (or just invite your friends), join their game and go on a hunt with them or by yourself. With Monster Hunter World, the line of single player and multiplayer is now blurred. No longer are there a single player and multiplayer progression path, they are now intertwined with the same quests. In addition, players largely do not have a single player experience, the game unless otherwise specified, throws you into a lobby with 16 people it thinks might be a good match in terms of quests available and hunter rank. With the merger of single player and multiplayer, such a system works against itself. By creating the system defaulting you with the group it thinks you may want, but not actually want, it makes the search of those groups that much tougher. Trying to find a group for a specific hunt using this system is difficult, largely because many don’t understand how to use it. Even with the addition of joining missions midgame, and the SOS function that allows even more people to join the hunt outside your party, it’s still difficult just forming a group. For many, the best way to find a multiplayer group is to go to outside sources on social media. Reddit, Discord, and Amino all served me well in this regard, but having to go outside the game to find a group shows it’s in need of a better explanation or system generally.
Even with these flaws, Monster Hunter World still manages to be not only one of the best Monster Hunter games but one of the best experiences on the PlayStation 4. The world has never felt more alive, more fleshed out, more responsive, and easy to understand compared to previous iterations, who already had a rock solid foundation. It creates an experience and adventure you won’t want to step away from by taking a single element, hunting monster, and refining and adding to it over and over again to create one of the best action RPG’s out there to date. If you can look past its tough learning curve, put in the time, and learn its systems, then you will be rewarded with a game you won’t want to put down until you defeat the stronger monster the game offers.