Monster Hunter World is a huge, demanding but ultimately rewarding experience

The journey of following a series like Monster Hunter is a perilous one. Capcom’s long-running franchise has always been know to suffer from obtuse design decisions, having impenetrable mechanics, and being extremely unfriendly to newcomers. Its fans are considered to be among of the most dedicated, and frankly, sometimes a little too devoted. And that’s quite understandable: getting into Monster Hunter in the past was quite an effort, and after bursting through that layer of complexity came the realization that these games were damn rewarding.

It might be a cliché statement to make, but it has never been this easy to get into the series than with the newest entry, Monster Hunter World. Not only does it include a number of ease of play improvements, but most importantly, it’s now on current gen consoles. Gone are the days of having to clutch a 3DS and do finger gymnastics in order to pull off moves that would otherwise be much more comfortable to play on an actual controller. While Monster Hunter World’s barrier of entry might still be considered a tad high for the more casual of players, thanks to the sheer amount of information to absorb, this is definitely the friendliest mainline Monster Hunter game ever to be released.

Much like the usual Monster Hunter, World feels like an onion that’s been peeled before you ever got to hold a knife. That is, there are layers upon layers of mechanics and systems just waiting for you to string along and make your salad with. Starting with weapons, which there are fourteen highly varied options to pick from. From the deceptively simple bow to the high-flying, acrobatic insect glaive, there’s bound to be an option that suits your play style. And finding that weapon is even more fun this time around, thanks to the huge improvement when it comes to putting them to use. Not only that, but game now conveniently displays their inputs on the top right corner of the screen at all times, which might sound cumbersome, but works out wonderfully. I have never been a fan of the charge blade in any of the other Monster Hunters, and since starting Monster Hunter World, I’ve become close friends with that particular weapon and a number of others. It’s incredibly enjoyable to feel everything out and settle on one or a few of them in your arsenal.

The entirety of Monster Hunter spins around hunting or capturing monsters and putting the parts you harvest from them to use by crafting newer and stronger gear. In World, that crafting system is much friendlier than it’s ever been, thanks to the inclusion of gear upgrade trees for weapons — something taken for granted in most games, but a HUGE improvement when it comes to Monster Hunter — which clearly displays just where the weapon you want to craft and improve can go, and what components you need to do so. The further you get in the game and the more monsters you get acquainted with, more options become available.

That said, the usual grind for which the series is known for is undoubtedly present in this game, but in noticeably contained fashion, thanks to different kinds of quests you can partake that can award you with the parts you need for whatever it is you are crafting, allowing you to potentially fight a certain monster less in case you need a specific item. Still, there’s some randomness thrown in for the sake of this being a game. The rewards for the investigations, aka the quests that you can run multiple times in order to gain more experience points for fighting monsters — a new feature in World that builds a knowledge database for these creatures as you fight them, revealing weak points, item drops, and elemental strengths and weaknesses for each monster — are tied to the monsters you’re tasked with taking care of, but are ultimately random, mostly depending on their rarity.

In that same vein, it’s worth noting that the tracking aspect of hunting is another radical addition in Monster Hunter World, having you search for clues in regards to the monster you’re looking for, just so you can set your scout flies — World’s version of a breadcrumb trail — to point you towards your target once you acquire enough clues, be it track marks, scrapes in trees, carcasses, etc. The best part is that that information doesn’t go to waste in later hunts. The more times you go through the motion of tracking a monster, the quicker you’ll get your flies to its scent, and the more info you’ll have about that particular creature in your database.

You can still try to acquire these bits the old fashioned way, by attacking and breaking off specific parts in the monsters, an aspect on Monster Hunter’s combat that is still as rewarding as it’s always been. Not only are these damage spots hugely important for acquiring loot, but they play a part in your success in actually taking these things down. Fights can take a long time, upwards to thirty or forty minutes, but by learning and knowing where to strike and target a foe can tilt the odds to your favor. And quite honestly, you’ll need all the help you can get, because these guys don’t pull any punches. Some of the later encounters can get daunting if you come unprepared, but these complexities are perhaps the most entertaining aspects of playing Monster Hunter games, and that’s especially so in Monster Hunter World.

As for other items that you gather along the way in order to craft consumables, it’s even easier to do so now. While on the run, you can simply mash a button as you pass by whatever you find and it’ll be collected. But by far the best improvement to gathering is the inclusion of an unbreakable fishing pole, capture net and mining pick, which eliminates the need to find materials to craft them, one of the most aggravating parts of the previous games. Not only that, but the wetstone is also among these items, so you can sharpen your blades to your heart’s content without worrying about collecting rocks. Well, you can still collect them, but this time you’ll use them with your sling, as yet another new addition that works as a ranged distraction or even as means to attract a monster’s attention towards you in the heat of battle.

The initial amount of different creatures to fight is impressive, and considering Capcom’s tradition of adding more monsters in the form of free updates throughout whatever the franchise’s current release’s life cycle, there’s bound to be enough to keep hunters busy for a while. The new additions to the enemy roster provide some of the most fun and hectic fights to that in the series, like the early game Barroth, a dinosaur that relies on building a thick shell made out of mud to protect itself, who provides a hefty challenge to hunters fresh off the boat to the New World. Our friends like Rathion and Rathalos are still incredibly cool to take down, and are even more impressive looking now that Monster Hunter is back again on a big, high definition screen.

Monster Hunter World is the best looking Monster Hunter game to date, regardless of which variation of console you’re able to play it in. Even on a “half-step” original PlayStation 4, World looks incredible. The lush areas in the game are detailed and just brim with life — now they’re not a series of connected arenas like in previous Monster Hunters, but seamless environments — not to mention the creatures that inhabit each of these locations. The monsters themselves are a spectacle on their own, menacing and impeccably animated, even if some bugs still pop up from time to time, like body parts clipping through walls and the rare times where they just stand around doing nothing. Fighting them feels epic, and even against the smaller monsters, I couldn’t helped feel small and insignificant in comparison, chipping away at their shins.

But for all the oh’s and ah’s of a new console version of Monster Hunter that’s friendlier to play as World is, there are some returning series’ gripes that haven’t quite been shook out. One thing that irks me to no end is the inclusion of missions in which you don’t directly fight a monster, but instead are forced to do combat against a huge entity by firing placed cannons and ballistas. They’re segments that bog down the pace, and World doesn’t get away from having such a mission, which is equally as annoying.

Another gripe is getting a multiplayer game together. It’s still somewhat cumbersome to do so, thanks to some archaic decisions when it comes to who can join in on hunts or when they can do it, or even worse, from where they can do it. Jobs posted in the bulletin board are easy enough to join, but sometimes even friends who are connected to the same game hub can’t join in until certain cutscenes play in everyone’s own games, or worse, when even though everyone’s hunter rank — the rating that goes up the more hunts you partake, allowing you to take more difficult ones at higher star ratings — is high enough to join, they can’t for some unknown reason. Then there are SOS flares that can be used during hunts by people looking for help, where you to jump in and complete quests together. It’s a really cool feature, but the caveat is that after a certain amount of time passes in the host’s mission, the rewards for joining in go away, begging the question why anyone would help at that point.

When it works, though, playing online with friends or with pickups is incredibly fun. Thanks to the sheer amount of play options, it’s incredibly fun to coordinate abilities and weapon loadouts in according to the monsters you’re fighting and your own group’s formation. And in case you do find yourself among friends, there’s an option to form a squad and expedite the matchmaking process, as well as the classic guild cards that you can send to just anyone in your lobby.

Simply put, if you’ve been waiting for an excuse to dive into Monster Hunter, Monster Hunter World is by and large the most accessible entry ever. Keep in mind that it’s by no means a cake walk, but a trek that’s absurdly rewarding and fun to partake. Even after you’re through its 30-hour story mode, World will have you coming back for more, inviting you to partake in its high rank mode and even tougher monster battles. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a few beasts to take care of!

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