After more than 140 hours gathering, slaying elder dragons and being wined and dined by the finest felyne chefs in Astera I still feel like I’ve got hundreds more ahead of me.
Monster Hunter has enjoyed a wealth of changes with each subsequent entry into the series. Never before, however, has the franchise been gifted such a massive amount of tweaks and adjustments that make everything from combining items, managing your resources, and crafting gear feel better than ever before. These “quality of life” improvements make the overall feel of the game far more appealing to veterans of the franchise, and simply more enjoyable. I never have to worry if my item pouch is full, or curse myself if I forget to eat prior to loading up a quest because the game is doing these extra micro managements for me.
Adjustments to armor and weapons have been made as well. Armor is no longer split into Blademaster and Gunner sets but rather between Alpha and Beta sets. Alpha sets include more skills and skill points from the get go, whilst Beta sets are more limited but offer a wide range of customization you can take advantage of later in the game.
All 14 weapons have been adjusted in some way, whether it’s changes to attack animations, new additions such as ammo types, or new moves altogether. Monster Hunter Generations introduced “hunting styles” to change how people play, but this change feels much more organic in how it’s implemented. Each weapon feels new while still retaining the core aspects that drew players to them in the first place. A fully equipped training grounds is also a great addition to familiarize yourself with every new addition.
World is no slouch in the content department either. For the first time, a fully voiced story mode has been included. This is the first time Monster Hunter has told such a poignant and thoughtful story. They examine what it means to be a hunter, and their steps to understand the new world around them. The voice acting is great and I’m hopeful we see this as a regular trend moving forward.
Quests are plentiful, and a new addition called Bounties, similar to expeditions in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, are a great way to find new challenges and greater rewards than that of standard quests from the guild. Bounties also reward you with resource points just for playing and completing specified requests, giving players a resource system that is interconnected and seamless in its efforts to both encourage players to grind and accept challenges they may not otherwise be motivated to complete.
Event quests are back and are updated on a weekly basis. Collaborations with other popular franchises such as Mega Man and Horizon: Zero Dawn follow in the footsteps of the previous Nintendo themed content from the 3DS titles. All of this DLC is still free just as it has been throughout the franchises’ history.
One specific direction that is very new to world is the way in which players actually hunt a monster. Enter a quest and you’ll be tasked with tracking down monsters using your scout fly companions. Discover tracks, examine mucus and follow the trail of your flies to hunt down each beast. Gone are the days of awkwardly hurling paintballs at monsters and hoping they don’t run out at the worst time. Environmental factors such as paratoads, vines, and flash bugs offer an extra layer to Monster Hunter’s combat system, and make each area feel distinct and alive as a result.
The lifeblood of the series has always been the monsters themselves, and Monster Hunter: World introduces an strong variety of new predators to slay. Although bird wyverns such as Kulu-Ya-Ku and Pukei-Pukei are reminiscent of monsters from past games, their feathers are as colorful as their personalities, and are fantastic additions. Some of my favorite new monsters include the swift Odogaron, whose weapons and armor have some of the best designs I’ve seen yet. Nergigante, the new flagship monster, is just as aggressive and fun as I’d hoped, and his equipment doesn’t disappoint either. Monster behaviors and designs are obviously done with much care and it makes every fight fun. With Deviljho lurking in a future patch, the amount of monsters to hunt is impressive to say the least.
The music direction of this entry is reminiscent of its past while also quite different. Each area is accompanied by new themes that act as the perfect ambiance to your environment. While some of these themes may not sound quite as grandiose as some themes before them, they rank with some of the best scores produced in the series.
If there is one thing that Monster Hunter: World misses the mark on, it’s the changes to it’s online mode. Previous games have had 4 player lobbies that were explicitly marked with goals for the hunters to work toward. One lobby might be for a high rank Rathalos for example, and the sub-goal may be to consistently cut it’s tail off for specific parts. Players could label them as they saw fit and hunters of similar goals and ranks would join lobbies and work together. Monster Hunter: World changes this and discourages players from even attempting this, but unintentionally. Players can now send up an S.O.S. flare during a hunt. This is designed so that hunters who are having trouble with a quest can ask for aid. Players can access a menu where they can search for flares and aid those i need.
The problem is twofold. First, the game never teaches players to use the lobby system to find players that have similar hunting goals in mind. You can still set up a lobby marked with specific monster goals, but only if you go out of your way to figure out how. The game only encourages the use of the flare. It cuts the wait time in half for finding partners, but it’s also a luck of the draw. You won’t know their hunter ranks or what their equipment is, and there won’t be any expressed objective either. The other issue is that the lobby system has now expanded to 16 players. While this may allow larger portions of communities or groups of friends play at the same time, quests are still locked at a maximum capacity of 4. So there will be an odd man out or a fragmentation of whatever objective the original lobby maker created. Previous titles also had players respawn back at the gathering hub while playing in online lobbies, but World takes you back to the village every time. This is not to say the game is worse off or implements online play poorly, but it doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction for what has previously been such a smooth online infrastructure.
I’ll concede it may just come down to my personal preferences, but I’m nonetheless baffled at how the old lobby system was subverted by an effort to add an interesting new feature to pair players together who need help.
While it’s a bit counter-intuitive, the new online system luckily doesn’t deter friends from logging on and hunting as a group. You can still easily invite friends via an invite button on the menu, as well as create squads so that finding each other is easier. It’s still fun, and that’s what matters.
Overall, even with my gripes with the online, Monster Hunter: World is easily the best title in the series to date and I believe it will be recognized as one of the best games of 2018. It’s massive amount of small improvements combined with phenomenal new monsters and brand new features make it ideal for veterans looking for a refreshing take on the almost 14-year-old franchise and a fantastic starting point for new players. It’s earned it’s record breaking sales numbers and every accolade awarded to it thus far. Now if only Capcom could announce the exact release date for the Deviljho DLC.