There’s a lot to be said for games that don’t hold your hand every step of the way. Honestly, I prefer them over the majority of modern games, with their endless tutorials for the most basic of tasks. Monster Hunter as a series has never been the most accessible, with in-depth crafting mechanics, specific fighting styles for each creature, and an array of wildly different weapons.
So hey, frustrating though this one is, it could be worse.
Monster Hunter World puts you in the tanned leather boots of a hunter of the Fifth Expedition to the New World. As many of us dream of what it’d be like to get rid of monsters in the New World (ahem), this sounds pretty sweet. Unfortunately, an Elder Dragon decides to trash your ship, nearly kills your cat friend, and makes the first ten minutes of the game hell if you use the inverted Y axis like I do, because you can’t change that until after the opening sequence.
After that though, it gets pretty fun.
Monster Hunter is best described to newcomers as Pokemon meets Dark Souls; you find a unique monster, then hack body parts off until it dies and you can make a cool hat or a new weapon to hack monsters apart. It’s the circle of life, and fashion. The crafting is deep, with various potions, dishes, and combat buffs to be created from the myriad of collectables generously scattered throughout the maps. Once you get a handle on that, things get a lot easier.
Unfortunately, in true Monster Hunter fashion, World doesn’t really want you to know any of this. As with many RPGs, the crafting menus are baffling for the first hour or two of the game, as you try to figure out what the hell everything is, where it goes, where you get it, who you turn quests in to, and why that pig tried to kill me. The minimap is explosively loud, with all sorts of symbols and numbers and other wildly confusing information that does, eventually make sense. This may be the most accessible Monster Hunter yet, but that’s more of an indictment against past installments than praise for this one; it still ain’t easy.
The whole game is remarkably beautiful and, while it’s no Horizon: Zero Dawn, the monsters are definitely showing some serious design effort. Gameplay, unfortunately, suffers; maybe I’ve been spoiled by Bloodborne’s dodging and Horizon’s effortless aiming, but the combat felt insanely clunky from the get go, no matter what weapon I chose. For players used to more fluid gameplay like those in Western RPGs, fair warning; this is definitely an adjustment.
But it’s an adjustment worth making. The freedom of choice with weapons in MHW is sweet, as you can play it pretty much any way your monster-murdering heart desires. I normally play a rogue in RPGs, so I went with daggers to start. That didn’t work out well, as I felt I wasn’t doing much damage for the risk. So I switched to a bow, which worked better, but was slow. Out came the light bowgun, and I started playing as a third-person shooter; I was doing consistent damage, but like 2 or 3 per shot, so not a winner either. I’m currently working with the charge axe, and think I’ve finally found my match; the point is, you’re not tied to any weapon or skill; all your weapons will be equally ineffective, so just have fun until something clicks.
Speaking of fun, remember how I mentioned Dark Souls? That’s because you’ll die. A lot. A couple of fights killed me at the start, like a giant iguana and an electric squirrel, but the one that made me nearly quit was the Anjanath, or fuzzy T-Rex. I would wear it down for a good twenty minutes, and then it would stun-lock me and eat me. Repeatedly. I threw myself at that thing for hours before remembering that Worlds is, as 90% of modern games are, multiplayer. I fired an SOS flare, and some randoms came along to help out.
The quality of player you’ll get is… varied. My first lot got wiped out immediately, failing my quest despite me still being alive and kicking. The second time went much better, as we all had bows, and every time Fuzzy charged one of us the other three were peppering them with arrows. But we got that thing, carved it up, and I made me a badass new belt. Worth. It. After that I warmed up to the online aspect, and co-op became a regular occurrence for the bigger monsters, and helping out others was my go to for grabbing extra monster parts; you get the same rewards as anyone else.
Despite my frustrations with difficulty, obtuseness, and open world multiplayer fatigue, I found myself really starting to get into Monster Hunter after another few hours plugging away. I usually knew where I was going, what I was doing, who I was hunting, and the game became far more enjoyable. Sure, I still died a lot, but I knew why more often than not, and improved on my mistakes. I also became a beast with the Charge Axe, which certainly helped.
MHW is a punishingly difficult game with insane variety of monsters and equipment, which open up a huge number of ways to play. While not quite as open world as you’re led to believe, the game is all the better for it, and never suffers for its pseudo-open design.
If you’re looking for an RPG with a ton of depth to while away far too many hours, Monster Hunter Worlds is right up your alley. Just don’t expect a cake-walk.
Brian reviewed Monster Hunter World on PS4 from copy provided by Capcom.