Monster Hunter: World is a game I was not at all interested in when I first saw it. The initial reveal left me more than skeptical – I honestly wrote it off as an attempt to get a broader audience into the series that was going to be too much of a departure from what I loved about Monster Hunter to enjoy.
But after actually spending time with the game during the beta last December, I had a complete change of heart! Monster Hunter: World played exactly like the Monster Hunter I knew and loved, just with some tweaks that actually made it easier and more fun to play. That’s why, when the game finally came out for PS4 and Xbox One at the end of January, I was beyond excited to jump back into the world of Monster Hunter.
I know this review is a rather late, but I really wanted to spend plenty of time with Monster Hunter: World to fully determine if I enjoyed it as much as previous Monster Hunter titles. For example, while Monster Hunter Generations was great to start, I dropped off it very quickly and ultimately didn’t find it nearly as fun as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. So how does World stack up?
First, I think it’s really important to state upfront that I definitely agree with the general consensus that this is a great first Monster Hunter game. The controls are much more in line with standard action games than previous entries in the series, and I was particularly happy to see the gunner weapon control improvements. I’d never played a gunner weapon before World, and I don’t know that I could go back to play them in an earlier entry in the series with how clunky they controlled.
New gameplay additions such as scout flies take a lot of the guesswork out of gathering and tracking down monsters, while also enhancing the sense of exploration. Between that and the fact that there are no longer load screens between areas of the map, I really felt a newfound sense of exploration running around in the world.
Another major addition that I think will help new players is the fact that the controls and possible combos for your current weapon are displayed on the screen at all times. While it does make the HUD busier, you can always turn it off if you find it’s not something you need. Since I primarily play hunting horn, which relies on chaining together different note combinations made by pressing different attack buttons to produce songs that grant status effects, this new control guide was a lifesaver. In previous Monster Hunter games, I’d always have to re-memorize the songs whenever I switched horns, but now I don’t need to worry about it at all. If I forget, all the possible song combinations are right there on the screen!
The art and sound design of Monster Hunter: World is just as stellar as previous Monster Hunter games, particularly in the new monster designs and theme songs (for a taste, give Bazelgeuse’s theme a listen!). It’s awesome to see a Monster Hunter title on the PS4, and both the monsters and environments are as detailed as I’d hoped.
However, there’s one aspect of the game’s visuals that turned me off when I saw the initial reveal trailer and still bothers me now. It’s just too drab! Monster Hunter games for the 3DS might not have had the best graphics, but they made up for it with super colorful areas and tons of fun armor and weapons to equip. These are all, in my opinion, severely lacking in Monster Hunter: World. I hate to say it, but it feels like Capcom turned up the “western grit” filter, perhaps in a further attempt to appeal to a broader audience. As someone who was initially charmed by Monster Hunter due to the aesthetic, rather than the gameplay, I really found myself missing the bright colors of previous games.
Another aspect of the game that was heavily modified from previous entries is the multiplayer and co-op versus single player quest distribution. Most importantly, there is no longer a completely single player story experience, aside for some quests that you need to reach a certain point in before you can call in other players (unless you choose never to call in players, which is also an option). While the drop-in, drop-out multiplayer makes for some really seamless play when it makes sense, the whole system seems unnecessarily convoluted.
For example, what’s the reason for being forced into a random session with other players as soon as you boot up the game, when you can send easily send an SOS flare whenever you need help during a quest? While the room feature of previous Monster Hunter games may have been a little old-fashioned, at least it was straightforward and got the job done. I can’t tell you how long I spent messaging with other players trying to sort out all the different methods of teaming up and just what quests we could do together. I won’t even get started on the process of adding one of your friends to a Squad!
But at its core, Monster Hunter: World plays like a Monster Hunter game should. It’s still immensely satisfying to pull off a heavy hit against a monster, and I always encounter new monsters out in the wild with a mixture of anxiety and excitement. While the game’s roster of large monsters felt pretty small to begin with, they’ve already started adding new monsters through free content updates. If you’ve never played a Monster Hunter game before and have even the slightest interest in knowing what the hype is about, you’ll find many, many hours of monster-hunting fun in Monster Hunter World.
However, at 70 hours in, I find myself losing interest. That may seem like a lot, but when I’ve put hundreds of hours into previous Monster Hunter games with my husband, it feels like World is still lacking somehow. I’ll still pop in to check out new monsters when there’s an update, but I don’t feel a strong desire to keep playing regularly since most of the gear doesn’t appeal to me aesthetically (of course I care about aesthetics more than stats!). Perhaps the lower monster count meant that I just grew tired of hunting the same monsters sooner, whereas there were more quest options to choose from in older titles.
But while I ultimately may not love Monster Hunter: World as much as Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, it’s still a darn good Monster Hunter game, which makes it better than most games on the market. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this makes my 2018 GOTY list at the end of the year! So, if you have the itch to fight some awesome-looking monsters with friends, do yourself a favor and try Monster Hunter: World!
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