Set to release in January of 2018 and bolstered with a constant feed of titillating details, the Monster Hunter Series is finally ready to make a big splash 13 years after its debut. Having started with the very first title on the PS2, a major console release has been on my wish list for what has felt like forever. Monster Hunter: World is the answer to my prayers; here’s why you should be excited too.
Despite being a massive hit in Japan, the hardcore monster slaying game has never made much of an impact overseas, with most gamers drawing a blank at the mention of its rather generic title. There is a myriad of reasons for this, with the poor western reception of the original Monster Hunter on the PS2 being arguably the biggest. Having recently returned to that same relic, I can very much understand why it was received so poorly.
The tutorials are non-existent, the controls are appalling (right stick to attack, ugh no), the grind is huge, every boss encounter is riddled with smaller but equally persistent beasts that attack with relentless fervour, and gear upgrading is interesting but limited. This game was also part of Capcom’s push for online multiplayer, something that very few had access to in the days of early PS2. Because of this, there aren’t that many solo quests to enjoy and absolutely no one to watch your back when the difficulty ramps up. No wonder then that so many people would’ve been put off right away; the first few of hours are dull gathering quests and everything after that is crushingly difficult.
And yet amidst these frustrations the central joy of Monster Hunter can still be found – the thrill of overcoming what was once impossible. Though it may not be true for the seasoned vets, for those starting out there is no sweeter feeling than taking down the scaled menace before you, a creature that’s very existence once taunted you and is now nothing but materials for your next shiny hat. The Yian Kut Ku pictured below was my menace and its death screams will remain with me forever.
Every iteration of Monster Hunter refines this simple formula with more weapons, more attacks, more monsters, and as many quality of life improvements as possible. Hunt, kill, farm, build, repeat, until every enemy is slain and the monster equivalent of PETA has run out of tears to shed. Each hunt is a learning experience, each new piece of gear is a potential boon in a game that prizes acquirable skills over raw defensive stats. Power isn’t given to you on a silver platter, you must rise up and take it. The first time you come face to face with the great green Rathian, a vicious Wyvern with poisonous tail spikes and fire breath, you’ll probably spend most of your time being tossed around like a ragdoll. Yet only a few difficulty levels later and you’ll be tasked with killing three in a row. No sweat. Monster Hunter isn’t a game that you learn to manipulate or cheese, it’s a game that teaches positioning, timing, observation, and experimentation.
If a particular monster is giving you trouble then maybe it’s time to shake up your arsenal. Monster Hunter has 14 distinct weapon classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and all of which worthy of your attention. Though many games claim to have meaningful differentiation in their weapon selection, few can rival what’s on offer here. The hit and run style greatsword is a far cry from the defend and counter playstyle of the lance. Equally, the aerial assaults of the insect glaive have little in common with the ranged burst damage that a skilled bowgun user can deliver. Regardless of which weapon(s) you come to rely on, it’s hard to avoid falling in love with the gear that gets you the big kills.
Really, there’s never been a better time for Monster Hunter: World to try its hand at a worldwide release. The popularity of the Dark Souls series shows that western gamers aren’t afraid of a challenge. In fact, the two franchises have a fair amount in common when it comes to combat. Attacks must be delivered wisely as stamina costs and animation timings are crucial. Both guarding and dodging are effective strategies depending on your playstyle. Most boss battles are 1v1 though both games throw in a little deviation for an added challenge. However, whilst boss fights in any of FromSoftware’s games are often hellish, they at least tend to be short. Hunts on the other hand can go on for up to 50 minutes across multiple arenas with differing flora and fauna to consider.
The massive playerbase of both Destiny 1 and 2, despite their overall lack of content, reveals the irresistible call of the loot train in our modern minds. Happily, Monster Hunter has never been a series to skimp out on content, with constant multiplayer events and free DLC keeping past titles fresh for of hundreds of hours. With masses of badass weapons and armour to hoard, as well as countless online co-op quests to get involved with, Monster Hunter has always been a series that absorbs both your attention and your social life.
All of these pros are based on a series that has improved itself over years and years, yet not necessarily reinvented the wheel. That is why Monster Hunter: World is so exciting. From the generous supply of trailers and gameplay footage we’ve had since its unveiling at E3, the latest incarnation has done nothing but impress. The landscapes are no longer segmented but, rather, seamless worlds that ooze with authenticity. Player and monster animations have never looked better, nor have the graphics approached anything with this level of polish. The user interface is as friendly as it’s ever been and will hopefully not require the player to trawl through Wiki pages like they were ancient tomes of knowledge. There even looks to be a proper story this time round with voice actors that aren’t just people muttering gibberish into a microphone.
For the Monster Hunter enthusiast, World is looking to be an evolution of everything you’ve come to expect. For the average man who’s only just hearing about the series now, this is a game that combines the high-skill requirement and sense of accomplishment that Dark Souls delivers, with the addictive pursuit of meaningful loot and community interaction that Destiny brings to the table. Oh, did I mention that the game also features customisable combat cats that serve as your comrades? Because that is a thing.