Monster Hunter World is the newest entry in the long-running franchise, published and developed by Capcom. Breaking from the bounds of the series' recent exclusivity run with Nintendo (the handheld medium held it back), this entry truly deserves its sub-title of World. This is a game that makes you feel like you are a part of its universe rather than making it seem like the universe is built around the protagonist and their actions. Every time I land in the Ancient Forest or any one of the other areas, I am always astonished by the imaginative designs and incredible animations of the various creatures. These wild lands truly feel like living and breathing ecosystems.
Beyond the love given to bringing the jaw-dropping monsters and their beautiful environments to virtual life in amazing detail, there is a lot of attention to actually rewarding playtime. There are over 100 hours of content with a 20-hour storyline and dozens of side quests, alongside new eventual quests. Every video game should strive to deliver content like this: to offer so many things at once and then reward so reasonably. No microtransactions or randomly generated nonsense here — this game gives you more than you would ever ask for. And that's what makes it brilliant.
Monster Hunter World is available on Playstation Store for $59.99
What holds World back from being Capcom's magnum opus is its story. The characters involved are likable, particularly your reliable Handler who is introduced at the very start of the journey. However, in terms of narrative, it is pretty much like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate — a new threat is looming over the town and your job is to know why it migrated to this location, etc. A game about hitting giant monsters with huge weapons does not lend itself to deep storytelling — and nobody really buys these games for a plot. It does its job though and adds some sort of acceptable context to what could have been too much of a grind to some.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
As mentioned in the introduction, the ecosystem is something to behold in World. The art direction of the jungles aims to be fantastical rather than photorealistic and that suits Monster Hunter well in general. What visually fits pleasantly with the area design is the navigation system in the form of 'scout flies'. These are green flies that guide players to plants, monsters, etc. They envelop the surroundings and provide a consistency to the color palette of the game that looks pretty superb. Beyond this great visual accompaniment, everything from the vegetation to how small monsters roam about is naturally beautiful.
The stars of the show are the monsters. Giving the series its whole purpose through premise and gameplay is not their only accomplishment. The titular beasts have always been staggeringly beautiful in their own frightening right. PS4 and Xbox One's technology has given them a new lease of life, making them incredibly believable and epic to fight against. The number of animations on each monster is expansive and consistently epic. Different types of them will charge head-first, swing their tails, fly and breathe fire with masterful fluidity. When injured, they will limp away accordingly with their body weight with sad but realistic groans of pain. Hit detection is treated visually different with every monster and no two have a copy-and-paste feel to them unless it is a special variant. Each monster interacts with their environments like they live in them and can get stuck in jungle vines, etc. The list goes on and on.
Audio production is also fantastic. Monster sounds can be felt at an immerse resonance as they roar when ready for battle. Their stomps and bites are all expertly recorded and synced to the point of near-perfection. Audio cues for hit detection are great too, with more effective strikes having a more hefty sound to them as opposed to weaker hits. Each weapon has a unique sound design to them just like the monsters, with even every blunt weapon having a different sound to their respective swings. It is an extraordinary attention to detail in the SFX department. Voice acting, on the other hand, is less impressive but is expected when considering the story. It could have been more squeamishly anime-esque but at least the dialogue delivery is grounded.
Musically, the score is soaringly epic. Sweeping violins carry players into this majestic world with the equally awe-inspiring main theme that can be heard on the menu. Many instruments seem like they could be played by the hunters, with the main instruments being trumpets and drums, fitting with the setting perfectly. To top it all off, each of the main monsters has their own unique themes that match their fearsome presences. Overall, the score invokes a sense of adventure and scale that many games cannot match.
Many franchises get flak for retaining the same gameplay as previous entries. For a foundation like Monster Hunter, however, it simply seems fine to have near-identical gameplay to even the first few entries. This is because there is something so deep mechanically and even beautifully to the franchise's gameplay. Nothing I have played has had gameplay as deep as it is concurrently accessible. The only game I can think of is Dark Souls, but that is all. This is because, at first, you can jump in and start killing monsters in a straightforward and fun way. But, as you progress to higher-level quests, you uncover the various layers of gameplay. There are different methods to capture enemies through environments and various nets, important boosts from items and meals, and resource management to improve your equipment. Like Metal Gear Solid Phantom Pain's mother base management, the game allows you to progress organically and logically without being too punishing or convoluted. The game will only punish you badly for unpreparedness because of the generously robust mechanics and expansive upgrade system that is tailored to players of all kinds and situations — at any point in the game.
The game has five different kinds of quests. First, there are the 'assigned', which are story-based. Second are 'optional', just as the title implies, given by NPCs. Third are investigations, similar to optional quests but are limited in terms of how many times they can be completed. Fourth, 'arena' quests focus mainly on killing/capturing a monster in an arena setting. Lastly, there are 'events' that are time-limited and offer special rewards such as crossover promotions (E.G., the recent Horizon: Zero Dawn gear). Players of up to 4 can partake in these quests and the game surprisingly feels very different when played cooperatively. More tactics need to be considered such as giving boosts to the team, setting traps conservatively and even healing other people if the Hunting Horn is used. Multiplayer is social, tactical and accessible in terms of gameplay (more on that in the conclusion).
Once the rhythm of Monster Hunter World starts, your senses go auto-pilot and concentrative simultaneously. Before a new quest starts, the routine entails these following tasks to be done in the hub area. In no particular order — upgrading/purchasing weapons/armor, handing in research intel and having a stat-boosting meal from the town's cat-esque inhabitants Palicos come into mind first. Palicos are pretty much anthropomorphic cats that will almost always accompany the player. They battle monsters alongside their masters (the hunters) while giving other assistance like calling in Kinsects (flying insects) to give their "meowsters" a stat boost. Palicos can be equipped with new armour and weapons just like the Hunters — they share most of their abilities except for the fact that they are not playable.
Research intel is earned through collecting samples of monsters via left footprints, claw marks, mucus, etc. This then allows for a greater knowledge of monster weaknesses and easier trails for scout flies (the waypoint system) to follow as research levels increase. Upgrading weapons/armour, on the other hand, is the main systematic goal. It is the equivalent of leveling up since there is no such thing as XP except for research and your palico. To upgrade, materials from slain/captured monsters is needed. Diverse trees are available from the properties of each beast that offer interesting equipment builds. Each of these tasks does not become mundane because the thrill of progression is always evident.
What is really extraordinary is that the game can drastically change depending on your chosen weapon style. Like Overwatch's characters, they all play differently. In World, each weapon completely feels like their own from one another. From the relentless and fast-paced Dual Blades to the slow and methodical Greatsword, the game is tailored in both taste and accessibility. Many developers just focus on the latter — making many games today feel like mere hand-holding. The difference between Monster Hunter World and other action titles is that it perfectly balances combos, timing and the area of which you hit enemies. Games of all kinds will focus on one of those 3 aspects and be great — but for World to juggle those 3 with seamlessly quality results? That is what makes it an inexplicable standout.
|+ Unprecedented amount of content||– Hard multiplayer matchmaking|
|+ Thriving ecosystem||– Passable story|
|+ Fantastic animations|
|+ Incredibly fulfilling gameplay|
|+ Unforgettable journey|