The Monster Hunter series has always been a game series I was aware of but never actually played due to never being on a platform I either owned or played on. But when the news broke that the series was to jump onto current consoles with a new title that would also take the series in a new direction, I was just a little bit excited. Following it until release and finally getting to try it out in the Beta opened a world that immediately grabbed me with the gameplay style and the shared experience of playing it with others. But there was also some nerves going in due to have never played the series and if honest I was rather daunted to enter this world for the first time but it was indeed time to find a weapon and go hunting for my first monster!
Monster Hunter World takes the player as a new hunter, part of the Fifth Fleet who are on their way to the New World to join the Research Commission when the sudden emergence of an Elder Dragon creates chaos to the fleet causing the player’s ship to run aground. The new Hunter then finds himself in a forested region, clueless as to where he is and missing his Palico companion but soon finds his Handler, his guide for hunts and monsters and together they manage to reach the Commission’s main base. Thus begins the hunt and investigation into why the Elder Dragon has come to the new world and the plan to find and stop it begins.
Being new to this series I came to really appreciate the level of hand holding in the opening hours to the game which serve as a tremendous tutorial for those who may never have played this series. From the Beta on PlayStation I was able to gain an appreciation for the combat thanks to having access to very powerful armour and weapons but now in the game itself, starting from scratch brought certain challenges that I was most looking forward to. Despite being rather daunted by the prospects of entering this series, the excellent way that the basics are taught to you allows those like me who are new to get a foot in the door and enjoy playing instead of being overwhelmed by it all. But the balance is also there for those who are familiar with the series to tuck straight in with what they know as well
Starting off the game will give you access to the basic version of all 14 types of weapon and I would advise spending some time in the brilliant Training area in order to get a feel for which one best suits you which is absolutely crucial. Throughout the game it is a good idea to tryout different weapons as they all have a distinct fighting style and finding one you are comfortable with is so important when taking on monsters out in the world. I found myself defaulting to the Switch Axe, a weapon that can be switched from an axe to a sword configuration as part of a combo for added damage with the downside of not being able to guard with it, but it felt the most right for me though I do wish that now in the later stages, I had taken the time to try out different weapons to learn so I could mix things up with.
I also came to really appreciate how the missions or hunts were given out. There are four categories of quests to be undertaken starting with Assigned quests which are the story driven quests that must be completed in order to progress and open up more things in the game. These will be timed quests with a time limit of 50 minutes to complete and the penalty of failing should you not complete it within that time or faint three times as a result of taking too much damage and being knocked out. The Assigned missions usually put you up against a new monster in a region and come with rewards for completion as well as moving the story and world forward. Next comes optional quests and these are rated by difficulty with more opening up as your hunter ranks up. They offer often quick objectives such as a main monster hunt or capture or just collecting materials or killing a number of small monsters. I found these to be a good way of building up currency in the game needed to purchase crafting materials and in the later stages of the game can throw up some really interesting tasks to do. Finally we have Investigations and Event quests with Investigations sending out hunters to different regions to complete tasks and the Events being community tasks which change after a certain amount of time but can offer high rewards but often will be quite the challenge for hunters to complete.
The main campaign itself is really fun and is used to introduce the player to new regions and monsters in a balanced way to bring the player’s hunter skill up along with their armour and weapons fairly to meet the challenge of the assigned quest. This again shows how much the developers have crafted this game to welcome everyone and in particular, solo players. Now granted, the best way to play Monster Hunter World is with friends and going out to tackle a dangerous monster as a group is superb fun but there is an element of the player base who may only be able to or want to play this game solo and I am happy to say that for the majority of the main story at least, you can completely play it and all aspects of it solo. Towards the later stages of the main campaign it will be very tough though but it is possible to do it solo but the game also allows you are any time to bring the MP side in whilst on a quest by utilising the SOS Flare, which serves as an alert which will allow other players to join you for that quest once it has started. I found the response to this to be quick when I did have to use it but an issue with Xbox One’s MP side still lingers after launch but I will come back to it later.
Now taking on the monsters is the key aspect to this game and it is one I absolutely love about Monster Hunter World. The design of the monsters and the environments they live in is just staggering, with so many variations and strategy to learn in order to take them down. Where they nest and roam in a region is just as important to understand as learning their attacks and behavior in battle so learning about the environment helps. The story quests will introduce them and I did find that some of the first encounters felt a little under powered compared to how you would find them out in the wild randomly but you will learn enough about their behavior and attacks to plan a way to take them down. The basic strategy is to do enough damage to the monster to weaken it and then kill the monster. Damage will be shown on the monster so you know where you have damaged it and do not be surprised if you happen to chop off the monsters tail for a nice bonus bit of material. The more you damage it will cause a change in its behavior, often making it try to head by to its nest to recover so the chase will then be on. But it can also make the monster even more dangerous to fight as they battle harder to survive which makes every encounter feel like a real fight.
Defeating monsters opens up my next favourite thing about the game and that is crafting. The game requires you to craft your own armour, weapons and then to continue upgrading them according to the materials you obtain via hunting monsters and materials out in the world. The crafting is crazy deep in this game with so many different styles of armour and weapons based on the materials you find and then invest in the development of them. You can see the crafting tree for each weapon and armour set which shows you how crafting or upgrading them based on a particular material will increase their value and attributes including later on, adding status effects and higher damage in terms of weapons or just stronger armour with skills and status buffs such as resistance to elemental attacks like fire or poison for example. As you discover new types of materials from new monsters, a new armour set and weapon base can be unlocked but you will need to farm the materials to craft them and the more advanced ones can require some serious farming of high level monsters to obtain them.
This is why the Expeditions are so vital when the desire to craft new weapons or armour hits you. Expeditions are different to the quests in that they allow basic free roaming of a region so you can gather materials and hunt whatever you want without a time limit holding you back. This gives players the freedom to go out into the world and test out new armour and weapons or just to practice taking out a monster before tackling it for a main Assigned quest. This is how I conducted the most of my farming and training and was a great way to explore a region to learn how it’s secrets as well as how the monsters roamed it and where they lived in it. The regions themselves are truly inspiring as well with different environments to understand like the woodland region of the Ancient Forest compared to the rocky desert region of the Wildspire Waste region. Visually this game is stunning to look at even on base level consoles PS4 and Xbox One. The level of detail in everything makes this a vibrant and exciting world just to be in even before you gear up and go on a hunt and that is so important in the experience because once you are in the world you really feel immersed in it and by going to such amazing environments and to then take on the incredible monsters is something to behold.
But I did find some issues with this, especially on Xbox One that has kind of stopped me in my tracks a little bit. There is a big shift in difficulty once you complete the main story campaign to the post game experience where everything becomes ‘high rank’ with new armour and weapons levels becoming available but also changes the monsters so they are tougher as well as changes in their behavior whilst at the same time adding brand new and more deadly monsters in the mix which your level when you come to complete the main story-line will not be ready for. That sudden switch up in difficulty at first was unexpected and monsters I had easily taken care of before were now destroying me pretty easily making my setup redundant until I forged some of the new high ranking armour to negate the changes. As someone who had to this point played Monster Hunter World pretty much solo all the way through, I had now reached a point where playing with others was now key to survival and progressing. Now this shouldn’t be a problem thanks to the way the online is supposed to make it easy to find others to play with but on Xbox One sadly, this side of the game has not worked since launch and despite an update to address this just last week, for me it is still an issue.
I am still unable to search for other online sessions of players and if I create my own and post a quest to go on, no one will be able to find it. At the moment all I can do is search for SOS Flares via the quest board, to try and join but now Assigned quests. I can invite friends and join friends but not random sessions from other people and it is frustrating right now being at the high rank post game level and only really being able to progress when friends with the game come online. I am hoping this continues to improve but sadly right now on Xbox One, it is a stumbling block.
Monster Hunter World has so much for me to sink my teeth into that despite being brand new to the series, does not make me feel left out as a newcomer. I am sure for those who are familiar with the series that there are plenty of little nods and references I am missing out on but at no time has the game made me feel left out of the experience. I love the crafting system in the game and relish the fighting of monsters each time I head out into the different regions. It is a beautifully put together world that takes the time to welcome new players to the game and series but goes deep enough to keep you learning throughout so there is always some new tactic or trick to learn. I began feeling daunted about entering this series but felt welcomed all the way till what I consider to be the real game that is the post main story-line experience but that has only encouraged me to practice and learn more techniques such as using traps in combat now and trying out different weapons to see if a different fighting style will help with the now more deadly monsters.
I encourage anyone who has always been tempted by the Monster Hunter series to dive right in with Monster Hunter World; it is staggeringly good at what it does with only the online side being a setback on Xbox currently but is so much fun when played with friends. For me Capcom have clearly taken some inspiration from Destiny’s good aspects here and crafted a new Monster Hunter game that is already a huge success in just a short time since launch and I truly get why this iconic series has been such a success for so long. An absolute must buy and a tremendous way to kick off the 2018 gaming year.