You can already tell by the coverage Monster Hunter World is getting that is a different kind of beast to what we’ve seen previously from the series. Up until now, the series has mostly been a handheld affair, with the odd port to consoles such as Wii. This hasn’t stopped it from cultivating a vocal and dedicated cult following. Fans of the series really are hardcore fans, with many boasting the thousands of hours they’ve clocked and the mind-bogglingly complex strategies they employ. This has always put many off of the series. Monster Hunter is notoriously deep, with combos reaching triple figures and each weapon having a distinct feel and playstyle.
Monster Hunter World looks to eschew the notion that you have to be an expert to enjoy the series. For one, it’s releasing on consoles and boasts a gorgeous art style and is clearly being marketed at new players as much as it is for the die hard fans. While I have loved every little bit of pre-release material so far, I was understandably hesitant to dive in. But with the game now having 3 betas, it seemed like a good time to at least give the game a fair shake. So without further ado, here are my impressions, as a complete noob to the series, after around 15 hours spent with the game.
Let’s make it very clear right off the bat that Monster Hunter World is beautiful, a fact that comes not necessarily from graphical fidelity but more art direction. Stepping out into a plateau teeming with life is breathtaking and gets even more so once you spend some time to study each creature and realise that they each have a distinct personality and niche within the world. Fireflies dart overhead, giant stegosaurus-type creatures graze peacefully and fearsome predators stalk their prey. The game does a fantastic job of making you feel like a tourist in its world. The world does not revolve around you, rather it allows you to occupy it. Animals go about their business with little regard for what you are up to and only react when you get too close.
The next thing which struck me was just how weighty the game feels. Your character wields a comically huge axe/sword hybrid weapon and lumbers around accordingly. Sprinting puts your weapon away so mastering the game’s dodge mechanics is absolutely vital. My first mission tasked me with tracking down a giant lizard creature with an over-inflated stomach sack which it dragged across the ground. I loved tracking it down by following the footprints and mud tracks it made as it lurched around the map. Scoutflies eventually give you a shining trail to follow which leads you to the beast then it’s time to hunt. I struggled initially with the plodding nature of my character but quickly found my groove. Primarily attacking with the axe before moving in for a charged special move with my sword dispatched the creature quickly, so far so good. In hindsight, this battle definitely inflated my ego and gave me a false sense of comfort. The next monster was where I finally came face to face with the series’ notorious difficult. This beast charged, swung its tail and kicked my ass over and over again until I decided to change my approach. Dying always felt earned and making my way back to the battle arena was quick enough to dispel any potential frustration.
Making use of all of the items at your disposal is key. At first, the menu system was a little obtuse and overwhelming. After experimenting for a while and learning when and where to effectively deploy bombs, capture nets and potions, I eventually gained the upper hand. This is when the game really clicked for me, feeling like a mix of Horizon and Souls. This is when the game did something which genuinely made my jaw drop to the floor. I was pursuing the monster through a boggy swamp area, ready to make my final kill when what can only be described as a giant tadpole on steroids erupted out of the earth and wrapped itself around my prey. These hulking behemoths sparred and battled before my very eyes, I felt powerless and equally enthralled.
After a few attempts I finally managed to fell the beast and claim my rewards. Monster Hunter World is no doubt brutal but also rewards the player for their time. The crafting and UI always made me feel like there was a use for everything I had obtained and I felt a sense of determination that only the best of strategy games can evoke. Bringing in some friends only bolstered the feeling that the game is an intricate chess game in which every move is vital. I found myself luring each beast to another player who was primed to attack from a raised cliff edge, it was in a word; thrilling.
I’m also going to gush about the game’s Palico system. During the character creator screen I was tasked with choosing a furry feline to accompany me and every moment that he was on screen was a wacky and delightful experience. The Palico assists you while fighting by offering healing support, even wheeling out a tiny, hand-built catapult of sorts. The Palico is genuinely helpful and hilarious as it drops cat puns and support left and right. The customisation options for both the player and Palico are incredibly diverse allowing for a massive amount of curation and experimentation. You really can approach a battle in any way you wish, attacking up close or luring enemies into pre-set traps. I experimented with builds which prioritised speed and environmental attacks, builds which put all power into my axe and even one which was chosen purely for stealth.
There are a few different missions available ranging from fun to downright sadistic. The hardest mission has bested me more times than I would like to admit, but it hasn’t stopped me wanting to get better and learn new strategies. The fact that I am this into a Monster Hunter game just goes to show how great the progression systems and level design are. While it never feels hand-holdy, it does give players the tools that they need to succeed from the get-go and rewards experimentation above all else.
The attention to detail is what really stands out. Transitioning between areas triggers mini-animations which save time and add a sense of pace to movement. Diving into an underwater pond triggers a scene in which the player arcs through the water, quickly climbing out the other side. There are muddy hills which you can slide down and jumping from a ledge to attack a creature feels fluid yet weighty.
Monster Hunter World‘s success will ultimately hinge on its multiplayer implementation but what I’ve experienced so far has given me a lot of hope that this could be the series’ long overdue break into the mainstream. From my point of view, this is definitely still a Monster Hunter game, albeit a more accessible and streamlined one. After being apprehensive initially, I cannot wait to jump into the full experience. I have no doubt that the game will kick my butt over and over again, but when its as fun as it is here, I’m sure I’ll keep jumping back in for one more hunt. After a short time with my game I feel like me and my Palico could take on the world, monster drumstick in hand. I have no doubt that Monster Hunter World will be a great game for fans and newcomers alike.
Check back in next week for our full impressions of the game.