Capcom’s Monster Hunter World joins the long running series as it appears on Xbox One and PS4 for the first time (PC later in 2018) having had more recent exclusivity with Nintendo. The gameplay premise is simple, but is wrapped up in a package that at first glance might appear to be quite daunting. Yet, once the layers of obscurity are peeled away lies an endearing action-adventure game that will keep you grinding away just because you can and the lure of better combat gear being too much to ignore.
At the start of the adventure players are tasked with creating their avatar from male or female templates. There are quite a number of tweaks that can be made here but considering most of the time will be spent looking at the rear of the character (outside of story based cutscenes) the looks are perhaps unimportant – although it’s entirely possible to spend an hour or more creating the perfect hunter. Once the pleasantries are out of the way, players are thrust into the open lands where all sorts of monsters, bugs and creatures reside. It’s very much a fully fledged ecosystem with the player character at the top of the food chain (supposedly). The game does a reasonable job of easing players in with its handy tutorial messages but the reality is players gain their legs by simply diving in and discovering what they can and can’t do by their interactions. There are numerous elements that aren’t explained fully and even important tidbits that can be mistakenly overlooked. That said, the basics of choosing the right weapon (to compliment your play style) at the start, heading to the training area to see how they perform and making an informed decision before investing the many potential hours ahead is a must. Each weapon has its own style of play with some such as bows being vastly different to up-close melee weapons like the sword and shield. There are slow heavy weapons like hammers and massive swords of which might appear cumbersome but deal the appropriate damage when used effectively. The great thing here though is that players can chop and change at any time which means there’s always a choice to mix things up a little should you feel the need.
Weapons and characters aside, the solo player congregates in a main hub area where new quests can be undertaken, weapons and armors forged or upgraded and various NPC inhabitants present themselves selling or offering services. As the story progresses more become available giving the game a far greater scope. So…back to the main focus. There are two ways to tackle the game for the most part and that is as the name implies to hunt various monsters for their body parts which can then be used to upgrade armor and weapons. The second is to capture the monsters rather than kill which nets slightly different rewards. In the process players offer research of these beasts which culminate in a handy directory offering tips and strategies in how to defeat the troublesome opposition (of which there are many). In the field, players have to track the monsters by way of markings, footprints or just sheer luck stumbling across them however, as more research is gained the easier the tracking becomes. There are time limits for each mission where better rewards are offered, but you can also just head on out into the wilds with no set goal and just simply enjoy the locations and hunt how you please.
Monster Hunter World asks players to farm monsters over and over but not in a way that becomes tedious. There is always a reward for your efforts and therefore suitable motivation for diving back into the same areas again and again. The real hooks come from the lure of a meaty selection of armors which not only look fantastic but boost one’s stats considerably. Attacking monsters is rather gratifying and although there are some cheap attacks when your character is stuck in a stumble animation and gets knocked out, learning attack patterns and effective offensive strategies is all part of the fun. In addition, your adventures need not be a solo affair and can be played out with three other online companions. However, this aspect has its own issues and to be honest is better played with like-minded individuals who share the same goal and know what they are doing. Playing with random people poses many potential problems especially if all players don’t “click” or compliment each other and where there are shared lives to be mindful of mission failure can come all too quickly if an under-powered individual joins the team. The solo game is enjoyable in its own right though and therefore can be played quite comfortably. There is an option to send out an online SOS to other players should any particular monster gives you grief, but the reality is going back and improving one’s gear is a valid alternative.
In terms of visuals there are some pleasant looking themed areas to each location with an abundance of flora and fauna which can be interacted with to make potions and aids to your character when out in the field. As mentioned, it all feels quite a lot to take in at first but after some hours playing it seems to fall into place. There are some excellent moments where giant monsters attack each other making for some epic randomized encounters which don’t seem to chug the system which is good (speaking of the Xbox One X version specifically). The graphics overall, whilst doing a good job of conveying a varied selection of locales comes with a mixture of details, with some being better than others. The lighting is also a little on the bright side on occasion although a recent update has addressed this somewhat. Those with HDR sets can enjoy a more vibrant game and the Xbox One X version offers three modes of play which focus on frame-rate, resolution and graphics effects depending on what is more important to your playing. The differences aren’t that great though and so the frame-rate option offering a not so steady 60 fps is the most desirable. The 4K resolution option does stutter a fair bit and even dips below 30 fps which isn’t so good. Due to some of the texture detail as well, the 4K option just doesn’t appear so crisp as one would expect especially if sitting closer to the display. Either way, it’s a good call for Capcom to include such options even if the results are rather mixed.
Audio is of a decent quality although being a Japanese developed game means the lip syncing is out if you’re not using the native language. This is a minor quibble but worth mentioning all the same. Everything else fits perfectly, with a good soundtrack and expected sound effects such as roaring dragons blowing your face off.
Gamers can sink many hours into Monster Hunter World by way of its design and that’s outside of following the main story arc. Whilst repeating the same actions over and over can become tiring after 50 hours of doing the same thing the fact the option is there to just keep plodding forwards is a good one. As mentioned, the online aspect can be taken advantage of and if you have friends to hook up with is even better. Capcom have filled the game with a ton of unlockable extras which players have to work hard towards (without a lootbox in sight) and this hook works in the game’s favour.
To conclude, Monster Hunter World is a fantastic action game which if its claws sink in you’ll be playing for weeks and months to come. Loot hunters should love this, those who aren’t so keen on grinding might struggle. There is a steep learning curve and at times can feel a little cheap in terms of overpowered monsters. If you stick with all the extra nuances at your disposal and take the time to learn the ins and outs of the layers presented you will find a rewarding game that isn’t so tough after all but extremely fun to keep diving into again and again.