CAPCOM’s Monster Hunter: World sees the series’ came to console for the first time, and, after a few hours’ playtime we were wondering what took so long.
Gameplay begins, as with most RPG’s, in the character customisation screen. From here you can select your character’s gender, alter their appearance, and choose an initial armour set. We were initially underwhelmed by the limited choice options, (particularly hairstyles and eye shapes), but that was completely forgotten about during the next pre-game screen when we realised we could also customise our own Palico — an insanely cute feline partner who can accompany you on your hunts. It would also be unfair not to point out that most full armour sets cover your face, so if you’re the sort of gamer who absolutely needs to have a full set of matching armour, this it won’t be an issue for you.
The first cutscenes are a friendly welcome for newcomers and provide an idea of what the world is all about. The dialogue in these sections is mostly expository but the game just about gets away with it. This is, in part at least, thanks to the player’s goofy handler and the Palicoes who help establish the tone early on; this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. You’re here to have fun. And if we had to describe this game in one word, fun would probably be about right.
The moment we landed in the Ancient Forest we felt like visitors to Jurassic Park. We forgot about the quest at hand and tried to get a closer look at the herbivorous beasts roaming the fields and just before we arrived at the commission’s base of operations, we were awestruck by a fight between two giant monsters. The game’s graphics aren’t the best, (texture popping is easily noticeable between fights), but the beauty of the colourful environments, and inspired creature designs more than make up for it. When we first found a birdlike monster, called Pukei-Pukei, we spent at least half an hour following it through its habitat, appreciating its design and observing as it hunted, slept, and picked a fight with an apex predator. The game had us behaving, unwittingly, like amateur zoologists before we had even swung an axe.
The weapons in this game are one of the elements that make it a standout. There are fourteen in all, and all of them bring a different dimension to combat. To effectively deal damage players need to get the hang of button combinations and carefully time their attacks. The number of combinations per weapon are limited, but they’re also hard to land, so it always feels rewarding when you land a special move. Each weapon has its own strengths/weaknesses, and some take more patience/skill to wield effectively. We recommend spending some time in the training arena before venturing out with a new weapon, a couple of minutes per weapon will save you a great deal of frustration later, and you’ll find it easier choosing weapon to suit your style of play.
Veteran monster hunters have commented that this game is the most accessible in the series, but it still has a steep learning curve. The game offers some tutorials, but for the most part you’re left to discover things on your own. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry, there are plenty of handy tutorials online which cover some of the games more complicated mechanics such as crafting and upgrading gear, and managing your inventory. Top tip: make sure you customise your weapon, equipment, and ammo wheels. It will make life much easier throughout the game if you know where everything is, and combat will be more fluid if you don’t have to bash the D-pad frantically to find a mega-potion or flash pod. But whether you do some research beforehand or jump straight in, you’ll find yourself adapting to the gameplay and within the first 6 hours you’ll be slaying monsters, who initially kicked your butt, with ease.
Monster Hunter is an RPG, but you don’t need to painstakingly grind to push on and fight higher level monsters. Instead of slowly levelling up, you craft weapons and armour using the parts you carve from slayed monsters. Some armour and weapon sets are more difficult to acquire than others, but that only increases the sense of accomplishment when you’re finally decked out in your favourite gear. Going into battle wearing the skin of a T-Rex’s is worth a little bit of work, right? You can also craft armour and weapon sets for your Palico, and there’s a balance of cool and goofy attire to choose from. You can even dress your feline as a ladybird or a dinosaur if you like. There are ways to increase your likelihood of acquiring rarer parts from monsters too. You can try capturing them instead of slaying them or completing various side-quests and this encourages you to constantly change your approach, plan for specific encounters, and keeps the game fresh.
Monster Hunter’s story is barely worth mentioning, it’s simplistic and funny at times, (we defy anyone not to snigger at the game’s consistent use of the word ‘slag’), but truly memorable moments are few and far between, and we don’t want to spoil those for our readers. That said, the lack of a compelling story doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game. A lot of effort has been put into the gameplay and to give a player a reason to keep coming back. You might not come back for the memorable moments in the story, as you would with other RPG’s, but you’ll come back because, just by playing, you’ll make your own moments: jumping on the back dragon like Rathian from the canopy of a forest; sliding down a hill to pass and trap a retreating monster and set a trap for it at the bottom; getting caught in the middle of a slugfest between three gigantic beasts, all of these things can happen during a laid back expedition or a main quest and every time you enter the world you’ll have a different experience.
Multiplayer is another area in which this game shines. Enemies become stronger with each new hunter added, and you’ll find that the tactics you employ to take down bigger monsters can change dramatically. Sometimes you might want to switch to a ranged weapon because too many hunters have a tendency to knock each other off-balance, or because you’re all trying to break pieces from monsters to gain rarer loot items. Later in the game you can also fight monsters in an area, equipped with ballistas, cannons, and other traps, adding yet another way to fight the beasts. With no ability to run the monsters will be more aggressive giving you less time to heal and cure status ailments. These fights are more predictable than those in the wild but they’re a refreshing change when you’re grinding for unique gear.