Reviews

Monster Hunter: World (PC) Review – What’s That Coming Over The Hill, Is It A Monster?

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Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Singleplayer: Yes
Multiplayer: Yes

As the name suggests your main vocation in Monster Hunter: World is going to be hunting down the local wildlife and then beating it to a pulp so that you can gather up its remains, use them to craft a new sword and then proceed to use said sword to slice up all of that animal’s relatives as well. Though the game’s story attempts to explain that you’re researching the various monsters inhabiting the land the simple truth is that you spend most of your time fighting animals who would have happily ignored your existence if you hadn’t run up and clobbered them with a hammer the size of a car. Man, sometimes games make you play as a real dick.

The story really isn’t the game’s strongpoint. You get to customize your mute avatar before finding yourself on a ship heading for the New World. One shipwreck later and one giant elder dragon by the name of Zorah Magdaros and you have the basis for the plot. Your sort of companion throughout the game is the Handler who dishes out quests, and while she’s initially kind of likeable her and all the other characters quickly become nothing more than background details that occasionally shout things at you. It doesn’t help that the voice acting is sporadic with some scenes getting full acting and others being subtitled.

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But who cares? You don’t play Monster Hunter World for the story, you play it for the glorious fights and the epic loot. The giant beasts you hunt are all essentially boss fights in their own right, each taking anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour to kill or trap depending on the gear you’re using and the power of the monster itself. Going on a hunt on the higher difficulties can sometimes involve killing a lesser beast first in order to craft a new set of gear better suited to your target. It’s a game that has you grinding for hours in order to finish a suit of armour or finally put together that new sword just so you can go and do it all over again.

Speaking of the weapons you get fourteen different ones to choose from, and each of those is perfectly viable and features its own quirks, combos and mechanics that sets it apart from all the rest. There’s the massive blade that takes an age to swing, the gun-lance that features prodding and close-up booming, a bow that has a variety of arrow types or the fancy Insect Glaive which lets you spend most of your time helicoptering around the monster like the world’s most infuriating fly. All of them are available to you from the very start of the game and it’s a smart idea to spend some time in the training arena with them so you can find something that works for you.

When you head out on a hunt, mission or just for fun you’ll select from one of the different areas available and then drop into a small open world of sorts, though its largely made up of corridors that weave together. Here you’ll find the smaller inhabitants of the world along with bunches of stuff you can gather to craft potions, traps and other necessities. More importantly, you can find the various big monsters roaming around, and can track them by finding old footprints, mucus and more. Investigating this stuff will unlock new bits of information that can prove useful for fighting them, and special glowing flies attached to your belt will eventually pick up the monster’s trail and lead you straight to it.

This is one of the few areas of the game that disappointments me a little. It never feels like you’re really tracking an animal yourself as all you do is find a few footprints or tufts of hair and then the flies take over, guiding you to whatever monster you’re seeking.

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Combat takes a while to get used to as it lacks the fluidity of many action games, instead favouring a very deliberate, heavy feel. Although many attacks can be cancelled by dodging out them, there are many that can’t so when you decide to launch an assault you really need to commit. The biggest example is the ludicrously big sword which takes so long to swing that you’ll be lucky to ever hit anything, but good God when you do hit something it’s going to hurt. Once you do start to get the swing of things (heh) there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had from mastering your chosen weapons and dishing out tonnes of damage.

Then there are the monsters themselves, a true pick ‘n’ mix of huge creatures that come with a bespoke collection of abilities. There’s the simple Kula-ya-kula, a giant bird that occasionally picks up a rock and tries to bash your brain in with it; the Anjaneth, which looks like a T-Rex up until the point where it faces reveals strange nose flaps and it starts spitting fire; or the Bezelgause (Bagel Goose) which has explosive scales it can drop from on high and is frankly a complete c*** because it JUST RANDOMLY APPEARS AND F**** EVERYTHING THE F*** UP! Ahem. The point is each monster has its own behaviours and attacks to learn, as well as strengths and weaknesses to be defended against and exploited. Learning all the ins and outs of fighting each monster is genuinely fun and rewarding, and new beasts keep showing up as you go through the game, with even more being added through updates.

Best of all since each location can have multiple monsters running around at any given time and these giant beasts will frequently encounter each other and potentially get involved in a  fight, letting you just sit back and let nature do some of the work for you.

While you do have a health bar, and a stamina bar that dictates attacks and more, the monsters you fight don’t. Instead, you’ll be able to gauge their condition by how beat up they look, and whether they’re limping when they attempt to run away from the fight to heal up or even sleep. If you do see them limping that’s the indication that they can now be captured using a trap and tranq bombs, something which earns considerably more rewards than outright killing the target.

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Speaking of traps and tranq bombs they are just but a few of the things that you can craft by picking up the various resources scattered around the map. Healing potions, strength-boosting powders, poison antidotes and so much more. Crafting everything you need before hunts is a big part of things, as is the game’s insane fascination with colossal platefuls of food that boost your stats. Your home base has a canteen where a highly trained team of cats (yes, you read that right) will cook up a mouthwatering meal which your character will scarf down in comical fashion.

Keeping your stockpile of stuff, though, does mean a lot of grinding so that you can pick up the various ingredients. You can always do that on a hunt, but even then it’s another level of busywork in a game that already demands that you grind away to upgrade your gear. A few systems do get introduced to help combat it, like the Ancient Tree where you can grow crops and cultivate certain bugs to create various potions with, and you also get a special group you can dispatch to collect resources. These things do help mitigate the amount of time you personally have to spend grabbing things, but be warned this is very much a game that rewards those who are willing to grind away.

Outside of the main storyline hunts there are a bunch of side-quests and bounties to take on, almost all of which also involve hunting animals. Er, variety is not the game’s strong suit. Investigations and side-quests form the real meat of it, though, since they provide bonus rewards that include more monster materials so that you can work toward finishing up that new set of gear you’ve been eyeing up like the last Baby Jelly in the packet.

If you were wondering what the “World” part of the game’s name is referring to then wonder no more companions, because multiplayer is a big part of the experience. albeit a slightly awkward one. Whenever you fire up the game you’ll be asked if you want to join a session or create a new one, even if you’re just planning on playing solo. If you do opt to make your own session you can set it to private if you wish, but if you leave it open then you’re free to invite friends or fire off an SOS Flare mid-hunt which announces that you want a bit of help dealing with your foe.

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Friends you’ve invited and random people you’ve encountered can group together and are capable of hanging out in a special part of the home base before embarking on new quests. However, the one catch is that is that players can only join you on quests that are equal or lower than their current rank, though high-level players can go help their lower rank friends out without a problem.

The multiplayer in this game is an absolute blast. It’s great fun to get a few friends together to team against some of the largest, toughest beasts and the game supports this with a bunch of items that can help out fellow hunters.

However, the game makes multiplayer such a pain in the butt to experience. Trying to get friends into a simple expedition is cumbersome, and a myriad of connection problems doesn’t help, though updates have managed to sort some of them. The whole system needed hefty work before it got put into the game, but thankfully getting to play with others and admire their gear is worth the extra effort.

In fact, a lot of the game’s menus and U.I. feels awkward. Even crafting items takes longer than it really should. Like the multiplayer, the interface could have done with some thorough polishing before the game was officially launched.

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Graphically it can be a very pretty looking game at times with some lovely combat animations and great monster designs, including a flying beast that hast a bat-like face and which will inflate like a balloon when annoyed. But once you start looking closer you’ll notice that a lot of the textures aren’t very detailed. Considering the visuals the performance isn’t quite there with considerable oomph being needed to drive this game at a steady frame-rate, so be prepared to turn down a few settings to get that smooth experience.

I’ve also got to say that the lack of 21:9 support is a real shame.

I’m massively late with this review since the game has been on console for ages and now on PC for a month or two, but its been so fun that I just had to get this review out there for the few people who haven’t yet been convinced to go pick it up. Although it requires dedication and a very specific type of player who adores the grind, Monster Hunter: World is absolutely brilliant and one hell of a way to bring the venerable franchise to the attention of Western audiences. There’s lots of room for improvement, but I’m awaiting the inevitable sequel with bated breath.

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