Monster Hunter: World is the newest entry into the incredibly popular Monster Hunter franchise which sees the series return to its roots on a home console, but this time Capcom claims it to be more accessible to new players without alienating its current fan base.
Adapted for a broader western audience, Monster Hunter: World takes everything that’s great about the series and expands on it, opening the franchise up to so many more players. Veteran players will feel right at home with a control scheme that is reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 version, while Capcom has taken care to make the game feel more accessible to newer players. Some of the changes are small, for example, mapping the sprint option to R3 or making the Bowgun controls feel more like a western shooter. These small additions to the control scheme help newer players ease into the experience offering them something that’s familiar.
One of the biggest – and most probably best – changes to the game is the addition of Scoutflies. A passive ability that’s always active. Scoutflies are represented on screen as a cloud of bright green flies that travel in a swarm pointing out telltale signs that a monster has been in the area. Using these flies players are able to actively hunt a monster and learn more about its behaviours. By interacting with footprints, gouges in the ground and other various monster markers, players are able to level up their knowledge of the particular beast making it easier to recognise in future quests.
Once significant knowledge has been gathered on the monster the Scoutflies will help lead the player to its whereabouts. Leveling up your knowledge on a particular species with the Chief Ecologist will allow you to see more information on the minimap. From the creatures moving patterns to when it is close to death, signalled by a small skull next to its icon; handy if you’re in the mood for capturing it.
In addition, the Scoutflies also point out materials on the map. Each item that you can collect is now shown on-screen in full. For example, if you see a cluster of Blue Mushrooms on the floor, it will be Blue Mushrooms that you collect. Unlike in previous entries in the series where it could be one of a number of mushroom types. This slight alteration to the game is a welcome change. Not only does it make the world feel alive and interactive but for the first time, it allows the player to be able to actively search for specific items without worrying about that element of luck.
As a budding hunter taking on their first few quests, Monster Hunter: World holds them by the hand and eases new players in gently. The newly upgraded Handler character offers handy pointers and advice which can be invaluable in the field. The game does away with the mandatory gathering quests which would usually teach the basics to a new player and introduces on the fly tutorials presented by the Handler in real time. This feature I found to be a welcome addition to the series and kept the momentum of the game flowing at a natural pace. No longer are players required to sift through a mountain of text-based tutorials, instead Monster Hunter: World lets them learn on the fly. A vast open world that’s unforgiving as it is beautiful pulls players in and doesn’t let them go.
With this in mind, it could be easily said that the first quarter of the game or so is one big tutorial. Once players begin to take on High-Rank quests is where the difficulty curve takes a sharp incline. And it’s fantastic.
As a seasoned hunter I found a number of the Low-Rank quests to be fairly easy; insultingly so, actually. My progression to High-Rank was a culture shock which only Monster Hunter can pull of with ease. The game lures you into a false sense of security carefully baiting you to believe you can take on anything before throwing a curveball which causes you to realise you’re not the one in control here. The Bazelgeuse is. Suddenly you realise the last twenty or so hours have been one long tutorial and the real game is just beginning. A cunning ploy on Capcom’s part, and a great way to keep newer and veteran players alike interested.
The new environments are also worth a mention. While the map is still divided into numbered sections moving from one to another no longer requires a loading screen. The entire area is open and explorable allowing seamless transitions from area to area. You can see monsters flying off in the distance while ants and other small critters scuttle along the ground. The entire world is a living and breathing ecosystem. Watching the Anjanath in its natural habitat is a wonder to behold as each beast acts like a living creature; a testament to the hard work Capcom has put into bringing these creatures and the world they live into life.
Storywise Monster Hunter: World doesn’t offer much new from previous entries in the series. In this case, a number of Elder Dragons are migrating to the New World and the player is tasked to find out why. Players can gather data on a monster by tracking them in quests and expeditions as well as from capturing or slaying them. Of course, that’s not to say you’ll need to hunt alone. Encountering a beast that’s outside of your league is part of the fun. Sending out an SOS flare will allow strangers to join in on your hunt to assist you; levelling the playing field. Joining other likeminded players to take on the impossible is exhilarating and finding that perfect team that works as a unit is what it’s all about.
If the title of the game hadn’t already given it away the main idea of Monster Hunter is to hunt monsters to gather materials in order to forge or upgrade the over-the-top weaponry and armour that even Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud would be proud of. In previous instalments, players would need to keep track of the number of items needed in order to forge or upgrade their chosen item; it was a pain. Monster Hunter: World has a small but much-needed addition to help out: the favourites list. Players can now add an item to this list and will be alerted when they gather material needed to craft it. It might sound like a small adjustment, but for those managing a number of armour and equipment sets, it’s a godsend.
Monster Hunter: World is a new direction for the series, It doesn’t remove anything that makes the series fantastic but it does make itself more appealing for newer players without alienating its well-established player base; it’s a tricky balance to strike which Capcom has nailed perfectly. If you’re not a fan of the odd grind then Monster Hunter: World probably isn’t for you, but if you do enjoy a challenging and open world filled with exploration and the inevitable frustration of your twentieth defeat at the claws of winged death then jump on in.