Review: Monster Hunter World

Monster Hunter World is everything I should stay away from in a video game. I’m the guy that wants to do every side or optional quest before beating a game. I’m the guy running around Skyrim for 120 hours and combing through Blackreach before realizing there’s a main story quest there.  I’m the guy unable to go from point A to B without stopping by every single notable location in The Witcher III. So what is Monster Hunter World?

It’s massive, for one. There’s are giant monsters, a large selection of weapon types, gathering items, huge crafting list, multiple armor sets, massive weapon upgrade trees and….cats? For full disclosure, I’ve never played a Monster Hunter game before. It’s always a series that’s been in my periphery, but it wasn’t until seeing Monster Hunter World in action that I really became interested.

There are minor spoilers ahead regarding some story elements and features that are introduced to the player as they get further into the game.

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My starting ‘armor’ was definitely the fiancé’s choice.

The Story and Pacing

You start the game on a ship as a part of the Research Commissions Fifth Fleet heading towards the New World to battle monsters, carve off their body parts and wear them as trophies. On the way, you’re attacked by an elder dragon, Zorah Magdaros, and wash up ashore on the New World to begin your tutorial. Once you battle your way to the game’s hub, Astera, you begin your quest to find out why Zorah Magdaros has migrated there, and why in general do elder dragons seem to show up every ten years. You’re given a Handler to work through quests with, and off you go hunting monsters.

If there is one thing that seems a bit off to me, it’s the pacing. I felt that the beginning of the experience was handled very well. I feel that these types of games service the player better by acting as a sort of funnel. When you begin the game, you’re at the very tip of the funnel. You have little wiggle room, so it gives the player the opportunity to get comfortable in the few mechanics they are introduced to. Slowly, you move up the funnel and the game slowly widens out. You’re given more armor options with each new monster kill. You’re introduced to optional quests, investigations, new weapon trees and skills as you progress through each of the first four major areas.

There is a main quest that you encounter where it feels like the game is resolving. There are even cut scenes of your Commander saying as much, and that everyone is going to be thinking about leaving the New World. I was really left confused afterward, I didn’t want the game to end, but it felt like a hard stop.

When you get back into Astera, you get word of weird monster migrations, and that they are starting to cross over into habitats they once avoided. You track monsters, hunt them, find new monsters and continue the main story. It felt a bit awkward after how the characters in game seemed to have resolved to leave the New World after the previous quest.

I feel half and half on this next thought, but I feel that the game does have a degree of padding to it. In this second half of the game, there are still over ten new monsters to hunt and an entirely new area, but you find that each monster that you’ve previously hunted and built armor for, now has upgraded versions of dropped materials for armor sets. Along with that, there are now two versions of each armor set that you can build after each new monster kill. You’re basically separated from everything you had previously completed in game. Before this last major story quest is considered low rank, and everything now is high rank. I was really just thankful in general that I didn’t spend more time than I did farming monster sets now considered low rank, because they really became obsolete once high rank armor is introduced.

This goes a bit further as well as tempered versions of the monsters are introduced afterward, along with the augmentation system which I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into very much.

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After spending an hour testing out weapons, I went with the Insect Glaive early on before switching to the Great Sword.

The Palico

The Palico companion is seemingly a small part of Monster Hunter World, but as I watched streamers go through the first bosses and early areas, what tipped me over the edge towards purchasing it, was the Palico. If you’re a visitor to this site, you may have seen a piece I had written called Renewal. It goes through a bit of the history between myself, my fiancé’s cat and his final day with us.

Needless to say, seeing the Palico was something we both needed at that moment. I purchased the game after work and waited the next few hours for my fiancé to get home before getting started. While going through the character creator, we tried making a more buff and handsome version of me, then modeled the Palico after Marley. It’s not perfect, but the stank face he has more than makes up for it.

Running through Monster Hunter World means substantially more to me because I feel like Marley is right there with me, at times dressed up like a ladybug, because I know he would hate that, and that makes me laugh.

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Monster Hunter World features fantastic environments and painted backgrounds.

Worldbuilding

One of my favorite aspects of Monster Hunter World is the quick, free flowing feeling while traveling throughout one of the major areas of the new world. For most of the gathering and monster researching, you could be sprinting past herbs, mushrooms, bugs and more while tapping the collect button as you go.

This is something I’ve wanted going all the way back to my days in vanilla World of Warcraft where I constantly stocked up on Briarthorn and Swiftthistle in Loch Modan to sell in the auction house to afford my first mount. Gathering was fun, but the days played of my life I’ve spent gathering herbs, mining ore and skinning animals in World of Warcraft is just staggering. To be fair, there are certain special gathering nodes like bone piles and flower beds that do require you to do the typical few seconds of gathering, but I can forgive it after being able to ‘sprint collect’ for 85% of the items.

At its best, this game is absolute chaos. I keep thinking of my first fight with Rathalos, the apex wyvern of the Ancient Forest. Fighting him alone seemed like the normal monster hunter fare. I began by cutting off his tail, got my combos down, stunned him and everything else you’re supposed to do as a great sword wielding behemoth.

Then, as he runs from area to area, I now have Tobi-Kadachi jumping into the fight, stopping my combos, electrocuting me as I’m trying to go for Rathalos. I finally get him alone again, just to have Anjanath start ripping through our fight. On top of that, I start getting the countdown with 10 minutes left.

I frantically keep running away from other monsters, chasing Rathalos down, until we get to the final fighting area with the five minute marker across the screen. I go all out during his final stretch and he breaks a dam to send water rushing down. I took him down with two minutes remaining, but I was on edge most of the past hour. You do get a sense of accomplishment for going through these long battles and coming out victorious.

I do wish we had more opportunity to join forces with some of the story characters. Later in the game, you meet the Admiral, who is this beast of a dude. He helps you unlock the final area of the game and points you in the direction of a certain demonic looking, will crushing and controller throwing dragon. When we agree to meet there to go off and fight him, he kind of just goes, okay well, good luck! Though it would take away from the challenge of a 1 vs. 1 fight, it would have broken up the formula and created more unique encounters in working together with other hunters.

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Couldn’t resist matching the alien space suit set.

Game Depth

The forging and skill systems have a surprising amount of depth. One of the pitfalls that inhabit games like Diablo III is that if you are limited on what equipment you can wear if you want to be the best and most efficient you can be for your class. This largely involves wearing six set pieces on your character. If a set that you want to wear ha six pieces and you can wear ten pieces of armor in total, the variety in equipment spirals downward and you’re seemingly forced to choose similar builds as thousands of other players out there.

Monster Hunter World handles this very differently. Yes, a lot of the more rare sets have set bonuses for multiple pieces of equipment. The difference is that within these set requirements, you can tailor skills within those pieces of equipment with items called decorations, introduced later into the game. Going even further, augmentations are introduced as well to increase your equipment abilities.

Earlier in the game, I saw myself being very limited to the pieces of armor I would wear because I wanted certain items bonuses. If I wanted the max level of Quick Sheath for example, there was really only three pieces of equipment with this bonus, so I wore a mish mash of armor to get the bonus. Now, with decorations, and higher level armor sets offering multiple levels of a skill, I feel like endless possibilities and combinations have opened up for me.

This is what you want in the end game for this type of game. Let players customize their experience based on how they want to play. We’re offered 14 different weapon types with various attack power, attack speeds and utilization. With how customizable the skill system is, you can play the game differently with new setups and builds for a very long time.

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Diablos turf war.

Jolly Cooperation

When it comes to multiplayer, there’s a bit to be desired. I find joining up with others fun enough, and it definitely adds to that chaotic feeling that I enjoy so much about the game, but its current implementation isn’t enough to keep me interested.

When the game was first released, Capcom was having server and connection issues which started everything off on the wrong foot for me. Attempts to play in groups turned into multiple experiences of me sitting around and staring at loading screens for near ten minutes at a time. It was common for me to join a group, prepare and load into the quest area just to be disconnected from the group a few seconds after joining. This would lead me back to Astera with another load screen to repeat the process.

Since these issues seemed to resolve, I’ve put in another 15 or so hours into multiplayer and the experience has been a lot smoother. There’s just something so ridiculously fun about trying to hunt a Rathalos, just to have a Rathian and Bazelgeuse fly into the same area with four players hacking away. I would also say this is the best way to try and get specific items for gear you’re trying to make, as it takes away some of the monotony (looking at you 22 Rathalos kills for that stupid gem).

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Waiting for the next fight to load.

Final Thoughts

For this being my first Monster Hunter experience, I’m impressed. Towards the beginning of the game I was worried. The combat seemed clunky and slow, Astera felt largely empty and the game progression seemed shallow. Instead, you’ll master your chosen weapon type and work around its strengths and weaknesses, Astera fills out with story progression and I don’t need to repeat myself on how deep the game gets with dozens of armor sets, skills, weapon trees, decorations and augmentations.

I do feel as if the pacing is off when it comes to story. There’s a point to where the main story seems to end, but you continue on. Looking back, I feel that the game goes into a sort of New Game+ mode instead of jumping into the second half of the game.

Overall, Monster Hunter World is a satisfying and fun experience. It excels where it needs to with the monster hunting and customization of equipment and weapons. Although this is my first Monster Hunter game, it’s reasonable to assume it won’t be the last.

Happy hunting!

 To see more, visit my webpage at http://www.iwasntpreparedforthis.com

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