Game Review: Monster Hunter World: Hunter, Gatherer

Image courtesy Capcom Capcom’s Monster Hunter series has been a staple of video games since the first title released 14 years ago. There was some success with handheld spin-offs, and when main series Monster Hunter 4 released on 3DS back in 2013 (2015 in North America) I thought Monster Hunter would remain stuck to handheld systems. That wouldn’t have been horrible, but what I really wanted was a full-fledged Monster Hunter with all of the graphical bells and whistles and performance that handhelds can’t muster. When Monster Hunter World was announced, I knew I would finally be getting what I wanted. Image courtesy Capcom Monster Hunter World is a semi-open world game with a heavy focus on exploration, item gathering, and monster huntin’. You’re in a world with large, dangerous, and magnificent beasts. And your job is to kill them mercilessly. The city of Astera serves as a hub as you adventure through the six regions that make up the New World. These regions are not interconnected, but are different maps that unlock as your progress through the story. Each of these regions contains a multitude of monsters to track, kill, and harvest. There is a main storyline that drives forward your encounters, bringing you to undiscovered regions, and facing you off against increasingly large predators. There is also an open-ended expedition mode that allows you to track and kill at your leisure, or gather other materials to craft weapons and armor. Image courtesy Capcom Hunting to craft better, more powerful gear is the crux of the gameplay in Monster Hunter World. The city of Astera is where all of the item crafting is done, as well as where you'll visit the canteen for food to buff your hunter’s abilities and buy or sell gear and extra crafting materials you’ll pick up along the way. There are multiple different weapon types, with none being the stand-out “best” option – instead, they cater to a wide variety of playstyles. Your weapons and equipment get incrementally better as you slay incrementally more powerful beasts – and as you follow a somewhat convoluted and daunting equipment trees. It is somewhat addicting to embark on expeditions to craft and upgrade the gear you want – but it also becomes a bit of a grind. The story quests, despite having narrative variety, follow the same gameplay formula and offer few variations – but they do push you outside of your known strategies and comfort zones at times. Image courtesy Capcom The combat in Monster Hunter World is part of the draw of the series. Each weapon variety has its own moveset, with variations within those having slightly different movesets as well leading to many ways to play. The monsters themselves, especially the larger ones, are like “bosses,” each variety having a unique set of moves which will sometimes increase in danger and ferocity as the beast becomes increasingly injured. Despite the threat these beasts present, combat can feel a little tedious as you spend literal minutes wailing away at larger monsters until they are defeated. There is no health bar to show your progress against them, but instead the monsters look and act differently as they get closer to their demise. Image courtesy Capcom For the larger, more challenging monsters you will need friends to help you. Luckily, most everything in Monster Hunter World can be done with friends. You can either play with specific people, or open up your game for others to join (or join others’ who have done the same). Monster Hunter World’s robust multiplayer system allows for in-game Squads to be formed, which act as guilds, and players can meet and plan all sorts of excursions. Image courtesy Capcom Monster Hunter World is the culmination of all the Monster Hunters that came before it – for better or worse. There have certainly been improvements to the formula, with the story mode especially benefitting by being less of a grind, and therefore more streamlined. But everything about Monster Hunter World is about collecting items to make the next thing – even the narrative can’t distract much from that. If you’re a fan of the long-running series, or a newcomer:  Monster Hunter World is now the quintessential Monster Hunter game, and is recommended. Monster Hunter World is available now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with a PC release later this year.
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Antal Bokor

Antal is video game advocate, retro game collector, and video game historian. He is also a small streamer, occasional podcast guest, and writer.