MONSTER HUNTER: WORLD Review: An Approachable Entry To A World Of Monsters

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World has been the initial descriptor of Capcom’s latest entry to the Monster Hunter franchise, which was recently released a few days ago. The game, as its subtitle describes it, contains a pretty massive environment, from the expansive areas to explore, the diverse flora and fauna surrounding it, and most importantly, the giant beasts that roam around it. World pretty much sums up what Capcom is trying to achieve with this new game. 

As someone who hasn’t played any of the previous installments in the franchise, I’d say that Monster Hunter: World offers a kinder approach to novices who are just trying out the game as I did. However, this does not mean that World is simpler than its predecessors, the game still retains the core elements of previous titles, that highlighted a gameplay loop that revolves around management of resources, crafting of items, upgrading of weapons and armor, looting materials, and of course, hunting down monsters. Although a story-driven narrative has not always been part of the franchise’s focus in this game and in the past (excluding Monster Hunter Stories of course), Capcom has attempted to create a balance between story and gameplay. 

Story

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Monster Hunter: World revolves around the mysterious phenomenon known as the Elder Crossing, where elder dragons migrate and navigate the seas in search for the land only known as the New World. In pursuit of further understanding the Elder Crossing, the guild has formed the Research Commission, where they send large fleets of hunters to the New World. 

The player’s character, a member of the elite Fifth Fleet, is in pursuit of the gigantic elder dragon known as Zorah Magdaros. The player will then be transported to Astera, the base of operations of the hunters, that also mimics the villages from previous titles. In Astera, the player will be able to explore several locations such as the departments that make up the Research Commission, a training area to test out the game’s several weapons available, a Canteen for the hunter to refuel, and the Smithy, where the player can bring in items and materials to upgrade weapons and craft equipment. 

Gameplay

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Just as with any RPG games, the first few minutes, or hours, if you’re that person, will be spent in the character customization menu. Monster Hunter: World offers a decent amount of customization with several facial presets, the ability to choose your hunter’s gender, hairstyle, clothing, and voice prompts. The one thing I loved about the character customization in this game is that, if sometime mid-game, you realized that you didn't like how your character's looks turned out, you can still change some features afterwards. Although mid-game alterations are limited, and won’t give you the full options as it did in the beginning, but at least it will lessen the chances of you restarting the game just to change you character’s aesthetics. 

For first time players and veterans alike, the first few hours of Monster Hunter: World will introduce you to a wealth of tutorials and information, which can be extremely overwhelming at first. However, instead of just bombarding the player with text-based tutorials, as it did in previous titles, Capcom introduced a Handler, who will be the player’s companion that gives out tons of helpful information and tips, to help you navigate a new area, and reach zones that will be more complex as you progress in the game. The first time I encountered the Handler, I found her a tad bit annoying, however, her vocal cues and the wealth of information she has with her, definitely made my first few quests and expeditions easier than remembering everything from the text tutorials. 

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However, when going on a quest or an expedition, the Handler will not accompany you as you explore the area, instead she will just be staying in the nearest camp grounds, tracking your progress, and giving out vocal instructions when needed. Traversing by yourself in the expansive environment in the game may seem daunting at first, but, Worlds also introduced a helpful new addition, in the form of scout flies. The scout flies are these green floating insect-things that will follow your hunter during exploration. They are extremely helpful as they will point you to any item that you’ll encounter along the way. Whether it be some wild honey, several herbs, or an assortment of monster bones, the scout flies has you covered. Besides taking you to the nearest loot, the scout flies are also helpful in pointing you to your next objective, or even track down monsters you are hunting. The introduction of the Handler and the scout flies is definitely a step from Capcom to make the game more appealing to a wider audience by making tutorials and navigation easier, without compromising the complex features of a gameplay loop that veteran players of the game love about the franchise. 

Among the many changes Capcom has implemented with Monster Hunter: World, the most noticeable one is the absence of the Hunter Arts, previously introduced with Monster Hunter: Generations. Instead, the game aims to focus on the player’s ability to use their respective weapon of choice’s combos, to inflict the greatest damage to a monster. Among the 14 weapon types available in the game, such as giant longswords and the familiar sword and shield among many others, the bowguns are probably the most appealing weapon for players who are more keen to a third person shooter playstyle. However, as powerful as some bowguns appear to be, players will still have to be strategic in using the correct weapon for a certain monster, as these beasts have different strengths and weaknesses. Making use of bombs, traps, and monster dung, will still be essential in effectively taking down a monster, which also makes hunting accessible and effective, no matter what weapon you use. 

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The environment in Monster Hunter: World, is the biggest and most diverse world in the history of the franchise. The transition from day to night is absolutely breathtaking that it distracted me when I saw the sunset in the Ancient Forest for the first time. Once you have been transported to a specific location, there will be no loading screens, unless you transfer to another area, which makes hunting seamless as you no longer have to wait just to explore. 

I also recommend that as you explore your way in several areas, it is best to pick up whatever items you can find, as these materials will be essential with the crafting system. Monster Hunter: World does not impose a traditional leveling system in the game. Instead, you strengthen your character by upgrading your armor and weapons, with items you find in the environment, especially materials that you can loot from monsters. The stronger the monster, the better the material you’ll get to upgrade your equipment. 

Crafting an armor or weapon can seem like a chore at some point since you will have to do quite a bit of research. When you are trying to piece together a certain equipment, the game allows you to put the materials you need that you don’t have on a wishlist. Afterwards, you may dig further by collecting and examining drops from certain monsters, which will tell you the information you’ll need to obtain the exact piece of material on your wishlist. 

Playing the game alone, can be challenging but very doable. The satisfaction you get from singlehandedly slaying a tough monster, or completing a quest alone, will definitely make for an exciting play through. The multiplayer integration in this game is seamless as Monster Hunter: World blurs the line between single and multiplayer style of play. The game lets you start an online session where you can be alone at first, until other players join you to assist. The most interesting feature when it comes to multiplayer is when you start a quest alone, and you find yourself in need of help, you can send out an SOS signal to friends or nearby online players, where they can make some sort of a rescue party to assist you. 

However, if you want to start an online session with just your friends, it can be a bit tedious as you’ll have to set up a multiplayer session via the console dashboard, or by sharing a 12-digit code to your friends. Although this will only take you a few minutes to do, it can be annoying given the fact that playing with strangers is more easy and seamless than playing with your own friends. It is also important to note that when you’re playing with other players, (a maximum of four in a team), the difficulty will slightly increase compared to playing alone. This is understandable as the game will have to scale up depending on how many players are in the game. Besides, this definitely make hunting with friends more fun and challenging. 

Monster Hunter: World is definitely the best looking Monster Hunter game thus far. Although when compared to other games in the market, there are still older titles that will be a little more pretty than World, but only slightly as the vast ecosystems, combined with the rich detail of the monsters makes playing the game a visual treat. 

Verdict

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There is definitely a lot of changes in Monster Hunter: World. However, the game was still able to retain a lot of features that veteran players of the series will still be able to recognize and enjoy. World is still the complex game that is expected from a Monster Hunter title, just as its predecessors were known for. Although, the introduction of the Handler and the scout flies makes the game more approachable to beginners in the franchise. 

Although the continuous gameplay loop and lack of focus on the plot may not be for your cup of tea, World is still able to compensate for this by making the  hunting experience better with the vast open areas and the absence of multiple loading screens that makes exploration a fun experience. At some point the crafting system in the game can be a bit tedious, but fulfilling the items in that wishlist to create that powerful weapon or armor is a good enough incentive to hunt a specific monster or loot the area for the materials needed. Lastly the seamless multiplayer integration adds to the fun experience as the player can cooperate with friends or strangers to make quests and expeditions a little bit easier. 

In the end, Monster Hunter: World will not be for everyone. However, the several changes makes the game more approachable and appealing for beginners, but at the same time, keeping the complexity that its core fans loved in previous titles. You may love it or not, but it’s definitely worth giving it a chance to find out.