My first experience with Monster Hunter was the original PS2 game, which I liked, but never got very far into. I missed the PSP generation of Monster Hunter games because I didn’t own a PSP until 2009, but jumped back onboard for a MH4 on the 3DS and MH Tri on the Wii.
I just wanted to get that out of the way so you know where I’m coming from as I write about Monster Hunter World on PS4. It’s the big, sexy home console version of the game I’ve been hoping for. Ever since the first trailer, I’ve been playing whatever I could to tide me over – the older MH games, Toukiden, that kind of thing. Once my copy was pre-ordered and pre-loaded, all I had to do was wait for it to unlock at 12:00am last Friday. I’ve been hammering away at it ever since and basically having a great time.
If you’ve ever played a Monster Hunter game before, you’ll know more or less what to expect. It’s exactly like the portable games, just with some of the limitations removed and some of the kinks ironed out. For instance, in the portable games, each map was broken down into little sub-areas you’d have to load into as you ran around them – but in MHW each map is just one big area with no loading screens once you’re in, meaning you can chase the beasties seamlessly across the huge, beautiful environments.
For those who don’t know, in the Monster Hunter games, you create a character and enter a fictional world full of all kinds of different beasts to hunt, from tiny deer-like creatures to building-sized, fire-breathing T-rexes and mountain-sized behemoths with volcanoes on their backs. The selection of weapons you can equip has grown over the course of the series, with MHW sporting 14 different weapon types to choose from, each with their own pros, cons, special moves and combos. You can also equip your character with different kinds of armour offering various buffs and resistances to the several damage types.
Once you’ve got a character and a weapon, you can head out on missions to acquire rewards. You can also gather resources in the field and carve bits off the monsters you slay. You use these resources to create better weapons and armour to take on bigger monsters and advance to new areas with different resources you can use to create better weapons and armour yet… and so on. Although there is one thing that annoys me about this – many games do it, but Monster Hunter is a prime example – why, oh why, when I kill a beast do I not get all the parts it would have? Why do I get a pelt from one and not from the other? Did the other not have skin? I’m pretty sure it did. Or why do I get a horn from one but not the other when they both clearly have horns? It’s one of those stupid RPG loot tropes that no one ever brings up.
Each Monster Hunter game also has a story, although I doubt even fans pay them any mind. Still, they seem to have put a bit more effort into MHW’s story with nice cinematics and a more earnest attempt to weave the narrative into the missions. The gist of it is that you are a member of the Fifth Fleet – a group of hunters and scholars heading to a new continent to aid a group of researchers in figuring out why the world’s elder dragons seem to migrate to a specific place every ten years. Your progression in the story will unlock new areas to hunt in full of new monsters and scenery and better upgrades at the blacksmith shop. There are also all kinds of side missions and requests and bounties you can undertake to expand the facilities you can use, such as a garden to cultivate useful plants for you, or a crew of cat-like Palicos that will go off and scavenge for items for you, or having rope-lifts installed in one map to make getting around easier.
Fighting monsters is the meat of the game, though, and it’s what your every effort leads up to. There are lots of small and mid-sized monsters you can slay for resources, but the big ones are the most fun. Generally the target of missions, these guys require you to really think about your weapon choice, what potions to use and what kind of traps you might need. In the heat of combat you’ll have to keep on your toes and know when to block (if your weapon allows it) or dodge and when to use your special moves and combos. A new innovation in MHW is that each character can equip a gadget of some kind – these can be different kinds of cloaks that offer abilities like camouflage or gliding, or smoke flares that offer healing or buffs. Oh yes, and you can have a little cat creature called a Palico to follow you in combat. You can equip your Palico with armour and weapons and a gadget that determines their primary role, such as healing you or finding items.
The mission structure is a little different in MHW – while you can still accept quests from the main town, head out and return, you can also stay out in the field and explore, fight and gather without a time limit, taking on side missions or simply gathering resources – something I’ve always wanted in a Monster Hunter game.
As in the previous games, you can play online with up to three other players, but this time round they can drop into a mission you’ve already started, which is pretty cool. Previously you had to gather in town and start the quest together, but now you can head out alone and leave your quest open so anyone can drop in at any time if they want. It’s pretty cool. I’ve had a few random yahoos drop into my quests – some of them were even helpful.
Well, I’m clearly having a blast with Monster Hunter World, but I’m not sure who to recommend the game to. It might be a hard sell for the average gamer – or at least a bit too drawn out with the resource farming and gear grinding. But the multiplayer works great and apparently most people like that sort of thing more than I do, so if you want to fight some challenging monsters with friends, give it a go.