Monster Hunter World

Alright fine, I take it back – Wyverns have ears!

Game Name: Monster Hunter World (2018)
Developer: Capcom (Streetfighters, Resident Evils, Megamanszs, Devil May Crys)
Platform: PC, PS4, XBone (reviewed on PC -> PS4 controller, and w/ ICEBORNE DLC)
Categories: Single Player Origins, Multiplayer (Rarely Required), Fantasy Violence, Creature Stalking, Crafting and Preparation, Traps, Bombs, Nets, Tranquilizers, Fishing, Beast Mounts, Dozens of Weapon Types, Combos, Power Moves, Bows/Arrows, “Miniguns”, Hulking Mobile Cannons, Massive Swords, Aerial Combat, Evolving Playstyle, No Experience Levels, Personal IRL Growth, Gorgeous Environments, Lighthearted Tone, 20-50 Minute Sessions, Deceptively Complex, Wilderness Exploration, Arena Battles, Classic/Dated Sounds, Cat Pal Customization, Collectibles, Inventory Management, License Crossovers, Grinding Galore, Tribal Aesthetic, Worthwhile DLC, Seasonal Events, Post-Release Freebies, Unlimited Missions/Challenges, Lame Story, Deliberate Controls, Vivid and Enthralling Monsters and Environs, Customizable Gear with Endless Possibility

May Appeal To: OCD grinders, stat crunchers, meta gamers, tag team warriors, those that only want sporadic 30 minute romps against colorful, frightening boss monsters.
May Repulse: the opposite of whomever this appeals to!

Aw, it’s a skinless puppy dog that followed you home….

Comparable To: the methodical movement and combat of Dark Souls, but with wildly varying difficulty. Soul Sacrifice is dismal, flat, and esoteric by comparison (but with a superior story). Toukiden isn’t as approachable. Gods Eater Burst takes itself too seriously and isn’t nearly as dynamic. Monster Hunter 2 had more grinding and redundancy. Monster Hunter 3 had undesirable underwater battles that aren’t missed. Monster Hunter 4 had a neat virus mechanic that spread from creature to creature and some bug bosses that would have been fun to resurrect. In that void, this game expounds on level verticality, aerial combat, and “specialty” missions – basically just more of what worked previously. Oddly, MHW holds a decent amount of similarities with Horizon:Zero Dawn’s bow combat, especially with HZD’s larger creatures.
(It’s just a shame we can’t get the MHW crossover skin for Alloy on the PC.)

Either you track down my target or get turned into scaly house slippers!

Learning Curve: Long and Involved; primarily, your knowledge is what “levels up”.
Game Length: This is wholly dependent on your goals. It might take 50 hours for the story, which isn’t nearly the main draw. Special events and extras become available monthly.
Difficulty: Runs the full gamut – a cakewalk to nearly impossible for optional challenges.
Mastery: I got very close to my definition of it…. Some achievements are completely arbitrary and based on inane details like monster length but there is a lot of optional content shoved into this shallow title. There are 14 weapon types with drastically different playstyles, hundreds of named missions, up to a thousand pieces of armor, and likely millions of possible configurations. Photo assignments, endemic life collection, and room customization are but few actions that will keep you busy for ages.

You wanted a coherent story in this thing? Have a sentient cat interacting with the Witcher, Geralt.

Story: Vacuous and unnecessary, when story and dialogue is attempted it distracts from the killin’ and casts doubt upon the whole operation. Bewilderingly, Japan took an “eco-friendly” angle where master monster genocide-ists and exterminators waltzing about in monster pelts are shoehorned into the role of scientists and researchers. No lie, the multitude of monster murders is in the name of science and balancing the natural order…. on a continent that your human infestation is indeed a foreigner to. It’d be infinitely more believable to frame the barbarous sprees as needing to defend the fringes of some human habitation from aggressive or shifting migratory patterns. But nope, we crossed the ocean to drive rare, elder species to extinction and chew gum (and we’re all out of crafting materials for gum).

Too much effort is funneled into making us snort lines of dialogue to force amicability out of the obnoxiously peppy young’uns or grizzled, grumbly veterans (not to mention the bizarre range of cognizant races like 5′ cats, abominable snowmen, and fleshy Yoda things). When these unimportant obstacles yip in passing and talk your ear off like the NPCs in Banjo/Kazooie, I seriously consider turning the game off. Thankfully, there isn’t -nearly- as much text as previous titles and all cinematics are spoken aloud to reduce the eye strain.

I’m not saying this isn’t an enthralling world of captivating lore implications – I’m pleading with Capcom not to be a nervous, chattering mess that assaults me with inane, unskippable dialogue when I’d rather be swinging an axe and dodging venomous talons. The more you insist that I’m a fucking scientist, the less I believe it.

“Being the bad guy doesn’t make you a bad guy.”

Yeah, git in there, Hunter! I think I see summa dat sweet research in the spinal column!

Presentation: Gorgeous, the best-looking MH title to date. I never played Monster Hunter Online but “graduated” from PSP to 3DS to 3DS XL to my computer’s 1400P resolution at 60 frames a second. Indescribable difference in satisfaction. The DLC at the end of Monster Hunter 4 added some tantalizing environments with moonlit chest-high grass fronds swaying in the breeze, but Monster Hunter World ups the ante with indigenous life scurrying, skulking, scaling, and soaring all over the place – many of which are trappable with a hand-thrown net. The traditional map layout is familiar (bottlenecked back alleys that loop and lead between larger open areas) but without any of the load time and an increase in complexity. (I swear after 1,500 hours I still miss the trails in the internal jumble of the Ancient Forest’s switchback and convoluted passageways.) Needless to say, the developers didn’t restrict themselves by expectation and managed to include plenty of secret areas, shortcuts, unlockable camps, and tribes tucked away behind seemingly-unreachable facades. The veneer of realistic weather effects, a day/night cycle, and appealing differences between jungle overgrowth, dusty deserts, chilling snow, beautiful coral, decomposing caverns, and a crystalline volcanic region really shine. All have their dangers and deceptions along with joys in combing for their unique crafting materials.

This puffball thing flew in on a breeze of spores in the coral forest. I think he wants scritches.

The audio is a mixed bag. Whereas I can appreciate the tradition of exporting sounds from progenitor consoles, the tinniness, audible range, and clipped nature of the UI elements can sound relatively poor and compressed when compared directly to the rich and vibrant sounds that were newly-recorded. There’s a lot of great symphonic queues here, many of which are tied directly to the presence of specific monsters (both their unique wails and musical themes burst forth as you get close, an engaging and epic cinematic trick). There’s nothing like the chill I get from the descending fanfare of Deviljho’s musical track as the angry pickle hurls himself into an existing battle, bellows, and proceeds to grapple my quarry in his jaws while trying to beat me to death with it! I’m uncertain if the game is restricted by its own nostalgia but some chirps and warbles are deserving of the same upgrades that were applied unevenly across the board.

Technically speaking, the game has it where it counts. Resource-wise, it makes unusually-high demands and I sought 3rd party optimization mods (Special K) sometime before making an eventual laptop upgrade. Miscellaneous gripe – although (or because) the game had a multi-lingual release, the lip synching is especially bad. I don’t even sense attempts to get the two in lock-step and there are times when words lag lips by a full second.

You can’t even see King Gajalaka’s lips move. How disgraceful.

Unique Features: This series uniquely perpetuates the cycle of epic boss battles followed by meticulous preparation to take on bigger, more epic boss battles – a repetitive, engrossing flow that allows consolidated gameplay or marathons, with or without friends. Of its clones, Monster Hunter World boasts the most character, an optimistic persona, a continuous stream of extra content from its developers, memorable and contrasting creatures, the best environments, and massive variance in effective builds and playstyles. The seeming shallowness allows for casuals to easily pick it up but there’s enough grit and subtley to reward those that take a deeper dive.

Yeah, like that.

Gameplay: This is a long, illustrious series and the bare essentials remain as follows:
Giant boss monsters exist and you seek to capture or kill them in under 50 minutes without being knocked unconscious 3 times. The hunter is equipped with a chosen weapon type that ranges from crossbows to katanas to morphing axes to musical instruments that provide bard-like buffs before being wielded like giant honkin’ mallets. Gone are the crutches of power-leveling your character to overcome an obstacle – you must rely on wits, reflexes, grappling, well-executed combos, weapon transformations, potions, traps, explosives, real-time crafting, status effects, bait, bestial mounts, dynamic terrain, diminutive tribal allies, 6 course meal preparation, weather conditions, team coordination, and a relentless assault against hard-to-reach weak points which physically degrade the monster’s physical model, breaking them off to reveal additional carves that are relinquished when the brute finally expires with a shrill flourish.

This corpse is worth about 5 carves. We’ll leave the body as a warning to the rest of his once-proud and exalted species.

Depending on the location of injuries, rewards are bestowed which can be immediately put to use creating the relevant 5-piece armor or weapon upgrades. This equipment, itself, tends to reflect the abilities of the toppled creature – skill points that boost innumerable abilities that range from passive elemental resistances to increased weapon sharpness to esoteric skills that, when combined with others from the set, can bestow rare boons such as blocking unblockable attacks or removing limits and amplifying damage. As you might infer, choosing a progression path that smartly utilizes one equipment set to nullify the core offensive mechanisms of a different monster is encouraged, turning the hours of gear-tweaking into a meta-game that gives astute players the best chances and highest buffs stack possible. By all accounts, MHW can be approached as a casual button masher or an introspective DPS calculator depending on whomever wields the controller – indeed, the game remains available for sporadic one hour sessions or a week’s worth of binging, alike.

MHW allows you to “try on” armor pieces to see the statistic improvement ahead of time.

The long-standing tradition of managing thousands of unique inventory stacks remains unbroken.

Preparation and deliberation certainly helps though your single greatest asset in winning a fight is your own knowledge earned through experience: weapon capabilities, nest locations, game trails, attack patterns, crafting requirements, gathering points, geographical shortcuts, monster weaknesses, and when to retreat for a refreshing meal.

Grindy? Hell yeah, so the developers have gone out of their way to morph this simple formula into something with staying power. Should the main story become routine, seasonal events pop in every other month to shroud the Gathering Halls with festive costumes and ornamentation, allowing for boosted collectibles, new inventory items (fireworks/snowballs), rare rewards, and limited access to 50+ free missions to spice up some of the stagnant or overlooked monsters (such as a supersized version of the entry-level iguana puking bile and shiny upgrades). These events pose new and significant challenges such as defeating a pair of metallic “Raths” that never leave a single room or even multi-tiered, multi-group(!) excursions where the goal is to break monster parts on successive raids before delivering the coupe de grace’ after the monster arrives at the lowest levels of the dungeon.

If I still don’t have your attention, check out this robust list of crossover content which features characters, monsters, music, and even thematic missions that make an appearance: Horizon:Zero Dawn, Megaman, Street Fighter, Devil May Cry, USJ, Final Fantasy, Assassin’s Creed, The Witcher, Resident Evil, and Alice from the atrocious-looking Monster Hunter movie! That’s right, Monster Hunter even has crossover content with Monster Hunter!

Pray to your Moogle God because this big purple beast has a penchant for summoning apocalyptic Meteors.

You’d hate to meet the rest of him, trust me.

Additional Comments: A list of some differences and QOL improvements:

  • Tails show up on the map.
  • Hitboxes are considerably more appropriate to the models.
  • You need to grill meat less often. (There is also no player-controlled multi-grill.)
  • Scoutflies can be trained to track monsters. No more paintballs or cat blimps.
  • Monsters roam freely, enter/exit the map, and fight each other with frequency.
  • The base game and Iceborne each have 34+ large monsters to battle.
  • In-game information and monster drops/weaknesses are tracked in an internal wiki.
  • There is no load time or wall o’ fog between numbered areas in a biome.
  • Edibles don’t render you immobile though most gathering points and whetstones do.
  • Infinite whetstones! Ore and non-craftable items go in a separate inventory slot.
  • Beast mounts are unlocked and allow for crafting or sharpening on the go!
  • Mobility is a lot more fluid and you can summon wingdrakes to fly between camps.
  • Various indigenous tribes provide traps or additional firepower once befriended.
  • A training area teaches you combos and helps test new weapons.
  • Damage numbers and strong/weak hits register visually.
  • The Clutch Claw is a dynamic way to weaken monster parts and traverse the area.
  • A wrist-mounted Slinger triggers stalactite drops and monster staggers.
  • Various elemental frogs, traps, and other hazards can be used against your prey.
  • Radial menus are an alternative to the scroll bar. (Includes poses, phrases, pics.)
  • They emphasize multiplayer missions for certain monster types. Solo play is valid.
  • Multiplayer: SOS calls are used to teleport in assistance and to also render aid.
  • Online connections are required for events and competitions. Offline play is valid.
  • Optional ranking boards allow for national time challenges with specific gear.
  • Customizable cat sidekick, complete with armament forging and leveled equipment.
  • Several weapons like the Charge Blade got new combos/modes and animations.
  • Weapons can be downgraded in most cases.

Don’t fret – every piece of equipment boosts a skill regardless of impartial collections.

  • All armor skill boosts give -some- amount of ability improvement, even individually.
  • There are tons of new skills and equipment combinations to juggle.
  • Skills are much more stackable than previously. But is it enough to win your battles?!
  • There are multiple “currencies”: research points, money, and collected materials.
  • You can craft or synthesize many rare resources.
  • You can refill items or change equipment during most missions now.
  • The bloated inventory is easier to manage but still has baffling sorting practices.
  • You can create a favorites wishlist of required items.
  • Gunner/Blademaster armor designations are gone, thank goodness.
  • “Master” rank replaces “G Rank”, and there are effectively three tiers of armors.
  • “Overarmors” allow for cosmetic differences without affecting stat changes.
  • Equipment loadouts can be stored and named for easy access.
  • Items can be auto-crafted with the appropriate inventory space and toggle selected.
  • All gameplay facets are dialed to “11” and beyond – moar of everything, really.
  • Introduced: cloaks that provide timed abilities – gliding, stealth, elemental defense.
  • Introduced: talismans that boost one or two skills simultaneously.
  • Introduced: special, customizable weapon types, complete with unlockable visuals.
  • You have a home to decorate with a crap-ton of doodads. It’s primarily pointless.
  • There is no reference to the virus from #4. They’re replaced by “tempered” versions.
  • There are no missions that have underwater combat like in #3.
  • Early battles are extremely easy. Optional late-game battles are overwhelming.
  • Mission types: story, investigations, events, assignments, and the Guiding Lands.
  • Seasonal events are great when seeking rewards like armor spheres and jewels.
  • Guiding Lands is a late game area that combines biomes and has unique rewards.
  • Guiding Lands has a meta-game of balancing area levels to influence monster rarity.
  • Some optional battles make frustrating exceptions to common defensive tactics.

Looks great, but I never have need to visit my palatial furnishings.

Sometimes, the best offense is pitting an offense against a different offense.

What I Liked: The visuals and presentation are relatively stunning. Despite trepidation due to obvious ploys for mass appeal (everything short of health bars) or starting off as an easier ramp-up with a lot of quality-of-life changes, I bought into the improvements. Earlier games were certainly “hard core, old school” experiences but this one will stand the test of time for its balance in challenges and fun multiplayer action. I was addicted to this thing in no small part to its meted free content and steady drip-feed of rewards and collectibles. I tend to approach view these things as a checklist and it was satisfying in small and large doses to wile away the hours. Monster design and variety were excellent. New equipment and capabilities blew me away. I enjoyed little details like cutesy photo opportunities and other distractions to the main gameplay. Synthesizing rare materials, thankfully, takes a lot of the laborious grind out of busting your ass for one particular gem. The armor and customization options are astonishing and incredibly fun (I made a “comfort armor” for each of the enemy types). Cinematics for introducing the monsters and their animations were excellent. I liked the free content, the biome details, the lack of load times, indigenous life, voxels used for snow and other effects, breadth of weapons, the range of challenges, my palico hunter, and the cadre of creatures and tribes you can lead into battle!

The hunter’s notes went a long way to keeping me off the MHW wiki as well.

What I Disliked: The Guiding Lands, with its seesaw of biome levels, is beyond annoying to manage and predictively collect what you need. (Just when you think you got as much Namielle parts you could ever desire, you run out and have to readjust the levels again.) The focus on multiplayer is understandable but distasteful to me. (It might be a selling point for others.) Collector missions like rare endemic life and woeful photo hunts were miserable with or without a guide due to low proc-rates, random weather, and redundancy in reloading missions. There are no hidden areas accessible via misdrops upon level start, meaning you might as well just teleport to the camp you intended to go to. (Sometimes they drop you closer to the monster, which is fine.) Why are we still putting up with a 30 second timer once the monster falls?! I need time to carve, dammit! Gajalaka tunnels are too convoluted and placed irregularly to the point of uselessness. Also, the Handler – what’s with all of this “we’re a team” bullshit? She just stuffs her face in-between needing rescuing while I manage inventory, talk to townsfolk, and set mission parameters.

AND she’s a furry. Our instincts were right on the money with this one, boys. Get her!

Lastly, on behalf of struggling players everywhere, yes some of the events are challenging to the point of being unfair, nay, impossible with certain weapon types.
AT Velkhana, Alatreon, Fatalis – those timed missions are designed to force specific playstyles or gauge your build against a strict, pre-determined metric that will be unachievable to 99% of the player base. If that was the intention, great, but it wasn’t fun. (And keep your “git gud” retort to yourself. I beat them each 10 – 30 times.)
Some battles are cheap and designed against the very spirit of this game series.

The internet as a community, depicted here without need for metaphor.

Glitches Experienced: I had frequent and devastating disconnection notices during multiplayer play, eradicating progress. Others did not continue to have this issue so I’m suspicious (but not convinced) of my own internet connectivity problems. Changing my OS’s window focus had negative effects on sessions, so I suggest locking it and muting notifications. Early in the game’s release, I lost the kill count on a couple of events for some reason. (MHW got progressively stable as time went on.)

Hours I Played: 1,508 hours ; Charge Blade (main), Bug Glaive ; I’m proud to say I soloed every type of monster except for Extremoth, Kulve Taroth, and Safi’jiiva. I crafted every armor, overarmor, and pendant in the game and upgraded every charm to its max. I did all photo missions and unlocked every food but I did not catch all rare endemic life or get the small and big crowns per species (that shit was too inane and grindy for even me).

“Right on! Hoorah!”                                            “You’re the best at being unproductive!”

My Personal Reaction: I loved it. Capcom took the addictive and traditional gameplay of previous titles and injected it with fresh ideas, bringing a prestigious amount of polish to an already great genre (which the series tempered if not outright created). MHW does emphasize multiplayer collaboration for my non-soloed monsters listed above, but there is -plenty- to do and slay without venturing into the corners of the game that require randomized, willing, experienced strangers to collaborate with a shared life pool (ugh!). Elements were indeed tweaked for relative mass appeal but there are more feasible builds than ever before, making for an experience that is more approachable but just as challenging. (If you think it starts off too easy, ergonomic, or gimped – buckle up.)

Noob Tips: You need a proper controller to play this one, otherwise it just feels wrong. Don’t rush, just enjoy it – have realistic or attainable goals from playing. (Social play is a perfectly good reason to start/continue.) Choose extraneous missions intelligently – multiple weekly goals can be satisfied with a single quest. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, since some monsters are just not designed to be killed easily by every weapon. On that point, I recommend sampling all weapons and choosing two to become proficient in. Grinding is encouraged, but you can get raw ingredients through the ship captain, felyne excursions, or at the herbologist who grows mushrooms, bugs, and other supplies for you. To progress quickly, defeat the hardest monster you can until you make its armor and weapon, upgrade with armor spheres, rinse and repeat. Use the hunting guide and other in-game notes to determine what monsters and parts to break to be efficient. Practice. The Iceborne DLC is well worth the price tag though the other aesthetics like home decorations, stickers, poses, and layered armor falls short of expectations (in my opinion).

My word…. i-it’s the deepest shallow experience I’ve ever laid eyes on!

Depth and Replayability: Low “initial” depth but there’s nuance; Extreme replayability

Suggested Value: $50 + $35 for Iceborne

Where to Buy: GOG, Steam, Humble, Sony store, Microsoft store, local gaming haunt

Subjective Categorical Ranking:
(Platform capabilities are considered for Graphics and Sound)


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     Sound & Music |█████████████████████


We….

….Are….

….Waiting.

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