You are part of the Fifth Fleet, traversing the seas and heading to the New World as you track the crossing of an Elder Dragon. Sent by the Research Commission to find out exactly what takes place when these huge, destructive beings make their trek every decade, it’s up to you to make the journey and to hunt anything that gets in your way. Welcome to Monster Hunter: World.
Tracking the Elder Dragon known as Zorah Magdaros, your ship is thrown into turmoil and you (the player) get a quick look at the basics of movement as you make your way to safety. Once your introduction is over you arrive at Astera, where you reconvene with the rest of the Fifth, and your journey truly begins.The game does well at not actively holding your hand as you play, which is something a lot of games tend to lack these days. Further missions where you are taught how to gather resources, fight monster hordes, and use the ‘Scoutfly’ system to track (glowing green flies that guide the way) all build upon the narrative being laid out before you; the arrival of Zorah Magdaros in the New World is causing havoc amongst the local monster population, and it’s up to you and the Fifth to discover just what it is the Elder Dragons do when they complete the crossing.
Along the way, you are given a chance to uncover your own style of play in battle through access to 14 different weapon classes, which is further expanded once you learn how to craft and upgrade your weapons. For instance, I started off with the simple sword/shield combo, but found myself wanting more power so I switched to the Great Sword, which I found too cumbersome and slow, eventually moving into the Bowgun. Upgrading these weapons adds power and elemental damage, and can easily be switched between quests to allow for more than one play style.But the crafting doesn’t just stop at weaponry; armour for both you and your Palico (basically a support cat) can be created and upgraded, providing specific attribute bonuses and resistances to elemental effects. The more monsters you take down, the more materials you can retrieve to create and upgrade different armour, mixing and matching to suit your play style.
When you’re out and about in the field, you can set it up so that collecting resources instantly crafts items relating to it; for instance, collecting Herbs instantly creates potions, and collecting certain berries creates Bowgun ammo. This comes in handy when you’re running low on items and need to quickly get your hands on more, or if you’re in the middle of a fight and require a quick saving grace.
Having said that, if you’re like me and a newcomer to the game, you will want to upgrade everything as soon as possible as combat isn’t the greatest. Learning the weapons and picking one that suits your style is key here as some monsters are just downright painful to take down (hitting a Barroth with a lance does not work well) and it becomes a case of swing and hit to find the weakest point. The Bowgun became my favourite weapon as most monsters have devastating close-range attacks, and I found myself dying often due to it.I also got frustrated at times in the movements of my character – when I thought I had dodged, all I did was sidestep, and before I knew it I had the claws of an Anjanath stomping down on my head. It could be the fact that the game wants you to work in teams to take down monsters (which due to the underpopulated pre-launch servers I was unable to find people) that the difficulty is high, or it could just be that I’m a newbie hunter in an experienced world of monsters.
It should be noted that one of the best features that I would try and enact in nearly every battle is monster infighting – trying to get monsters to fight each other to allow you to take your target down easier. I did nearly lose it when a giant Diablos appeared from nowhere and began pursuing the Barroth I was fighting in the Wildspire Waste, but I wasn’t going to say no to the additional help – until the Barroth ran and left me facing the Diablos on my own. It’s a tactic that can work or put you into more trouble, so use it wisely.The world itself though is quite a sight to behold. Even running on a launch PS4, this is a game that Capcom have gone to great lengths to beautify, especially considering the jump from the 3DS and Wii U. Monsters are detailed and intricate (though a few frame-rate drops here and there ruined the fun) and environments have a very lush and natural feel to them.
You might occasionally be distracted by the cluttered UI though, which to be honest could be toned down significantly and sometimes had me chasing through menus to remember where things were. The music flows in and out of gameplay nicely, ramping up in battles and easing off as you continue your expedition throughout the land. Amongst the seriousness of the game there are some great light-hearted moments – I never got tired of watching the Canteen Palicos cook my meals.
THE PS4 VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS TESTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THE REVIEW. A DIGITAL REVIEW CODE WAS PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER.
For all its flaws, Monster Hunter: World is a game that manages to balance the expectations of newcomers while not straying too far from its roots. It is clear Capcom have tried their best to make it as accessible as they can without breaking tradition. This might frustrate new players who are expecting to have their hand held throughout the beginning, but if a newbie like me can pick it up in no time then it shouldn’t be too difficult for you. Long-time fans are sure to love the tweaks and changes that have taken place, and will feel right at home getting back to what they love – slaying monsters. It remains to be seen how the game will continue once the online sessions open properly, and how this adds an extra dimension to the gameplay. With so much to explore and ways to play to suit a lot of different styles, this is definitely worth jumping into.