Monster Hunter World is in the wild, launching for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 26. The series has attracted millions of fans, yet you cannot be blamed for being among the millions out there that don’t have the first clue about it, much less give a flying Poogie.
However, you may find that you should care about Monster Hunter World, especially if your gaming habits have included Destiny, The Division, Final Fantasy XIV and XV, and to some extent World of Warcraft. Any game that rewards an investment of time and skill, resulting in the advancement of a cool customizable avatar, regularly teaming up to claim greater loot for individual or group-based edification, lands you in the Monster Hunter ballpark.
This a game mainly about hunting monsters?
Yes! Since the earliest game on PlayStation 2 (Monster Hunter, 2004-2005), the premise has been that hunters trek into the wilderness to battle and defeat increasingly powerful and ferocious exotic beasts. Kills require planning and preparation; not only appropriate weapons and armor but tactics and life-preserving consumables too. You could compare this to a particularly long and embittered Pokémon battle, or a more exacting Destiny Strike. There’s an awful lot more to this than bashing monsters with a fancy-looking stick.
Every target is unique, and must be studied to find vulnerabilities while you are similarly best protected. Again, like Pokémon, Destiny and Final Fantasy, certain elements are stronger/weaker than others. Harmful status affects can be applied and guarded against. Becoming more powerful and effective isn’t just about the strongest gear. There are no ‘broken’ advantages. Everything has purpose, including real-world dexterity and nerve.
There are numerous types of monster, from shoulder height to something so huge that it’s practically immeasurable, each with its own favourite habitat that it’ll use to stalk its prey.
So how do I make progress in Monster Hunter?
Becoming the greatest hunter is a separate consideration to having the ultimate equipment. So much of that investment of time we talked about goes into mastery of equipment; your avatar doesn’t level up in a traditional RPG sense, gaining strength and power, but instead it’s the player that becomes more effective. By repeatedly targeting certain monsters, in possession of what you know to be the most appropriate weapon, you eventually become more adept. And in the meantime, you amass more items to craft stronger blades, shields and armor.
In addition, group hunts transpire in a similar fashion to raids in World of Warcraft or Destiny, or the tougher encounters in The Division, whereby complementary equipment and a range of skills help to balance the team effort. But above all, this is mostly about how you fit in.
You might become a heavy weapons specialist for a while, using tools that take time to acquire and learn how to use. Your regular team might be crying out for a ranged attack option, which is a call that you might answer. There are many different types of weapon to choose from, and multiple variations of each one acquired from – you guessed it – hunting more monsters.
OK, so it's about leveling up in my head more than in the game
Exactly. Your most valuable asset is your brain. You need to view the world as though through the eyes of a monster hunter, read the signs of a beast that’s preparing to strike or indicating that it has been weakened somehow. The user interface deliberately does little to assist in this regard, no overlays or flashing colours instructing when to strike. You are shown how much health you have remaining, however.
Repeating the same activity doesn’t result in the exact same rewards, and in this respect Monster Hunter leans toward the RNG antics of everything from Diablo, through Destiny, The Division, World of Warcraft, Overwatch and beyond…
What are the monsters like?
Think of each monster as a very particular resource, in addition to representing a new type of challenge. The easiest to defeat are deliberately designed as the least rewarding. They’ll yield certain nice-to-haves, but generally nothing so spectacular that you’ll wish to show off.
The larger, and more daunting a monster becomes, the tougher it is to take down, resulting in more valuable rewards and associated pride. That your avatar is able to wear the scales and bones in some fashion, with hundreds of variations across monster types, means that you literally wear your heart on your sleeve… or boots, shield and sword. Fellow hunters will recognisz that you totally dominated the Gore Magala, or have a passion for Nargacuga!
Will I need to play the other Monster Hunters to enjoy World?
There have been eight mainline Monster Hunter games since 2004, with versions adapted or specially designed for PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo Wii and Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, iOS and Android. Check them out if you must, but there’s no longer a need.
Monster Hunter World looks set to become the greatest incarnation, and not only that but the most accessible by far. There have been tweaks to the core system, lining up with what gamers approaching from other similar experiences may expect to find – such as weapons being crafted through upgrade trees as opposed to forging, and the choice to downgrade again if you’re not satisfied and/or make a terrible mistake. Item crafting is streamlined with the option of auto-crafting, because fussing over the minutiae of basic potions is for fools.
What’s more inviting is colossal, multi-tiered environments and running seamlessly between one location/zone and the next. There is Fast Travel between camps, and the freedom to adjust loadouts while in the field, as opposed to returning back home for the privilege.
Combat is more spectacular than ever before, with 14 weapon types to choose from, each a challenge unto itself. There are new combos to master and scope to clamber onto the backs of monsters to perform special manoeuvres unique to your build. You’ll witness monsters attacking other monsters, and have the power to summon assistance on the spot owing to the single- and multi-player quests being integrated, with difficulty scaled to team size.
Most exciting of all, Monster Hunter World features cross-region play, which means that you can hunt alongside anyone from anywhere else in the real world. Yes, it’s awesome.