Written by: Rick Warren / Gfn2112
As someone who never had a chance to play the Monster Hunter games, I had been waiting for the opportunity to dive into the swriew for quite some time. When that moment came, and Monster Hunter World was revealed to be getting a PS4 release, I jumped on board immediately. Betas came as the game inched closer and closer to its release, but I avoided them. If this was going to be my first experience with Monster Hunter, I wanted to get the full package from the start. The wait ended on January 26th, and I played the game nonstop for a week. These are my thoughts.
Day 1 - Testing the Waters
“Man, I really wish the NPCs had names...”: Right out of the gate, cutscenes were a bit jarring. The lip synching was horrible, and the English dub was obvious, but I tried not to focus on it. After all, Monster Hunter has never been advertised as being a narrative-driven experience; it’s about the satisfying gameplay loop. Still, I’d be lying if a larger flaw did not break my immersion: the unnamed cast of characters. With characters having unique designs and some voice talent behind them, it would be expected that they have this one trait that nearly every character in entertainment does. For some reason, though, that isn’t the case. Characters are named things like “The Handler”, “Smart Researcher”, “Field Team Leader”, and the impressively generic “Commander”. These bland titles make every one of the NPCs forgettable, and that makes caring about them impossible. Still, I pushed on to the next day...
“This character creator is impressive...”: Having heard about how prior Monster Hunters worked, I had a feeling this game would allow for character creation. Sure enough, it did. As soon as the customization options came up, it clicked for me. I knew who I was going to make. I’ve been reading the Witcher books recently, and I’ve shared before that Wild Hunt is one of my favorite games of all time. What better monster hunter than the White Wolf himself? After about twenty minutes, I was content with what I had made. I’m far from an artistic person, and I’ve struggled with character creation in the past, but this character creator was so effective that even I could make something out of it. There were plenty of options in every category, and I’m sure people will use them to make some very impressive characters of their own. With Geralt of Rivia as my avatar, I was ready to hunt some monsters.
“Okay, here we go... you can do this...”: With the intro cutscenes and character creation done, it was time to jump into the actual game. To be honest, though, I was afraid to really jump into Monster Hunter World. Sure, I was still excited about the game, but two things I had been consistently hearing were that it was incredibly time consuming and unfriendly to new players. While the former was to be expected, it’s the latter that worried me. Thankfully, though, I didn’t have much trouble on that front. The first few hours of the game acted as a tutorial, giving players a look at the absolute essentials. While it was obvious that I had only scratched the surface, I felt like I had been given enough guidance to move forward.
Day 2 - Growing Uncertainty
“My first real hunt...”: With the game officially started, it was time for me to hunt something bigger: a Great Jagras. The large, yellow lizard made for an entertaining encounter, with his attacks changing up depending on what he did. The Great Jagras’ unique action was that he would eat smaller animals mid-fight, forming his stomach into a large ball shape that gave him new rolling attacks. It was fun seeing the monster interact with its surroundings and not just me, and I eventually tool him down. However, something felt off...
“I can’t tell if this combat is clunky, or if I’m just bad at it...”: While I liked the first Jagras fight, I didn’t love it. Something felt wrong about the fighting mechanics. The auto-lock feature made things harder rather than easier, with the camera jumping everywhere and failing to track the monster’s speedy movement. On top of that, there was no blocking mechanic, and combos couldn’t be canceled or aimed after they were started. I was missing my target constantly, and because of that the fight went on far longer than it should have.
“Maybe this game just isn’t for me.”: With the early disappointment I had with the characters, I was hoping the actual gameplay would leave me so satisfied that I didn’t care. As of now, though, it hasn’t. Either I just haven’t gotten the hang of it yet, or it is as clunky as it seems. If it’s the latter, I can’t imagine sticking with this game for as long as it will take to finish.
Day 3 - Completely Reassured
“I was wrong.”: Today, I played four times as much Monster Hunter as I had the days before. At some point during those 12 hours, something clicked. I stopped using the auto-lock and controlled the camera myself, which made for a far smoother experience. I also started playing smarter, choosing my attacks carefully, and now I’m in love with the combat. I learned awesome tricks, like how to ride on the back of a monster and take it down, as well as how to activate my own special weapon attack. I don’t think I’ve ever changed my opinion on a game’s combat so fast, and I’m so glad that I did. I found far more to like in this extended play session than just the combat, though.
“These mini open worlds are awesome.”: The best part about having a large amount of time to play today was that I had the chance to get lost in Monster Hunter (something pretty much everyone will do at some point). Rather than getting lost in the deep menus and increasing number of crafting possibilities, though, I got lost in the game’s worlds. I learned here that Monster Hunter doesn’t do its immersion through its characters; it does so through its locations and the monsters that inhabit them. Exploration is genuinely rewarding, with players being able to build friendships with native wildlife and unlock new campsites by exploring every nook and cranny of the gorgeous locations. Each plqce has unique materials, and even better, a unique ecosystem. Plenty of small creatures and fish, some smaller predators, and 3-5 unique monsters are living in every area. This adds plenty of variety to each section of the game, and whenever I progressed far enough to unlock a new location I was thrilled to see the organisms that inhabited it.
“Astera might just be the perfect player hub...”: The beauty of Monster Hunter World extends to Astera, the “home base” for each player’s hunter. Here they’ll find vendors, a gathering area to team up with other gamers, and a player room. Each of these features expands as the game progresses. New vendors will become available, like one that allow you to send palicos (the adorable cat creatures of Monster Hunter) on expeditions to gather materials. Another allows you to make your choice of crafting materials, working as a farm that makes preparation simpler. There’s even a canteen (run by a one-eyed palico, because why not) that provides a stat-boosting meal before missions. All these unique things are accompanied by the expected vendors, such as the bounty givers and blacksmith. The top level of Astera is that gathering hub and arena, where players build their groups and can take on monsters they’ve captured elsewhere. Even this small area is filled with fun activities, like tables to get drunk with friends and an arm wrestling platform. I was won over most of all by the player room though, as I’ve always loved mechanics like that. Being able to let small animals caught in nets roam as pets or in an aquarium is a small gesture, but it’s one that makes the game so much more welcoming. After getting a little under halfway through the main game players can move to a nicer version, once again allowing Astera to be an evolving hub that I looked forward to returning to.
Day 4 - A Welcome Challenge
“This is actually pretty tough!”: After some steady progression through the main campaign, I found the monster fights to be getting harder and harder. I started dying more often, and following that, I failed a batch of quests for the first time. After a handful of tries I prevailed, but it was clear that I wasn’t in the Ancient Forest anymore. This growing difficulty may bother some players, but I love it. It’s rare to find actual challenges in singleplayer and co-op games, so I enjoy the idea of needing to prepare and practice before I could take down a boss. Make no mistake, though, I got frustrated like everyone else. That frustration peaked when I ran into my toughest enemy yet...
“Yep. I’m stuck...”: Diablos. What an ass. Eventually, I came across this guy in one of the open worlds. After one hit I was down to a sliver of health, so like any smart player... I ran away as quickly as possible. I figured I’d come back for him when I was a higher level, but the game had other ideas. He became the target of a main story mission, and I had finally hit a wall. Every Monster Hunter player will hit one at some point, and I had made it far before I hit mine. Alas, though, I was in trouble. Nothing I tried worked, and I was running out of options. Maybe other players could help?
“Other players are not helping...”: Death after death after death, the cycle continued. After a while I realized that teaming up with other players was doing more harm than good. For starters, the game has an odd sort of friendly fire. You cannot damage your teammates but hitting then will break up their attacks. With the way Monster Hunter works, this will happen a lot, and it gets annoying. Another issue was that, regardless of group size, you only get 3 lives. With the same amount of second chances as solo play, multiplayer seemed largely unbalanced. To further that problem, the people I was joining were no better than me. It seemed like many players were stuck on Diablos, and after a dozen or so more failures, I called it a night.
Day 5 - Real Life Sucks
“I don’t think I’ll be able to play today”: Stuck with a 12-hour day at College and running on three hours of sleep, it was safe to say I was exhausted. Despite that, though, I tried to be productive. I looked up guides and gameplay on how to beat that troublesome Diablos every second I had, and I was ready to get back to the game. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I made the mistake of laying down when I got home, and I fell asleep immediately. I didn’t wake up until the next day.
Saddest story ever told.
Day 6 - The Triumphant Return
“Time to defeat Diablos (I hope).”: I was finally making progress. The practice and studying up on my opponent had helped. I was severing limbs and injuring Diablos... but I wasn’t finishing him. I kept trying, though, knowing that eventually I would be able to win. Then somebody joined and captured him. That’s cool, I guess. “I had him on the ropes, I basically got him on my own”, is what I said, lying to myself. I wanted to kill Diablos myself, and I plan to do so in the future. I didn’t earn the win, but at least I could move on...
“Let’s try multiplayer again.”: Co-op is unquestionably more fun with friends. Being able to coordinate, fight and get sidetracked with buddies adds a whole new layer of enjoyment to an already deep experience. While the amount of lives and friendly fire were still questionable, I found myself in a good mood for the entire play session. This is absolutely a game I’d recommend playing with friends as often as possible (assuming they’re good enough not to hold you back).
Day 7 - Taking A Break... For Now
“So, this is High Level...:”: After 30 hours of play and a cheap victory over my greatest adversary, I continued with the story. I finished an enjoyable main quest that seemed to accomplish the goal of the campaign... only to find out that I was just halfway done. See, one-star to five-star missions on Monster Hunter World are basically training. After this, players embark on true hunts. Every monster they have fought before will be stronger, and locations will be populated with brand new creatures to take on. Dozens of new armor sets and weapon upgrades will be available, and are necessary to make any progress in the high-tier missions. This was a brilliant design decision. Monster Hunter World essentially offers two games: one for casual players who want to fight big things with their friends, and another aimed at hardcore players looking for challenges on the level of the Souls games. I’m excited to get deeper into high rank soon.
“Back to the Basics.”: Before I move anywhere else in Monster Hunter, I’ll need to get better. My armor needs to be upgraded. I need a better weapon. I need to gather a group of friends to help me. To help with that, I’ll probably embark on some of the side quests I have waiting in my log, because I have over 100. With more to pick up. Seriously. There’s a lot to do in Monster Hunter World, and shockingly, I’ve only scratched the surface. I can’t wait to see what else is out there, and I can’t wait to fight it.
Monster Hunter World is by no means a flawless game. NPCs lack personality, multiplayer has some balancing problems and some players may be overwhelmed with the amount of learning required to play the game. On top of that, it takes quite a bit of time to get into and it’s a truly challenging game. If you’re willing to put that necessary time into Monster Hunter World to learn the systems and improve as a player, though, you may fall in love with it like I have. It’s a genuinely fun game filled with unique monsters to fight and great worlds to explore. I don’t think my journey will end anytime soon, and I highly recommend starting your own.
I wanted to write about the time I spent with Monster Hunter, but I didn’t feel like I should formally review it due to my lack of experience with the series. This day-by-day analysis seemed like a great way to share my feelings on the game instead, and I think it worked out well. Hopefully you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!