Forgiving Intimidation — A Monster Hunter: World review

This was a collaboration between two of our members: Calvin Trager and Codi Spence. Codi Spence had the more positive experience with the game, while Calvin Trager had a positive experience despite the things that jarred him.

Monster Hunter: World, developed and published by Capcom, is taking the world by storm (pun intended), introducing players to its fantastical setting, filled with a variety of menacing monsters. A third-person action role-playing game, Monster Hunter: World does an amazing job building and hyping you up from hunt to hunt, as you conquer more and more dangerous beasts with stronger and more impressive tools built from the fallen threats of the wild. The depth the game has to offer is strikingly intense, and the scale it’s presented on is massive to behold, but the game does a great job in its opening hours making itself accessible to new players who are willing to commit.

Having such adorable companions doesn’t hurt. Just don’t think about the ethical implications of the happy servants too hard.

The game’s opening pitch, its first action sequence, has you recovering and fleeing from your wrecked ship out at sea, destroyed by the enormous Zorah Magdaros. The sheer size of him helps set the tone for what will eventually come, which will stay in the back of your mind as you work your way through the smaller monsters littering the first combat zone. The game’s narrative in these opening hours constantly reminds you of the looming threat of the mountain that is Zorah, from quests that have you hunting smaller critters as big as you to the first wave of the titular monsters that are as huge as a modern day home, promising you an epic adventure later down the line all while engaging you in these satisfying hunts. From there the plot simply exists to perpetuate the hunts themselves, but as a slice of life story from the perspective of a hunter, you’ll never notice.

Before the fighting even begins, the character creator is a joy to go through. It has a strong variety of options, including almost any hair color, various voices to choose from, and even the option to make each of your hunter’s eyes a different color, which both of our reviewers immediately drew satisfaction from. This same care was taken for the customization of your Palico, aka your cat helper, and helps you create a truly personal pair. While trivial compared to the intended scope of the game, the level of customization is appreciated, and the game does a good job letting you indulge in the characters you customize from cutscene to cutscene.

Though some of the faces this game makes are a little silly, if not terrifying. Try flipping through the smile options in the character creator. You won’t be disappointed.

Right off the bat, the base versions of all 14 weapon types are available for use, and this is one of Monster Hunter’s strongest traits as a game series. If you enjoy any other third-person combat game, there’s a weapon and play style that fits almost perfectly for you. God of War fans will find peace with the Dual Blades, as they hack and slash to victory. Dynasty Warriors fans will find satisfying combos to fill with the Longsword or Charge Blade. Dark Souls fans will find their unstoppable march in the Lance or Gunlance. Kingdom Hearts fans, particularly those that grind the end game, will find a satisfying aerial combat loop in the Insect Glaive. But because all 14 weapon types are available from the beginning, personal discovery is always on the horizon. After a long grind with one weapon, nothing is stopping you from picking up another. You can go to the training room to practice with them or, if you’re feeling bolder, take a new weapon out into the world for practical use. Every weapon requires a different playstyle, though, and it’s never wrong to use what works best for you, focusing on discovering the rest of the game.

If the game has a weakness, it’s the tutorial system. While not exclusive to the weapons, the game’s tutorial system is either one or two blocks of text, and the aforementioned do-it-yourself training room. It’s the absolute leanest cut of a tutorial possible, minimizing the amount of time between introducing you to a new concept and giving you free reign with it. The game is almost impatient about getting the player to the fun stuff, and while not malicious with this design like other third-person games, is still a bitter pill to swallow to truly commit to the game. It doesn’t teach you anything, but everything is accessible. Keep that in mind.

Ah yes, the fighting-game style “here are your combos” excuse for a tutorial, how I loathe thee.

After you commit to your weapon of choice, the combat is a great mixture of enjoyable and challenging. Pulling off some perfect combos gives its own feeling of pride, but at the same time you can take some pretty rough hits. The game is lethal, often pitting you against foes that look like they can eat you for breakfast, but the respawn time and mechanics between defeats are very forgiving. Tactics, which include learning your blade and using the land to your advantage, are important to master as you hunt more and more dangerous creatures. Laying man-made traps or using the environment to ensnare your target are essential skills to develop if you want to graduate from fighting blindly. Learning an enemy’s weak points will make your hunts go a lot easier. For example, the Rathian has a poison tail, but you can sever it with enough damage and neutralize the poison. So be sure to check the monster field guide that is made available to you. It provides plenty of helpful tips like that.

When hunting, the first task is to pick up the trail of the target. The Scoutflies will be drawn to tracks and hover over them as they wait for you to investigate. You’ll be following footprints, scratch marks, mucus, feathers, or whatever else may be left behind by the particular monster. Keep in mind that other creatures will leave tracks to follow, so you need to pay close attention to make sure you’re tracking your target. Once you have tracked for long enough, the monster will appear on your map and you can go after them. Depending on the completion requirements, you’ll be told to slay, capture, or hunt the specified target. Slaying means killing the target, capturing entails trapping the target and putting them to sleep after weakening them, and you can satisfy the hunting requirement by either method. Killing a target allows you to carve materials from them while capturing them allows more research to be done and gives you other unique rewards. The materials you’re looking for may affect your future course of action.

The day will come when Shock Traps don’t work, but that day isn’t today.

In between fighting monsters, you’ll be at the base preparing for your next hunt. The base is pretty large and has plenty of locations to visit. You can go to the Canteen to eat meals that boost stats for the next quest, forge or upgrade equipment at the Smithy, buy equipment at the Armory, take on bounties or add investigations at the Resource Center, learn more about creatures you’ve encountered at the Research Center, grow materials at the Botanical Research Center garden, meld materials with Elder Melder after finding her with the Third Fleet, meet up with other hunters at the Gathering Hub, or just go to your room, where you can train or dispatch the Tailrider Safari. When you’re ready to go on quests, you can go to the quest board or your handler to accept them. There are 4 different types: assignments, optional quests, investigations, and events. You can begin loading the quest before everything else, though, so that once you’re ready, you are taken to the quest location.

As another bitter pill to swallow, though, all of this is introduced with short one or two tutorial text boxes. Unfortunately, much of this information can go easily unnoticed; we’re still unsure how one of our reviewers unlocked Mandragora in his garden but his friend did not, and another friend missed Elder Melder entirely, missing out on charms, with online guides unhelpful as she had already relocated to Astera. This is exacerbated by the text-heavy nature of the game. Tutorials are blocks of text, and the interfaces to engage with options previously mentioned are presented almost as spreadsheets. Exploration through the wilds always gives you something to find, but through constant text boxes appearing, as monster tracks or materials become within reach, force you to rely on the minimap and space right above it rather than the whole field.

There’s a lot of important things happening in this image and none of them is the fact I’m standing in a pile of rotten bones.

The game is busy, and demands a considerable amount of attention to engage with all the text sprawling across the screen, though never exhausting in this way. In the same vein that the game skims over tutorials because it’s excited about the fun stuff, it’s almost throwing too much fun stuff at you at any given moment. Either you’re bombarded with text as you hunt down a monster, or you’re trying to translate a screen written in spreadsheet. Thankfully, the heavy text disappears during the important part: fighting monsters.

The namesake creatures of the game are plentiful and unique: From Great Jagras, giant lizards depicted as the opening big beast that can swallow you whole, to the electrified Tobi-Kadachi, to the stunning Tzitzi-Ya-Ku, to the elegantly dangerous Legiana. The game is filled with monsters whose secrets you as a hunter need to uncover and conquer to truly become the alpha predator. You’ll memorize their names as you spend game sessions focusing on finally beating one instance of the Odogaron, or grinding out many Kulu-Ya-Ku. You’ll learn their attacks, their habits; what they like to do and where they sleep; and you’ll grow to respect each of them in their capacity as giant animals that live in these parts.

Do you know how hard it is to get acceptable screen shots of monsters mid-combat?

Now, another big draw to Monster Hunter: World is the multiplayer action. This allows multiple hunters to take on quests as a team instead of going solo. If one of these devastating beasts is giving you trouble taking on alone, gathering a team could help get the job done. After playing through a good chunk of quests with a group of fellow hunters, the differences are clear. Knowing there are partners that have your back makes the hunt more comforting. Don’t be fooled though, that doesn’t mean things will be easy. In a normal quest, you fail after fainting 3 times, but in a multiplayer quest, those 3 times are shared among the party. That means that the incentive to protect and help each other is even stronger, juggling who is engaging with the beast, who is setting up traps or health boosters, and who needs to hide to recover. Thankfully, you don’t need to have a group of friends ready in order to take on quests in a party; players can leave room for others to join them on their quests when they’ve been posted. It’s a bit clunky, and the way the game handles story missions only makes it feel clunkier in the opening hours, but this ensures that you won’t be left out of the multiplayer experience if you wish to try it out.

Even though you have a job to do, that doesn’t mean you have to go straight for it and do nothing else. The hunts have time limits, but they are long enough to give you plenty of time to explore before taking down your quarry. On your way, you can harvest materials from the environment or even slay smaller monsters to get items. It provides enough freedom for players who also enjoy open world style games to draw more out of this release. If you want free reign to explore, expeditions are right up your alley. They allow you to wander around any chosen location for as long as you want. This is the perfect opportunity to load up on supplies and hunt to your heart’s content. For one of our reviewers, it was easy for him to lose himself in the land, distracted from whatever quest may be on hand at the time. For our other reviewer, not so much.

The environments are beautiful in a way most AAA games should work to emulate, scrapping high-end realism in favor of stylistic and memorable setpieces. However, sometimes that’s hard to notice in Monster Hunter: World; exploration is a strong tone of the narrative, but you tend to play from your mini-map more often than engage in the visual grandeur or its impressive scale, monsters themselves set aside. Environmental traps and rare items make the world feel immersive, but by leading you to more tools to use, not by leading you to new places to see. The aesthetics of the Coral Highlands, for example, is prominent mostly because it’s an inescapable contrast from the rest of the game, with its vibrant pinks and blues. In contrast, the Rotten Vale, a zone defined by its unique grotesque nature, fails to excite discovery any more than the Wildspire Wastes. And by this point, the player has probably already committed a minimum 15 hours into the game, going back and forth between the hunt and the hub. Whatever visual novelty the Elder Recess holds will be lost to the visual sameness of most of the gameplay.

To reiterate, though, the game is beautiful. I always stop to watch the sun set or the moon rise here.

This is important because it highlights that Monster Hunter: World isn’t an open world game. As much as the narrative is written to be about discovery through the untamed wilds, the core engagement is too goal-oriented to truly nurture this playstyle. Whatever quest you embark on, you have one specific objective, and completing it means being booted out of the loaded instance, disrupting discovery. You can hunt other monsters during these quests, but only your target is locked in, unable to depart before the quest ends. If you run an expedition, any monster you come across can suddenly depart before you can finish hunting them. Not that running through a zone gives you time to think about alternate objectives as the UI is lit up with lines of text every step. To lose yourself in the environment is to fight against the constant stimuli and warnings the UI delivers, which our other reviewer couldn’t overcome.

Monster Hunter: World is a Boss Rush game at its core, with miniature arenas and hallways connecting the encounters. The game does a poor job of getting you lost in the joy of discovery because it does such a great job engaging with everything else. There is always another quest, investigation, another hunt to go on, and there’s always a need to gather more supplies. There is always another weapon or armor set to grind for, always another hunting challenge to overcome. It’s filled to the brim with goal-oriented loops, but satisfying loops nonetheless. The last couple of paragraphs are critical of Monster Hunter: World despite this, because it’s easy for somebody new to the series to see everything that this game has to offer, from the weapon trees to the lush environments to the variety of monsters, even the title “World,” and convince themselves that this series is a quirky spin on the Skyrim type of open world game, and leave disappointed.

Monster Hunter: World feels like it took the effort to compromise between the legacy veteran fans expect to return, and accessibility for newer players. The tutorials are the best example of this, being curt enough to jar players that have never experienced the series before but forgiving enough to make it easy to commit for the long-term. It teaches you nothing, but there is plenty of room for experimenting or trial and error, letting you learn at the pace you set for yourself. You have to learn to play by its rules and work past the bitter elements that can turn away newcomers, but it isn’t long before you can get the hang of things and enjoy becoming a true hunter.

Calvin Neill Trager is a roughly 25-year-old house husband supporting his high school sweetheart as they storm the weather far away from their hometown of Michigan and reside out in the country of Japan, who spends his free time between practicing Magic, working to Platinum all of Kingdom Hearts on PS4, and writing.



Monster Hunter World

Review Guidelines

It may be a poor teacher with text-heavy interfaces, but Monster Hunter: World is a great entry into the franchise if you haven't played anything from the series thus far. It's polished and filled with content, and you'll regret not immersing yourself in the series sooner. It provides a challenging yet enjoyable combat system that will keep you on your toes, and the variety of menacing monsters adds new challenges and keeps things from getting dull. You’ll happily trade hours of your free time for more monsters to hunt, capture, and slay.

Calvin Neill Trager

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