As the name implies, Monster Hunter World does a standup job of creating a truly large-scale, immersive, and purposeful world. Full of life and personality, the vibrant environments provide a stellar backdrop to one of the best action adventure RPGs made to date.
Stacking Up To The Competition
When the series first launched, it was hard to liken it to any particular genre as the machinations of the gameplay were so niche and unique. However, the easiest comparison to make today is saying it’s Souls-like, despite preceding Demon Souls by five years. It strikes a middle ground with absolute finesse between the slow, patient action that Souls games are known for and the breakneck speed and complicated movesets of games like Nioh. There is enough weapon variety and depth to the combat to fall down a combo rabbit hole, but forgiving enough to be accessible and enjoyable to a wider audience.
How Does It Play?
The game design eases the player in at an incredibly well-paced cadence. For example, the first monster has a front-facing defense mechanism so mastering movement and different hit zones is paramount. The next monster emphasizes status ailments forcing you to consume items in a methodical way. The third monster follows a fixed route around the map while sticking to preferred areas, teaching players to take advantage of the behaviors and patterns a monster exhibits.
Each monster is ostensibly a well-crafted puzzle where learning attack tells, movement signals, and opportunities to strike or retreat are the components the player must piece together to solve. The first time fighting a new monster can be daunting and challenging, but after several attempts it should be much easier and efficient to deal with, allowing a player to farm crafting materials for weapons and armor.
The weapons offer incredible versatility and opens the game up to a myriad of play styles, but the beauty of the design is that nearly all weapon types and strategies are viable. Picking the correct elemental weakness of an enemy may speed up the hunt by a certain factor, but hammers, swords, bows, all compensate in differing aspects to create a well-balanced, fair experience. A great sword user is strong but slow, a dual sword user is nimble but needs to make up for lack of strength with volume, and bow users can fire safely from the back lines offering support abilities to better the the group’s chances at a successful hunt. The degree of freedom a player can experience is phenominal.
Replayability is high, with crafting being the primary directive to repeatedly hurt these giant lizards. Once a player defeats the initial story mode version of a monster, they can take part in “Investigations”, which are variations on the hunts where one aspect of it is tuned to be more difficult, by lowering the allotted time, limiting the number of players allowed, or having to slay more than one enemy at once.
While World offers a fulfilling but challenging single player experience, multiplayer is by far the best way to enjoy the game. Multiplayer can act as great social lubricant, like many shared world shooters of this console generation. Goofing off and punching giant lizards over a beer? What sounds more relaxing than that?
Although mulitplayer is my favorite way to play the game, the unfortunate drawback of multiplayer is the clunky and unintuitive lobby system. Players are disbanded after every mission should they want to return to the hub world to restock their supplies and must reform the group for every sortie. The most egregious side effect of the convoluted lobby system is that the main story missions with cutscenes can’t be taken together. All four players would have to initiate separate instances to watch the cutscenes on their own, then three must leave the mission and rejoin the fourth player’s instance to continue as a group.
The story is arguably the weakest aspect of the game. It tries to contextualize the reasons the player is hunting the monsters, but falls short in offering any meaningful stakes or developing any characters that we should empathize with. This is one of those instances where the gameplay loop is so compelling that it’s not really important to put that against any meaningful narrative. I’m not sure a
Sights & Sounds
The graphical fidelity is vastly improved over previous entries, which isn’t saying much considering the last several were on handheld systems. It does, however, make it feel like a quantum leap for the series to have so many different animations when interacting with the environment or watching a pre-rendered scene. Something that a lot of the buzz neglects to mention, is the music of “World”. Many monsters have their own unique themes when encountered and are incredibly varied across a wide spectrum, representing the spirit of the creature in an incredibly convincing way; however, the variations on the original themes are the true stars of the soundtrack. The Monster Hunter fanfare is an instantly recognizable tune–the original is triumphant, but somewhat crass due to heavy use of brass instrumentation. The new orchestral arrangement is an absolute barn-burner because it relies more heavily on legato strings and is slightly down tempo, making it sound much more elegant. It perfectly captures the growth and maturation of the series, from a brash, rough-around-the-edges experiment to a well-refined, artisanal masterclass.
Monster Hunter World is accessible to new players and veterans alike, and is a must-buy, must-play. It offers a refreshingly titanic amount of content without being associated with negative microtransactions or being shoehorned into a games as a service model that seem so common nowadays. Multiplayer is a blast and a half, and is a great way to wind down with friends. It truly sets the bar for games being designed for fun rather than for profit. Pop Culture Bento proudly gives Monster Hunter World our highest rating of Supreme.