A couple of weeks ago I picked up Monster Hunter: World for the first time. And I’m so glad I did.
I was a few weeks late to the party, because the game wasn’t initially in my most anticipated of the year. I tried to play Monster Hunter on my Nintendo 3DS a few years ago and struggled to keep up — the game pretty much threw me into a huge, empty snowscape where I had to face a gigantic beast armed with a weapon I didn’t know how to use well and an inventory system I didn’t have the knowledge or patience to manage. So I didn’t last long.
But hearing so many good things about Monster Hunter: World from friends, coworkers, and my fellow bloggers, I decided to give this new entry in the series a shot. It’s different than past games for a few reasons — like it’s conveniently on the PlayStation 4, and it features a strong story that keeps driving you toward that next monster hunt.
So, without further adieu, here are my first impressions of the game after 30 hours as a monster hunter. =)
An Adventure in a Dangerous World
From creating my character to feeling like I’m really someone who knows how to hunt huge, dangerous beasts is an exciting journey. Monster Hunter: World clearly wants you to feel that way.
The character creator is amazingly detailed, and second only to my experience with EVE Online‘s character creation. You can see my experience with it in my video here. Once you’ve chosen your character’s hair color, eye shape, scars, voice, and even pet Palico (an adorable cat-like creature that fights alongside you!), you dive into the game’s story and start hunting those monsters.
I definitely feel connected to my character. While there are no dialogue options or narrative decisions (so far, anyway), being able to affect her appearance, choose her armor and weapon, and even go home (to a house that’s being upgraded and customized!) after battles feels real. I love that.
Now, I won’t pretend that Monster Hunter: World has an incredible story. It doesn’t. It’s basically a lot of talking to military commanders about what beast to hunt next, and sharing your knowledge from the field with researchers who are studying the monsters — so you and your fellow hunters can take them down more effectively, of course. If nothing else, the story succeeds are making me appreciate that this fictional world is dangerous, and my character is one of the heroes who tries to keep the world safe from the creatures who overrun it.
Maybe I’ll dig into the Monster Hunter lore more — or maybe I won’t. I find myself whizzing through dialogues just to get to the next mission, because the real fun of the game comes when you’re actually getting your hands dirty in the field.
Being a Monster Hunter
When I play this game as my pink-haired hunter, all done up in the armor I’ve crafted from the latest monster kill, I really do feel like a badass hunter of monsters. The game achieves this by making every monster hunt truly challenging. I mean that to the point of frustration. While I’m only 30 hours in — this is a game where I can say “only” with a number like that — I’d say only the five five felt like a breeze. Once the game was sure I knew the basics of how to press a couple of buttons to slash away at a beast, it let me loose against some of the toughest creatures I’ve faced in any video games so far.
While I’ve heard that past Monster Hunter games were challenging, I didn’t play enough to know how to compare those to World. I’ll only say that, for me as a newcomer, World kicks my ass — so if that is staying true to the series, then I think that’s awesome.
The game is essentially one boss fight after another, but the fun is in the freedom to explore and the need to do other hunter-like activities in between fights. For example, you pick plants to craft potions and traps. You follow giant footprints in the dirt, collect monster mucus, and check out gashes on walls that can only have come from a creature with terrifying claws. These let you track beasts across your map, and once you spot a monster, you can actually pin it on your map to continue following it wherever it goes.
This comes in handy, because each boss fight against a monster isn’t your straightforward singular battle. Instead, you attack for a few minutes, struggling to deal damage while also keeping yourself alive using your health potions (which you have to drink in real time) and carefully-timed dodges. Then, the monster retreats, and you have to trail him. This is where things get interesting — and very, very involved.
Each monster hunt has a time limit. You can still hunt monsters on your free time, but when you’re in a mission where you’re encountering a new creature for the first time, you have 50 minutes to take that thing down. That may seem like ample time — even too much. But it’s not. In my experience, 50 minutes is sometimes necessary to finish off a monster, because that 50 minutes encompasses finding the monster in the first place, and then tracking it through multiple stages of the battle as it repeatedly retreats to lick its wounds. In recent solo fights, I’ve even run out of time in a couple of battles, which proved to be extremely frustrating.
The nice thing about the monster leaving that battle is that you have a moment to breathe. I always drink up a health potion or snap my fingers for some Vigorwasp spray (which also heals you up), and then squat down in the dirt to sharpen my weapon with my whetstone. Then I set off after the beast again, following its tracks until I see where it’s off to.
Sometimes the monster is just doing its thing, not paying attention to you anymore. It thinks it has successfully escaped you. Other times, it might be chomping down on a snack for sustenance, or sleeping in its lair to recover from its wounds. It might even be engaged in another battle with some other monster that you may or (most likely) may not want to deal with. It’s up to you when and how to continue your attack.
While I appreciate that these battles are long and arduous in a realistic way, I also find that the time investment is sometimes too huge to really enjoy. Most monsters I am able to fight within two or three tries. But every few battles, I’d say, the difficulty amps up and I have to attempt the battle more times than I can count on one hand. Since you have three tries per battle before you have to start from scratch, I usually get pretty far into the fight before I fail it — sometimes moments before the beast would be dead. Which means I’ve just spent 30+ minutes fighting a monster, and now I have to start over again from scratch for another 30+ minutes.
As an example, of my 30 hours in the game, I’ve probably spent six or seven of them fighting the T-Rex monster known as the Anjanath. Initially, fighting him proved so difficult that in my first 10 attempts, I only managed to defeat him once. It was painstaking. The only good news is that now that I’ve played a couple more story missions, I’ve leveled up enough to be able to return to the forest an hunt Anjanath with greater success — but it’s still far from a cake walk.
Playing with Friends
I’ve been playing a lot of Monster Hunter: World with my fiancé. The game wants you to play with others, and I believe it’s social features are important to its success. But its system for co-op with people you know is a little convoluted. It took me a few tries to even figure it out.
Basically, the game forces you to play story missions by yourself at first, so you can watch the cutscenes that involve your specific character. Once you’re free of those cutscenes, you can send out an SOS flare, which signals other players to join you — if you want them to. The SOS is totally optional, but if you do decide to use it, you’ll be inviting random people to join in your quest. (This is really helpful for taking down big monsters, although you share those three lives before you fail the quest!)
If you want to play with a specific friend, you have to initially enter your mission as a “private” quest, and lock it with a password. Then, when you are past the cutscenes and are prompted that you can send out an SOS if you so desire, your friend can join your quest and fight alongside you, as long as they know the password.
The trouble here is that if you and your friend are playing the game together, one of you has to back all the way out of the quest and join the other person’s. For example, when my fiancé and I play together, he might stay in his mission and just sit around there waiting for me, while I “return” to the city from my quest, go back to the quest board, and select to join his quest. I then spawn at camp in his game, and I have to track wherever he is to reach him so we can be playing side by side. (The nice thing is when my fiancé will start fighting a monster while I back out and then join him, so by the time I get there, the monster is already feeling it.)
It’s not my favorite system, and it’s a bit of a time suck — but hey, it works. And my enjoyment of Monster Hunter: World is so much greater being able to play it co-op!
Crafting Your Inventory
Monster Hunter: World is full of so many things. You will collect so many things. You will forge so many things. You will craft so many things. This is the part of the game that is the trickiest for me, and the hardest to engage with as a casual fan. It’s what was off-putting about my last foray into the series, but World has at least tried to do a good job of explaining the basics. Even if inventory management still feels like an acquired taste to me, I appreciate the depth here, and I’m sure long-time fans of the series will too.
When out in the field, your hunter picks plants (among other things) and can then use those items to craft things like potions, weapon coatings, traps, special ammo, and explosives. I still haven’t experimented with everything, but I can at least make a decent health potion, shock trap, and tranq bomb, and I know that honey makes mega potions. I guess that’s a start.
Watching more advanced players throwing down traps and explosives all over the place is pretty impressive, and someday I’d like to be able to do that too. All of the items you collect make this kind of combat possible — but your inventory will fill up fast, so you have to constantly go to your storage chest and filter through what you need for the upcoming battle, what you can combine to craft something new, and what you should leave behind.
And then there’s your armor and weapons, which you can forge and upgrade to your heart’s content. I’m still getting the hang of this, too. Each monster you defeat drops materials, which you can use to craft new items. However, you’ll need to defeat the monster at least twice to have enough materials to craft the full set of armor, for example — and possibly more times than that. I love the look and stats of the Anjanath armor, which is why I went after it twice in a row. You can also use those materials to upgrade your weapon. For instance, my Insect Glaive can become an Aqua Rod if I use materials from the water-dwelling Jyuratodus to make it a weapon with water as its elemental damage. It’s an intuitive system that way, if challenging to rack up the materials and points you need to actually forge things.
Monster Hunter: World has so much more to it than what I just described. You can mount monsters in battle to slash away at them. You can use a net to capture little creatures and keep them as pets. You can eat food that gives you temporary stat boosts, complete bounties for researchers, and plant seeds to harvest things you’ll need for common potions.
In 30 hours, I feel like I’m still very early in the story and just scraping the surface of everything this game has to offer. But the best compliment I can give the game is that I am really, really happy to know I still have many dozens of hours to play. =)