I know this might seem like a strange time to review Capcom’s behemoth of a title (over 2 years after release) but there is a good reason it’s taken so long.
I originally bought Monster Hunter: World at the beginning of 2018. This was a mistake. Not because I didn’t enjoy the game, far from it, it was due to the fact that I had a brand spanking new baby which invariably sucked up all my gaming time. So after about 12 hours of gameplay I put it up on eBay and focussed on less time consuming games that could be dipped in and out of in between feeding and the constant nappy changing.
Fast forward 2 years and I have managed to claw back a few extra minutes of gaming a day. This new found time coincided with Playstation’s “Spring Sale”. And lo and behold, look what’s sitting there at a respectable £12.99 – Monster Hunter: World.
I whizzed over to howlongtobeat.com to double check the “Completionist” time. Surely I had remembered incorrectly? But no. Monster Hunter: World clocks in at a mammoth 340+ hours of gameplay if you want to do everything. Insanity. But also, being a tight Northerner, fantastic value for money! A bargain.
MHW is a deep gaming experience. Especially if like me, it’s your first foray into the series. Because of this I decided to delete my old save from the 2 years prior and start a fresh. This was the right decision as aspects of the gameplay seemed to swim back to me through the fog of time whilst others had faded.
Even though this instalment is branded as being the most accessible of the series to new players, it is still a lot to take in at first. The plot focusses on you, a Hunter, as part of the “Fifth Fleet” which has been sent to the New World in order to gather information as to why the “Elder Dragons” are on the move. You land on the New World and head to the gaming hub of Astera where you learn the basics. And there’s a lot to learn.
MHW is a social game where you can team up with companions and go on hunts together. Me – being an antisocial git with limited gaps of time to play – chose to go it alone, which is fine. But the option is there if you wish to join up. It just means that you have to check a few boxes before accepting a quest in order to make sure nobody gatecrashes. I recommend playing solo, at least for the first few hours, so you can take your time in getting used to the game’s intricacies.
There isn’t too much of a tutorial in MHW. You are of course given the basics but you quickly realise that this is merely the nipple on the tip of the iceberg. Press the “Options” button (I’m a PS4 player of course) and you’ll be met with menus. And then more menus. Menus within menus. Menus within menus within….well, you get the idea. You are given a furry and fully customisable “Palico” when you begin (think Puss in Boots but in flying goggles) who acts as your trusty sidekick who will help you in battle and point out things of interest. Then you need to pick a weapon. But this isn’t a simple choice of a sword or bow, oh no, there’s 14 to choose from. And each has their own specific function and skill set. I did a bit of research and decided on the Dual Blades to start with as they are the most accessible for beginners apparently, this is what I’d used previously too so it made sense. The combat mechanics vary from weapon to weapon and I recommend practising in the training area (located in your room) before heading off in the World for real.
Astera is bustling hub with a smithy, canteen and gathering space but also offers various side missions in the form of Bounties and Investigations for you to choose from. These can be undertaken at your own leisure but it can be slightly overwhelming wondering what to tackle first. After a few hours of play things start to become more second nature however.
Once you’re ready to begin (and fathomed out how to accept Quests) then you are sent to the Ancient Forest which is the first area of the game. Capcom have done a lovely job in creating a lush forest world to start you off in. There are crystal clear rivers and streams framed by gorgeous forest foliage, shaded clearings and bone strewn beaches. Amongst all of this is a plethora of things to collect and document; track marks, bugs, flora and fauna, animal shit – the list is endless. Just collect everything and sort it out later is my advice. There’s also a whole menagerie of wildlife from dinosaurs to wild pigs. Some friendly, some not so.
The level design is multi-tiered and can seem labyrinthian at first and it’s easy to lose your sense of direction. Your “Scoutflies” act as a guide to your objective, but they can be temperamental at times. The aforementioned objective is normally the hunting of a monster of some kind. But don’t be tempted to come in here all swords-a-swinging like you’re in a Dark Souls game or you’ll be left frustrated. For example, you can’t “lock on” to your target (in the traditional sense) and begin hacking away, you have to manually aim your character to attack. This takes some getting used to but it means you can target specific parts of the monster’s body and weak spots. The approach to combat in general is actually fairly nuanced with multiple strategies being able to be employed in order to bring down your prey. You can set traps, lay poisoned bait or follow it back to its den – there isn’t a single linear approach, which adds another dimension to the hunt.
Once you have brought down your required target and cut its knackers off, it’s back to Astera to turn all that lovely loot and stuff you’ve collected into shiny new armour and upgrades for your weapons. The armour and weapon customisation is deep and very rewarding. Upon creating my new set of Bone armour I felt a distinct satisfaction and looked forward to me next hunt. And here in lies the gameplay loop of MHW. And a most satisfying one it is too.
I’d say it takes at least 6-8 hours to get to grips with MHW but once you’re comfortable and you feel it’s various intricacies and systems “click” then you’re in for a treat. I’m barely scratching the surface but I’m looking forward to ploughing many more hours into this, Capcom’s bestselling game of all time.