As a longtime Monster Hunter fan (and PS4 owner), I was extremely excited to have the chance to play Monster Hunter: World (MHW) during a Playstation Plus exclusive on-line beta this past weekend. This is a game I’ve been looking forward to since it was announced in early 2017, but even more-so after watching a live demo of the game at E3 2017.
Having played multiple entries in the series (Monster Hunter-PS2, Monster Hunter Freedom: Unite-PSP, Monster Hunter Tri-Wii, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate-Wii U/3DS) it has often been difficult to explain to others exactly what the draw is to this game. After all, the game is fairly simple in concept: go out on quests, hunt monsters, farm dropped monster parts, return to base, craft better items/weapons/armor to get stronger, rinse and repeat.
I am oversimplifying of course. When asked what it is that brings fans back, all we can really say is “it’s the thrill of the hunt.” And to be fair, successful hunts of beautifully animated and terrifying monsters really is amazing!
But this game can be quite daunting in execution, especially for newcomers. Why you might ask? The monster battles are challenging and at times frustrating when you can get hit multiple times in succession. There are no discernable health gauges on any of the monsters. The quests are timed. There are a multitude of different types of weapons that all change the strategy of how you fight.
Each weapon type has multiple upgrade paths and requires quite a bit of effort to find materials to upgrade. The inventory and crafting system can be overwhelming. There is no character leveling per se; you get better by improving your skills as a hunter. It is easy to get lost on the area map and lose the monster you are hunting. There are very few tutorials in the game explaining how all of the systems and interfaces work. Often times you learn by simple trial and error.
The hope for fans has always been that this game would find a larger western audience and succeed much like it did in Japan during the early to mid-2000’s on PSP. A multi-platform iteration of this game on PS4 and XB1 is a fantastic opportunity to reach that new audience.
However, is MHW going to improve upon any of these barriers to entry, and does the demo give us any hints at such improvements? After some exploring, testing of different weapons, and several rounds with the 3 main quests, here’s a list of the pros and cons from what I played that might help answer these questions.
-The fighting animations are more fluid than in previous entries.
-Scoutflies are a novel idea and help you keep track of wandering monsters.
-The tutorial through the female Handler seems to be quite fleshed out.
-The game is absolutely beautiful to look at in high-definition (remember that previous entries in the series have only been available on hand-held and arguably somewhat under-powered home console hardware).
-The music in the demo was fantastic. The orchestral tracks ranged from melodic in-game menus, to energetic and happy in the training stages, to full-on terrifying when fighting huge monsters. The transition from smooth to intense as the hunt progressed was spot on.
–Grilling meat is still a thing! The tradition continues. The song has been updated as well.
-The mechanics of the weapons (at least for the swords and guns I tried) feel similar to previous MH games, which gives longtime fans a nice sense of familiarity. I also loved using the Switch Axe on the mud-dwelling Barroth.
-The maps have much more depth and height than previously seen.
-The sliding, climbing, and swinging actions are quite useful and a lot of fun once mastered.
-Using the environment to block/trap/weaken monsters is a great addition, including the new monster hierarchy where monsters can fight one another.
-The transition time from area to area is seamless. I didn’t notice any discernable loading screens except at the beginning of a quest.
-The Character, Palico side-kick, and Armor detail are fantastic.
-The Training Room is a nice addition for anyone who wants to get to know their weapon first and learn combos associated with each iteration. Although, I personally enjoy getting to know a weapon as I’m using it against an opponent, practicing before you go on a hunt can be less stressful.
-One of my biggest frustrations was with the on-line play which I couldn’t get to work. Granted, I didn’t have a lot of time to try it out, but if it’s not working at any time when someone attempts to connect, it’s an issue. I was a bit surprised by this too since Capcom’s previous MH games have had an on-line feature. Hopefully the 3-day beta this past weekend will allow the company to see where problems exist and work them out before the game’s release.
-A 20-minute time limit to defeat a monster is not enough, especially for an expert quest. Due to my previous experience, I was able to defeat the Anjanath after a couple of failed attempts. But for someone new this might’ve been an impossibility. I have read that Capcom intends to give players as much as 50 minutes for some of the quests in the full game. Hopefully, when MHW releases we’ll see mission completion times more in line with the difficulty level of the monster assigned to defeat.
-Another downside to the beta was that the 3 quests provided were hunting quests that forced you to fight a monster to complete the mission. I could choose to explore the map if I wanted to, but after 20 minutes of exploring the mission ended in failure and I had to start over if I didn’t defeat the monster. I do understand that the main purpose of the weekend was to test out the on-line capabilities. However, not allowing collecting, crafting, fishing, and exploring as part of the beta prevented new players from experiencing these wonderful aspects that are also at the heart of the game. A nice addition would have been at least one exploration quest.
-With timed quests, I would also have liked to have had a choice after defeating a monster to continue exploring and gathering until the timer’s end was reached for each quest.
-The new item wheel is a nice addition but a bit of a bear to use. After accidentally selecting several traps, among other items, that I didn’t need, I reverted back to the normal scroll menu that’s present in the Wii and WiiU MH games. Hopefully, over time I can learn to use it.
-Although the fighting motions are flawless, they are repetitive. Basically, you’re doing the same 3-5 moves, with most weapons. I was hoping that with a new game, would come more variety.
– Scoutflies are a novel idea for beginners, but are not always needed, at least not for experienced players. Plus, their presence removes the challenge of a hunter finding his prey without help. Hopefully we will have the option to turn off the Scoutflies if we want. (Turning off or skipping past the tutorial would be great too).
Although Monster Hunter: World has been advertised by some as a complete revamp of the series, in reality it feels more like a new release with major updates for the current generation. We’ll see if that holds true with the full retail and digital release of the game. That said, I’m very happy about having a new MH game to play on January 26th.
If the concept of this game sounds amazing to you, but you’re a bit overwhelmed by the described mechanics of MHW, be sure to check out our review of Monster Hunter Stories for the Nintendo 3DS that is geared more towards the casual monster hunter!
(Feature Pic Source: MHW Beta/ Capcom)