Released On: January 26, 2018 Genre: Action RPG Reviewed On: Xbox One X Also Available On: PS4 Pro (PC late 2018)
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom MSRP: £49.99 GBP / $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD
I have always considered myself a person that thinks for themselves; as in, I formulate my own opinions and I am very rarely swayed by those of others. Now whilst this manifests quite clearly in my personal as well as my professional life, it is not always necessarily the case in my ‘gaming life’. For the last few years, I have played online with a group of three other gamers; and while we all have different tastes, there are certain games that we tend to play primarily as a group. As such, this often results in us planning future purchases based solely on whether we will be able to play that particular game together or not. Monster Hunter: World is a title that ‘the gang’ pre-ordered and that they were considerably excited for, as playing as a squad of four would be ideal for us. If I am completely honest, I was not completely convinced. I was never a huge fan of the Monster Hunter games, I always tended to be drawn to role-playing games that were gritty and challenging; whilst Monster Hunter appeared (on the surface) as being aimed at youngsters and was probably quite easy. Succumbing to peer-pressure — or perhaps not wanting to be left out is a better description — I purchased Monster Hunter: World about two weeks after it was released.
Almost a month later and I can confess that I am absolutely, utterly, completely, and hopelessly addicted to Monster Hunter: World! I have not felt such a strong compulsion to play a video game since my ‘hardcore raiding’ days in a certain MMO many years ago. But why is this review being published over a month after the game launched?
To put this into perspective, quite often when I review a game I will try my best to put it ‘through its paces’. This usually equates to playing through the game once to experience the story-line and enjoy the game, and then once or twice again to fully analyze the intricacies of the title. In the case of Monster Hunter: World, I was unsure as to when exactly I could consider myself ‘ready’ to review the game.
Just how many hours are enough to be in position to judge the latest Action RPG from Capcom? I think about this many is a good start:
The premise for Monster Hunter: World is relatively straightforward. You are a hunter traveling to the ‘New World’ in order to study Elder Dragons for an organization known as the Research Commission. Elder Dragons are extremely powerful beasts that migrate to the New World every decade in an event known as the ‘Elder Crossing’, the Research Commission has planned an expedition to study this phenomenon in the hopes to better understand it. From the get-go, the story is masterfully crafted through the use of cinematic cut-scenes, which regularly have a refreshing infusion of humour thrown in for good measure. After some introductory story-telling and customizing your character and Palico (yes, you get a feline companion to assist in your adventures!), Monster Hunter: World soon introduces you to how epic this game promises to be. The cinematic for the initial encounter with a behemoth of a monster was absolutely fantastic, and certainly sets the tone for the game. I do not want to spoil the story for anybody that wants to experience it firsthand, as it was truly a fantastic journey; but I will try to dance around the details whilst attempting to describe the game.
To sum it up, as you progress through the main story-line, you progressively encounter more powerful beasts and your expedition unearths some interesting information throughout the investigation into the Elder Dragons. Each and every time you encounter a new monster, you are treated to an introductory cinematic which just continues to make the experience feel completely epic. During these early hours of your journey through the game, you cannot help but gaze upon these creatures in absolute awe. They are stunning to look at, and it can be even more interesting to observe their behaviours within their gorgeous habitat. The monsters get tired and hungry, and many of them are considerably territorial; which results in some incredible ‘Monster-on-Monster’ battles whilst you try to avoid the devastation this ‘Clash of the Titans’ unleashes upon the area.
In addition to these magnificent beasts, the massive areas are full to the brim with all sorts of other forms of life. Whether it be insects, birds, small mammals, large herds of herbivores, or even fish, the environments feel lush and full of life. I have spent several hours in a zone doing nothing more than a combination of capturing small animals, gathering herbs, and fishing in a pond; and it was absolutely fantastic. Each environment truly feels like an actual ecosystem, and each of the various maps are very different from each other, which results in them containing a diverse range of endemic life.
Overall, I cannot fault the manner in which the main story was told. It was cleverly tied into your progression as a hunter, making each and every cinematic feel like a reward for having conquered a challenging encounter. The story eventually culminates in an absolutely magnificent battle, with an opponent that truly towers above you. Once you vanquish this foe, you are treated to a fantastic end cinematic and end credits that honestly gave me goosebumps. You fought long and hard to get this far, and Monster Hunter: World delivers a fully satisfying conclusion to the story, and in such a way that you feel you accomplished something substantial.
That is until the credits finish, and you realize that now the game truly begins!
Whilst the story was absolutely fabulous, the gameplay itself is the real star of the show. The combat is fluid and never feels dull, and whilst accessible to beginners it also greatly rewards you once you develop a degree of skill. On the surface, Monster Hunter: World is an open-world action role-playing game with stunning visuals and exciting combat; but beneath the surface lurks a considerable amount of complexity. Whilst some weapons are relatively easy to just pick up and button mash, Dual Blades I am looking at you, other weapons such as the Charge Blade or even the Insect Glaive involve a relatively high degree of complexity. There are 14 main weapon types, all of which offer very distinct play styles; there really is something for everybody here, and it really is not a case of ‘this is better than that’. With that said however, some weapon types are ill-suited for certain late/end game encounters, but once you reach that point you are most likely trying different weapons and will likely have multiple options to choose from.
In order to craft and subsequently upgrade these weapons you will have to go hunting. Every single item in the game is crafted from materials which are either gathered (resources such as ore or bones) or carved from monsters. Each weapon has several distinct ‘trees’ which are usually based around an element (fire, ice, thunder, etc.) or an ailment (sleep, poison). Be forewarned, if you do not like a grind then this game is definitely not for you, as the game’s compulsion loop is intrinsic to your progression. You will find yourself praying to RNGesus as you hunt a particular monster over and over just to get that one final piece of material you need to craft your shiny new sword. The same holds true for armour pieces, which a full set will naturally require much more materials; but it is through armour (and accessories) that your character attains unique abilities, some of which are desired or even required for certain encounters later in the game.
I realize that this ‘rinse and repeat’ style of game play sounds considerably repetitive, and you may expect to get bored with hunting the same particular monster over and over; but it does not play out that way. Each encounter usually unfolds quite differently from the last, this is thanks to the living ecosystem I mentioned earlier. You may find yourself in the middle of an epic battle with a large ground-based monster, only for some winged beast to swoop in and either help you (they begin fighting with each other) or become a hindrance and set their sights on you. Truly, the first time I witnessed a three-way monster battle develop in front of me, it was completely breathtaking. This living world that Capcom has crafted is truly stunning, and is also full of countless little secrets or rather hidden objectives which are not crystal clear. You could of course binge-watch YouTube tutorials or read the Wiki to find all of these hidden gems, but discovering them on your own is so rewarding. I just recently had a quest pop up which unlocked a whole new armour set and some exceptional charms (necklaces); no deliberate action here, it was just through natural progression of the game as I fought increasingly difficult enemies.
This is another aspect of where the game shines. You initially start the game in ‘Low Rank’, facing monsters, upgrading your gear and progressing through the story. Then you reach a point where the game now switches over to ‘High Rank’, which initially features the same monsters but they are considerably tougher. Along the way you encounter some new creatures which are High Rank only, and some of these fights will require several failed attempts as you learn the encounter mechanics. Once you have ‘paid your dues’ and faced off against these foes, several Elder Dragons are your next prey; which logically seem to be the pinnacle of Monster Hunter: World. Spoiler Alert: they are not. Once you reach a certain Hunter Rank, you then begin encountering ‘Tempered Monsters’. These versions are considerably tougher and require a fairly high level of crafted gear. Once you get the hang of these beasts, you then encounter a second tier of Tempered Monsters which if you are not suitably prepared for, will certainly smack you around (with poorly optimized gear, do not be surprised if you get two-shot or even one-shot!) until eventually you will encounter Tempered Elder Dragons. Needless to say, they are nasty and will require you to be on top of your game.
This is where the ‘true end-game’ begins, as the rewards from vanquishing these foes will reward you considerably and introduce an entire new mechanic to the game: Augmentation. Augmentation allows you to change your weapons and armour in various ways. For example you can raise the upgrade limit for your armour, allowing you to take your defense rating much higher than normal; or modify weapons in various ways, such as adding extra damage or restoring health. Thanks to this system, the chances are you will never be ‘truly done’ with the game, as there are so many pieces of gear to modify. Speaking of gear, let me throw one little tip out there for you. As your progress and begin to unlock rarity 8 weapons and armour, keep in mind that a higher rarity does not always equate to that item being ‘better’. In the case of weapons it is usually true, as they have higher damage numbers, but with armour it is all about the perks and abilities. There are several armour sets of inferior rarity that once you upgrade fully and augment, have the exact same defense rating as the top-tier gear.
Another tip? Always pet Poogie between quests, eventually you will be rewarded with some fun little side activities.
One of the best things about Monster Hunter: World is the sheer variety of ways you can play the game. If you want to be a brutal executioner of every beast, then you can do that. If you however want to pursue a more ecological role and study endemic life whilst capturing — rather than slaying — the large monsters in the game, then that is an option. Even with my considerable play time, I am just getting started with Monster Hunter: World. There are so many armour sets and of course weapons I want to collect, various combinations I want to experiment with, and challenges to complete. There is no lack of content, and the game features special events and challenges that rotate on a weekly basis; so it is never a dull moment in this world of monsters. Keep in mind also, all of this content is still ‘just the base game’. This game has the potential for an almost limitless amount of DLC in the future, with the first free additional monster being added to the game relatively soon. As the game matures, we will likely see new armour/weapons/trinkets/etc. and I sincerely hope this title receives the post-launch support that it truly deserves.
I should note that since I bought the game a couple of weeks after launch, I missed some of the multiplayer issues that many initially experienced. I am also playing the game on an Xbox One X, so it looks and runs fantastic; but I am cognizant of the fact that it does not run as well on base hardware such as the PS4 and XB1. The PS4 version isn’t too bad, offering visuals at 1080p and relatively stable fps; but the XB1 version has a resolution of 864p, but uses a sort of dynamic technique to maintain this resolution. This results in the image being sharp while stationary and significantly blurry during motion, not very impressive at all. (Neither the Pro or the X can run the game in ‘true 4K’ either, but rather 1800p and 1728p respectively)
This significant difference bothers me. As whilst the ‘Pro’ and ‘X’ should obviously perform better, and this is certainly the case with several games that are ‘enhanced’; I didn’t envision we would come to a point where a game on the PS4 Pro or the Xbox One X is the ‘standard’, whilst playing the game on a base console offers a much inferior experience. To be completely frank, had I played this game predominantly on a base console, this review would be drastically different and the final score would reflect that.
Many of you out there will likely not ‘rate’ Monster Hunter: World as highly as I do (and if you are on a ‘base’ console, I can understand that), which is absolutely fine, we are allowed to like different things after all. But, if you are like me and enjoy a game with a lengthy and rewarding grind, that is easy to get in to but will take a while to ‘truly master’; then you will likely find yourself just as addicted as I am.
I am going to go out on a limb here and proclaim that it is most likely going to be my GOTY for 2018, which I know sounds ridiculous as it is only March. But considering how much Monster Hunter: World has consumed me, to the point that I currently do not find myself wanting to play anything else; I cannot imagine that another release this year will knock this title off the pedestal I have placed it upon. Is it possible I may eventually get tired of it? Of course anything is possible, but considering the sheer amount of content as well as the potential for additions in the future, I highly doubt it. The most difficult decision I will have to face this year will be whether to buy it again on PC when it launches in Q3/Q4.
As whilst the game is stunning on my Xbox One X, I can only imagine how divine it will be on my gaming rig.
Final Score: 10/10
Monster Hunter: World is my perfect game – breathtaking visuals, stunning audio, masterfully crafted story, extremely addictive and rewarding.
This could very well be the best RPG I have ever played.
This game was purchased by the reviewer.