Monster Hunter World heralds a bright new future for the Monster Hunter franchise.

When I think back to my time spent playing Monster Hunter Tri on my 3DS until the small hours of the morning on a school night, never would I have imagined that my favourite franchise in the whole world would one day arrive on my PC. Yet, here we are. There is no greater joy in this world than believing you have reached the absolute peak of your gaming experience, that no other game will ever match, only to be bitch-slapped unexpectedly by something even bigger and better later on down the line. Monster Hunter World was that bitch-slap for me. Monster Hunter has truly been given the triple-A treatment (with “A” standing for “Awesome and Absolutely Amazing”)

Being serious for a moment, Monster Hunter games have always been limited by the capabilities of the consoles they were developed for – the Nintendo Wii and Nintendo 3DS were fantastic consoles but all consoles, big and small, pale in comparison to the calibre of hardware available on PCs. Because of this, the franchise always dreamed bigger than it was really allowed to. But in making the transition to PC and next-gen consoles, the franchise has been allowed to really spread its wings and realise the ambitions that Monster Hunter fans around the world had had for the franchise for years prior. It looks better, sounds better, runs better and plays better than any previous Monster Hunter game could have dreamed. This isn’t just a reskin of previous Monster Hunter games, but rather a bonafide remastering of (IMHO) Capcom’s greatest franchise. Let me explain how.

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The cutscenes look gorgeous

Monster Hunter World is the first Monster Hunter game to feature proper cutscenes with proper dialogue. Not only are these beautifully animated, fully voice-acted and superbly cinematic, it also allows the game to truly involve the player in the story in a way that previous games have been unable to do so. Whilst Monster Hunter will forever remain an action-orientated franchise, the inclusion of these cutscenes adds a new dimension to the Monster Hunter experience; one that is more narratively complex and fully immerses the player into it’s world.

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The characters have true personality

In previous Monster Hunter games, NPCs existed mostly to give the player quests and offer hints as to how to progress the campaign. In Monster Hunter World however, a concerted effort has been made to evolve “NPCs” into fully fledged “characters” by giving them voiced lines, actual personalities and important roles to play in the story. “The Handler” (or the “Guild Marm” as she was called in previous games) as seen above is an excellent example – she has graduated from mere hint-distributer and quest-giver-outer, into your cheerful, wide-eyed partner-in-crime who physically accompanies you throughout your adventure… though she still doesn’t get a name of her own.

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The combat has been diversified

There can be no true Monster Hunter remaster without expanding on the combat system. Excellent combat has always been one of the franchise’s greatest strengths – after the improvements made in Monster Hunter 4, I couldn’t have imagined how they could improve it even more, but I obviously wasn’t thinking big enough. 

  • New attacks and new combinations have been added for all 14 weapon types
  • You can now mount larger monsters in multiple places (for example, you could grab onto the tail, or the body, or the head)
  • Super-cool special attacks can be performed whilst sliding or jumping
  • You can use your “slinger” – essentially an arm-mounted grappling hook – to fire certain projectiles that can ground flying monsters or unearth tunneling monsters
  • You can use certain mushrooms or smaller monsters to trigger environmental effects that can poison, stun or paralyse larger monsters in the vicinity. 

Monster Hunter World’s combat has the greatest verticality and versatility of any Monster Hunter game, so using the environment itself as a weapon has never been more important. With so much more freedom to decide where and how to attack each monster, and so much more freedom to navigate your hunting environment, that all of the stiltedness and limitation of previous games simply melts away.

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The locations are unique

Whilst Monster Hunter World may not boast the greatest variety of locations to hunt – that honour belongs to Monster Hunter Generations with 22 unique locations to explore – but it does boast the largest and most complex locations to date, with the Ancient Forest location having 17 different areas to explore over 3 different layers. To put that in perspective, the average for the series is usually around 12-15 areas per location, all of which sprawl outwards instead of upwards and downwards like in Monster Hunter World.

These locations are so large, complex and maze-like that they’re sometimes almost impossible to navigate. Frustrating, yes, but it’s hard to argue with their sheer size and scale. Thankfully, “scout flies” have been added to compensate for this somewhat – these can guide you directly to particular monsters, if you’ve tracked them enough (more on this later.)

The locations themselves and vibrant, lush and busy, populated by all manner of shrubbery, secrets and small monsters – like a living, breathing ecosystem. Even Monster Hunter Generations‘ areas feel sparse in comparison.

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The tracking system is a cool new feature

Monster Hunter World is the first Monster Hunter game to implement a tracking system. The player will come across various markings, droppings and footprints left by monsters in the area – collecting or examining these clues will award you research points, and your knowledge of that monster species improves. The more you learn about a particular species, the easier it will be to track that species in future hunts or expeditions – just like a true hunter. Looking back, this feels like something which should have been implemented years ago and it’s amazing nobody thought of this before – but hindsight is always 20/20.

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Expeditions keep things interesting

Turf war, turf war, TURF WAR, TURF WAR!

In previous Monster Hunter games, the only time the player can interact with monsters is on quests, but in Monster Hunter World, there are all manner of vicious beasts waiting to savagely maul you right on your doorstep, and you can go and say hello to them at any time by going on an expedition. Unlike quests, expeditions have no timer and no quest objectives other than to go out into the environment to see what you find. During expeditions, monsters will freely roam the areas, giving you a good opportunity to study them, hide from them or murder them at your leisure. They will also beat the everloving crap out of each other if they stumble into the same area – fun! You can also use expeditions to freely forage for resources, as they replace the old “Paw Pass” system from previous games.

Expeditions are what makes Monster Hunter World’s locations feel so alive – you can never be sure what you’ll find out in the wilderness, and this unpredictability is what makes the Monster Hunter universe immersive and believable. There’s nothing more equally thrilling and terrifying as going on your first expedition and having a wild Anjanath appear out of nowhere and chase you back to camp.

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There’s less need for “grinding”

Each new Monster Hunter game inevitably adds new quality-of-life features to assist players and counteract some of the more time-consuming or “grindy” features of the gameplay, but Monster Hunter World has gone further than any other game to make the lives of players easier. The best example of this is the addition of investigations, which were implemented in order to save players the hassle of having to hunt the same monster ten times in a row in order to gather enough materials to make a particular set of armour. Investigations are essentially hunting missions which award the player extra, rarer materials upon completion, making it much easier to accumulate the resources you need to forge weapons and armour. It’s a small change, but it makes a world of difference. Less time spend grinding materials + more time spent hunting monsters = win.

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Monster Hunter World has launched the Monster Hunter franchise into the future, and also, it seems, into the spotlight. With almost 15 million copies sold worldwide since it’s release, Monster Hunter World is officially Capcom’s best selling game of all time. Who would dreamed that this quirky action-RPG franchise would, in the space of just two years, surpass the likes of Resident Evil and Street Fighter in terms of popularity, and have it’s own movie adaptation coming in 2021?

My hat comes off to Capcom for making an 18-year-old action-RPG franchise stand out in 2020. Now that Monster Hunter fever has taken over the world, there are already more Monster Hunter games in the pipeline. Monster Hunter Rise is coming to Nintendo Switch in spring next year, and Monster Hunter World‘s first expansion pack Iceborn has been continuously updated throughout 2020.

It makes me so happy as a fan of the franchise to see Monster Hunter finally gain the international mainstream recognition it deserves. Long may it continue.

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