Have you ever wondered what the offspring of a snake and flying squirrel who got it on in a thunderstorm would look like? Well, thanks to Capcom you can and that can only mean that the newest iteration in the Monster Hunter series is here and if you’re a first-time hunter like me, oh boy are you in for a treat!
Capcom’s Monster Hunter series started way back in 2004 on the PS2 when I was 15 and unfortunately, this is a series I overlooked for titles such as Ninja Gaiden or KOTOR 2 both of which released in the same year and already had established titles. It wasn’t until this year that North America finally saw the release of another console Monster Hunter not exclusive to Nintendo, opening up the universe to a whole new group of hunters such as myself.
Mirroring the new players that are being introduced to series, the game starts you and your hunter off being introduced to a whole new world. As a member of the Research Commissions Fifth Fleet, you are tasked with tracking an Elder Dragon as it makes what is known as the Elder Crossing, a once in a decade event where Elder Dragons make a pilgrimage of sorts to the “New World” and this phenomenon is what we are coming to investigate. Once that initial bit of exposition is out of the way it’s time to make your character and Palico (the most adorable helper I’ve ever experienced in gaming). There isn’t much to go over here, choose your *hair, eyes, face etc. all pretty standard.
The gameplay gets into full swing once your ship meets up with some “rocks” and you and your Handler are sent soaring into the New World’s first area. Now one of the first things I noticed about MHW is that the locals are absolutely beautiful, there are 5 fully crafted and unique areas/biomes, all vastly different from each other sporting their own unique natural structures and endemic life that can be observed and used in hunts. See some Revultures off in the distance circling? Chances are there is a large monster below and they are waiting for the scraps of it’s food. Fighting your current mark on a bed of vines? Do enough damage to make it stagger and it will stumble and get caught in the vines allowing for free hits. If you are on an assigned hunt, investigation, optional quest etc. knowing your environment and targets weak points will be pivotal in making the most of taking down your quarry in the 50 minute time limit because if like me, you’re new to the series these fights themselves can take up to 30 minutes, thankfully I’ve yet to encounter a fight I’ve found dull in my 48+hrs of playtime on my main hunter.
Speaking of never a dull fight, one of the coolest features I’ve experienced have been the turf wars between large monsters. When two (or more) large monsters meet there is a very good chance they will start to battle it out for dominance of which will get to squash your puny human skeleton. This is where the animations of the game really shine, seeing an Anjanath, a winged fire-breathing fur trimmed T-Rex (because why not) pick up a Great Jagras and pick it up by the neck and slam it into the ground is a sight to behold. Now don’t expect the monsters to do all the hard work for you, as a hunter of the 5th fleet you have access to 14 different weapons all of which are viable at taking down your quarry. What it comes down to is how the weapon feels to you. Will you be on the front lines shrugging off point blank strikes with your Gunlance’s shield and follow up with a giant explosive Wyrmstake launched from your spear, maybe you’ll opt out of bearing the brunt of the attacks and decide to fly through the air striking from above all the while buffing your damage output with the Insect Glaive and Kinsect combo. You can even choose to go ranged with 3 options in the traditional bow and arrow, the light bow gun which acts as a mobile crossbow and fires quicker than the heavy bowgun. While the heavy bow gun will allow you to launch slower but heavy damaging shells. Finding which weapon suits your playstyle will be important in defining your method of attack and as you upgrade them down the various trees.
When you are not spending time hunting down monsters in the main quest or out on expeditions gathering parts for crafting you will be spending your time in Astera, the hub settlement found in MHW. Here is where you will find everything you need for your hunts, from the provisions officer who will sell basic ammo for your ranged weapons and potions and other ingredients to the Canteen which you should be visiting before leaving on every mission.
The Canteen introduces new players to the importance of preparing before a hunt, Astera’s Meowscular Chef (That’s what he’s actually called, I’m sadly not that clever) will whip you up a meal that not only boosts your health and stamina, but allows you to sprint and attack much longer and take many more hits before fainting. Not only will you get a boost to your stats you have the chance of gaining various additional abilities based on the ingredients used from Attack Boost (small) to Elemental Def (large) and additional “palico skills” such as increasing the speed of sharpening your weapons or mounting monsters easier. While the chef does offer pre-prepared meals you can mix and match ingredients yourself that you have collected in the field and unlocked via quests to create your own preference of stat boosts and abilities suited for your current hunt.
With all the food you’ll be buying at the Canteen, the weapons and armors you’ll be forging at the blacksmith will mean you need a steady flow of cash as well as armor spheres (used to upgrade your armor). One of the best ways to get these is to complete your bounties. These are small-ish side quests that you would normally finish as you explore the world such as “Harvest 10 mushrooms” or “Slay 2 large monsters” all things you’re doing during normal hunts, just be sure to visit the resource centre before and after every mission in order to hand in and pick up new bounties before heading out on an assignment or expedition.
Now one of the biggest features of Monster Hunter World I was looking forward to is going on hunts with friends and others around the world and while it does work the method of going about it for me as a newcomer feels a tad cumbersome. For example, if you’re looking to go through the story with a friend you can not invite them to your game/quest until you have passed the quest cinematics for it at which point you can fire an SOS Flare and your partner can search for it under “respond to SOS flare” in the mission select when you go search for a session. This usually happens after encountering the Monster for that specific mission as most have an albeit very cool intro cinematic.
Unfortunately your hub town of Astera also isn’t shared with those in your session or group but you can head to the 4th floor Gathering Hub which acts as a small social space where hunters in the session can gather, exchange guild cards (making it easier to for a squad and partner up later on) and arm wrestle. The downside to all of this, however, is that every time I went to the Gathering Hub there was nobody there and I think the main reason for that is while this is the only place to see other hunters outside of the field it doesn’t contain any of the necessary amenities found in Astera, you can’t access the workshop, you can’t manage your bounties or even post/join new quests without leaving and speaking to your handler or going to the assignment board which sadly leaves me no reason to venture up there unless looking to exchange my sexy George Costanza posed card.
Cumbersome multiplayer set-up aside once you are out in the field with other hunters it’s an amazing experience. Working in tandem to take down your targets and as a first-time hunter learning how not to trip up or knock down my own teammates with my attacks. While the core gameplay follows the track, hunt, gear up, raise your rank and hunt bigger better targets and repeat method, it’s never felt like a drag or boring which is far more important to me than the number of things I can do. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to lose myself in a game for hours on end without getting a slight urge to do something else but with MHW I found myself with a Monday off and little did I realize I spent 12 hours playing that day. When a game eats up half of your day and you don’t even notice, that is the sign of something special either that or an addiction but hey who is going to protect Astera from the Bagel Goose if I don’t?
Now here is where I would normally give a few tips and tricks or pointers to those picking up the game or struggling with the start or how to utilize some to their top potential but alas I am a fresh hunter and there have been those who have been with this series since the beginning and I believe in giving credit where credit is due. If you’re looking for some good guides or just explanations of any mechanics or how any of the 14 weapons work I highly suggest checking out the very knowledgeable Arkezz or Gaijin Hunter on YouTube, because once you start unlocking more weapon tree branches you’re going to want to make sure you’re using your weapon to it’s most effective.
So with everything said and done, what do I think as a first timer to the series? If Capcom continues to create titles in the Monster Hunter series, they have secured a long-term fan in me. When plenty of AAA games are coming out with various loot boxes it’s refreshing to jump into one without them and having the full range of items at my fingertips. That said however MHW does have a few small cosmetic items for purchase on the store but currently, it’s just a few face paint patterns and the items bundled with the deluxe set. With over 5 million units already shipped within the first 3 days and a full year of free DLC on the way, Capcom’s Monster Hunter World doesn’t look like it’s going to be losing steam anytime soon and I’m looking forward to sticking around for the ride.
See you in Astera hunters and don’t misplace your dragonator.