QCF: Monster Hunter: World

This review was freelanced by Jon McAnally. You can find more reviews and articles written by hiim over at me on the Twitterverse @McAnallyJon

apcom's Monster Hunter franchise has been around for a couple decades now, dating back to the PlayStation 2 days. The series has more popularity in Japan, but there has always been a fan base here in the States. The latest entry into the series, Monster Hunter: World has caught the attention of seasoned veterans as well as curious newcomers. Since its announcement, the title has delivered some spectacular trailers boasting countless hours of intense, high-action hunts, all in a semi-open world setting. So, does the latest title in the series live up to the hype—In short, yes.

Those not familiar with the franchise need only know that the title explains the general premise of the games. Hunt monsters. Not only do you get to hunt and slay these titanic beasts, but you also get to carve them up to use their hides, claws, and bones to craft weapons and armor. In essence, if you're looking to craft some fire-resistant armor, take down some fire-breathing wyverns, skin them, and you'll have yourself some flame retardant armor in no time.

Each player will get to customize his or her very own hunter. The character creation isn't as extensive as Skyrim or Dragon Age, but offers a healthy dose of options to make some rather unique characters. Players will also be able to customize their very own Palico, which is a cat-like companion that fights and aids you in your hunts by healing and giving you stat boosting buffs. As you level up, so will your feline companion.

Unlike most RPGs, Monster Hunter: World doesn't lock you into one specific weapon type. Every weapon class is available to all hunters at all times. This gives players a chance to experiment with heavy weapons as well as ranged weapons. Setting up different loadouts for different situations is key to becoming a successful hunter, especially in the later stages of the game. Each weapon class is unique and offers different combos and abilities, and those only grow as you craft bigger and better weapons throughout the game.

Monster Hunter: World sticks to the basic concept of its predecessors, but unlike past entries, the developers created a much more explorable world, giving players a chance to roam as freely as they like, within reason. Previous Monster Hunter titles would set you in various limited zones to conduct hunts. While that same premise may be present in World, the zones are much more vast, and continue to grow as you progress through the game.

As you take on bounties and quests in Monster Hunter: World, you will find yourself revisiting each area quite frequently, journeying through robust levels that’re complete with their own ecosystem, inhabitants, and challenges for hunters to overcome. Players will find themselves exploring caves in the Wild Spire Wastelands in one mission, and then proceed to the mesmerizing Coral Highlands, which gives the feeling of exploring the ocean without drowning. Forests, jungles, exotic beaches, swamps, deserts, Monster Hunter: World has it all. Each environment offers its fair share of hidden secrets and paths to explore, as well as being vastly unique from one another.

The latest Monster Hunter title can be played solo, but the real focus of the title is on multiplayer. Players can team up with up to three players to take down the savage beasts of the New World. Some bounties will challenge players by only allowing one hunter to take on the quest, but the majority of missions will allow for multiplayer. With a game that is so centered on its multiplayer aspect, the process of teaming up with your friends is more complicated than it needs to be. Instead of simply partying up, players must post their desired quest to the central town's message board, where other players will be able to join in. Those that have already completed the posted quest will be unable to join until the sequence’s cut scene has already played can only join Story quests. Once the cut scenes are finished, the quest holder can send an SOS flare to signal for help, in which anyone in that server can respond.

Once you get the hang of how to join your buddies' quests, it becomes less daunting, but sending up flares doesn't guarantee that your friends will join you. As soon as the maximum four player slots are filled, the quest will disappear from the quest board. It is wise to have your friends on standby so that they can join as soon as possible.

The more hunters that are in the party will also determine the difficulty of the hunt. Four players will give the targeted monsters health, stamina, and defensive boosts. Having a full hunting party will also eliminate the aid of Palicos, making the party members responsible for healing and buffs.

The story of Monster Hunter: World is probably its weakest point. It isn't terrible, but it lacks any kind of emotional depth. There isn't a single character (other than my Palico) that I felt any emotional attachment to. The story moves you along to the next area of the map, and offers some variety to the grinding aspect that takes place throughout the rest of the title, but ultimately doesn't carry the game. The gameplay, however, does.

You will most definitely find yourself hunting the same large monsters over, and over again. In order to collect the materials needed for your weapon and armor upgrades, you will need to face these beasts multiple times. On paper, that sounds very monotonous, but I never seem to find myself bored of hunting a giant T-Rex/Vulture hybrid more than a dozen times. The payout gives you some incredible gear that is fun to brag to your friends about. Each big hunt can get intense and give you that thrill of an action-packed summer blockbuster, especially when you push your target into the territory of another big beast and they begin to fight each other in a turf war.

The first few big hunts seem easy enough, but the difficulty changes drastically as you earn higher Hunter Ranks. Even start of game monsters will increase in power and stamina as you level up. At about Hunter Rank 5, you will find yourself fully plotting out weapons, armor, and field items to take with you in order to succeed. Playing with friends allows your squad to designate healing and stat buffs to one or two members, while others focus on traps and other tools. Preparation is key.

Big monsters. Big weapons. Seriously, grinding has never been so much fun. I never thought that I'd ever say that, but Monster Hunter: World has found a way to make grinding for materials flow seamlessly and never feel redundant. The sense of accomplishment when taking down two high-level dragons attacking simultaneously is plain celebratory, and makes you want to do it again immediately after you've collected your rewards. This latest title isn't perfect, but offers countless hours of enjoyment. It may not be for everyone, but those that put in the time will be remunerated, greatly.

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