Monster Hunter World

If you somehow haven't heard about the series, Monster Hunter is, shockingly, a franchise about hunting monsters, and Monster Hunter World is the newest entry in the series. Although Monster Hunter hasn't gained the same traction in the West as it has in Japan (although that may change with Monster Hunter World...?), it's a well-established franchise that follows the same format each game. You grab one of a variety of gigantic weapons, put on some crazy armor, fight a huge monster in an epic battle, and use the spoils of your victory to craft deadlier weapons and crazier armor. It's great, heart-pounding fun that provides nearly infinite hours of replayability.

Monster Hunter World was a major release from a well-established franchise, so if you wanted to know what it's like, you'd probably read one of the dozens of reviews online, or watch some of the hundreds (thousands?) of hours of Monster Hunter World-related videos on YouTube, or just play one of the earlier games, rather than relying on this post. So rather than doing one of my usual full reviews, I'm instead going to list my top and bottom 3 things about Monster Hunter World. Let's go!

Low-Rank Con: The Armor System

Monster Hunter World completely overhauled Monster Hunter's armor system, and I didn't like the changes overall.

For the uninitiated: In Monster Hunter, you can equip five pieces of armor, a charm, and put decorations into any of your equipment that have slots for them. In previous games, each of these would give points for skills. However, having some points on their own did nothing; instead, you needed to reach a threshold of points (usually 10) to have the skill activate. For instance, if you wear equipment that has a total of 10 points for "Attack," the skill "Attack Up (S)" will activate and give you a small attack boost. But if your equipment only has 9 points for "Attack," you get no bonus at all.

Monster Hunter World completely changed this system so that equipment gives skills directly. So to get the Attack Up skill in the new system you just need to equip any piece of equipment that has it.

The new system is undeniably more straightforward and easy to understand... but I think that's exactly why I don't like it. In the old system, if you were missing even one piece of equipment you would likely end up with insufficient points for most if not all of the skills you wanted since skills didn't activate unless you had the requisite number of points. As a result, what you truly needed wasn't just a random assortment of armor pieces, but an armor set. It was basically impossible to develop a working armor set within the game itself and you instead needed to turn to fan-made programs, but trying to put together the thousands of armor pieces together into the best set with all the skills you want was almost like a puzzle. Once you planned your set, going out and getting the materials to finally construct the set you crafted created a supreme sense of satisfaction.

And this is simply lost in the new system. Since each piece of equipment provides skills on its own, you can cobble anything together. Yes, some armor sets are going to be much more powerful and synergistic than others. But there's nothing that requires any of the particular pieces in any given armor set. You can replace anything anytime you want. As you obtain the armor set, you can assemble it piece by piece, rather than waiting for everything to be created before being able to (effectively) wear it. Yes, the new system is easier than the old one, but working through the difficulty in the old system to create your perfect armor set was part of the fun, and that fun is now gone.

Low-Rank Pro: The Charm System

This is essentially an element of the armor system, but... I really liked what they did with it, so it gets its own section. As I previously mentioned, the armor system features charms--which are pieces of equipment on their own--and decorations--which slot into your other equipment, and can be used to "fill the gaps" in the skill set you want.

In earlier games charms were randomly generated, but in Monster Hunter World they are crafted and upgraded like any other piece of equipment. I felt this was a much-improved change. Randomized charms greatly increased the difficulty of creating armor sets, since you were forced to either build within the constraints of the charms you happened to have or to grind to randomly receive the charm necessary for the set you want to build. Either way you were constrained by the RNG, which simply isn't a fun experience. But changing charms to regular craftable equipment removes this limit, and instead allows you to incorporate charms into your build like any other piece of equipment.

Unfortunately, while charms went from being randomized to regularly craftable, decorations were switched from being regularly craftable to randomized. That being said, I do think the system is overall better this way. There were an insane number of possible charms, due to the number of randomized factors in the charm: the first skill, the number of points for the first skill, the second skill, the number of points for the second skill, and the number of slots. The decorations in Monster Hunter World aren't truly randomized, but rather are randomly distributed from a table of about 100 preset decorations. Although you're still constrained by luck a little, getting one out of a hundred charms is much easier than getting one out of millions of possible charms, and, due to the new skill system, having every single decoration isn't necessary for an effective set.

High-Rank Con: Investigations

In previous Monster Hunter games, all quests were predetermined and grouped only by difficulty level. Within each difficulty level, certain quests were designated as "key quests." Once all key quests in a difficulty level were completed, an "urgent quest" would be unlocked, and completing that would open up the next difficulty level. However, which quests were key quests was not shown in-game, so you had to either look them up online or randomly go through the quests until you happened to do the key quests.

In Monster Hunter World, quests are grouped into three main categories: main quests, which comprise the story and are required to progress in the game, optional quests, which are preset quests comparable to the previous non-key quests, and investigations, which are optional and randomly generated quests.

My main problem is this: investigations are much better for gathering materials than optional quests but are generated randomly. What this means is that if you need to farm a certain monster, you first need to farm to get a good investigation for that monster, which is just a chore. Additionally, the system for managing your investigations is simply abysmal; you'll likely be drowning in them quickly, and there is no way to sort or search them.

There is a secondary, more subtle problem as well: they don't contribute to lore or world-building. Each preset quest has a little paragraph explaining who requested the assignment and why. In the older games, this was every single quest, and while it's admittedly a minor, trifling part of the game, it slowly but surely built up the lore of the world. In Monster Hunter World, the descriptive paragraphs for the main quests merely repeat the plot and the description for each investigation is the same generic paragraph. The optional quests do have the same type of description as the earlier games, but there are many fewer optional quests in Monster Hunter World than quests in general in the previous games.

High-Rank Pro: Clarity of Information

Monster Hunter is one of the few non-creative game franchises that I believe can truly be played forever thanks to the sheer overwhelming amount of content combined with a general lack of predetermined goals. Once you were in, you could have fun forever. But getting in was... a bit of a problem. There was a ton of relevant information that simply wasn't given in the games: full movesets, damage values, monster weak points, elemental weaknesses, monster drops, and weapon trees, to name a few. All this information was available online, so you could still obtain it relatively easily. Monster Hunter is a game where the more you put into learning about it, the deeper and more engaging your experience would become.

Monster Hunter World takes a lot of this previously hidden information and presents it front-and-center for the player. You can research monsters to learn their weaknesses, see how much damage your attacks are doing, view the weapon trees before you build, the list goes on. I can understand some arguments for not wanting the players to have this information to increase the systematic difficulty, but with all the information readily available online, there isn't much of a practical reason to deny the player this information in-game--so it's definitely a welcome change for Monster Hunter World.

G-Rank Con: Story

Sigh... This is more disappointing than anything. It's just... bland. You've come to a new, relatively uninhabited continent known as the New World, investigating a phenomenon where Elder Dragons cross the ocean and come to the New World. The reason we care about this is... something something Elder Dragons, I think. But we're chasing a certain elder dragon, Zorah Magdaros, because... it's there, I guess. The story essentially involves taking a stroll around the New World and killing every creature that crosses our path because look at the title of the game.

It's simply not engaging. There isn't any sort of driving force outside of doing these things because this is what we're doing. Monster Hunter World is a game about hunting monsters. The story is secondary. That's why this is a disappointment and not a deal-breaker. But they clearly put a large focus on the story with cutscenes and full voice acting. So it just seems a shame that despite their efforts, they made something so bland.

Monster Hunter 4G had a simple but fun story where you started as a fledgling hunter and traveled around the world helping people and pursuing an ancient mystery, eventually leading to a confrontation with an apocalyptic dragon in a long-forgotten sanctuary. It's puzzling to me why the quality decreased so much when making the jump to Monster Hunter World...

I think part of the reason the story doesn't feel as engaging is because you're on a new continent so you don't get to go around the world visiting all sorts of town and locales like in Monster Hunter 4G and Monster Hunter XX. Another more subtle difference is that in 4G and XX you start out as a rookie hunter and need to work your way up, while in Monster Hunter World you start out as essentially the best hunter in the camp. So every time you unlocked the next tier of quests in the other games it felt like it was because you had proved you were ready, and when you're asked to finally take on an elder dragon you know it's the culmination of all your exploits the entire game. In Monster Hunter World, there's no similar sense of growth or accomplishment because you start out at the top.

The characters generally aren't memorable (with the exception of the chef in the English version, who is simply amazing), but the Handler is just insufferable. On her own she'd be as bland as the rest of the cast, but the issue is that every single time she decides to tag along on a quest, all she does is carelessly wander around and get attacked by a monster. I mean, her job is supposed to be knowing about these monsters, isn't it? Doesn't she know better than that? Even if she didn't, or if she just got carried away with emotion by being on the New World the first time, to do it again and again and again? And in this world filled with gigantic monsters, she doesn't carry around any sort of tools or equipment to help deal with monsters? The Handler's antics were nothing more than an infuriatingly stupid way of trying to stir up conflict in the lame plot.

(Hey, what if the Handler got her hunter partner killed/injured in the Old World through her antics and got a bad reputation from that, and came to the New World in order to escape her past and start over? Yeah, yeah, I know, it'd provide an explanation for her actions, add to the story, and give her character room to develop over the course of the game, so there's no way it could fit into the bland plot of the game...)

G-Rank Pro: Graphics

They're beautiful.

Nothing less can be said. The third and fourth generation of Monster Hunter games were based on Nintendo consoles, and so moving to Playstation and XBox have allowed for a massive jump in the graphics, where are just spectacular.

The emotion on the character's faces, texture on your armor, dynamic lightning, tons of particles, critters running around everywhere, fully realized environments... The game is a beauty to play. Weighty animations have always been a strong suit of the franchise, so getting to watch them in such high quality is amazing. There is some pretty significant slowdown in the town, but none in the hunts, which is where it matters.

Without a doubt, the graphics are the single most significant improvement from the previous entries in the franchise.

And there we go! The three things I like and dislike the most about Monster Hunter World. And just for the fun of it, here are some quick honorable mentions:

  • The scoutflies are decent, and the mantles and devices are definitely cool.
  • You're free to choose the text and voice language at any time, which I think is awesome.
  • I've seen lots of people rave about how the maps are now one large area rather than a set of smaller areas, but for me it just made chasing down (and sometimes even locating) the monster take a lot longer.
  • If you're playing with random people, the online system has definitely been degraded. In previous games you could essentially create a lobby and have a gaming session, even with strangers, but in Monster Hunter World the systems are set up in a way that instead all you typically get is individual hunts with strangers. But, they've tried to address this in a patch so it isn't quite as much of an issue now, but still.

Less a review and more a random collection of my thoughts, but that's what you get this time. Monster Hunter World is a fantastic game, but don't believe the hype--it's not for everybody. You have to put in the time and effort to learn it, and be willing to grind to a certain extent. It also doesn't seem like a particularly fantastic Monster Hunter game; it feels like a standard Monster Hunter game with fantastic graphics. But if you're into the genre, a standard Monster Hunter game is still a fantastic experience that can last literally thousands of hours.

Based on the PS4 version.

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