Capcom’s latest monster-safari sim is out in the wild, but is it any good? I kinda already blew my answer in the headline, but why not keep reading anyway?
I’ve been looking forward to trying out Monster Hunter: World for a couple months now, but not out of any preexisting love for the series. Despite the obvious appeal promised in the title of the series, I’ve never actually played a Monster Hunter game – mainly because I refuse to spend a hundred hours squinting at a handheld clutched in the twisted claws that used to be my hands. The only experience I’ve had with the series was my expert analysis of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate’s beasties, but I wrote that based on the pure, impeccable instinct I have as a professional gamer, and not any actual time playing the game.
All that changed last Friday, however, when I finally decided to see what the monster-hunting hoopla was all about. The stars aligned for an optimal introduction to Monster Hunter: World – it was Friday night, so I could stay up as late as I wanted (or at least until I involuntarily fell asleep with the controller in my hand), and my wife had a ton of studying to do, so my husbandly duties were relegated to staying out of her way and keeping my shenanigans to a dull roar (quite literally in the case of Monster Hunter). After pulling up G.I.’s newbie tips on my phone (shameless plug, I know), I jumped right in!…to the character creator.
As far character creators go, Monster Hunter: World is pretty darn good. It allows you to tweak your character’s face however you want without the kind of mind-numbing granularity that results in potato-sack faces when you insist on obsessively changing every slider even though you can’t tell what they’re doing (I’m looking at you, Skyrim!). I opted for a female hunter because Tack and Cork (or Tork as I call them) said they get the coolest-looking armor sets, and after about 90 minutes (!) I was pretty happy with my results:
At least I was happy until I had to choose an expression, which transformed my character into some kind of horrific sex doll:
Capcom really should have made “no expression” an option; I’d much rather run around like an emotionless terminator for the entire game than risk seeing any of whatever that was again.
Regardless, after choosing the least terrifying option (which was the above one, mind you!), I moved on to picking a voice. This entailed cycling through two dozen different audio collections of women grunting and moaning, because as far as I can tell the only time your character makes a peep is when they’re being trampled or gored by a monster. I once again had to explain to my wife that the strange sex noises emanating from the television were perfectly innocent, though after having the same conversation about the NPCs in Breath of the Wild and Persona 5, I’m pretty sure she just thinks I’m a pervert now.
Once I settled on a voice (I went with one that was more grunty than moany), I spent another 30 minutes googling potential names – Greek and Roman deities, fictional and real-life warriors, and tons of popular baby name lists (which is what 90 percent of name websites are geared toward, apparently – just pick one of your grandparents’ names and move on!). Eventually, I gave up and went with the totally made-up “Vendra” because it was already midnight and I just wanted to start killing monsters already! After one last review, I finally clicked the finish button – only to find out that I had to design a cat too?!
Suffice it to say, I passed out on the couch before I actually got to the monster-hunting part of Monster Hunter: World. But my pathetic introduction was quickly overshadowed by a weekend of character-creator-free gaming sessions (and pretty much any and all free time since then) that finally made me understand why Monster Hunter fans go so bonkers for these games. Rather than doing a long and boring blow-by-blow of my monster-hunting adventures (trust me, every hunt has gone PERFECTLY), I figured I’d sum up some of the reasons I’m loving the game in the native language of the Internet: the Top 10 list.
#10: The Stupid Cats
Sure, I fell asleep while picking fur patterns, but that doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely love my sidekick cat, who I named Kat because creativity does not come easy to me. Kat has proven invaluable during hunts by getting her fuzzy butt mercilessly kicked while I cower in a corner unnoticed and sharpen my hammer (which doesn’t even make sense, but whatever). Not only does Kat replenish my health when I’m getting ravaged by giant beasts, she calls me “meowster” while doing it! How adorable is that?
I should note that some people have interpreted “meowster” as “master” and not “mister,” and thus view Palicos as some sort of indentured servants in a game that promotes colonialism. To them I say THEY’RE TALKING CATS, FFS!
#9: Collecting Crap
I’ve grown wary of endlessly collecting random items in open-world games, but that doesn’t stop me from nabbing every mushroom and plant I come across in Monster Hunter: World. Oh, and seed pods. And honey. And ore. And weird glowing bugs. And literal crap. Unlike other open-world games, all of Monster Hunter: World’s environmental items funnel into the crafting and upgrading loop and serve a specific purpose – you aren’t just collecting a pseudo-second currency, or a thousand random tchotchkes for a giant giggling radish. As such, I feel compelled to grab each and every item I come across, even when I’m in the middle of chasing down/running away from a giant monster. Admittedly, it’s more of the latter.
Any game that lets you catch fish is an automatic 10 in my book. Alright, that’s not actually true – and Joe’s head would explode if I didn’t explicitly state that was a joke. Regardless, reeling in giant weird fish offers up another simple but rewarding form of collection when you want a breather from the constant butt-kicking (whether it be your butt or monster butt). Just don’t make the same mistake I did and wade out into a massive pack of Gajau with your fishing rod. They are monsters, not fish, and they do NOT like having bait thrown at them.
#7: The Big Honkin’ WEAPONS
Monster Hunter: World has 14 different weapon types, and unlike most games, you can get your dirty mitts on all of them as soon as you start (assuming you also don’t fall asleep during the character-creation process). Each weapon is radically different and sports its own unique combos and mechanics. I started out with the plain old sword and shield, which functions pretty much exactly how you’d expect a sword and shield to perform (the developers aren’t wizards, after all – what the hell do you want them to do?).
The same can’t be said for the insect glaive. Well, that’s not necessarily true – I guess I have no idea what your expectations are for how an insect glaive would handle. But it surprised the heck out of me – I was constantly flipping and flying through the air and shooting a bug at a Barroth’s rocky rear-end. What was it doing when it got there, and why was it glowing when it came back? I have no clue, but it was all VERY cool.
Monster Hunter: World’s weapons degrade over time, but unlike a certain other game, they never completely break and you can repair them any time with your infinite-use whetstone tool. And contrary to a certain defense I’ve heard ad nauseum for the aforementioned game, I still feel compelled to experiment and use all of the different weapon types – even without them breaking on me every 30 seconds. Go figure!
#6 The Monsters – Duh!
If you’re going to make an entire series about hunting monsters, actually hunting said monsters better be fun. Turns out Capcom knows what it’s doing. Each encounter with a large monster plays out like a dynamic, roaming boss fight. The hunts are long, challenging affairs, requiring you to figure out each monster’s unique attacks – like, say, the Pukei-Pukei’s gross purple farts.
However, the monsters are also thoughtfully designed. Those farts, for instance, inflict different ailments depending on what item the Pukei-Pukei ate before the attack, and they correspond to the same attributes you get when crafting items with them. No other developer has ever put that much thought into a monster fart before!
To put it another way, Monster Hunter’s monsters aren’t just big dumb enemies to wallop on (though admittedly smacking a towering beast in the head with my giant hammer is a LOT of fun). You have to learn their behaviors and weaknesses, and hone your approach to each creature through multiple hunts. Just last night I reduced a mighty Barroth to rubble in record time, but not thanks to some flashy new weapon or overpowered ability that I unlocked – I simply learned when and where to attack it, and which attacks it’s more susceptible to. The core gameplay loop and research mechanics encourage that kind of learning, and make each successive victory more satisfying than the last – even when you are choking on purple farts.
Coming Up Next: Five more reasons I can’t stop playing this crazy, cat pun-laden game!