This article previously appeared on Crossfader
After years of hibernation, one of Capcom’s biggest cult hits has returned to consoles in the form of MONSTER HUNTER WORLD. In its return to the mainstream, the biggest challenge facing the title was to give an infamously esoteric series a makeover that would appeal to modern audiences. To judge how successful Capcom was in this endeavor, we had Alec and Angelo sit down with the game; one of them has never touched a Monster Hunter game before, while the other has been devoted to the franchise for years. Check out what a noob and a vet think of the latest take on the Monster Hunter saga!
Alec: I know, I know, I’ve never actually played a Monster Hunter game in my life, despite it being extremely my shit for years now. I remember being 11 years old and being absolutely floored by footage of the first two games screened on G4/TechTV’s CINEMATECH, but after getting a PS2 later than everyone else, the hype train had passed me by. My insufferable teen self felt that Monster Hunter deserved more patience than I would ever give it. But miraculously, MONSTER HUNTER WORLD hooked me right in and now, nearly 70 hours in and Nergigante defeated, I feel I’ve savored every second of this remarkable game.
Angelo: I’ve been playing Monster Hunter since a dreary day about nine years ago, when a flooded school arcade forced a bunch of us fighting game junkies to pursue alternate diversions. With an old, busted-ass PSP I picked up off my brother for 50 bucks, I delved into MONSTER HUNTER FREEDOM UNITE, then known only as MONSTER HUNTER 2G. I’ve played every entry in the series since, the sole exception being FRONTIER, the PC MMO. Needless to say, the series has been a significant part of my gaming life for nearly the last decade. WORLD isn’t a brave new step for the series at large, but it’s a huge step nonetheless.
Palico pal providing plenty of purr-cussion
Alec: Having never tackled the series before, I was surprised how easy I got into the feedback loop. The gameplay is so tight and fluid and the areas are so dense that newcomers can get a feel for one of the 13 different weapon types they want to try (your favorite being the insect glaive and mine the hammer) and establish a routine simultaneously. After a few tutorials, you feel like an old pro, even in this so-called “New World.” Of course, this installment is heavily streamlined to welcome normies. That being said, what is your favorite change and least favorite change? I know Haedox talked about how he misses paintballing monsters and I’ll admit I do feel a wee bit babied by the glowing scoutflies who lead you in the direction of whatever is interesting within the vicinity.
Angelo: That tight, fluid gameplay you mentioned is a far cry from Monster Hunter’s now-vintage rigidity. The routine is still there, and I think that’s absolutely essential to the feel of the series, but it’s great to see how modernized, for lack of a better word, WORLD has made everything. Strangely enough, some of the best updates are also the ones I take the most umbrage with, on account of me being a crotchety old MH addict who appreciates the changes but also has those moments of, “well, this game’s just being too nice to me now.”
I’ll highlight one in particular that made me feel uncomfortable—the ability to freely roll back weapon upgrades to experiment with different weapons. Switching from an all-sales-final system to something more fluid is one of many key changes that have upgraded the experience overall. Still, I feel like there should be some kind of diminishing returns on selling items back to the forge, like with just about any RPG. It’s hard to argue with so many positives, though—and I do miss paintballs, but long live the scoutflies.
Alec: Truuuu. With the generous refunds, it’s not like you’ll ever run out of resources. WORLD offers an incredible amount of player freedom, but maybe just a little too much for the hardcore fanbase. A few weapon trees don’t allow takebacks, but not enough to forcibly cement one into a playstyle.
Angelo: As a new player, what was your first “Oh shit, I’m in it now!” moment? Monster Hunter is notorious for its difficulty curve, letting players ramp up over the course of the first few quests before pulling the rug out from under them with a real test of skill. There’s a very significant jump between early marks like the Pukei-Pukei and the aggressive Anjanath or Odogaron, for example.
He also breathes fire
Alec: Yeah, Odogaron, Diablos, and even Paolumu gave me a few late nights. But if there was ever a monster that gave me trouble, it’s got to be the fabled Elder Dragon Kirin. Getting maybe two good hits in and then being beautifully annihilated by a deceptively low ranked monster was the ultimate tease. While I’ve yet to defeat it (lol), the thought of getting that Kirin armor set has become an obsession. Even if that doesn’t motivate, players see the top of every wall they hit. Every fight, even those ending with you getting thrown like a rag doll by a giant dragon, is a worthwhile learning experience. While the actual story is purely supplemental, players more or less create their own stories with the intense moment by moment gameplay. Many of these encounters blow these cutscenes out of the water!
Angelo: It’s worth saying that the story has its surprisingly poignant moments, considering that the entire game revolves around beating up giant dragons and such for their pelts. Monster Hunter has always been rich with these little hints of lore and ecology, and previous games in the series did a decent job of making players feel like they’re being dropped into a fully realized setting, but WORLD is special among them thanks to the technical capabilities of the PS4. The world teems with life now! The developers’ rich attention to detail shines in every aspect of exploration and combat, and getting to see monsters have unique interactions with one another in the game’s Turf Wars was a particularly impressive touch.
Alec: Yes! Every area pretty much functions as its own ecosystem, complete with endemic life hunters are encouraged to interact with. Anything smaller than you that’s crawling around you can capture as a pet, and there are even fishing challenges to participate in. And contrary to the cries from the vegan peanut gallery, hunters do have a role in balancing said ecosystem. It becomes more apparent later in the game when a frightful Odogaron or a Bazelgeuse’s explosive scales wreak havoc in the beautiful Coral Highlands. It’s then your job, as a hunter, to act.
The depth of this world is sometimes intimidating, but the game in no way throws you in without a paddle. For instance, I found myself constantly revisiting the ecological research team to discover certain monsters’ weaknesses. With previous entries forcing players to have to look up strategies on the internet, how did that fare with a veteran?
Angelo: Wait, you mean to tell me that the Wiki is ingame now??
Alec: Pretty much. I’ve needed the internet for certain items, but for monster weaknesses I’ve only consulted our good ol’ ecology master.
White meat or dark?
Angelo: Seriously though, it’s about damn time Capcom stepped up as far as informing its players is concerned. WORLD is so much more self-sufficient than its predecessors! I think the most impressive bit is that the ecology master will even show how effective each weapon is against certain body parts, or what parts of a monster can even break off. I’ll miss all the visits to the Wiki for those moments of “What is this weak to, again?” or “Where am I supposed to mine that material?”, but I can’t really fault Capcom for finally making this knowledge accessible.
Alec: The Wiki’s still there for those who don’t care to analyze every footprint they come across, but I’m endlessly thankful for the books that little guy has to offer. Speaking of little guys, we MUST talk about motherfucking Palicoes before this is through.
Angelo: Palicoes are so much more useful than ever, and they’re adorable! Honestly, I’m a little surprised, considering your reaction to Porgs, that your heart is so warmed by these show-stealers. They react almost immediately when they sense their master is hurt, sending over free heals in the form of vigorwasps so I don’t have to stand there chugging potions to get back into the fray. It’s another one of those moments that really makes me feel spoiled. It’s amazing though, that despite all of these things, Capcom doesn’t make the game easy; WORLD still expects its players to get their shit together in advance of challenging some of the nastier creatures.
Alec: But I got Coral Orchestra, see, and I can command my trusty Felyne friend to blow a cheerhorn or hop atop a cheerbongo for some significant buffs. Also, Palicoes would definitely cook up a Porg buffet in a heartbeat.
Palico and Palico accessories
Angelo: True, I guess I am kind of overlooking their bloodthirsty tendencies. Porgs wouldn’t stand a chance. Palicoes are even more versatile and responsive than they ever were, making them as good a companion as any for your forays into the New World.
Alec: I won’t spoil any late game armor sets, but you are able to match with your Felyne buddy more closely than one would think. ? Fully customizable right down to their color and fur thickness, the little guys are worth the price of admission alone. (FYI I’m not even a “cat person.”)
Angelo: No kidding, I’ve seen people with little-to-no interest in previous entries go all-in thanks to the detailed palico creation. It even drives some cats crazy when they hear the palico voice samples! At the risk of sounding any more like a crazy cat man, I’m just going to call it here.
Alec: And mew can bet your ass they utter plenty of cat puns!
Angelo: MONSTER HUNTER WORLD, like its predecessors, is nowhere near purrfect, but it’s gotta be the most complete entry in the series to date. I’ve enjoyed the changes so far and, judging by the influx of new players, the game is more accessible than ever before. If only I could devote more time to the grind.
Alec: For me, even “the grind” has been a blast. Every new quest, repeat quest, five minute investigation, Poogie petting sesh, every freaking second has been worth it. If a noob like me can get into it, anyone can. Even now, I’m itching to get back into it!