Damnation. Capcom has sunk their Rathalon claws deep into me with their JRPG, Monster Hunter World. This cracking role-playing game does what it says on the tin. You hunt great beasts of the world. And it is darn tooting fun.
You voyage out on missions to track these beasts and slay or capture them. And the game mechanics reinforce the joy of the hunt. Scouring the wilds, you unearth the tracks of a foul monster. As you follow its path you gather herbs for potions and harvest poison to craft deadly bombs. But you are not quite ready to confront your foe. For you must understand it. What it eats, where it nests, it’s vulnerabilities. So, you forage furiously through your cluster of notes, eager to find anything that will give you an advantage in the deadly fight forthcoming. And then… Then you are ready.
Every time I stand before a monster, blade drawn I feel an ecstatic thrill as the creature screams at me in defiance. And the behemoth charges.
The nitty-gritty mechanics of a fight feels grounded, heavy and tight. The 14 weapon types the game offers you are not shallow reiterations of one another. Only their uniqueness is what they share in common. And it takes much to master 1 weapon let alone 14. The learning curve is steep. And I’ll be honest. Tragically close was I to laying the controller down. I found the weapons cumbersome, frustrating and confusing. But then I found the great sword, and my world changed. You time your heavy swings with expert precision, strafing left and right, dodging missiles of fiery flame and savage swipes of carving claws. Yet when you land a blow you feel the chunky, meaty attack reverberate through the gamepad. The beast recoils, cries out and stumbles as your weapon clouts it about the head. It feels amazing.
Monster Hunter World is a Japanese RPG that teaches you to view combat from the lens of your weapon. Initially, I was intimidated. Having briefly played the 3rd iteration of the game, I’d found the combat baffling. Nevertheless, when you become synchronised with your armament, when its secret is prized, when you come to know how to efficiently wield your chosen tool of destruction…You finally understand the canny ingenuity of the game. You play by your own terms. You decide the creature to hunt. You decide how best to prepare. You decide how to slay. These mechanics wrap up neatly and fluidly. Though there is a bit of text to heave through, you fundamentally feel the flexibility of MHW.
And the role-playing element is further emphasised by this flexibility. From the carcasses of the beasts you lay low, fantastical weapons and armour can be crafted (for you and your bipedal cat squire). Do you use the Anja hide for a new breastplate or forge a great new blade? And then do you customise that blade further with the teeth of a Jagras for damage, or use the fang of a Gorras for poison?
Though the combat is gritty and challenging, the world and its people are unashamedly upbeat and casual. In traditional JRPG fashion the NPCs are bizarre, positive and overall friendly. Despite the camp being a monster hunting assembly, it feels rather domestic. It's nice, to catch respite in this bubble of joviality before you head out to face the foes that be.
The graphics of the title are flashy and fun, the armour you don exemplary of this. Colourful and bright, every landscape is a dreamscape of lucid pixels. The soundtrack is tense when you battle and relaxed when you are at base. The music, catchy and addictive, a tranquil melody that plays in your head long after the game console is switched off.
Narratively MHW leaves me wanting a little more. Yet does not so on the same stroke. For the game is about hunting monsters, and though the central plot feels superficial, the world is choking with lore. Every monster has a habitat, a diet, a bestial cry, weaknesses and terrible devastating attacks. And as your primary objective is to hunt the beasts, you feel satiated. The central story is the vehicle to drive the gameplay and it is crystal clear what it intends for you to do in Monster Hunter World.
Not only this, but the game has an abundance of replay value. The fact that there are so many different weapons, armour, potions and gear on top of a plethora of monsters means this game has an enormous amount of replayability. I can’t wait to finish the game just to start again on a different difficulty, with different weapons and different tactics. And the cherry to this rich chocolate sundae is that the game is multiplayer. There is a thrill as you set out with your posse, all armed differently, all bringing something different to the table. A dynamic energy permeates the gameplay as you set upon the foul foe as one. Bombs fly, bullets whiz as you hack at the Diablo's legs whilst your ally straddles the beasts back like a buckaroo. Multiplayer is easily accessible and within seconds you can find yourself sharing these glorious moments with strangers across the globe.
To conclude Monster Hunter World is an explosion of beasts and beauty. From it’s blooming landscapes to its terrifying fiends, the game offers an allure quite unique. Though the central narrative is limited, the agency you have over your own gameplay experience more than makes up for it. If you want to feel wonder, fear and challenge all on a single hunt, then Monster Hunter World is for you.