In my last review for Final Fantasy XV, I mentioned how excessive grinding isn’t necessarily a fun aspect of the game, but it’s not really an issue if the grinding itself isn’t fun to do. Enter Monster Hunter World, a game where grinding is basically all you do. So why is a game completely focused on something that’s usually viewed as tedious and unfun so popular? The trick is in the gameplay.
Monster Hunter World is only the latest game in a long series that all revolve around people killing (or capturing) creatures several times larger than they are. It is unique in the sense that it’s the first game in the franchise to see an actual port to PC, which is great considering all the previous games were on consoles/handhelds. However, how good of a PC experience this game is (or any PC port in general) is hugely dependent on the quality of the port. Now how well the port is done is not the same as the actual game quality itself. You can have a fantastic game on one particular system, but then have a port to another system that makes playing the game on that system an unfun experience. Case in point, the original Dark Souls PC port (not the remastered, the Prepare to Die edition). Dark Souls is a fantastic game, but the original port was terrible and required a multitude of external modifications to make the game even slightly playable on PC.
How good is Monster Hunter World’s PC port? At the time of writing this review, it’s mediocre. Textures are supposedly only rendered in lower quality even on high settings, raw mouse input isn’t supported, and currently a lot of players are having connection issues when trying to play with others online. That being said, one of the advantages of the PC platform is that players have access to external resources to address such issues (minus the connection problems), and there are a few work-arounds available. Another positive thing is that Capcom is aware of the issues and the developer team is actually attempting to address the issues rather than just leave us PC players in the dust, so hopefully soon enough the experience will be a lot smoother.
Now onto the actual game itself. The game looks great, and I’m a huge fan of a lot of the different monster designs (I don’t know how it compares to the previous generations, as this is my first Monster Hunter game). The weapons themselves also look really cool, though within each class there isn’t that much diversity as far as appearances are concerned (most weapons have a similar base in-class model with just the different monster hides tacked on them). The performance does leave something to be desired though as my frame rates aren’t as high as I’d like them to be, however that may be addressed as Capcom works towards improving the PC port.
As far as gameplay and story are concerned, I’m going to focus almost exclusively on the gameplay. There is a story in Monster Hunter World, but in my opinion it’s nothing worth writing home about; all it does is really just give you excuses to fight more big bads, but that’s more or less the entire point of the game so it does its job. As far as the actual game goes, if you’re a fan of any type of game that involves fighting big and complex monsters (ex: Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus, etc.), then this game will definitely be something worth looking at. This isn’t a game where you just mindlessly spam the attack controls, you have to spend the time to learn every individual monster as each monster behaves differently. Some monsters are big and slow but hit really hard, whereas others move all over the place, and some monsters can even fly! The monsters themselves aren’t terribly complicated as far as their own move-sets are concerned, but another thing that makes the gameplay so complex and diverse despite the grindy nature of the game is that most fights between you and the monster aren’t done in a flat arena without outside influences. The environment also influences how you tackle a monster, and smart players will utilize their surroundings to gain an edge.
In Monster Hunter World, you have quite a few different options to defeat monsters with. There are 14 different weapon classes, and each weapon class handles very differently. I think the weapons are all designed very well, with each weapon class possessing a lot of different quirks one must take time to learn. Learning the moves to a weapon isn’t super difficult as the game gives you a training area for you to practice all you want, but applying a weapon’s strengths and move-set to each monster is where the challenge begins. The best part is that you’re not forced to use all 14 classes; I ran through the game almost exclusively playing the greatsword weapon class, and I plan to start picking up a few other classes once I have the materials to get the other weapons up to the same tier.
The gameplay also changes a lot once you take into consideration the fact that Monster Hunter World boasts co-op multiplayer as one of its core features; when fighting a monster with other players, the monster gets tankier and behaves much more erratically as you’re no longer the only opponent for it to focus, so how do you take that into account and also work together as a team to beat it? For the greatsword weapon class, I actually found most monster encounters to be easier by myself than with my friends, as the monster’s less random movements made it easier for me to connect my slow, heavy hits. It’s still super fun to play with friends though, and I think Monster Hunter World strikes a nice medium between solo and co-op play.
Once you’ve picked out the weapon you want to use, take advantage of the materials you gain from the monsters you defeat to forge better gear for yourself which in turn lets you kill the monsters even more efficiently. Now this part has some mixed opinions from me. On one hand, I find the grind fun as it’s fun to see yourself improve against these monsters, and considering most monsters (not every monster’s fantastically designed, but overall they tend to be) have fun move-sets, the game certainly makes the grind less grindy. On the other hand, I feel like some of the drop rates in the game are intentionally designed to force players to grind to somewhat extreme levels. Gear upgrades like decorations which can be used to enhance your armor/weapons are often dropped by monsters at a very low probability (a basic Attack decoration that’s considered a good for most weapon classes has a <1% drop rate), which means unless you have the luck of a lotto winner you might have to spend a really long time farming a particular monster to get the things you want. On one hand, they’re not essential to beat the game, and if anything they’re viewed as the endgame goal considering the game itself is basically all grinding, but on the other hand I personally hate gambling and relying on ridiculously low odds just to get something I want (I’ve already proved to myself that I can beat the monster, why should I be forced to potentially grind that monster many times just to get a particular item?). It’s a mixed feeling; I hate pure RNG systems, but at the same time that lotto system is what gives you incentive to keep playing the game.
There are a few issues I have firmly negative opinions about, and one of them is the UI, which I think is absolute trash. The inventory, crafting and load-out system is not intuitive and in my opinion executed really poorly. Crafting is restricted to either your on-body inventory or your item box, and you’re unable to use both at once. Let’s say you have a bunch of potions in your inventory that you want to convert to mega potions and you have a lot of spare honey in your item box (honey + potion = mega potion). You’re forced to either dump your potions into your box, or take the honey out of the box, and then craft them into mega potions instead of just crafting them directly from both. The re-stock option is useless for items in which you can only carry one of, and there’s no quick option to simply restore your currently used load-out (you have to manually equip the load-out again, and that also resets your item shortcuts, for whatever reason). The Elder Melder, a function in the game that lets you swap out unneeded decorations for a chance at new ones doesn’t give you an option to “take all” the new decorations, instead forcing you to take each one individually or sell all of them (but no one in their right mind would ever sell them). Like what?
I’m also not a fan of some of the game’s fight mechanics, though that’s honestly more personal preference so I’m welcome to hear any opposing arguments. Certain mechanics like stun/tremor are extremely frustrating to deal with and I feel that those mechanics are there mainly to screw you over as a player rather than provide a challenge (you failed to dodge this monster’s attack? Congrats now you don’t get to play the game for however long that status effect lasts). You can prevent those either by playing perfectly (which won’t always happen) or by upgrading your gear to resist those effects, which then you need to grind for RNG-based material drops. Don’t get me wrong, as I think it’s perfectly fine to be punished for making a mistake, but I’m not a fan of some random mechanic interrupting the fight and forcing me to be unable to play the game for however long that mechanic lasts (I’d rather just have increased damage dealt or some kind of debuff status effect).
To sum things up, Monster Hunter World is a complex boss-fighting game that’s great and rewarding for hardcore players that enjoy the grind with a (currently) subpar PC port and somewhat of an unnecessary forced learning curve due to its awful UI. The port isn’t bad enough to make the game unplayable, so honestly I’d still get it if you want to enjoy the Monster Hunter franchise on the computer for the first time, and it’s not like Capcom is ignoring its player base as they’re currently pushing fixes to try and address some if its issues. As someone who’s already clocked in more than probably 50 hours at this point, I highly recommend it for both Monster Hunter veterans and players new to the series.
Rating: Worth getting retail, and from what Iceborne is looking like on the consoles, I would dare say that’s also worth getting retail.
Three Month Update:
Capcom have done an excellent job of fixing a lot of its at-launch issues, so the game works like a charm with almost no connection-related errors. Also as the game has been out for a while, there are now mods available that PC players are free to use to address some of their own personal gripes with the game. That said, as a warning, while Capcom has not forbidden the use of mods, please refrain from using anything that will negatively affect other players’ experiences online; don’t be that guy.