The Japanese obsession with cute animals, ridiculously oversized weapons and over-the-top combat has captivated of us for generations and thankfully all these elements have found an outlet in a heretofore mostly unknown in the West series: Monster Hunter. This has changed with Monster Hunter: World, which, as you already know, became a huge hit overseas.
While I skipped on the initial hype and with the PC version just released, it’s time for me to revisit this game and say what makes it work, giving particular attention to how it fares on PC. So that’s what we’re gonna do now, Monster Hunter: World, the PC edition.
What even is Monster Hunter?
The heading above is a question that many a bewildered gamer asked when the game started becoming very popular. So to put it as succinctly as I possibly can: It’s a cat dress-up simulator. Ok, not exactly, it’s a series of boss fights that also features extensive cat customization.
That’s essentially what it has always been. Boss fights, not car dress-up, although the Palicos have been a staple of the series. It’s similar in principle to Dragon’s Dogma with its reliance on stamina meter, the mechanics of climbing monsters and hitting them in their weak spots for massive damage.
What’s new to the series is a more open-world nature of the game. The hub-world of Astera connects to other areas of the game which are for the most part open for you. Of course their difficulty rating will vary so you probably don’t want to wander into too difficult regions while having starter gear, as that can end tragically.
For the most part Monster Hunter World is the culmination of ideas and mechanics that have been developing for years—small improvements and large sweeping changes to form a solid hunk of diamond that is Monster Hunter: World. It has to be mentioned that the PC port is remarkably competent (even if I would appreciate a bit more keyboard support) when it comes to mechanics. I mean there isn’t much to say more than: it works, but it’s necessary to mention this.
It’s a whole new world!
Speaking of the open world nature of this game, we’ve got to talk about the environments you’ll be exploring in this game because boy there’s a lot of exploration here. From the shores of Wildspire to the expansive caverns of Everstream, the various locations of the game are beautiful, varied, and consistently thematic, forcing you to adapt to them as much as the monsters.
And you’ll need to because the prelude to every fight with a giant monster is the hunt. You can use fireflies to track your prey and you can track the beast on the map. The monsters have their own behaviors and routines and fighting at the appropriate time may be crucial to more difficult hunts, especially those designed for multiple hunters, like the hunt for The Legendary Dragon Kulve Tharot (I will never get tired of that name).
A high-end PC can offer truly staggeringly beautiful landscapes and although rendering everything in 60fps at 4k resolution is increeeedibly demanding on your machine, the ceiling on the look of the game is astoundingly high up. Making it look better than PS4 is going to be hard (and costly) but you can always make it run better and smoother than PS4.
Ah, the thrill of the hunt!
Alright, let’s get down to the big thing in Monster Hunter itself, which is of course customizing the kitty sidekick! No! Focus, more on the cat later, for now monster hunting! First, you’re going to need to gear up though—Monster Hunter: World features an extensive system of character progression tied directly to your equipment.
You can specialize in a wide range of different weapons suited for different monsters and different playstyles and you’ll be upgrading these weapons throughout the game with resources acquired through hunting. And did I mention you build weapons and armor for your cat too? Of course you do. And it’s way more important than monster hunting.
At its most basic, that’s the gameplay loop of Monter Hunter: World and it’s a quite an enjoyable one. You pick your target, you find the big bad monster, you fight it, you scavenge the corpse for resources and you build better equipment to hunt bigger and badder monsters. Rinse and repeat for some 60 hours of your life that just vanish.
The hunt unending.
While the beginning portions of the game can get repetitive and some areas can get downright annoying, Monster Hunter: World does a great job at injecting variety through changing landscapes and making pretty much every monster you’ll be hunting unique, both in design and the mechanics of combat. Each fight is a puzzle in and of itself where you must figure out where your quarry’s weak spot is, how their attacks work etc. For someone like me who is a big fan of the complex boss fights in Dark Souls, this is a blast.
Now one thing I have to mention, which might be a hurdle for the Western audience, is grinding. You have to remember, this is a Japanese game. Which means, yes, a lot of repetition runs to farm the same enemies for materials, a lot of busywork to gather ingredients, just a whole lot of doing the same thing. Personally, it didn’t bother me due to the next important point, but if you’re playing solo, this might get repetitive fast.
Take a friend with you.
Playing on your lonesome is but a fraction of the fun of more elaborate multiplayer hunts that function similarly to MMO raids, like the one for the aforementioned Legendary Dragon Kulve Tharot. You can technically play the entire game solo, even the more difficult hunts designed for coop, but much like in other co-op-friendly games like e.g. Borderlands, multiplayer does make this game shine and the community is just something else.
Now I have to mention this as this is pertinent to the PC release: currently there is no crossplay between PC and PS 4. Which shouldn’t surprise you per se, but it’s unfortunate. Capcom cited hardware incompatibility as the issue, but with Sony being Sony, it’s hard to say how much of that is just an excuse. And there’s no telling if this will ever change, so if you happen to have friends who play on PS 4, well, can’t help you much buddy.
A few words on cat dress-up.
See there’s a reason I keep mentioning your adorable Palico cat companion, is because it’s an absolutely integral part of the game. And while yes, they are useful during hunts, because they can be equipped with a variety of weapons and armor (all super adorable), and there are several mini-games you can play with them (like cooking), there’s a bigger reason.
That reason is that it’s just genuinely fun to dress-up your cat. Like I don’t know why it is so, but, similar to Dark Souls with its idea of “Fashion Souls”, a big part of the game is just sheer depth of customization, which applies to your cat, but also your own character. There are just so many pieces of armor and weaponry that you can put in many different combinations for the coolest character and their kittycat ever.
And on top of that there’s plenty of side activities in the game you can engage in, like various aforementioned mini-games. You can even befriend a little pig wandering through Astera. After some interactions you can name it, you can give it cute clothes, and then it becomes useful to you and can sniff out additional resources. There’s just sooo much to do in this game besides just fighting giant monsters that it’s sometimes legitimately hard to stop playing. See a lot of it comes back to cute animals doing cute things. That apparently is this monster’s week spot.
Just go and buy it.
It’s something of a platitude, but I genuinely struggle to find a fault in this game. I mean maybe the grinding aspect of the game can get frustrating, but it’s difficult for me to accept that as a genuine criticism and not simply a matter of preference. Maybe multiplayer could be slightly easier to set up, but for the most part it’s fine.
There’s a very simple reason Monster Hunter: World is gathering such heaps of praise: it’s a straight up good game. So good in fact that people who have never even heard of the series before, like myself, jumped on it. And now that it’s on PC, you have very little excuse to check it out yourself.