The thrill of the hunt.
This has been the credo of the Monster Hunter series since its inception back during the PlayStation 2 era. It is a concept the series has oozed from every orifice of its very being, with each successive installment evolving and defining itself from the last.
Now, Monster Hunter World stands poised to completely reshape the series as we know it. The recent PlayStation 4 beta demonstrated that, despite the new bells, whistles, and coat of paint, at its core the heart of a hunter still beats true.
Blazing a Trail
The Monster Hunter World beta took us on a hunt for three different beasties across two different maps. The Ancient Forest, as the name suggests, is a location packed with lush vegetation. The many trees, vines, and tendrils lent a sense of verticality that was not as readily present in the beta’s other map, Wildspire Wastes. The wastes are an arid, craggy region filled with small canyons to thread through and a large oasis area seemingly pulled straight from the Savannah.
While exploring the areas or tracking beasts it’s worth noting how good it felt to simply maneuver across the lands. Swinging from vine to vine and sliding down sandy slopes are simple maneuvers, but ones that have never been in a Monster Hunter game prior. These simple actions add up to make traversal of this world more organic and fluid than ever before. This effort towards creating a more organic experience also extends to the monsters and the environments, but in their cases, it’s not just “simple” additions.
A Challenger Approaches: “Mother Nature”
To find something “thrilling” there needs to be an element of unpredictability. There will always be that element when fighting a new monster for the first time as the hunter first learns its attacks and tendencies. Even the returning monsters in the beta, the Barroth, Rathalos, and Diablos, all had numerous additions to their repertoire that kept even seasoned hunters on their toes. However, the true element of unpredictability stems from the environment, and how the monsters both influence and are influenced by it.
No longer is each area simply an arena to face off against your quarry in. In my struggle against the king of the sky himself, the iconic Rathalos, I was floored when one of his attacks broke a wall that was holding back a flood of water. The great deluge washed the monarch off of the nearby cliff, allowing me to pursue him to the ground below in a majestic leap that presented a chance to plunge my lance straight into his jugular. The entire sequence was exhilarating, heart-pounding, and most importantly, empowering.
These are the raw, undistilled emotions that the Monster Hunter franchise has delivered for years, and World amplifies them to the nth degree.
New Tricks of the Trade
Alongside the sweeping changes to the hunts themselves come a bevy of smaller additions and adjustments that simply improve quality-of-life. Being able to fast travel to any base camp on the map is a godsend for traversing regions when time is your biggest enemy rather than the monster itself. Being able to change weapons and equipment will be a godsend in the full game when later missions have you hunting multiple monsters in a single run, often with different strengths and weaknesses.
The slinger and mantles, however, were two new additions who’s uses were not so readily apparent during the beta. Both maps were littered with various slinger ammo to equip and experiment with, but with time so short and areas so vast, there wasn’t much chance to do so. Likewise for the various mantles, although the Rocksteady Mantle’s built-in tremor, wind, and roar resistance (all highly sought after skills in Monster Hunter titles) simply felt too good to be true. Despite the lack of complete understanding, it was obvious that there was depth to these pieces of equipment and that depth will surely prove indispensable in the full game.
Fly on the Wall
The one new addition to World that remains to prove itself is the scout fly mechanic. Searching for clues of a monster’s whereabouts and using them to track it down fits right at home in the Monster Hunter universe. However, blindly scrambling around looking for those clues then having glorified fireflies tell you exactly where the monster is doesn’t necessarily feel earned. It doesn’t feel much different from searching areas on foot in previous Monster Hunter games.
Understandably, there is a fine line between making a tracking mechanic engaging and fun, and making one that is tedious and a chore. Monster Hunter World is an “action” game after all, not a wilderness survival game. Take too long to find the monster and any sense of achievement gained from the endeavor may likely be overshadowed by frustration, Perhaps later on in the game there will be monsters that are better at hiding their tracks, making them more difficult to pinpoint the location of. Regardless, the scout flies are a decent compromise for the tracking dilemma, but not ideal.
Gear, check. Potions, check. Palicoes, big ol’ check. The Monster Hunter World beta has successfully demonstrated how it will revolutionize the beloved franchise. Monsters feel more alive than ever thanks to how they organically interact with their habitats and each other. The overhauled mounting mechanic is exhilarating and rewarding, as you acrobatically maneuver around the beast’s body to systematically take it down. Most importantly, true to its name, the space your hunter finds him or herself in feels like a living, breathing “world” thanks to the heart and passion Capcom has instilled within it.
While some minor concerns may remain after the beta, the highs far, far outshine any of them. Monster Hunter World will be a defining moment for the franchise, and its January 26th release date can’t come soon enough.
It’s time, to enjoy the thrill of the hunt once more.
(For those of you who missed the closed PS+ beta but still want to give the game a whirl before it’s release are in luck! Capcom will be running another Playstation 4 beta, this time open, from December 22nd to the 26th. May you return victorious, hunter.)