Review: Monster Hunter: World — A captivating world with vicious beasts

The Monster Hunter series began its life on PlayStation, but part of what makes Monster Hunter: World special is that it’s the first main game in the franchise to also release on Xbox. Its title is as straight forward as it gets as the series tasks you with hunting monsters, literally. Because the Xbox One seems to be notorious for lacking Eastern RPGs, many players may not be familiar with the series and its quirks. This does hurt its accessibility, however Monster Hunter: World’s strength lies in its depth and gameplay, for better or worse.

If you’re new to the series, Monster Hunter: World may feature a steep learning curve. At first all of its menus and loadouts can be intimidating, and it takes some time to get used to their complexity. The amount of items and resources immediately thrown at you is overwhelming, and it can be difficult to compartmentalize all of this to get your bearings.

Your journey begins on a ship headed towards your destination, the New World. For an unknown reason, Elder Dragons travel to this location once every decade or so, and your expedition is meant to monitor this situation to find out why. On top of that, a monstrous Elder Dragon known as Zorah Magdaros has made a migration to the New World as well, and its presence is troubling.

After being shipwrecked, you eventually make it to the island with the help of a wyvern. The New World in Monster Hunter is as diverse as it is deadly. You’ll find no shortage of unique beasts roaming its environments, which can range from craggy mountains to jungle-like areas. The terrain, much like the real world, will also dictate what types of creatures you find there. Areas like the Ancient Forest and Wildspire Waste are their own habitats with distinct hazards, landscapes, and monsters. Some of these are docile until provoked, but others attack on site. It’s almost like roaming Jurassic Park and not knowing what you’ll run in to.

The monsters you encounter will drag you through some downright brutal battles. Knowing your enemy and picking your weapon carefully is key, as this will dictate how you proceed in your fight. A slower, more cumbersome weapon could be frustrating to use for certain players, even if it has better stats than other weapons. The training area in your quarters is a bit inadequate to teach you the intricacies of each weapon and how they will fare in an actual battle, so it comes down to trial and error when going out to test what works best for you.

After testing out a few against real enemies, I found myself drawn to the Insect Glaive as it increased my mobility by allowing me to vault over enemies and attack them in devastating combos. Each weapon complements a variety of playstyles for beginners and experienced players alike. If you happen to find a perfect loadout that suits you well, you can save it in case you ever want to go back to it.

Character creators tend to be hit or miss. Some offer a ton of depth with a variety of customization options while others are bare bones and only offer the basics. Monster Hunter: World is fortunately the former. You begin by picking your character’s gender and then going from there to its customization menu. There you can change your facial features and tweak them more granularly to get whatever look you’re going for. If you want two different colored eyes with varying levels of brightness, you can do that. If you take your character creating seriously and aren’t trying to make a horrifying creation on purpose, odds are it’ll come out looking wonderful with relatively little effort, unlike in other games. You can also customize your Palico, a cat-like companion that aids you in combat.

Both you and your Palico have their own character builds, weapons, and armor. You can buy basic iron weapons from the Smithy in Astera, the local village. If you want more durable and rarer items, you’ll need to hunt monsters for their unique loot. Harvesting a fallen beast’s skin, whiskers, bones, and more will allow you to forge the best items that can then be upgraded with higher stats and passive skills. You can equip your Palico with unique armor and weapons for more damage, but I found its best ability was just being a distraction out on the field.

You’ll need to manage your character in battle, meaning you’ll always need to be aware of your character’s stamina, health, sharpness of blade, etc. Keeping an eye on all of these statistics forces you to be more tactical in combat. If your blade is dull, you’ll need to find a place to sharpen it with your whetstone, making sure that you are not vulnerable to an attack. This is where your Palico comes in handy if it is keeping the attention of nearby monsters.

As I noted earlier, combat is brutal. Large enemies have different behavioral traits and weaknesses, likening their battles to mini boss fights. The Kulu-Ya-Ku will pick up a boulder to shield itself during a fight. Great Jagras, a beast that looks like a giant iguana, will puff up its chest, spit mud, and roll towards you to knock you down. And these are just some of the monsters you’ll encounter in the beginning in the Ancient Forest. Monsters will lumber away when wounded, become slower, their breaths will become labored. This makes timed quests a bit frustrating when you’ll need to give chase frequently, but it also makes the final blow more rewarding. If you find yourself losing a fight, you can send out an SOS Flare for help from other hunters.

While Monster Hunter: World features numerous multiplayer aspects and cooperative gameplay, it’s broken on Xbox One currently. Matchmaking just doesn’t work, so you can’t jump into another person’s game. You’ll need to create your own session and go solo for the time being unless you join a friend’s session. It’s disappointing when Monster Hunter: World went through a few betas on PlayStation 4 and none on Xbox One. The PS4 version by comparison isn’t having nearly as many online troubles.

Monster Hunter: World is Xbox One X enhanced with HDR support. It also features modes that prioritize performance, graphics, or resolution depending on your preferences. Choosing to prioritize resolution will push the game to render at 4K as much as possible. Prioritizing performance will instead boost its frame-rate to target 60FPS. If you don’t care for either of those and want to prioritize graphics, you’ll be treated to better shadows and other visual effects. Even on a standard Xbox One the game looks beautiful. It’s not always crisp and images can look a little muddy at times, but the world’s aesthetics make up for that.

Despite featuring options to fine-tune the game as you’d like, some aspects are out of your control. Right from the beginning, it’s clear that there is a major issue with lip-syncing. I’ll admit I’m not sure if they’re just dubbing over the Japanese animations with English voices or if it’s a problem with the technology, but either way it makes for a jarring experience when talking to NCPs. Not only that but the dialogue isn’t always spoken. By this I mean that a character may speak the first sentence upon you interacting with them, and then occasionally say another sentence in the middle of your conversation as you’re forced to read through mostly subtitles. Sometimes a character won’t even say anything at all until the last sentence. Neither the dialogue nor lip-syncing problems are major, but they are nuisances that can be bothersome if you pay attention.

The more you play and understand Monster Hunter: World’s mechanics, the more it grows on you. You may be tempted to quit within the first hour or two because of growing pains, but I highly encourage you to stick with it. Once you fall into your own rhythm, it becomes a vastly rewarding and fun experience. The Xbox One version has a few obvious hiccups, notably its matchmaking issues, but its positive aspects greatly outweigh any negatives.

8.5/10

Xbox One

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