, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m a bit of a new arrival to the Monster Hunter series, having my first hands on the game with the fun-to-play but miserable-to-control Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii. I was pretty much hooked from there and have played several of the DS editions, but with Monster Hunter World we finally see this series get the high fidelity and attention it so richly deserves.

Monster Hunter: World Beta_20171209140050

And nothing says “high fidelity” like well-textured digital meat.

I don’t want to sound like a graphics snob because I really am not and I found the DS titles I’ve played more than enjoyable and lovely to look at, but the jump from Nintendo handheld device to PlayStation 4 is staggering. The game looks like the CG cutscenes that play in the opening of the DS games I’ve played and that level of detail just draws you so much deeper into the world.

Not only is the system shift a net gain visually but technologically as well. At long last, we have a Monster Hunter title that’s free of loading screens, letting you roam from area to area on the map without interruption. The open world also feels a lot more alive, with creatures migrating in packs along the map and monsters attacking each other mid-hunt. For these reasons alone, just the though of going back to previous games is off-putting.

But then, there’s almost no reason to go back because this game has all of the essentials of prior entries in the series; a selection of fascinating and unique weapons, lots of stuff to snap up from the map to use in crafting, and fight encounters that will feel familiar in a comfortable way.

Monster Hunter: World Beta_20171209182956

When you get comfortable, the monsters get less so, and it’s beautiful.

Better yet, MHW changes just enough about the formula to make it one of the most streamlined yet easy to get lost in experiences yet, with tweaks in this beta build that brilliantly toe the line between approachable and familiar.

One of the smallest yet most engaging additions is the scoutfly mechanic, a cloud of lightning bugs that hover near harvestable areas or other points of interest like monster tracks. Gathering enough clues for your scoutflies to pick up a creature’s trail sounds a bit like busywork, but it really adds the hunting element this series has been missing, where previous versions had you running from zone to zone hoping to chance across your prey’s path.

Minor conveniences have been added as well, such as the ability to snap up basic raw materials in the world without being held in place for a harvesting animation and a training room that lets you learn, try, and build confidence with every weapon in the game. These are just a couple of examples of accessibility done right.

Monster Hunter: World Beta_20171209122517

Not having to wait long to use a heavy bowgun’s full auto special is a good thing.

Multiplayer is still a bit on the wobbly side in this build, with the auto-matchmaking system not working for me most of the time. That said, manually looking for a game to join worked just fine as I changed two criteria and hopped into the hunt I was looking for.

As fun as MHW is by myself, it was even better with strangers and so I imagine much better with friends. Taking on the T-Rex-like Anjanath with help was both an experience and a delight for the most part. I didn’t really feel like I contributed a great deal as I watched a couple of people leap on the critter and wail away with near-impunity, but it was still a good time for the sheer spectacle if nothing else.

About the most criticism I could levy against multiplayer is the voice chat options and the pseudo-friendly fire. On the first point I couldn’t find a way in-game to mute people, while on the other point I had a couple of occasions where a careless long blade user’s combos kept slapping me and preventing me from unleashing my own attacks. It didn’t do any damage to me (thankfully), but it still made my eyes roll a bit as I had to mitigate both monster and ally aggression.

Monster Hunter: World Beta_20171209142645

Small price to pay for not having to take this big boy on by myself.

As fun, accessible, and tightly woven as MHW is, I still feel like Capcom are dropping a very big ball with regards to its PC version. Making an entirely new and very hungry subset of gamers wait is one of the biggest missed opportunities as the PC version still has no release date as of this writing. Pair that with the worry that Sony will continue to be stingy and block PC and PS4 players from hunting together and I can’t help but feel some minor hair-pulling frustration at what is such an obvious way to get more people into the game.

And, in my opinion, this is a game series that deserves more attention. Too many people already shrug off the DS as a lesser gaming machine and with exception of Dauntless on PC there aren’t many games out there like Monster Hunter. This aggravation just gets multiplied as I think back on just how approachable this game appears to be for new arrivals.

I fervently hope that PC players won’t have long to wait. I also desperately hope that Sony will not do the Evil Overlord thing and let cross-platform happen, but I’m also not going to hold my breath on that front.

Monster Hunter: World Beta_20171209140854

Seriously, more people need to bear witness to an Anjanath mauling a Great Jagras.

I’ve beaten up on the Great Jagras at least a dozen times by now, so clearly this game has its hooks set in me. I’m also admittedly coming from a place of some fandom, so I would perhaps ask anyone reading this to seek out the opinion of a “true noob” to the series to see if my assumptions about MHW’s approachability are accurate.

That said, all I can provide is my own take, and right now my take is “I want this game”. This beta has shown me enough to know it’s a title that I will lose days in and I can’t wait for the time sink.