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  • Monster Hunter: World (XOne)

    February 26th, 2018GamespotUncategorized

    Though it has deterred some gamers from getting into the series, a steep learning curve and stiff difficulty are intrinsic to Monster Hunter.  In Monster Hunter: World, the essence of the Monster Hunter series has either been preserved or refined – making it the best, most complete Monster Hunter to date.  Existing fans of the series will find an evolved, yet familiar, experience with virtually nothing to dislike.  The only doubt is whether Capcom has succeeded in making the game more welcoming to newcomers.
    Monster Hunter games use a simple, but effective, gameplay loop – you gather resources while hunting monsters, create better equipment with the parts you receive from gathering and hunting, and then use the better gear to hunt better monsters.  That gameplay loop is bolstered by dynamic, engaging, and challenging combat.

    There are 14 weapon types available in the game, each with different pros and cons, that cater to a number of play styles.  The combat is unforgiving, in that each attack is a calculated risk.  Though the combat is in real time, you cannot cancel an attack once the animation has begun, meaning that even some carefully considered attacks, along with most impulsive ones, can at best see you miss embarrassingly, and at worst leave you exposed to counter-attacks.  
    A new sling shot device can be loaded with a variety of ammo and offers some new ways to approach combat with the monsters.  The ability to mount most of the large monsters is exhilarating and rewarding.  If you can manage to thwart its attempts to buck you off, you can perform a number of weak attacks, eventually opening up a large attack or two before knocking it to the ground, leaving it vulnerable to a short period of sustained attacks.
    The monsters have no health bar, but rather tells to signify damage.  This can be anything from visible wear and tear on their bodies, including some monsters having parts of bodies that can be broken or severed off (usually good for some additional loot), to monsters drooling, or limping away.  Additionally, the mini-map will display certain statuses and a blinking skull signifies that they’re ready to be captured and/or are close to death.     

    Monster Hunter: World’s 14 weapon types have a variety of upgrade trees.  Add to that over 100 armor sets (though not all consist of 5 pieces), and nearly as many charms as you can craft and equip to add or boost skills.  In addition, you can receive “decorations” that can be equipped into slots on high rank armor that can help in the same way charms do.  Armor pieces and weapons can also offer various skill boosts.  In Monster Hunter, you don't level up your character's base stats as you do in most RPGs (though you do increase your Hunter Rank, which simply unlocks more quests).  Instead, your stats are determined by the items you equip once you have earned them from facing tougher monsters. The ability to mix and match armor, charms, and decorations makes for very customizable stats, skillsets, and appearances.  

    The plot is fairly simple.  You’re part of the Fifth Fleet, heading to a new continent to help the previous fleets that have already established operations in the “New World”.  After encountering the massive Elder Dragon named Zorah Magdaros, Zorah and the decennial “Elder Crossing” to the New World quickly become the focus.  The story is interesting enough, but takes a backseat to the exhilarating combat, as well as the enticing weapons and armor – the latter two will almost always be the driving force for you to continue playing.
    Throughout the game, and usually with a bit of plot to back it up, Monster Hunter: World does a terrific job of drip-feeding the content.  As the game progresses, you’re introduced to new locations and new monsters, along with the new armor and weapons to make from the resources you can gain from both.  It’s not that there's an abundance of big monsters, or even hunting locations, but the way they're revealed often feels great.  A number of times, I felt as though I had seen it all, only to find out I had another monster (or variation of a monster) to tend to, or a new location to travel to.

    In general, the monsters offer nice variety in terms of their behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses; learning and leveraging those is critical.  One strong point of the series that is as good here, or even better than ever, is the feeling that all these creatures, from insects to the large monsters, are part of a real ecosystem.  At times, the large monsters will engage with one another, which can be both visually striking and advantageous for your hunt.  From watching a Dung Beetle rolling a ball of dung across the map or herbivores grazing, to a large monster hunting or feasting on one of the smaller animals, the world of Monster Hunter: World feels wonderfully genuine. 
    The different maps in which you can explore and hunt also provide diversity, both in design and in the creatures that inhabit them.  An excellent improvement in this game that veterans of the series will surely appreciate is how each hunting location is now one seamless environment.  Though each map is still broken down into numbered sections, there is no longer any loading between them, resulting in seamless combat and pursuits.
    The complexity of each map is impressive, though the first location you’ll visit, the Ancient Forest, is arguably the largest and most complex, namely due to its verticality.  All the same, they work with one another to further establish a rich and authentic world to explore and hunt in. 

    All of this has been realized with very good graphics (easily the best in the series), and excellent sound design to make the monsters and the world they inhabit look and sound real.  The score for the game is solid, with at least a couple pieces standing out as complimenting the experience.  The writing and acting are very much middle of the road, but I don’t think many come to, let alone stay for, a game like this because of those.
    All that said, the game is not without its flaws.  Perhaps I’m mistaken, but it feels like past Monster Hunter games did a better job of introducing and explaining the subtleties of the game.  For example, by removing petty gathering quests or quests where capturing the target monster(s) is a requirement from the main (Assigned) quest line, it seemingly leaves new players to stumble upon the benefits of gathering random resources throughout quests, crafting a variety of items, or capturing, rather than killing, monsters.  Indeed, I had to introduce those concepts and benefits to several people I played with.  Removing tutorials via required quests that were a part of past games makes for an immediately more engaging start, but it can be a disservice, namely for new players, because of how beneficial some of these activities and approaches are.

    While they have unified single player and multiplayer with matchmaking and a useful SOS feature, in which you can seek help from others whether you’re hunting solo or with a friend or two (most quests allow up to 4 players), or provide help to others who have fired their SOS flare. However, the Assigned/story quests can provide difficulty in playing together, at least for those who are attempting to play the game together from the start.

    In past games, single player and multiplayer quests were completely separate.  The execution of implementing multiplayer for story quests is clunky.  Each player has to have reached a certain point in the quest before the quest will be open for others to join.  Similarly, those joining have to make it to that same point in the quest, or have outright completed it, before being eligible to join. 

    Some friends and I were trying to complete the Assigned quests, which are essential to unlock new monsters, areas, and so on, but to have to start the same quest separately only to reach a certain point, then backing out (or failing alone) and joining the other’s quest was unintuitive and hurt the flow and feel of the game. 

    Similarly, we have found it all but impossible to join one another’s Expeditions from the start, and eventually more or less gave up on doing Expeditions together (the best way to do one together is to complete a Quest together at the desired location, then, when given the option to either stay at that location on an Expedition or return to the central hub of Astera, you and your friends must choose the former).

    With only a few exceptions, the missions tend to have similar objectives, though the dynamic gameplay prevents them from feeling repetitious.  Ultimately, if you find the difficult and thrilling combat entertaining, and new and better armor and weapons alluring, there is easily a hundred hours' worth of content here.  For some, especially with the promise of free DLC, there will be hundreds of hours of gameplay.  A small number of flaws barely make a dent; this is the quintessential Monster Hunter experience.

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