Woo boy. Monster Hunter World. This is...Man, I have some complex feelings about this one's place in the franchise. But we're gonna save those for another day. Because if you're reading this article, by all odds, you've played little to no Monster Hunter. Hell, you might not even have heard about the franchise before Sony's E3 conference. So we're going to come at this in three phases: Why you should care about Monster Hunter; How Monster Hunter World fixes problems in the older games; and Why we MonHun vets shouldn't be terrified just yet.

But first, if you really don't know anything about the franchise, a quick bit of history. Monster Hunter's been around since the PS2 days, with the very first title coming out back in 2004. It really boomed when it went to the PSP, though, where especially in Japan, a significant fraction of all PSP owners (and there were a lot of 'em over there) had a copy of at least one Monster Hunter game. The cooperative gameplay, missions that often last about 10-20 minutes, and the constant hunt for new shiny stuff and desperately needed supplies alike, made it a perfect train-ride and lunch-break kind of game. It's been up and down the platform options since, going from PSP to Wii to the 3DS, with a brief stop in cross-play land on the Wii U, and now to the PS4 and even Xbox and PC.

Which brings us to the first part of this article.

Why you should care about Monster Hunter

Or rather, why Monster Hunter is cool. There's a lot of comparisons I could make here; folks really like to compare the combat to Dark Souls, for instance, which fits for some of the weapons but not others...And of course, your opponents are entirely different. The co-op can get comparisons to things like Destiny and the shoot-n-loot genre, but those are built on pretty different assumptions. And at first glance you might think of it as a survival game, or an action-adventure, but it's really not entirely like those, either.

Monster Hunter fits into a weird place, actually, to the point that it kind of has its own genre: Hunting-Action. And when you get right down to it, that's kind of what makes Monster Hunter super fun; there aren't a lot of other games like it, and most of them never quite hit the secret sauce combo to make for an experience as memorable as a great Monster Hunter hunt.

But this is a lot of comparing and analogizing, and not a lot of describing. So, here's how it works. You're a Hunter. Your entire job is to hunt, for the good of the village and the Hunter's Guild. So you pick one of fourteen weapon types, each of them playing entirely differently, and you go out on quests. You hunt down great beasts, everything from little dino guys to creatures of myth(including at least one unicorn monster) to literal dragons, you face them in battle, and--hopefully--you win.

Right at the baseline, the game's got two big things going for it. The first is, co-op. You can go on these quests(or at least, in the older games, most of them--the "village" quests are singleplayer-only, and where a lot of the tutorial and story stuff lives) with up to three friends at your back, teaming up to hunt these beasts together. You think it's fun to go up against a giant crab monster with just a huge hammer and your wits? Try doing it with your best friend lobbing flaming arrows at it with his bow, another buddy carving into it with her favorite dual swords, and some rando from the internet...mmmmostly just cooking meat instead of actually helping. But still, they're there!

If you've ever played the craziness that is a good co-op game, you know how good that feeling is.

The second thing, and what really gives the game its longer-term staying power, is what I'm going to call the onramp. The whole pitch of Monster Hunter as a game, as opposed to the story one I just gave you, is thus: You're gonna go fight a monster, you're gonna hit it in the face a bunch until it dies. Then you're gonna carve it into component parts, and turn those parts into stylish pants. Which you will then wear, along with the rest of a set of armor, as a way to help you fight the next monster. Every monster then involves a learning process, figuring out how it works, where it tends to be on the map, how it uses the locations to its advantage, where its openings are so you can hit it...All that stuff. And so it's this constant churn, where every bit of content you consume puts you in a better position to more effectively consume the next piece, and once you get going, it's fantastic.

But, maybe you know this in theory. Maybe you've played a Monster Hunter game, and just bounced off of it. Well I've got you covered there too, my friend.

Why you should come back to Monster Hunter because things are better now

So, what things bothered you is gonna depend a lot on what you disliked about whatever Monster Hunter game you played. The franchise has changed a lot over the years, but often in ways that are hard to notice at a brief glance. Like, just for example, they started making potions just a thing you can buy pretty affordably several games ago, so you don't need to go grinding for the supplies to make them anymore...But you wouldn't know that without getting through the tutorial segment and a couple quests into the game when the shop has its first expansion and starts selling the potions. You see what I mean?

But I'm not here to tell you about the changes made in games that are already out. Hype is what pays the bills, and like a grim and merciless dragon looming, I will either pray to it for mercy or try to kill it to make a neat hat.

I am being told I cannot kill the concept of hype, no matter how neat a hat it would make. Now I have several objections to this on principle, first and foremost that it would be a very neat hat. But okay, I'm going to specifically focus on the ways World makes stuff better! There's a few, and they're all really neat!

First and most obvious...The maps are truly open and interconnected now. Before, the games had a map be made of somewhere between 8 and, like, 15 separate Areas, with a loading screen between them. Now? One big Area, bigger than the entirety of previous maps. You get a loading screen when you go in, but then no loading screens at all. I know, right?

Second, tracking the monster down's been made much less of a weird pain! If you saw the reveal trailer, or especially if you saw any of the livestream gameplay...Well you'd already be decided and my job would be done. But we're both still here, so instead, I'm gonna paint you a word picture. You may have noticed these little green firefly things floating around the hero. These are Scout Flies, and basically as you feed them information(mighty footprints, carcasses eaten by the monster you're looking for, mucus left behind on rocks or trees, etc.), they help you find the path to the next bit of information, and then ultimately track down where the monster is. This is far better than the way it used to be, which was to...just kinda figure out where they normally spawn and then go there.

It was a weird time.

Thirdly, though we don't know all the details yet, it's looking like they're making all the quests multiplayer-accessible. From some interviews, they've hinted that you should be able to call on friends in just about every quest...

Which brings us to our fourth subject, the Slinger. A shiny new tool in a Hunter's arsenal, you get a grappling hook, a launcher for certain items(such as rocks in the example, but probably others), and even a flare gun. Shoot up the flare when you're in trouble, and your quest immediately pops up as one that other people can join in on to save you. Get in over your head(such as with the new, livelier maps that have more monsters than just the one you're after), or just want to bring your friends in, and you have that option even in the middle of some big quests.

So a lot of the little troubles have been ironed out, and there are some really cool features. There's even more little stuff, like how you can now walk while you're drinking a potion, letting you at least nudge out of the way of an attack. Or how there are now hiding spots in maps, to give you a chance to get a breather since you can't flee through a loading screen anymore.

But while that's all well and good if you're coming back after bouncing off the games once...What about if you never left? There's been some real divides in the community, so for my last big spot, I want to talk to the other fans.

Why you should give Monster Hunter World a shot because it's still so tasty

So there was...Let's call it a rumor running around, when World got revealed at E3 a couple weeks back. Basically, the rumor was that the game was being developed by a Western studio, was a spinoff, and would be way more "casual" than the games that came before it. The fact that this all happened when we were all expecting a localization announcement for XX, the most recent game in the series, only furthered the divide.

Well I've got good news and bad news.

The bad news is we still don't know a damn thing about what's going on with XX.

But the good news is that World is looking to be a really really solid Monster Hunter game! The more extensive gameplay reveals came out after that first E3 trailer, and from them we got a lot of really important information. Like that all the classic weapons and movesets are there, and the monsters are still ferocious, angry mountains of flesh and teeth.

Just telling you "Hey it's still good, this stuff hasn't changed!" only goes so far, though. So instead let's look at how the actual changes work for us, yeah?

The two biggest ones are the scout-flies, and the new glowing gathering points, and all this glowing, seems like it's making the game more casual...But, okay, let's go back and review how we tended to actually do things before, yeah?

We checked a spawnpoint list for the monster, and brought up a gathering locations map from Gamefaqs. You did it, I did it.

The tracking thing at least makes hunting the thing down part of the actual gameplay loop. And the glowing gathering points, plus them being on the in-game map, means we can actually do what we're setting out to do using in-game resources.

And that's kind of the big thing we're seeing overall. It's not that the game's getting more casual, and easier to actually do the fun stuff. It's that the game's putting in more of the resources we used to look for outside the game itself. That can only be a good thing, right?

There are some just plain new things, of course. Like being able to go to a basecamp and swap your equipment around. Which is nice, and we could argue makes things easier...But consider how it slots in with things like the new multiplayer flare mechanic, or the fact that new monsters can spawn in...Or hell, that from what we've heard, you might be able to complete multiple quests in the same map in one outing! That's lots of things that change your circumstances, and make the extra flexibility a lot more useful and downright necessary, you know?

Now of course, there is still a lot we don't know about Monster Hunter World. Aside from a few Japanese livestreams, almost all we know has been from folks who got to see it played behind closed doors...And only a small handful of people have actually got to interact with the game. I know I haven't, and I don't think any of the big internet personalities have actually gotten to play it themselves yet.

So there's obviously a lot in the air. For all I know, by the time the game comes out it'll have turned into a luxury curated snack subscription service. But at least going off what we've seen so far...I've got high hopes that this will end up being one of the best games in the franchise yet.

Now if I've gotten you all excited about wanting to hunt some giant monsters right now, you might be asking what your options are. Well, let me tell you!

  • First and most obvious, one of the 3DS ones. You either want Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, which has a better single-player story, or Monster Hunter Generations, which is newer and has more people online. But keep in mind a lot of what Generations does uniquely isn't coming to World, because Generations was kind of its own weird thing.
  • If you want to play it on console, there's always Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U. I mean, if you didn't sell yours to buy a Switch. It's got underwater battles, which...Lemme put it this way, they dropped them in the very next game. But it's still a solid time.
  • Or if you want a blast from the past, there's always Monster Hunter Freedom Unite on iOS! An HD port of the old PSP game, it's still got a lot of the problems and quirks that the original had, and that later games fixed...But it's on your phone or tablet now, and also a ton of us still punched in hundreds of hours into this game back in the day.

Of course, none of these are on PS4, let alone Xbox or PC. Which means you may need to go to one of the other games in the Hunting-Action genre. If you're on the PC front...Well, just about your only legit option is the upcoming Dauntless, which I don't even believe is in open beta yet. But it's looking really interesting, and being an F2P game, if it can thread the needle it might be a real crowd-pleaser.

Now, if you're on PS4, well, you've got some options. Several games came out during Monster Hunter's time away from Sony's platforms, trying to capture lost fans, and a fair few of these made their way onto the PS4. The most recent of these, Toukiden 2, actually just came out back in March. As for what I think of that one...

Well, you'll just have to wait and find out.