My First Monster Hunter

I'm going to preface this quickly with a note, this is my very first Monster Hunter game. I've no clue what half the systems do from a hardcore MH player, I've no idea what the really good builds are yet, and I'm clueless at half the monsters.

I am totally addicted to the game however, and if this is the shape of Monster Hunter games for the future - then job done, the series has a new fan. Monster Hunter World is bonkers in a good way and I'm totally loving it, every gameplay loop and every single bit of time spent.

I've clocked up nearly 50 hours already and I'm hardly through the story, I've got two characters so I can experiment with the game's weapons and systems - and I've barely scratched the surface.

The long and short of it: this is THE Monster Hunter game to buy.

Gorgeous and fluid

Let me just say right now, that I've been running this on an XoX with the various options to test it and it's been running flawlessly. I've only got a 1080p TV at the moment, because unlike some of my friends, I'm not a flash git with a 4K that can melt eyeballs and render things at a resolution that the human eye can barely see past. I'm pretty sure that their TVs can open portals to the Upside Down with the help of a One X. The game is gorgeous, eye-meltingly so, and fluid to boot. I've not seen a hitch, scrap of slowdown or a single chug when I've been playing it.

The environments are fantastic and honestly I've not got too deep into the story, so I can only speak for the three I've seen - which are night and day compared to each other. The level of detail, ambient life, and atmosphere drips from the game's massive areas like dew from a flower in the early morning mist. The day/night cycles bring the world to life around you.

Then there are the character models, the ambient life, the monsters themselves - which have to be seen to be believed in part. Bearing in mind I'm new to all this, they're probably more spectacular than they are to old-school fans of the game. I don't care though, it's a feast for the eyes and a banquet of gaming that I'm more than happy to gorge on.

The animation is stunning too and the sheer amount of it across every aspect of Monster Hunter World should be, along with CDPR's Witcher 3, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Origins, Guerrilla Games - Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Nintendo's seminal Zelda: Breath of the Wild the benchmark from which all other third person open world games should strive to equal, if not surpass.

Hunting High and Low

If you've never played a Monster Hunter game before, beware, whilst this is the most accessible one yet (and designed as so), so they can bring Monster Hunter to the West... it's also still a Monster Hunter game and thus does things differently. There's a lot to learn, a bunch of stuff to digest and whilst the game's tutorials do a good job of giving you the bare bones of the systems - there are nuances that are going to take a while to pick up on. The crafting system is deep, really deep, and there's tons of weapons to get to grips with - many of them are specialised and they have combos, tricks, and more to discover - you get the base versions of these right from the get-go so you can have a lot of fun just messing about in the Training Area.

The story has been designed so that you get the things you need to increase your Hunter Rank, to craft bigger and better gear and to survive for longer. I cannot stress enough that you need to play the story, to get the good stuff, to progress and to open up more weapon options/tools/and gear that will keep you in the fight longer.

You don't have to though, you can try and take on an Anjanath at Hunter Rank 2 with a bog-standard Hunter's Knife (Sword and Shield) if you like. Just don't expect to survive for long!

See, Monster Hunter World isn't like those other action RPGs out there. You don't level up with experience points, dump things into stats and get better through that kind of method. You rank up by going through the story, the hunts and crafting better and better gear.

Worried you can't keep track of all that stuff? Don't be, you have a lot of storage and you can create loadouts for your character, your items, your Palico's gear and switch between them at item-boxes or wherever you can change your equipment.

Crafting makes the Heart Grow Stronger

Every bit of gear (there's a lot) such as armour, weapons and tools, gives you bonuses. There are several slots for gear on your character, armour has head pieces, chest, arms, a belt, greaves and so forth. Each one of these can be made from various materials, equipping various special skills and offering (later on, Diablo 3-like set bonuses).

Each piece of armour can be upgraded with armour spheres, and there are limits to how many times per piece that you can upgrade. Usually 5.

There are so many armour sets to collect, and they're often created from the various important parts of monsters that you break or get given as part of hunts/quests and so on.

Same for weapons, you can get an iron or bone variant of each weapon, each variant gives you something new and a crafting tree that lets you take your chosen weapon down into a monster-specific variant too. Don't like it, you can roll back to a previous upgrade (getting your materials back) and only losing the Zenni that you spent (the game's cash).

For example, you can take the bog-standard iron bow and make it into an iron bow II, then you can take it down one of the other trees towards a monster specific type that could add poison abilities to it and so on. Or how about a bone version, which can then go down into another monster's crafting tree.

Like I said, there's a LOT to learn and it's worth diving into YouTube to pick up tips from pros who know their stuff. Arekz Gaming is a pretty solid channel to follow and you can give this channel a look-see after the review.

You will eventually pick up the tricks and nuances though, just be prepared for a learning curve.

What's all this Hub Bub?

Astera is your main hub, it's a fully-functioning area that contains places to buy stuff, to forge weapons, to get quests, to enter your room and do other things. I'm not going to explain half the stuff here, you're going to have to explore for yourself and learn what the hub is capable of. Just know that the further into the story you go, the more the hub expands and the more the functionality of it does so as well.

You'll be here a lot, because this is where you'll be doing your major forging and stuff.

Who are you?

You're a Hunter, an A-Lister silent protagonist rather like your character in Dragon's Dogma. There's no dialogue for your character and you'll be picking up the story from those people around you. Your character is fully customisable and there's a lot of cool options. You can also customise your Palico, the feline friend that'll help you out when you go hunting solo or with another player.

Hunt the Jagras

I was pondering a play on words with Hunt the Wumpus, that's the closest I could get. See, Monster Hunter World isn't just about the open world hunting, it's about the preparation too. So rather than try and explain every nuance of the combat system, I'm going to mention the first hunt I did in the Ancient Forest - hunting Jagras, which are lizard like, intelligent and get aggressive in great numbers.

Hunt Prep: It's advisable to take some time, go through your items and craft up some basic potions and things. If you're at the start, you might not have the required things to make stuff though, but that's OK. The game has you covered!

Have a meal at the canteen, where the chef will make you a chosen dish to bolster you for the coming trials ahead.

Once you leave Astera you'll be in the Southwestern camp in the Ancient Forest, a huge open world map that has lots of places to explore. There's a ton of verticality here too, so you can explore for hours and hours and still find new places.

Here at camp you can delve into the item box, get potions and other stuff you might need. You can pop into your tent, do some last minute equipment changes or pick up a new weapon. You can also set item crafting to automatic, so that you'll craft potions each time you get new herbs as long as potions are not maxed out.

You can get a meal from the Handler if you didn't get one from the hub.

Then it's off into the open world for a spot of hunting. Here you'll need to get to grips with your weapon, and there's a lot to learn. I chose the bow since it's pretty easy, keeps things at range and whilst it's not a heavy damage dealer, it's going to keep you alive longer once you get used to it.

Your scoutflies will lead you to interesting things in the map, picking up on herbs, honey and the like. Also monster tracks, and the better their knowledge of a monster, the easier time you'll have to find it.

Once you kill a monster, you can carve it for parts. Always carve monsters, even the herbivores that might die accidentally (or not) as you explore. They give you meat, meat is good for stamina.

Yeah, stamina plays a huge role here in MH:W - keeping an eye on that gauge is extremely important and it'll mean the difference between being out of breath, or landing an attack and taking a breather so you can recover quicker. If you're equipped with a melee weapon, you'll need to watch the sharpness meter too, if that drops too much then your blows are going to land and just bounce like rubber. Fortunately you can sharpen your weapon with a whetstone (infinite number) and get back into things.

Combat's in third person and it's very satisfying, extremely so. Once again, I'm not going to delve too deep into it - you need to explore this for yourself and see what you think. I'm getting into melee combat now and I've got a sweet weapon that lets me jump onto monsters automatically and do massive damage to them. You can do that as well, as you jump around the environment and off ledges, land on a monster and attack it you should mount the creature. From here you can hack at it, and attempt to do more damage. This only works against big monsters, and there's some massive ones in this game.

Hunting big monsters is where the game shines.

Seriously.

Even the Great Jagras is a trial at first as you learn the game, using only weak starting equipment. However, it's fun, a lot of fun!

A Thinking Game

It's an action game yes, but also a tactical one. MH:W rewards clever play, and will punish those players who just wade in mashing buttons in the hope they can just spam-attack things to death. You can try that, just don't be surprised if you end up fainting and being dragged back to camp. (Faint too many times on a proper hunt and you'll fail).

Monsters in MH:W aren't stupid, they think, they reason, they react and they all have their own agenda/pecking order. The pros will use the monster's territorial reactions against them, by pushing an overly aggressive monster into the area of another one in the hope they provoke a fight. Some monsters will challenge their opponent/rival, others will run for it. When you see a Great Jagras and an Anjanath face off, and the Great Jagras is picked up by the neck and tossed around like a rag-doll, you know you're in for a hell of a fight.

The AI is amazing, and in a fight it has various states, different attacks, and after a while you can pick up on a pattern. Just don't be complacent, because that's the moment that the AI will pull a new move you haven't seen before and send you flailing into the arms of Lady Sleep.

See, the hunts in MH:W are timed (usually 50 minutes) and they can take up to 30 minutes or longer to kill a particular monster.

Hunting with Others

There's a big multiplayer component in MH:W, and for the most part it's cleverly handled. I've been on hunts with 3 friends and it's been a lot of fun, we've poured hours into the Ancient Forest doing stuff there like fishing and collecting materials. Hunting monsters, small and large, upsetting the Anjanath and being owned for it... repeatedly.

When you reach the part of the story that lets you open up multiplayer you'll be given access to the Gathering Hub. Here you can create and join squads, meet other players in your online session and generally have a great time. The Gathering Hub is a mini-hub of Astera and you can sit, have a drink, take a meal at the canteen and prep for your next quest. You can access the Arena and fight monsters ... there's a lot to do, and if you're bored, why not arm wrestle for bragging rights.

Assemble a Squad if you like, a bunch of you all belonging to a clan of sorts. Then you'll be able to look for Squad games online and play together.

As long as everyone's seen the cut-scenes of course, otherwise you can't join in.

It's odd, and it's quirky, but it makes kind of sense.

There's two layers to MH:W's online component.

The server layer, where you can invite people into your 'session' and they won't see you unless they're in the Gathering Hub. They can wander around Astera and interact with everything just like they're playing their own game. They can even post quests and go off to do their own thing, all the while though, they're still in your game.

The quest layer (like an instance) where you're in the Ancient Forest etc, and you're hunting and doing cool stuff.

So you post up a quest for 4, and then you'll be able to join up on the departure screen. Once you're all prepared, off you go hunting monsters and so on. It works really well, once you get used to it.

Then there's Expeditions, which at the moment are broken in terms of invites for the Xbox One. This is the danger of not having a beta on both platforms, so seriously Sony, stop with the $$$ and exclusive bullshit eh.

So as of now SoS Flares (the way to get others to join you in free roam) aren't working.

The way around it, post up a minor hunt quest, get folks to join you, do quest and when you end the quest - choose Return to Camp. This puts the game into Expedition Mode and keeps the party of players together in the current map. Everyone gets their own loot, apart from the item box at the camp, that's got enough loot for everyone ... don't be a greedy ass!

Have fun!

Packed with Content

Monster Hunter World is one of those games that you have to take a punt on if you've never touched one before, you need to have a little faith that the game's going to offer you the experience that you're hoping it will. For me, I was clueless, honestly, I still am. I am having fun though, loads of fun, more fun than I've had with Destiny 2 since Bungie and Activision cocked it up so badly post-launch.

Monster Hunter World has everything you need at launch, sure there's microtransactions if you want them, buy those sticker packs, or new cosmetic items for chargen. Buy those extra gestures if you can't live without a little dance etc... But know this, there's no Loot Box system in the game, there's no hidden locked DLC on the disc/in the download.

Buy that extra stuff if you want to support the game and add a few things here and there which don't change the gameplay experience in terms of mechanics.

There's more than enough content here, a 50 hour (or more) story, and endless hunts and other things to do as you head into the late game. Warning, it'll be grindy, but unlike Destiny 2, it's a fun grind and it's worthwhile.

Have fun out there and you never know, you might see my SoS Flare from time to time.

Credo!