The Beta for Monster Hunter World has just finished up on PS4 and I was fortunate to spend a bit of time with it. It may not be a series well known to the Western audience, but this entry is going to completely change that.
Before focusing on the upcoming release, it makes sense to go back to the beginning. The first entry, Monster Hunter was released in Japan and the US in 2004, before hitting European and Australasian shores in 2005. This set the tone for the series as an action RPG where you play as a hunter that must undertake quests or hunts to take down the huge, hulking monsters the games have become well-known for. Completing these quests rewards the player and after defeating a monster you can carve off certain pieces to forge new weapons or armor. It is a loot-heavy game that recent examples such as Destiny, The Division and upcoming Bioware release Anthem, have all tapped into. And it really encourages replayability.
Following the release of the first game, subsequent releases have either only existed in the East, or consigned to portable consoles. As a result, the West hasn’t fully experienced the rush and excitement of the series; teaming up with online friends to take down a beast is a huge thrill. These aren’t quick wins though – they are much more tactical and methodical. And the recent Beta was a great example of this.
One of the enemies featured was the armoured Barroth that originally appeared in Monster Hunter 3. At the top of the creatures’ head, its skull extends outwards and it regularly uses that to charge into hunters and knock them flying. Its outer legs and top side are all covered in a thick hide that negates a lot of damage done to it. It is on the underside though that hunters will be more successful due to its fleshy belly, if you can get close enough in the first place.
These monsters aren’t just waiting in an arena for you though. The beauty of Monster Hunter World is that they need to be tracked down and then fought in their natural habitat. You firstly take on the challenge in the central hub called Astera – not available in the Beta – and then travel off to the right environment to stalk your prey. To make the tracking aspect easier for new players, Scoutflies are used to highlight what you should be looking for, whether this is a footprint of the monster or another tell-tale sign. These Scoutflies also highlight mining or foraging areas for additional loot.
Another enemy featured in the Beta is the Great Jagras, a new monster for the series. Firstly, to track this monster, rather than just following footprints, you need to track scratches on the floor where its stomach has been dragged along. You see, the Great Jagras is a bit of a hungry monster, and even when I was hunting him he stopped mid-fight for a quick snack. A quick snack for this guy is just devouring another monster whole. As they did this though, that stomach suddenly became a lot bigger, and they became a lot more sluggish. This meant that I could end this battle a lot more quickly in the second half, though other monsters will have much more of a second-wind about them and be tougher in the second half.
Monster Hunter World is a game designed to be played co-operatively online, but if this isn’t your bag then fear not because every mission can be completed in single player as well. At the start of the game, as you are creating your character, you also get to create a cat-like creature called a Palico. These have been featured in previous MH games, but this is the first time you have been able to completely customise your own and act alongside you to aide you. But if the appeal of a human-controlled companion is too great then you can release a flare during your hunt to recruit help.
And for the first time in the series, this help can come from anywhere in the (real) world as Monster Hunter World is the first in the series to have a global simultaneous launch. That in itself is great news for the series newcomers as there is a very high chance of being grouped up with the veterans over in the East. This happened for me every time I wanted to group up during the Beta and helped make me better as a player, watching them and receiving their guidance.
After playing the Beta, all signs are pointing towards Monster Hunter World being an early frontrunner for 2018 Game of the Year. What the developers at Capcom have managed to achieve by enticing new players into the fold without ‘dumbing’ it down for the series regulars is genuinely exciting to see how it plays out. The Beta was literally just scratching the surface of this game with only three monsters to take down across two of the games’ locations. To step into these locations feels like a living ecosystem and I could happily walk round these without even bothering about the hunts I’ve signed up for, just to take them all in. I cannot wait to get my hands on this game.
Monster Hunter World launches worldwide on Friday 26th January 2018 and comes in two versions: The Standard Edition priced at £49.99 includes the Fair Wind Charm and Origin Set. The Digital Deluxe Edition priced at £57.99 includes the Samurai Set, Additional Gesture 1: Zen, 2: Ninja Star and 3: Sumo Slap, Additional Sticker Set 1: MH All-Stars Set and 2: Sir Loin Set, Additional Face Paint: Wyvern and Additional Hairstyle: Topknot, as well as the Fair Wind Charm and Origin Set. Phew!
Will you be picking up on launch day? Let us know in the comments below!