For myself and many others, the Monster Hunter series was a bit of an unknown entity. Often exclusive to Japan and/or on handheld consoles only, it was a bit of a niche series. That all changed with the release of Monster Hunter: World. A simultaneous worldwide release coupled with a much more newcomer friendly experience and arriving on all major platforms, it ignited the series in the West. Join us as we celebrate the 2018 release of Capcom’s biggest ever video game.
Monster Hunter: World is the fifth mainline instalment in the franchise, and the first one to launch on Xbox consoles in the West. It set its stall out early after being announced at E3 in 2017. It wanted to be the most accessible Monster Hunter game yet, the most powerful version that fully utilised the advanced hardware it was releasing on, but also to remain loyal to the fans that had carried the series since 2004. I don’t think many would argue that it didn’t achieve all these and more.
Each new mainline release offers up a new story and Monster Hunter: World was no different. This time around, you play as a Hunter on their way to the New World to hopefully set up a new civilisation there. Currently, the New World is home to many monsters of various shapes and sizes, as well as some unique monsters called Elder Dragons. These dragons perform what is known as the Elder Crossing every ten years or so, and members of the expedition are keen to learn more about this.
As you are travelling to the New World, your ship runs into trouble when Zorah Magdaros – one of the Elder Dragons – is spotted near your location. After a sticky situation runs your ship aground in an area with some huge monsters, leaving you very underprepared, you arrive at the base camp, even more determined to find out about these Elder Dragons.
Few players though will tell you that they play a Monster Hunter game for the story. Of more interest are the huge enemies that you are tasked with taking down. Returning fans will likely have their favourites from across the series – with many monsters re-appearing in subsequent games – while newcomers got to experience them all for the first time.
For me it was all about my boy Tobi-Kadachi. Vicious yet cute.
Each battle against one of the larger monsters felt like a boss battle. Monster Hunter has always tapped into this methodology of every fight being a boss battle. It is rarely a case of swinging away until the monster drops. There are move patterns to observe, weaknesses to exploit, endemic life to utilise and then, you’ll maybe just have enough to overcome the enemy.
Tracking them is also a major factor in Monster Hunter: World, made a lot easier than previous instalments. With the increased power on Xbox One, the loading screens in between zones were removed. Instead of visiting one location made up of smaller maps, you just had the one larger map, and everything contained within.
So, you’ve found the monster you wish to take down, but how exactly do you do that? Another core pillar of Monster Hunter is the variation in weapon types. And once again, World opened it all up for newcomers and veterans to experiment as they wished. Gone were the restrictions on armour sets depending on the weapon you selected, allowing you to pick a suitable weapon for your playstyle and adorn yourself anyway you see fit.
World kept the core gameplay loop of hunting monsters, gathering loot for weapons and armour to forge better equipment, and then get back out there hunting more dangerous monsters.
This could be done in single player, but Monster Hunter has always been best enjoyed in the company of others. And even here, World had streamlined the multiplayer experience. Players could join online servers for up to sixteen players. These could then all post quests on the notice board for other players to join in if required. Progress is shared across offline and online so you can always call upon others if you are stuck.
If there wasn’t anyone in your server willing to help, you could also launch an SOS flare that others could jump in and help out with. These would likely see far higher-level hunters jumping in to offer help and making absolute mincemeat of the monsters themselves.
Players of Monster Hunter: World will probably be screaming at me now though, saying that you are never really alone even in single player. And that is true, as you can also call upon a feline friend to help you out in battle. Known as a Palico, these anthropomorphic moggies can more than handle themselves in a fight. You can equip them with their own armour sets using the same loot from the monsters. These animals have been a staple of the series but having one customised by you, fighting alongside you, was once again new for the series.
As well as the forty-to-fifty hour story, Monster Hunter: World featured a ton of post-release content, even collaborating with other games to bring in some unique loot. The likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 2, The Witcher 3 and even Street Fighter all got in on the action, as well as lots of returning monsters added in over the lifecycle of the game. That is, before the huge expansion of Iceborne came about some eighteen months later, essentially doubling the length of the game again overnight.
I was one of the many newcomers to the series when Monster Hunter: World released, but it instantly became one of my favourite games from the last generation. I had dabbled with Monster Hunter games previously on the Nintendo 3DS with Monster Hunter Generations, but the lack of newcomer friendly easing in and playing on a portable console meant I could never really get to grips with it (the latter problem still being an issue for the more recent Monster Hunter Rise on my Nintendo Switch Lite).
But Monster Hunter: World just struck a chord with me. Despite the intensity of some of the battles, there was a therapeutic repetition to it too: Choosing which monster to hunt, eating a suitable meal beforehand cooked by the Palico chefs, tracking the monster themselves, and then slashing away with my Great Sword until one of us was victorious.
Whilst the multiplayer was sporadic for me – due to not having a squad to party up with – I would often respond to SOS flares to help others in need. I was far from a seasoned player, but Monster Hunter: World made me feel like I could stand toe-to-toe with veteran players, and even pay it forward to those not as familiar as myself even after a short time.
Monster Hunter: World is one of my longest played Xbox games of all-time, and if it wasn’t for Monster Hunter Rise, I’d likely still be hopping on there.
But which one do you start with? The majority of people will have now migrated to Monster Hunter Rise thanks to Xbox Game Pass, but Monster Hunter: World has been in and out of the subscription service before. And Rise continues the trend set in World by being much more newcomer friendly than previous instalments. So, the choice is yours really.
I will say this though, despite being five years old, Monster Hunter: World on Xbox looks a lot better than Monster Hunter Rise. The areas you explore in World feel far more detailed with endemic life. The variation in environments is present in both games, but Monster Hunter: World edges it in terms of how alive these areas feel.
But what are your memories of Monster Hunter: World? Are you still trying to collect those pesky crowns for miniature or giant monsters? Have you too moved on to Monster Hunter Rise? As always, let us know in the comments below.
Monster Hunter: World is available from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S. It’s also available on PlayStation and PC.