Monster Hunter: World is shaping up to be exactly the evolution we hoped for

Monster Hunter: World ran a PS4-exclusive open beta over the weekend. World is slated to hit PC in early- to mid-2018, so Monster Hunter enthusiasts Steven and Austin went hunting together to find out what PC gamers can expect. 

Austin: Dear lord, it's everything I wanted, Steven. This game will consume me. 

Steven: Right? I was optimistic that a non-3DS Monster Hunter would be good, but Monster Hunter: World is also kind of scary for longtime players because it changes so much about the formula. I was overwhelmed by systems like the scout flies, open-world maps, and new traversal options. It’s a lot to take in for new players and veterans alike. But man, I can already tell that Monster Hunter: World is going to become my new obsession.

Austin: Overwhelming really is the word. I never thought getting away from the zoning-based maps of previous Monster Hunters would feel this good. Environments are much more organic now that there's not a loading screen every 50 feet, but different areas are still distinct enough that you remember where they are. I actually want to spend time in the world, both to learn its nooks and crannies and to drink in its stunning, non-3DS graphics. 

Steven: Nooks and crannies indeed; it feels like every zone has a million secret paths to it. I totally agree: dropping the loading screen between areas is a huge step up. I loved that moment we had on our first hunt when we noticed the docile Aptonoths stampeding away from a nearby area and went to investigate. Having an open world just makes everything feel more cohesive and alive. 

Austin: It's a shame those Aptonoth turned out to be a false alarm. We're both veterans, so we might not have picked up on this as much, but some first-time friends of mine (including our own editor, Wes) were drowning in the combat. Environments are filled with ledges and traps that can totally change the way you fight, and weapons are every bit as deep. I was finding new moves for the lance and longsword hours after picking them up, and weapons like the charge blade practically require a glossary. 

Steven: Yeah, Monster Hunter has always been hard to get into. I don’t envy new players. That said, that complexity is what made me put 600 hours into Monster Hunter 3U. And despite being overwhelmed, I’m glad that World mixes things up. It feels like the overhaul the series has needed since Monster Hunter Tri. I’m especially in love with the changes to ranged weapons like the bow. It feels far more intuitive and accessible, and using a proper controller feels so much nicer than a 3DS. 

Austin: I was really impressed by mantles as well—the new cooldown-limited suits you can equip on the fly in battle. I thought they'd be throwaway buffs, but choosing the right mantle is actually critical to a clean kill. The rocksteady mantle seems especially powerful, almost like 90 seconds of god mode.

Steven: I’m slightly torn on the mantles, to be honest. I’m sure the difficulty is tuned with them in mind, but the rocksteady mantle offers such an aggressive buff to defense and attack that I feel like it undermines preparing supplies to bring on a hunt. I guess some people might hate that grind, but I’ve always found the lengthy preparation that can go into fighting a tough monster its own reward. But the other mantles, like the glider mantle, are really cool since they just give you more utility instead of a flat buff that diminishes the challenge of some fights.

Austin: I like rocksteady for meter-based weapons like the longsword, charge blade and dual blades, which you have to charge up by dealing damage. It gives you an opening to build up power at the start of a fight, so by the time the mantle wears off you're already in top form. And frankly, I'll take whatever boosts I can get, because Capcom clearly wasn't messing around when they said monsters scale up in multiplayer. These things hurt, and they've got a lot of health. 

Steven: That’s true. While we’re not positive on the math, it seems like monster HP is rebalanced in multiplayer to account for four players. If you duo a hunt, it can take a hell of a long time. 

Austin: Like, my best solo Barroth time was three minutes and change, but we were barely able to kill him in under nine minutes. And there are tons of videos of great players soloing monsters three times quicker than with a group! 

Steven: To be honest, I didn't mind the extra health (even if it is too much) as much as how flighty some of these beasts were. It felt like we’d fight them for a minute or two before they’d suddenly run off to another zone. In old Monster Hunter games, that was expected, but the size and complexity of World’s maps made it feel like we spent more time chasing than fighting sometimes.

I really feel like I’m a warrior navigating a thriving jungle teeming with danger.

Austin: Right? Monsters have always limped away when you get their health low. Which makes sense; they're retreating to their nest. But in World, some of these things leave whenever they please. We wound up using items like traps and paralysis knives just to keep them in place, when we could normally use them to, you know, create openings. Rathalos, the red dragon that serves as the face of the game, was the absolute worst about this. 

Steven: Flying was always an extra challenge in Monster Hunter because you’d lose sight of the monster, but yeah, Rathalos wasn’t fun to fight. To be fair, the beta limits your toolkit quite a bit, but Rathalos kept kiting us from one end of the map to the other and that sucked all the thrill out of the fight.

It also unearthed issues I had with the scout flies, the glowy insects that can lock onto a monster’s scent and track them for you. They’re handy when you first start a hunt and have no idea where the monster is, but we ran into Rathalos right away and didn’t have time to uncover enough clues to activate their tracking. With how complex the levels are to navigate, I found scout flies to be far better at pathfinding than tracking. I mean, we knew where the bastard was, we just didn’t know how to get to him. Scout flies also don’t indicate which monster they might be tracking, which is annoying. And because they also highlight items to gather, it often felt like my path to Rathalos was buried under useless fodder.

Austin: Tracking can definitely be fickle. I'm hoping it's more intuitive in the full game, which includes a journal that logs your knowledge of monsters. I'd say the same of matchmaking, because holy hell is the multiplayer structure in the beta archaic. I mean, to even join me, you had to enter a million-digit quest ID that could pass for a default Wi-Fi password. Which was acceptable on the 3DS, but there's no excuse for that on PS4, let alone PC. Hopefully the addition of friend and guild lists helps. I'll dive deeper into multiplayer stuff in an upcoming piece exploring what else we want to see in Monster Hunter: World on PC. 

And I don't want to end this on a downer, because on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed the beta. World has been my most-anticipated game since it was announced, and that hasn't changed. 

Steven: Yeah, it’s hard to say if the matchmaking system we had to endure was something thrown together for the beta or indicative of what the final game will be like. I found it super confusing at first. Monster Hunter is already a demanding and obtuse game, so it’s not going to help if people get lost navigating menus.

That said, our issues with the tracking and multiplayer do feel minor compared to World’s successes. Jumping in to play with you last night was such a blast. I’m already itching to finish writing this so I can go back and play more. I’ve always been comfortable with the small iterations Monster Hunter brings with each new game, but World is such an unexpectedly massive evolution. 

That moment last night when you and I were trying to kill that one fish monster and the Barroth showed up to join the fray was so epic. The fish monster wrapped itself around the Barroth and tried to squeeze it to death before it bucked it off for massive damage. It was like a moment from Godzilla versus Mothra, and I had no idea it was coming. Monster Hunter: World’s name is fitting, because for the first time, I really feel like I’m a warrior navigating a thriving jungle teeming with danger.