Monster Hunter: World looks like everything I want from a next-gen Monster Hunter

Big swords, bigger dinos, and cats—everything I love about Monster Hunter is coming to PC.

Two months ago I argued that it was time for Monster Hunter to come to PC in the West. It's a series that exemplifies everything PC gamers love, and I felt that Capcom ignoring the PC was a missed opportunity. Now that Monster Hunter World has been confirmed for PC, it's only reasonable to assume that I'm the reason it's happening. 

I like to imagine that someone at Capcom read that article and realized something had to be done. It was probably the Capcom rep who provided commentary during my hands-off demo. At the end, as everyone was leaving, he said thank you and our eyes met. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but I saw a glimmer there that spoke volumes to me. "Thank you, Steven. Thank you for that article," I imagine he thought in that moment. I smiled and nodded at him and he immediately grimaced. Maybe it's because LA is very hot and I'm very sweaty, but it was probably because he didn't want to blow his cover. 

It's strange being the unsung hero who will soon be responsible for introducing PC gamers to the majesty of Monster Hunter. I'm trying to not let it get to my head.

Welcome to the jungle 

When I wrote that argument in favor of Monster Hunter on PC, what I had envisioned was something on par with the Monster Hunter games on 3DS. I basically wanted them to port over Monster Hunter Generations and slap some fancy graphics on it. Monster Hunter World is that and a whole lot more. It was evident from the first minute that Capcom is taking some serious liberties with that formula—especially to make the game more accessible to new players. It's hard not to wring my hands over those changes, but Monster Hunter World's big ideas are too exciting to sweat the small stuff.

"With serious improvements to the monster AI, the forested area felt like a truly living ecosystem in a way that Monster Hunter games have never achieved."

For one, Monster Hunter World is going to be the first truly open-world Monster Hunter game. Zones are no longer segmented by loading screens but naturally bleed into one another in a sprawling jungle so massive that I never saw one area twice. With serious improvements to the monster AI, the forested area felt like a truly living ecosystem in a way that Monster Hunter games have never achieved. Early in the demo, a new beast called a Great Jaggras charged a group of docile Aptonoths and unhinged its jaw to consume one whole. We followed it as it waddled back to its nest to regurgitate the beast for its much smaller kin to begin eating. 

These types of interactions are everywhere. The main target was the Anjanath, a towering tyrannosaurus-type beast first shown in the reveal trailer. After fatally wounding it, those little jaggras came creeping out of their hiding places like vultures hoping to feast on the beast's remains. It's these little details mixed into an environment that is sprawling, organic, and downright gorgeous that make Monster Hunter feel more alive than it ever has. 

But with such a sprawling open world, a lot of Monster Hunter's standard systems and strategies just don't work properly. For example, in previous Monster Hunter games players need to craft paintballs to throw at their target, which allows them to track it should they get separated. It's a nice convenience, but even if you forget to paint the monster or it wears off before you throw a new one, you only have to spend a few minutes running through each zone of the small maps to find the beast. But Monster Hunter World's open zones seem massive to the point where losing track of the monster could be seriously frustrating.

That's why, I assume, World is introducing 'scout flies'—bugs that illuminate the shortest path to a monster after you collect footprints and mucus samples for them to follow. It's already a system that has Monster Hunter veterans worried because once scout flies have a monster's scent, they always give you a direct path. It's no longer necessary to learn where certain monsters might sleep or roam.

That's only the tip of the iceberg for features that remove Monster Hunter's more esoteric concepts in favor of making the game more widely appealing. Some of these changes, like being able to gather resources on the run instead of being subjected to a painfully long animation, are absolutely welcome. While other additions, such as monster health bars, exposed damage numbers, and a character named 'The Handler' who is constantly barking tips into your ear, are more contentious. Many are worried these additions will herald a Monster Hunter meant for more casual players. Because recent Monster Hunter games have had a great deal of customization options, I'm hoping all of these features can just be turned off in favor of a classic Monster Hunter experience.

What absolutely can't be switched off are World's boldest ideas—and I wouldn't want to anyway, as I'm too excited to see what Capcom can accomplish. For one, the world isn't just gorgeous and big, it's also destructible. During the demo, the Anjanath stormed around, knocking over trees and smashing into walls to reveal secret caves. It felt like truly squaring off against a creature of unimaginable power. 

Destructibility isn't just for show either. During the demo, the hunter was able to climb on the back of the Anjanath and begin hacking away at it in a fashion similar to Dragon's Dogma. The Anjanath responded by trying to crush the hunter against a nearby tree—but that's exactly what the hunter wanted. Jumping off just in time, the Anjanath toppled the tree and got caught in the falling vines, leaving it immobile for several seconds. Trapping has always been a core part of Monster Hunter, but I love that the environment can now trap the monster if you're clever enough to exploit it.

There's also the new grappling hook, which can be used on select areas of the environment to pull the hunter up Spider-man style to swing around and traverse the map faster. Or you can just be a total badass and use it to jump on a monster's back for some free attacks. Along with a wrist-mounted slingshot that can fire paralyzing ammo or rocks to lure monsters away from you, there's a lot of dramatic changes both big and small to the Monster Hunter formula.

As a long-time fan, I'm absolutely okay with Capcom experimenting. Monster Hunter is a series defined by its minutiae, but I think the core vision is more flexible than people give it credit for. While I had first imagined World would be a standard Monster Hunter game, I'm glad it's not. There's still a lot of questions remaining, like how many monster species World will have, but I'm more excited for this new direction than I am worried that Capcom is experimenting too much with an already good thing.