If you’re unfamiliar with Monster Hunter games, know this: they’re top-shelf action-RPGs about hating giant dinosaur things so much that you hunt them down, beat them to death, cut their butts off, put them on sticks and then use those butt-sticks to hunt bigger dinosaur things. You do this 10,000 times and then the next game comes out. It’s absolutely incredible.
With World, the undisputed king of hunting is finally getting the platform it deserves. It’s a match made in heaven. At least, it could be. That being said, let’s look at the features that would make World truly special—in descending order of how likely they are to actually happen.
Monster Hunters are known for their boss fights, but the environments that frame those encounters also play a major role in the thrill of the hunt. Slaying a Teostra is just plain more fun inside the heart of an active volcano.
World is doing away with modular, separated areas in favor of a seamless, open world. Which means less loading, which is great. But clunky as it was, separating areas lent previous Monster Hunter games stunning environment diversity. Walking two feet could totally change your surroundings. So while World will have far fewer loading screens, that could come at the cost of contrast.
Happily, World’s first proper demo showed off all manner of obstacles and terrain, which are all the more promising thanks to the new grappling hook. The map screen we saw suggests areas will still be fairly divided in terms of feel. Now it’s a matter of having varied enough maps. Forests are great and all, but World needs more colors than green.
Lots of monsters
Monster Hunter’s roster has exploded since its original 17 monsters, with both Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Generations offering over 70. However, it’s unclear how many monsters will appear in World, nor do we know if it will feature stage-sized monsters like Dalamadur or the ferocious ‘deviant’ monsters popularized in Generations.
World’s monster count is especially relevant due to its open-world maps, which are populated by multiple monsters and encourage monster-on-monster combat. The idea of exploiting the natural food chain and baiting monsters into fighting one another is exciting and could spice up the hunting experience, but we’ll need enough monsters to keep things fresh. I reckon World will need several dozen to deliver the organic experience it’s promising.
Even so, I’m not too worried. If there’s one thing this series does well, it’s monsters. Besides, Monster Hunter has a history of properly supporting new ideas, from new weapons to mechanics like mounting and Hunter Arts, so World’s giant monster fights may well be as exhilarating as they sound. We’ve also already seen two new monsters with the debut of the Anjanath and Great Jagrass, both of which stand out from the pack. Here’s hoping the added strain of developing in HD doesn’t shrink World’s roster too severely.
World will feature all 14 weapons from previous Monster Hunter games, which together offer tremendous combat variety. For the first time, players will also be able to swap weapons mid-hunt. As a result, weapon balance will be more important than ever.
Choosing a weapon is far less interesting when a handful are overwhelmingly more effective than others. Sure, you can stubbornly use the one you like even if it’s weak, but feeling powerful is part of the fun of Monster Hunter. And most measure power not by just killing a monster, but killing it quickly.
For its weapons to really matter, World needs to ensure they’re all powerful and fun to use. They should be good at different things, but they should not be as divided as the weapons in 4U, several of which were overshadowed by the insect glaive, charge blade and greatsword.
With Monster Hunter Double Cross, Capcom introduced daily hunting challenges which yield bonus rewards. Previous games also offered event, challenge and episodic quests which unlock unique gear. 4U alone got around 100 DLC quests, and all of them were free, which is great. More of that, please.
While we’re at it though, if I may be so greedy, it would be great to see World add new monsters over time. Weekly quests and daily challenges will help keep players engaged, but getting a new monster to hunt every few weeks would be even better. For one, it would liven up World’s, er, worlds. It would also be a great way to introduce the newest wave of hunters to more classic monsters, not to mention give the monsters themselves a well-deserved facelift. And obviously, updates should be sizeable or free.
Monster Hunter has always delivered a serviceable online experience by letting players search for hunts by type (kill or capture), location, difficulty and monster, with optional lobby titles and passcodes for good measure. For games like 4U and Generations, that was good enough, but World also has drop-in multiplayer to consider.
World gives players two options: assembling a team of up to four hunters before setting out, or inviting more hunters mid-hunt if things get hairy, not unlike summoning help before a Dark Souls boss. But what happens if I’m out hunting something of my own when my buddy calls for help? Can I finish my hunt and then join theirs, or do I have to abandon my hunt immediately? For that matter, can I drop in from anywhere? Can just anyone join after I call for help, or can I limit it to my friends list? Can I signal for help again if someone disconnects?
World has to give players the options they need to create and join exactly the hunts the want, but it’s worth noting that Monster Hunter has never really dealt with some of those options. Even so, with a significantly more robust network behind it, World should be capable of delivering an experience that’s more than just serviceable.
No online game is without its trolls, but griefing in Monster Hunter is a special kind of aggravating. Killing on a capture-only quest, tripping teammates with attacks and aggroing multiple monsters is to be expected, but when it’s intentional it can outright ruin a hunt. Quitters and hackers are also rampant, and it's fair to expect this to continue to be an issue on a more open platform.
Just as World’s drop-in multiplayer will give players opportunities to cooperate, it will give trolls opportunities to harass. Capcom needs to be ready for that, and they should be now that they’re no longer saddled with Nintendo’s limited online system. I get that Monster Hunter isn’t a competitive game, but players do get plenty invested in hunts, and that’s reason enough to protect everyone’s experience.
Capcom has never stringently policed Monster Hunter’s multiplayer, but the studio has started taking online play seriously in other games such as Street Fighter 5. World would benefit immensely from similar no-nonsense policies and penalties. I’m not asking for a ban hammer, I’m just asking for trolls to be caged for once.