With the recent PS4 beta, we finally got to spend some much-needed hands-on time with Monster Hunter: World, which is slated to hit PC early- to mid-2018. Steven and I thoroughly enjoyed the hours we put into the beta and came away hungry for more, but we weren't without our criticisms, especially looking ahead to the PC release.
I've already talked about some basic fun-factor stuff World needs to account for to ensure a proper debut for Monster Hunter on PC (in the West; Monster Hunter Frontier Online notwithstanding), and happily the beta addressed almost all my concerns. But after playing the game myself, albeit an old and limited PS4 build, I want to highlight some features and details that could really shine on PC.
More accessible multiplayer
Like Steven said, it's unclear if the party system in the beta is indicative of the final game, but good lord was it bad. You had to select multiplayer, then select a quest for no discernible reason since the party host chooses the quest anyway, then choose a matchmaking method—that is, queue with random people, join friends, join a specific room or make your own room. And to directly join friends, you had to enter a hideous, 12-digit, case-sensitive quest ID. Only then could you choose a camp, ready up and finally depart.
Again, beta. But again, bad. The beta system was also disconcertingly reminiscent of how Monster Hunter did multiplayer on the Nintendo 3DS, which routinely fumbles online play. The thing is, PC doesn't. It's the best platform for multiplayer, and I want to see World leverage that by streamlining the process of joining and creating hunts. I want cleaner menus and fewer steps, not to mention proper friend and guild list integration.
Update: We know Monster Hunter: World will feature the guild cards and friends lists seen in previous Monster Hunter games (which weren't available in the beta), but it's unclear how World will improve upon the menus and unwieldy quest IDs also seen in previous games.
We don't know for sure that World will release on Steam (although looking at Capcom's recent PC releases it seems likely), but whatever its storefront or launcher, it should support adding, joining and inviting friends. That would go a long way toward cleaning up the party system, to say nothing of World's much-vaunted drop-in multiplayer, which wasn't available in the beta.
We do know that World supports pseudo-guilds called squads—groups of up to 50 hunters who can create squad-exclusive lobbies. And while hunting parties can only contain a maximum of four people, hunting lobbies are held in a shared social space and can hold up to 16 players. It would be great to form big lobbies of squad mates and split off into individual parties as hunts and members come in.
Picture it: you need to kill an Anjanath to finish your armor set, so you hop into your squad's lobby and try to round up a hunting party. As it happens, three squadmates are currently out hunting a Legiana, and their fourth player dropped out and can't come back. "We'll help you bag that Anjanath if you help us kill this Legiana," they say. So you swap to your Legiana-killing loadout and head into the frey, visions of fancy new Anjanath pants dancing in your head.
I'd love to see that kind of spontaneous camaraderie spring up in World, and I'd hate to see it throttled by clunky menus.
Interestingly, when played on a PS4 Pro, the World beta let you prioritize framerate or graphical quality. It's a given that we can expect much more detailed graphics options in the PC version (especially an FOV slider), but tailoring the game's HUD is also especially important not only because it's a staple of PC action games, but because World's HUD has a lot going on.
By default, you've got your health, stamina and timer in the top left, your minimap and lock-on targets in the bottom left, your item and ammo scroll wheels in the bottom right, and your weapon combos in the top right, But then there's the sharpness bar located below your stamina, to say nothing of weapon-specific meters like the longsword's spirit gauge and the charge blade's phials. On top of that, you've got customizable quick-select items. These were laid out as a radial menu on PS4, but will presumably be 1-9 hotkeys on PC.
World's HUD is perfectly serviceable as-is, but it was designed to suit every play style and perspective, not specialized ones. Draggable, resizable elements would allow for that specialization while also accommodating different resolutions and monitor setups. Maybe you're a bow user and want your quiver scroll wheel closer to your sharpness. Maybe you just want your health and stamina front-and-center like they are in most MMORPGs because that's what you're used to. PC players could do all kinds of creative, convenient stuff with World's intricate HUD if Capcom gives them the option.
Monster Hunter is a challenging action RPG nested in a gritty hunting sim, but it can also be quite silly. Just in case the fact that World lets you fight alongside a miniature Mega Man cat didn't give that away.
For years the series has enlisted characters from other series to spice up armor and weapons via free DLC, from Mario and Luigi Palicos to Metroid Prime armor for your hunter. And World is clearly going to keep this going: in addition to Mega Man, we already know it will feature armor and a bow based on the protagonist of PS4 exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn.
And I get it, right? Monster Hunter started on PlayStation platforms and really grew into a phenomenon on Nintendo platforms. Of course characters from those platforms are going to be featured. But just as I'd love for those crossover characters to appear in the PC version of World, it would be a cool show of good faith for some of the PC's best characters to be highlighted in crossover DLC. I dream of clubbing monsters to death with a hammer while done up as Team Fortress 2's Heavy.