Monster Hunter: World artwork of a giant drake attack

Monster Hunter: World has been available on consoles for quite a few months now, while the PC version was held back in order to ensure a fully polished experience. Now that it has finally arrived, the big questions are: has Monster Hunter: World been worth the wait, and is the PC port any good?

The simple answers would be "yes" and "kind of", but since that doesn't exactly tell you much about Monster Hunter: World's strengths and flaws, allow me to share some of my thoughts after spending a rather considerable amount of time chopping up dinosaurs and adorning my character with enough spikes to shame a World of Warcraft Orc.

Monster Hunter: World screenshot of a character running away from a dinosaur

Welcome to Monster Hunter, try not to feed the animals

Since I've never played a Monster Hunter game before, I must admit I was quite surprised when I realized that the name is not merely symbolic. Every single thing you do, from the very beginning to the very end, revolves around hunting gigantic monsters. You're either gearing up to hunt giant monsters, looking for other players to help you hunt giant monsters, or you're just straight up hunting giant monsters across a variety of expansive maps. Given how simple all of this sounds you might think that Monster Hunter: World is a fairly one-dimensional game, but the truth is actually quite the opposite as is there is a lot of depth and variety present here.

Before you even begin your adventure you will have to choose from 14 separate weapon types, each one offering a drastically different playstyle and moveset. Some of these weapons are so unique that it almost feels like you're playing an entirely different game while wielding them! For example, the almighty greatsword requires both patience and strategy in order to compensate for its incredibly slow swing speed and recovery time, while something like the dual swords require you to constantly move around and dodge enemy attacks as if you were playing some sort of Dark Souls offshoot. There's also a horn-like weapon that lets you brush up on your Guitar Hero skills while you bash dinosaurs around, as well as a highly mobile spear that you can use to chuck insects at your enemies!

Not all of these weapons will appeal to you and you'll probably stick to the three or four you like after a while, but that's kind of the point. You don't need any specific weapon to defeat a boss, so it really comes down to choosing the sort of playstyle you enjoy and going wild with it. And thankfully, Monster Hunter: World's arsenal seems to cover pretty much all of the bases.

Monster Hunter: World the slow and powerful greatsword

The greatsword is slow and cumbersome, but once it hits you, you're going to be feeling that hit for days!

That said, do make sure you choose a weapon you actually enjoy, because even hunting down some of the early-game monsters can be a herculean task. The monsters not only have a large amount of health you'll need to carve your way through, but they're also not stupid enough to try and fight the crazy person that just chopped off their tail. Instead, the vast majority of monsters will attempt to flee and recuperate after they start losing, which will often result in a 20-30 minute game of cat and mouse as the two of you rampage across the wilderness. 

It might sound a bit excessive to have what is essentially a parade of 30 minute boss fights as the the main gameplay draw, but each encounter is surprisingly varied and well paced, which goes a long way towards softening the feeling of repetition. This is because you only really fight for a couple of minutes at a time, after which you need to track down the fleeing monster, prepare some sort of ambush, and then dash into the fray once again. A fairly simple concept, yet still a highly effective one as it provides an excellent balance between frantic action and relaxed gathering/exploring.

Another factor working in Monster Hunter: World's favor is the sheer amount of options you have when fighting monsters. Sure, you can just attack them with a sword and then run after them like some sort of raging barbarian, or you can prepare the field ahead of time and then goad the monster into running straight into your traps. There's also various enhancements and poisons you can put on your ranged weapons, numerous throwable items that can even blind monsters if used properly, and for those of you that feel particularly lazy, there's always the option to force your prey to run into another giant monster, at which point you can just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Monster Hunter: World is still definitely grindy and you'll be fighting the same monsters over and over again as you attempt to gear yourself, but there is a lot of variety present here, as long as you're willing to look for it. From what I've noticed there doesn't appear to be any wrong way to play, so just experiment with all of the various tools and weapons as it will keep the experience fresh and interesting for quite a while - it certainly did for me!

Monster Hunter: World screenshot of multiple monsters fighting each other

If you're having trouble, just start a good ol' fashioned free-for-all brawl

Besides slicing up dinosaurs with ridiculously oversized weapons, Monster Hunter: World also heavily focuses on crafting and resource gathering. The entire world is riddled with herbs, mushrooms, bones and insects you can pick up, all of which are used in the creation of extremely relevant consumables and weapon upgrades. There is an absolute ton of stuff to collect, and thankfully Monster Hunter: World makes the whole process as easy as it can possibly be. Most items can be collected by simply holding a button while running past them, you can use the auto-crafting system to keep you supplied with consumables without having to do tedious busywork yourself, and perhaps most importantly, all of the numerous spikey monster parts don't clog up your inventory as they immediately get put into the stash! All of these are tiny little quality-of-life features, but when combined they make the crafting experience an incredibly pleasant one, which I must admit I didn't expect given my usual distaste for any sort of crafting system.

Monster Hunter: World further throws you a bone by giving you the ability to downgrade weapons at basically no cost, which I used to great effect early on in my playthrough as I constantly kept shuffling between weapons and damage types. All of this is an inherently grindy process given that you're collecting materials that make you better at collecting even more materials, but the whole thing was executed so smoothly that I genuinely didn't mind. All I cared about was getting just a little bit more damage and armor so I can go back into the wilds to hunt down yet another gigantic monster!

Ironically, while the whole gathering and crafting process has been heavily modernized, the UI feels like it's stuck ten years in the past. It's pretty much all menus nested in menus, nested in menus, nested in other menus. There's dozens upon dozens of menus you need to scroll through before you can even begin to figure out what all of your items and abilities do, which as you might imagine doesn't exactly help Monster Hunter's reputation for being hostile towards new players. I did eventually get used to it, but it's still an area that I would like to see reworked from the ground up in the inevitable sequel. As it stands, the obtuse menus are just a chore you'll occasionally have to go through in order to access the good stuff.

Monster Hunter: World screenshot of the crafting menu

Every menu should be as polished and easy to use as the armor-crafting one

When it comes to the actual game world, however, Monster Hunter: World does not fail to impress. Each of the different zones is visually striking and filled with a variety of monsters to chop up, while the numerous mushrooms, flowers and glowing bugs provide some much needed atmosphere. The world design is so strong that it took me quite a few hours before I even realized that a lot of the textures, especially the ones for the rocks, were surprisingly low quality. I've read online that there's some sort of bug with the PC version that artificially downgrades various textures, and if that's the case I can only hope the developers will fix it in the near future as this is one of those issues you can't stop noticing once you become aware of it.

While looking pretty is all well and good, it is the actual gameplay that matters the most to me, and I am pleased to say that all of the zones have a very smooth flow to them. Regardless of where you are going, there are always multiple pathways leading to your target, all of which give you ample opportunities to explore and stock up on reagents, as well as ambush your prey if you know exactly where they are. A lot of this complexity is achieved through the use of verticality, which also helps expand the map size rather significantly, while still keeping it relatively nice and manageable. 

The various forms of navigation are to be thanked for this sort of level design being pleasant to deal with, because if I had to constantly scale up and down massive ladders I would probably lose my mind while fighting some of the more flighty monsters. Instead, there are plenty of pre-set points where you can either use your grappling hook to move forward, attach yourself to flying monsters in order to cross vast distances in no time at all, or just jump across large gaps. Perhaps most importantly, you can also fall nearly 20 meters onto solid ground without taking a single bit of damage! Does it make any sense at all for a fully armored warrior to survive such falls? No, not at all, but it sure does make navigating the world a lot more enjoyable!

Monster Hunter: World screenshot of the grappling hook

Every game can be improved with a grappling hook!

However, while Monster Hunter: World might be a mighty T-Rex rampaging through the jungle, the online portion of it is unfortunately best represented by those comically small arms that just constantly flail around as the beast chases its prey. What I mean by this is that finding people for a certain mission is a needlessly convoluted and awkward process. You first need to use the matchmaking system to join a lobby filled with random players you can't see, post a mission, start the mission itself, and then hope those few people in your lobby are interested in doing the exact same mission as you are. If they aren't and you really want to play co-op, then you have to leave the mission and repeat the whole process all over again. It's a gigantic waste of time and something that could've easily been solved with a lobby browser or just a slightly more advanced matchmaking system.

But the very 'best' thing about Monster Hunter: World's online experience is that you cannot join your friends on a mission before they have watched all of the cutscenes! You two can be at the exact same point in the story, try to do the exact same mission, but you won't be able to play until the party leader loads up the mission, watches all of the cinematics, and then recreates the quest. For a game as focused around online co-op as Monster Hunter: World is, I simply cannot even begin to comprehend how decisions like these have managed to sneak into the final game. I can only assume this is some remnant of an ancient system from a previous Monster Hunter game, but either way it's an unfortunate blemish on an otherwise highly entertaining game.

As for the PC port itself, I actually found it to be quite alright. I've seen numerous people complain about the framerate, crashes and the seemingly eternal loading times, but for me Monster Hunter: World ran like a dream. Once I've done my initial fiddling with the graphics settings I was constantly able to hold 60 FPS, while loading in new missions took less than three seconds despite not putting it on an SSD. There's certainly areas I would like to see improved, areas such as the UI and the somewhat mediocre mouse controls, but other than that I really didn't have any bad experiences with the PC port.

Monster Hunter: World screenshot of the desert from afar

Closing Thoughts

While I have given Monster Hunter: World more than a fair share of praise, it is important to mention that it's still a niche game - a niche game I have found to be right up my alley, but a niche game nonetheless. Monster Hunter: World does not shy away from this fact either, it fully embraces its quirks and centers the entire gameplay experience around them.

So if you despise grinding or just dislike the idea of killing monsters to become strong enough so you can kill even scarier monsters, then I don't believe Monster Hunter: World is going to be the sort of game that will satisfy you for long. On the other hand, if you love the thrill of the hunt and slowly but surely chipping away at a giant monster's defenses, then you might just find that Monster Hunter: World has veritable banquet to offer you!

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