As a worldwide phenomenon that has entranced players, the Monster Hunter series is arguably one of the most important franchises in gaming these days. Capcom’s games have been known to be challenging, addictive and a great way to bond with friends while traversing the wildlands of the world at large. It’s also a series that I simply couldn’t get into. While appreciating what it had to offer, the aimless wandering over a general area in hopes to locate the quarry, or some simply the correct danged plants to harvest, just didn’t excite. Add in the constant loading when moving from zone to zone, and I just felt like this wasn’t the series for me. I’ll take God Eater or Toukiden, thanks. So when I sat down at E3 to witness a live gameplay demo of Monster Hunter World, I was already trying to figure out how to frame what I saw in a positive alight for the series’ many, many fans. Turns out that I didn’t need to worry about that. Monster Hunter World addresses my problems and looks absolutely awesome.
The demo started off with a short assignment description. There is a monster out there and it needs to be brought down and nobody that has attempted it has returned alive. It tends to blow snot all over the place like a disgusting house guest in the shower, so maybe use that to help find the beast. Otherwise, we don’t know; it’s over there somewhere. But, hey! We’re going to time you, because that seems reasonable considering everything else that has been said about this task. Assignment received, the player moved briskly off into the jungle, great sword at his back and swagger at his hips.
To say that these environments are lush and full of life is a bit of an understatement. While maintaining a stylistic flair, the jungles and caves that were traversed are covered in all kinds of vegetation, glistening when the sun is able to poke through the think canopy of leaves above. Each piece of the world at large seems to have been placed with care, making it easy to locate landmarks, making basic navigation a simpler matter. Then there is the wildlife. Giant monsters prey upon the slightly smaller. Watching a Great Jaggras unhinge its jaw and swallow its dinner was akin to witnessing the devouring power of fellow staff member Chris Shive after he finishes a workout. Watching that same creature regurgitate its meal to feed its young was more like me the morning after Chris’ wedding. Except the Great Jaggras didn’t spray as much. The point is, this world feels like a living ecosystem, more so than most games that have tried that same boast.
The improvements to the tracking are also immediately apparent. While exploring the environment, the hunter periodically came across signs of his quarry. Stopping to engage with these spots, such as scraping up some mucus, feeds more knowledge to the hunter’s scout flies, or “levels them up” in the game’s vernacular, allowing them to create an easily seen bright yellow path to follow through seamless transitions of different areas in the world. It appears that the constant load times when moving from one section of the map to the next are completely eliminated. Once the flies were leveled all the way up for a particular target, they can lead the player directly to the monster, which is what happened in the demo. The prey turned out to be an Anjanath, which looks like a Tyrannosaurus Rex that someone decided needed extra teeth. Large, fearsome and seemingly a bit put out at the intrusion, the beast charged.
The actual battle was played to show off some of the various abilities that an average hunter can possess. Slingshotting seeds to distract the Anjanath, the hunter used a grappling line to swing up into the air, only to use the momentum to slam down with a mighty sword strike. That same grappling hook was also used to climb onto the creature, allowing the hunter to ride the monster like a bucking bronco while raining down quick blows. This was working until the Anjanath smashed the hunter into a tree, knocking him loose. Using smaller seeds fire in rapid succession, the hunter made the target even angrier, tricking it into smashing headfirst into a wall and revealing a hidden cave with more resources to harvest. Continuing the tactic of exploiting the creature’s rage, the hunter engaged in his biggest jerk move: tricking the monster into the nest of an even larger, and much more territorial dragon like beast who responded to the Anjanath’s incursion like the intruder was a streaker in church. The two fought, with the target of the hunt becoming weaker and weaker. A third beast joined the fray, because the more the merrier. The hunter gathered resources and observed the fracass from a prudent distance, taking a brief lull in their fight to run in and chop off the Anjanath’s tail. The Anjanath, weakened, stumbled away and retreated, and the monster fight was over.
At this point, the hunter used some shortcuts to run to camp and freshen up his equipment. When ready, the scour flies were used again to get directly to the prey. Even weakened, this thing was still pissed off and much larger than the player. With a combination of guile, well timed dodges, and well aimed strikes, the beast finally went down. The demo ended with the harvesting of goods as the classic post mission timer counted down.
All said, Monster Hunter World appears to have taken some potentially controversial quality of life initiatives to make the game more palatable to a wider audience. The new scout flies still require the player to observe the environment to gather information, but some might argue this removes part of the charm of the game. This could be valid for long time fans, but their addition, along with the removal of continuous load times, are part of why I now find myself heavily interested in what World has to offer. The lands are still sprawling, the battles are still long and strenuous, but now the annoyance factor has been removed. We’ll be keeping an eye on this title as its development continues towards a release date sometime next year.