I came into Monster Hunter: World with genuine curiosity. Having never played a single entrant in the series prior — discounting a brief few minutes with the 3DS iteration and a fairly-rounded idea with what the series was all about — Monster Hunter was, up to this point, relatively lost on me. “They built an entire game around this?” I would ask, bewildered. This, coming from someone more than happy to kick a [virtual] ball around on a yearly basis. Thus, it would be rather hypocritical of me to remain dismissive of the appeal of a series whose prime focus is in its solitary, core loop, wouldn’t it? Of slaying monsters to acquire loot which in turn helps you gain new weapons/armor, which in turn helps you slay even more powerful/monsters for even better loot, etc. Thus, it wasn’t as agonizing a decision then for me to wait out the six-or-so months for Monster Hunter World to make the glorious and masterful switch from consoles to PC.
With such lauded praise, commercial success and nothing but positivity swirling about one of Capcom’s most globally-appealing IP’s at present, you would think the advancements often associated with the PC platform, would only elevate one of 2018’s [likely] success stories evermore. Right? Well…Monster Hunter: World on PC is an odd and at times perplexing state of affairs at present. Disastrous, definitely not, but worrying, most definitely. All the nice little surprises one is greeted with solely on an optimization front, matched in equal measure by similarly figurative surprises that aren’t so nice…and in some cases, not so “little” to ignore and/or dismiss. The pull and immersion of the game’s sharp, vibrant environments — all of which cued to a 1440p/60FPS set-up that has me only sacrificing the most mundane of options like FXAA-level Anti-Aliasing or Volume Rendering — ruined entirely by shockingly-rendered textures that make one’s player-character appear as a smudge on the world’s crisp detail or simply leave an occasional piece of foliage looking a little too out-of-place.
Clocking in about 20 real-life hours of the game’s opening period, realistically that actually equates to around fifteen, maybe even thirteen in-game hours. The game, prior to the most recent patch provided to by those already playing on PC, having crashed not once, not twice…but eight times in total at the time off writing. Yes, eight. The worse bit: all but one of these instances occurring during the final phase of an encounter, when one is at the cusp of slaying a giant beast. Given you can’t save during quests/investigations/hunts — as well as the fact that most quests can take up to around fifty minutes from starting to scavenging monsters for crafting parts — you can imagine how annoying that can get. It’s disappointing, because everything else surrounding it, frame-rate, environment rendering, lighting, tone, Monster Hunter World is a really nice game to simply trudge through and explore, let alone actively engage with.
I was willing to accept that my ageing GTX 980 GPU could possibly only manage a carefully-selected prioritising of Low/Medium/High settings. Maybe finding myself having to drop down to 1080p on my main 1440p monitor for the sake of maintaining 60FPS, let alone reaching past it. But, credit where credit’s due, Monster Hunter: World is the first game I’ve needn’t had to cut corners or make sizeable sacrifices with, in order to keep a stable frame-rate. Even if the sharp, vibrant environments inevitably come to clash with the horrid smudge of weapon and armor textures in part — even the most minimally-polygonal of objects like canteen plates or mere tables greeting you with a blur that even the PS4 appears to show no issue at handling.
Visual blemishes could be argued against. A temporary taint on a grander experience; particularly in the case of Monster Hunter wherein major, story-based missions can often have you investing anywhere up to an hour, from the moment of selection to returning to camp — salvaged monster parts and all. It’s a game with a looping hook, a premise that has you continuously, constantly repeating the cycle of upgrading and bettering one’s self. Of finally getting the required number of materials and monster fragments to craft that new, stronger weapon or beneficial piece of apparel. Only to quickly catch a glimpse of the next level and, more than likely, the grander (and horrid at times) beasties that require a higher parameter of RNG values.
Number-crunching and sifting through menus-within-menus is nothing new in the realm of role-playing — particularly when it’s of a Japanese sort — and even as a first-timer, Monster Hunter’s branching weapon/armor paths and many a check-list to fill (to add to the ever-growing pile of check-lists readily available at every turn) never seemed to turn me off. Surprisingly, it only coaxed me to have a crack at that next monster encounter. To maybe do an optional investigation or hunt while I was at it. In hindsight, Monster Hunter: World’s inescapably moreish core loop becomes evermore treasured, given the game’s pre-release PC build was often a personal tale of wasted time and snatched-away victory. One’s thirty-or-so minutes invested, chipping away at a monster’s health, followed up with an immediate booting out back to the desktop.
As it turns out — prior to the update Capcom put out shortly thereafter to counter what was, in actuality, a wider epidemic plaguing most PC copies — I wound up with not one, not two, not even three…but a total of eight crashes. All but one coming during the final phase of engaging a monster. Anywhere up to a fifty minute period, gone. No quick save or immediate return to the final phase since the game doesn’t allow you save mid-mission and while it is a singular, solitary error on the game’s part, it was no less a critical. Had the succeeding few hours been more of the same, I might have completely walked away from Monster Hunter: World and one’s hope that Capcom’s recent efforts to support the platform, weren’t a mere fluke.
For the time being, the present build appears to have fixed the occurring crashes and while the issue with low-quality textures continues to be an eyesore and difficult to ignore, it’s fortunate that the gameplay and optional exploration mitigates any brief spots of questionable visual fidelity. It’s not often I jump head-first into a game based solely on extremely high regard prior — particularly when it belongs to a series of little personal experience — but it would seem Monster Hunter: World is ending up as one of the few games that may appear to be rewarding that blind curiosity. As a newcomer to this series (and one of the many on Steam whom have gladly opened their arms…and perhaps their wallets too…to this latest effort), I implore you Capcom to fix the remaining issues, because — in a charismatic low-key expression — this game is indeed…pretty good.