In the East, there is a whole set of games that often doesn’t even appear on our radar in the West, but sometimes a developer/publisher will attempt to make the leap. In March 2004 the first Monster Hunter game was released on PlayStation 2 and it went on to become a monster success (I’m not even sorry), predominantly in Japan and other Asian countries. It has since seen many iterations but has never shied away from what lies at the core of a Monster Hunter game: a high learning curve, satisfying co-op multiplayer and a rewarding loot cycle.
Early in 2018, Capcom released Monster Hunter World on all the leading consoles and it received critical acclaim across the board. The only snag was that (as is so often the case) PC gamers were left with an IOU from Capcom. The stated reasons for the eight month delay were that they wanted to spend some extra time getting the PC version working as well as possible. So Monster Hunter World has finally been unleashed on PC, let us take a look at how it did.
It is within our very nature to hunt. Before drive-through’s were a thing our ancient ancestors would craft tools from bone and rely on hunting to survive. I have myself hunted and eaten creatures in the wild, so to play a game which tries to emulate this experience was an intriguing prospect. Cards on the table, I like most westerners am playing my first Monster Hunter game so my opinions will not be influenced by any previous iterations or pangs of nostalgia.
The basic idea is to head into various environments in the game world, track your prey and kill it. To do this you must choose a weapon set, an assortment of equipment and if you so wish, other hunters (players) to assist you in the kill. Once your quarry is dead, you can then carve off materials, resources and trophies which can later be turned into ever more powerful gear. In this sense, loot/gathering are an essential element to Monster Hunter and a large part of what draw players back for more.
‘Sumet wick in them yon woods’
If there is one thing that kills immersion in a game is when the game space is lifeless and barren, this is something that Monster Hunter World thankfully gets right. Each of the zones are beautifully designed biospheres, with a plethora of resources and animals to interact with. As you move through these areas it’s hard not to be overwhelmed with the sheer number of things being presented to you. Small insects dart through the air, changing colour depending on the threat they detect (when you see red a monster is close), smaller creatures scatter under your footsteps and crepuscular critters will glow in the dark. Fish will dart away from your unwelcome feet as you splash through water and if you are so inclined you can always stop to roast some meat on a spit.
One thing that really is impressive about the world Capcom have created is that it feels very organic. You can shimmy up vines, push through root systems, dive through underwater tunnels and much more. There is also a great sense of verticality across many of the areas and how your character moves across these spaces feels kinetic and grounded. You can swing across chasms for example or slide down ramps to cover ground faster. What is clear right from the off is that much of these faunae and plants are there for the taking. Your slingshot can be loaded with a variety of ammunition both made and also gathered from the environment. This fantastic device can also be used to grapple onto targets and even pull rocks down on your enemies. Minerals can be mined, bugs captured for their various properties and even the many types of fish can be caught. One the best tips I can give you here is collect everything you can because it will be used later for crafting the equipment you need. You won't have to go far before you run into creatures that are sizeable enough to give you a nip, but we are here for the big game.
Of course, where would Ahab be without his whale? Each area will have one or more of the game's monsters roaming around, depending on the type of quest you have launched into. There is a main story to follow but for the most part, this is a tepid affair that we have seen in a thousand other games. When you first land (literally from a pterodactyl type bird) on a mission your first task will be to find your mark. To aid you in this you can find tracks and other signs like mucus. The more you track a creature the better you become and on subsequent missions finding this creature will be easier. One of the most useful ‘tools’ you have is a swarm of fireflies which will lead you in the direction of your target, these insects will also make you aware of resources in your vicinity and with hindsight, the game would be far more time-consuming without them.
As you will see, these monsters don’t just sit waiting for you to rock up with your dinner plate. Every monster moves around, sleeps, eats and does in general what you would expect a gigantic creature to do (including leaving dino-turds to harvest). This is where things get interesting because sometimes you can literally come across a sleeping monster which gives you a significant tactical advantage. Many players will line up explosive barrels and then wake sleeping beauty up with a devastating bang. As I have already touched on, the game does a fantastic job of letting the environment become a part of these confrontations. Toxic frogs can be exploded into a paralysing mist or plants can be encouraged to release their toxic spores into the air. There are also bigger environmental interactions such as tethering monsters in vines or bringing down rocks on their heads. In one memorable fight, I was starting to get the upper hand with my mark when I became trapped in mud that had been churned up by said monster. All these effects can be a blessing as well as a curse, you just need to be clever enough to exploit them in your favour.
There are also many other skills you will need to learn to become an effective hunter. Trapping a live creature can reap even greater rewards but this can be tricky at first. Once you know where a creature is nesting you can weaken it sufficiently to make it retreat. If you are wise you will have already laid a trap in this direction and have smoke bombs ready to finish off the capture. What is really cool is that on your return to the main hub you will see your captured monster, missing any pieces you have hacked off of course. Another very impressive aspect to these fights is that other monsters can wander into the fray. The sheer number of ways these very different looking creatures lock onto each other is staggering, serpent looking monsters will wrap themselves around their adversaries for example. Of course, luring two monsters into each other’s path can be a good tactic to soften them up before wading in for the final kill.
While there are no character classes as such, there are fourteen weapon sets which are effectively the same thing. Each weapon set changes the play-style and abilities of your character, in this way the game allows you to fill any role you wish with a simple weapon swap. The skill (and satisfaction) comes in learning how a weapon works, what its moves are and how best to deal with the various enemies. There is a really handy feature that allows you to save gear and equipment loadouts, a godsend when considering the troublesome menus I will cover shortly. As of right now, I have focused a little on the bow and mainly with the Insect Glaive (which is awesome). As you fight with the Glaive you must send your insect companion into the fray to extract coloured essence from the various locations on a monster's body. Once returned to you these essences power you up in various ways and will, in turn, give you access to more powerful moves. The Glaive also has the wonderful ability to catapult you into the air like a deranged trampolinist, giving a range of aerial attacks and the chance of mounting a target. Once you have mounted a monster its then a case game of buckeroo while you hack away at the various body parts. Learning how to use the varied weapons is one factor that adds some major replay value to this game just because of how much they change combat. There are many extensive guides online and entire YouTube channels dedicated to weapons in Monster Hunter World (MHW). I have pretty much used Arekkz Gaming exclusively so a big shout out to him for what are the best MHW guides I have found.
As I have already mentioned, once you have gathered the right materials you can enter the forge and start crafting your own weapons and armour. This can be a daunting part of the game because at first there is a lot to consider. Most of the main monsters will have their own set to craft and as you might imagine you need to kill that monster multiple times to acquire the right pieces. I love the aesthetics of this process because armour will often resemble the monster it was crafted from. There are plenty of stats and resistances to ponder and on top of this armour can be upgraded with armour orbs. I will leave you to figure all this out but I would recommend you do two things: watch at least one guide on armour/weapon crafting but also don’t worry too much about early sets. This is because the game is effectively split into two phases and once you enter the second half of the game the gear is vastly superior.
What respecting Japanese game would be complete without fluffy animals running around? As well as your own character you also have a trusty cat companion called a Palico. These faithful companions will aid you in many ways and as you may have already have guessed; are completely customisable including their own armour and weapons. In addition to the aforementioned advantages these cats offer, there are also some other very cool systems in place. When roaming the varied areas you can come across wild cats that can join you for a while but will also teach your Palico the language of the local monsters (the small ones at least). Then in battle, your feline-friend will actually mount a small critter and use it to aid you in fights. As you do more missions your Palico will also level up and become more effective in combat. I also adore the way they pull out a little inflatable dingy when you are wading through water. It is these small details that really do make this game a joy to experience.
Onions have Layers
When start playing the game you will first endeavour to finish story quests but there are also investigations and expeditions. Story quests give you a set objective and will advance the main narrative on completion, these will lead you to unlock more of the games many layers so pushing through the story is important. However, there are many more ways to play the game. From the quest board, you can also set up an investigation (which you pick up from tracking creatures in the main story). These are essentially a sandbox mission which gives you a set objective(s) and allows you to do quests outside of the main story. There is also an arena which is always on hand for a quick battle. Another tip I can give you is that once you have done a main story quest don’t repeat it; instead focus on investigations. You can also simply visit a location in the game and set out on an expedition, here you are free roaming with no real objective. Expeditions are good for gathering resources and trying new survival techniques because you are not playing under a time limit. Also, don’t forget to pick up six bounties because these will usually complete themselves as you play (collect 10 insects etc) and will provide armour upgrade orbs/research points.
Your home base acts as a central hub where you can access all the shops and services the game has to offer. The canteen will provide a place to eat which will send you into a mission with vital buffs. The cooking side of the game is, like many things in MHW, can be simple but also complex if you so wish. You can leave food roasting in the oven for your return or try new more complicated recipes. The buffs you can unlock when dabbling in more advance culinary treats are almost essential for the end game confrontations so it is well worth getting a grip on these early on. Have a look at this video for a decent heads up on getting the buffs you want.
Some facilities are with you right from the off, like the canteen, armoury and research centre. The latter is a great way to keep a track of what you know about certain monsters, how they fight and even which body parts drop the loot you seek. All this information is given to the player with some top-notch visual aids and charts, which update as you gather more research points. As you progress through the story mission new areas new NPCs and services will also open up; like a botanical research tree which allows you to cultivate resources while you’re away on missions. This is actually a godsend because some items, like flash bugs, are difficult to farm. I can’t mention the home base without mentioning my favourite little bacon factory. Porgy the pig will initially annoy the hell out of you but don’t crack open the HP sauce just yet. This little hog wanders around the base and will knock you on your arse when you pet him. However, if you tap right click and avoid this, after a few missions he will become friendly. Of course, Eastern games love to include these bizarre mini-games and so I wasn’t that surprised to find I could carry my porky chum around the base looking for new outfits for him.
Is it PC
Isn’t it funny how one singular sound can take you back? As I booted Monster Hunter World up for the first time I heard a familiar ‘ping’ when the loading screen provided some information. That same ping instantly reminded of the save game sound in Resident Evil on the original PlayStation. While on the subject of sound I think the quality in MHW is overall great, with a few caveats. While for the most part, I had the music turned off in order to hear the voices of my fellow hunters on Discord, we do have a good number of suitably dramatic scores. The in-game sound effects are also on par, many environments sound exactly as you would imagine and weapons effects all come off with a feeling of power. The only real problem I had with the sound was the voice acting and lip syncing, it is truly awful. I have never been a big fan of the acting in most Eastern games, I just think it comes across overly twee and doesn’t promote immersion at all. This is of course personal taste and some might find it to be fine.
As you might have gathered by now, I really do think MHW is an astounding game but the question remains, it is a good port? The short answer to that is unfortunately no. Even with an extra eight months to work on this version, MHW on PC has a few fairly major problems and this is why it is currently sitting at ‘mixed’ with Steam user reviews. For a start the mouse and keyboard implementation aren’t the best and while messing with .ini files can really improve this; the issue still hasn’t been officially fixed. After some tweaking, I am personally happy with using a mouse, even though it can feel a little floaty.
The radial menus that are obviously a console aid don’t feel like they work here. Often in the heat of a fight using the radial menu feels like it’s fighting me at every turn, hence I opted for the list-menu alternative. The menus in this game feel very clunky and have not been optimised for the PC at all. One aspect of this that baffles me is (what should be) the simple task of dragging an item from your bag to the storage box is a nightmare. You cannot drag and drop items but must instead click the item, move the box to the right place and then click again; sometimes even a fourth time to confirm amounts. Another sign that the developers didn’t really consider PC hardware is that the surprisingly helpful tips that appear on loading screens are gone before you can read them, especially when playing with an SSD. I’m sure these issues could be fixed by a decent modder but for now, it shows that Capcom either didn’t consider what PC gamer want from a game or more likely they didn’t have the time/ability to implement it.
The biggest problem Monster Hunter World has right now is connecting with other players. This doesn’t seem to affect all players but most will have seen some disconnects from groups. Sometimes when logging in I could not even connect to a play session, which is even more frustrating when it locks you into this screen until it informs you what you already know. So many times I have been nearing the end of a thirty-minute hunt and either myself or the host will disconnect from the session. Some people have speculated these connection problems could be related to Denuvo but there is no conclusive evidence of this. I have also had friends on Steam complain because when playing MHW on Steam it shows me constantly connecting to the game. To top all this off there is also a huge problem where you cannot group with friends on certain quests if you or someone else hasn’t already watched the cutscene for that quest. These are problems that we should not be getting in 2018, especially from a studio that has the resources to get it right first time. It is worth noting that connection issues have dropped significantly for me since launch.
There really isn’t anything else out there like Monster Hunter World right now. A few other games could be likened to it, but these other titles don’t even come close to the ambition on display here. The star of the show is obviously fighting the monsters themselves, these epic battles look and feel spectacular. It is not just the impressive scale of these fights that makes them a success but the many well-crafting systems that are working under the hood. There is a jaw-dropping amount to do in this game and as I type this the post-launch content that console owners already have is starting to arrive on PC.
It is an unfortunate truth that PC gamers often get left behind when it comes to the efforts and resources that a company is willing to spend on their game. Consoles will often be the priority because despite the PC gamer numbers now dwarfing the console numbers, PC development is still seen as troublesome. The sad irony of this situation is that when done right, a game ported properly will be the very best version on PC, assuming you have the chops to run the game. The positive news is that all the problems I have highlighted with the port could (and probably will be) fixed over time, either by a willing modder or less likely Capcom themselves. In terms of a recommendation, it pains me to say that I would advise holding off from picking this game up until the connection issues have been completely fixed, because for some this has made the game unplayable. Once this issue has been fully addressed then the other problems are minor and I would not let them stop me from enjoying one of the best games to come out this year.
Thank you for reading my review of Monster Hunter World on PC. As the review copy didn’t arrive until launch day I have taken my time, so for those waiting for my review, I do apologise. Thank you again for your continued support and please follow we on Twitter for all my content @riggedforepic