THE HUNT IS ON! Monster Hunter: World's title screen. All screenshots taken on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
Let me start this review by saying that I'm not normally the audience for something like the Monster Hunter games of Capcom's past.
I've skipped every other game in the series because the game's systems, from the method of learning how to hunt to the nuances of various weapons, felt obtuse.
Moreover, the idea of map zoning and playing the game on a handheld (where much of Monster Hunter's fanbase find its groove) never appealed to me.
Luckily, I can also preface this review by saying Monster Hunter: World is not like the Monster Hunter games of the past.
Older annoyances gone
Monster Hunter: World is the latest installment in a highly regarded franchise, one in which players are tasked primarily with killing monsters and foraging their parts for better armor and weapons with which to slay even deadlier monsters.
The game does away with a lot of the complexity and obtuseness behind the game's systems. There's a training area to practice weapon use. The map is more or less better designed with a tracking system known as the scoutflies helping you to find the object if your hunts.
Best of all, the game world, while divided into 5 major hunting areas, no longer have zones. It's a seamless habitat in which you can take on monsters at your leisure. (WATCH: Rappler Game Night's Monster Hunter: World episode)
In World, there is also a story. You're part of the fifth adventuring fleet of hunters, scholars, and craftsmen setting sail for a new world to follow the trail of a giant monster called Zorah Magdaros.
From that basic conceit, the real draw is in the unabashed stabbing, bashing, shooting, and slicing of monsters great and small for their body parts as you uncover the mysteries of the new world you've been placed in.
An amazing slay-loot-craft feedback loop
The slay-loot-craft mechanic is a standard feedback loop in many action role-playing games, but the difference with World lies in the quality of providing that feedback loop to players.
The game gets the feedback loop right by providing what I feels is a very involving version of the slay-loot-craft mechanic available.
When every fight feels like a major boss battle, and you successfully defeat a monster in your way, you feel accomplished. Add to that the sound design for eviscerating your fallen foe to pick up his body parts for crafting new items, and you might feel doubly satisfied after taking on a menacing creature.
You earn your wins, and with your wins come the promise of new gear and bigger challenges.
Speaking of challenges…
Have I mentioned that the game is rife with really good challenges? By challenges, I not only refer to the monsters you face in-game. I'm also talking about the weapons you get to choose from.
The replay value of the game is increased significantly by the fact that you can choose one of 14 different weapon types to start the game with, and you can play the game and switch weapons and armor as you see fit to take on monsters in your way.
In my time playing, I've enjoyed running around with the Insect Glaive, which is basically a bladed staff with its own insect-as-ranged-weapon mechanic that gives you statistical boosts when you have the insect (known as a Kinsect) attack your target.
But you can use great swords and hammers, or bows and guns, or even some specialized weapons that transform into other weapons. And you can use armor of different types as well
With the exception of the starting gear, all the various types of armor and weapons require crafting and, thus, monster parts and foraged ores and crystals.
This means that while you're out there in the wilds of the new world, you're setting both small and large goals for yourself.
As you become familiar with the game's areas, you'll find the best ways of getting the job done for these challenges you set for yourself, and the reward is that satisfied feeling once you come back to base and find yourself raring for another go at a monster you've already beaten, just for more loot.
The game isn't perfect by any means. Some of the wordings of the game systems, such as the online matchmaking terminology, can be confusing. For instance, starting the game up means setting up an online session, even if you intend to play the game by your lonesome, but there's no indication of that when you start out.
Group content, while fun, can also be frustrating, especially when you're looking for specific people on your console.
While it's really easy to drop into someone else's game, it may take a concerted effort to find your friends so you can play with them, as you can only join their squad (essentially a group of up to 50 players with easier access to one another's games) when you're part of their party doing a quest.
Monster Hunter: World doesn't go out of its way to change a formula that's worked for a long time. What it has done, however, is make that same formula engaging and accessible for even newcomers like me.
If you've never played a Monster Hunter title before, this is the one to get. Monster Hunter: World is available on PS4 and Xbox One, with a PC release to follow. – Rappler.com