Should You Dive In To Monster Hunter World?by Dave Riley,
Every Monster Hunter fan yearns to convert their friends and loved ones into Monster Hunter fans. A series renowned for its depth, Monster Hunter's inaccessibility was legendary long before Dark Souls claimed the current crown, conventional wisdom says Monster Hunter requires not just a several-thousand kilobyte GameFAQs guide, but often a human guide as well. And so, with each new release, each Monster Hunter fan resumes their Sisyphean task, part series cheerleader, part volunteer docent, in the hopes of this is the one that cracks the mainstream wide open—if only for the selfish reason of actually having other people to play with.
Due to a whole lot of convenience and quality of life improvements (not to mention colossal graphical and mechanical overhauls), it looks like Monster Hunter World is going to be the one that finally hits it big. Though it's unlikely that anything Monster Hunter could ever truly be described as “accessible,” Monster Hunter World strikes a balance between keeping its veterans happy and offering a palatable experience to first timers.
And it's not all convenience fixes. Below, I've compiled a list of factoids and functionality, tips and tricks, that have jumped out at me (or, sometimes, that I've gone digging for) during my first forty hours with the game.
What You Liked Still Works (Probably Better Than It Used To!)
Though at the highest levels of play you'll still need the assistance of Youtubers like Gaijinhunter to get the most out of your chosen weapon, Monster Hunter World makes it easy to learn the basics on the go. A context-sensitive move list at the top corner of your screen smooths out the learning curve of a new weapon, easing you through the second-guessing of “wait, do I Full Burst after the second Gunlance stab or the third?” For the bagpipers in the audience, the party-buffing Hunting Horn keeps a cheat sheet of note patterns for your Attack Boost and Heath Restore songs at all times and you can now bank three songs at once, play them all back to back, and then close with any budding maestro's fundamental technique from previous games: the “encore,” a time-efficient doubling on the Hunting Horn's buffs that doubles as one of its strongest, most stun-heavy attacks. That's six songs for the price of two!
Most weapons offer similar new convenience options, but the biggest baseline changes come to the ranged suite. With the return to consoles, and thus the guarantee of a controller with a second analog stick, targeting specific weak points approaches the precision and fluidity of a dedicated third-person shooter. Which frees your mental bandwidth to focus on hot-swapping between the dozens of specialty ammo types or dazzle your teammates with your high-mobility and higher-aggro explosive mine Light Bowgun play.
The flow of battle is more dramatic than ever. Monster Hunter 4's two-tier environments pale in comparison to the verticality of these new areas, peppered with ledges and ramps that allow for leaping or sliding attacks, small environmental triggers like flowers that heal and puffed-up toads that let out an ornery paralytic shock when bothered, useful snares of vines or dammed-up rivers to incapacitate or drop big damage on a monster. Most awe-inspiring though, are the interactions between the monsters themselves. The audio sting of a new titanic creature arriving mid-fight is a cause for relief more often than fear; pairs of mismatched monsters are more likely to devolve into aggressive screaming matches than they are are to tag-team you, and watching a territorial wyvern swoop in and snatch up a colossal allosaurus like an owl swoops on a barn mouse, dealing two thousand damage with a single flick of its claws when you've been clubbing away for twenty damage a pop for the past fifteen minutes is the Chef's Kiss Emoji of Monster Hunter experiences. Thanks for the assist, Ms. Rathian!
Scoutflies Aren't Just A Paintball Replacement
With all the lush, green grass that comes with a decade+ jump in graphical fidelity, often it feels like collection points get lost in the graphical shuffle. Which is where your scout flies, helpful neon bugs that highlight interactables in the environment come in. The opening hours teach you how to attune your scout flies to a monster's trail by inspecting its footprints, but they don't go out of their way to show you that you can switch which monster you're tracking by clicking on them on the minimap, or that you can have them guide you to out-of-the-way gathering nodes by selecting any previously-discovered resource point and clicking the analog stick.
Scout flies ease the flow of co-op, allowing you to catch up to your comrades fighting a monster several nodes away without constant reference to the map to figure out which tier of which zone connects to what path. What's more, when hopping from Great Jagras footprint to Great Jagras footprints, you might've noticed your scout flies settling on strange, Neolithic cave paitings of cat paws. These are the doodles of the Grimalkyne. Find enough of these and, in the same way you track monsters, you can have your scoutflies lead you to the secret treetop villages of the Grimalkyne, “felyne” cousins to your Palico, who unlock new items and techniques for your “felyne” partner to use in battle.
The Menus... Are The Menus (But They're Way Better Than They Used To Be, Honest!)
Monster Hunter's menus will probably never be intuitive to untrained eyes, so take it from an old hand that no matter how crowded, cluttered, and impenetrable Monster Hunter World's item menus, crafting screens, and statistical overlays seem, it is almost indescribably better than it's ever been. Though parsing Monster Hunter's deluge of infinite information can feel like trying to translate a spreadsheet of extremely colorful hieroglyphs, World is the first time where all this information is actually on hand in the game itself. Armor crafting is divided into discrete boxes by monster type, weapons types show their full available upgrade path with no guesswork, you can revert weapon upgrades for a full refund, and you can add items to a wishlist that'll keep track of what's on your gear horizon, and remind you when you've collected enough pelts, horns, and tails to actually make it.
Whether you're out in the field or doing prep, Hunter's Notes encyclopedia basically amounts to an in-game wiki that fills out information on monster weak spots, elemental affinities, and breakable parts. If you need to know which part on the feathered snake-weasel-flying-squirrel-thing takes 40% damage from your bow and which part takes 80%, you'll still need an outside resource, but for the first 40-60 hours that encompass the campaign/Low Rank quests, your Hunters Notes will more than suffice.
The modern monster hunter knows how to grab on the go. Outside of battle, your stamina bar is seemingly infinite and we're past the days of scrounging for thirty seconds at every beehive we pass along the way. Most gathering points don't even require you break your stride, but for the ones that do—bone piles, mining points, and recently vanquished dinosaurs—you can hold the gather button to greatly speed the animation.
On that tip, make sure to keep current with Bounties, which reward the gathering you're already doing with armor upgrade items, and don't neglect even the seemingly useless harvest nodes like flower beds and conch shells that bring you to a full stop and only reward research points. Most of have a rare drop that will unlock upgraded ingredients in your canteen.
Just about all basic tasks are streamlined or outright automated. You can tell the game to autocraft healing potions whenever you pick up an herb and you can define a set of loadouts to refresh your supply of mega-potions and shock traps every time you return to base (and put away all your gathered crafting items in the process). When tinkering with load-outs, however, be aware that the new and extremely convenient radial menu, which lets you use items on the fly with the flick of your right analog, is tied specifically to each loud-out.
But don't worry too hard either way, World is kind even when you forget. Base camp on a mission now features a fully functional canteen, if you neglected to eat before your sortie, and item box, if you go to gather your first herb and realize you forgot to stow last mission's haul. The ability to do just about anything outside of crafting new armor and weapons on site really blooms into full value once you learn you can skip the near-minute load times coming to and from each zone by chaining multiple quests back to back from the same campsite.
Every hunter comes outfitted with a slinger that doubles as a grappling hook and a slingshot for scrounged ammo. The first time you pick up a flash bug or a dung pile, you'll notice their respective bombs have been converted into slinger pods. And if you're not reading your phone during the transit cutscenes, you might've figured out you can grapple onto a pterodactyl's leg and use it as a makeshift form of fast travel.
But you may've missed one of the slinger's strongest functions: on-call elemental damage. Some monsters change their elemental affinities by interacting with the environment, like the Barroth, which rolls around in mud to armor itself. Normally if you didn't come into the fight with water-aligned weapon you'd be out of luck, but now bathing your Brute Wyvern is as easy as letting a couple shots of watermoss fly, denying the Barroth one of its most powerful area-of-effect attacks and gaining a burst of DPS in the process.
And did you notice the capture net in your inventory? Equipping this lets you scoop up small animals like grasshoppers, rabbits, and adorably tiny dinosaurs for a small research points boost. You can then let your newly abducted pets run free in different parts of your living quarters, and there's a quest or two where returning a rare species unlocks new functionality back at base.
And Don't Forget, You Can Play The Campaign In Co-Op This Time! (…but it's kind of a pain…)
Narratively, the slinger also clues you in to a Monster Hunter first: you can play almost the entire campaign in co-op this time around. Outside of certain scripted missions, once you've been introduced to a new monster via a dramatic cutscene of it screaming, horking poison all over the ground, or puffing up its intimidating throat bladder, “SOS Flare Now Available” plasters across your screen, which is your cue that the mission is now available for multiplayer. At this point, you can use your slinger to fire a flare and open up your mission to any comers, hoping that your chosen friends can beat the onslaught of random players looking for easy drops, or, somewhat more conveniently, you can quit out of the mission and restart mid-way through with your chosen group.
Reading that, you'd be forgiven for thinking I just transplanted a paragraph of instructions for how to co-op a game from 2007. Though this incredibly obtuse method of palling up hearkens back to the online play of Japanese games a decade old, it is at least a way to enjoy learning the basic techniques and early monsters in a group. Slight as its story may be, there's no escaping Monster Hunter's campaign, which unlocks grind-reducing conveniences like the farm and caravans, so you might as well enjoy it with friends!
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