Monster Hunter World: Beta Impressions

There’s a certain pressure that comes in playing Monster Hunter games that doesn’t translate well visually. The Capcom-owned action-adventure RPG series has always pitted you against towering monsters, but too often the handheld destination in question is too puny to faithfully re-create the awe-inspiring sense of grandeur that comes when facing down towered leviathans capable of turning you into a thin red paste with one, misplaced step.

Monster Hunter: World, however, is the first time the game has become as gigantic as the monsters you face off against. Monster Hunter: World puts the previously handheld-centric franchise’s intensity in full blast, bringing in the classic mechanics and mixing it up with some new gameplay. Here’s everything that made us squeal with delight during the beta.

To start, the game looks damn good. Monster Hunter’s handheld predecessors have always worked with less. Smaller pixel counts mean that, too often, details are missed in the game’s expansive visual design. But now, with full weight of the eighth-generation consoles, the visuals have become nothing short of fantastic. The beautiful environments, the amazingly designed monsters, and the little tiny gestures that change with each equipment’s own heft all contribute in the creation of a living, breathing, (for lack of a better term) world. This was also supported by the gigantic, seamless maps that the game sets itself in. Previous games used to divvy up the map into distinct numerical zones, but now we can actually see how massive the landscapes are as we traverse through them.

The game offers far more than a graphical upgrade as well. Gameplay has put a focus on actual hunting more than its predecessors. As Monster Hunter boasts a ginormous sandbox map, a tracking system has been put in place in the form of scout flies. You find the monster’s tracks: a footprint, mucus, blood, etc. Once you have enough, the scout flies will lead you to the monster. Combat, as usual, is hectic and dynamic as you weave and hack monsters to bits. One of the absolute joys in the game is mounting monsters, achievable if you use a nearby cliff to jump right on its back, a veritable “hero moment” for me. Each weapon from the series has its own complexities and can serve an array of play styles. However, the weapons’ strengths are counterbalanced by the inclusion of faults and weaknesses. In all honesty, it’s not at all a total departure from the previous Monster Hunter games, but why fix what isn’t broken?

In addition to this, the monsters themselves have become more complex and more intelligent. Previous games had the AI perform simplistically. Their nest is in A, once you inflict damage on it, it will go to B. The monster will then use whatever it has in the environment to fight back. A Rathalos might use its wingspan to fly around the map randomly. A Barroth might charge and accidentally destroy a stone column. They even interact with other monsters as a predator would. In the middle of hunting an Anjamuth, a Rathalos swooped in and immediately attacked it. These turf wars are really a sight behold, with each monster fighting for dominance (while I, a small hunter struggle to fight my prey and hack away at the correct target).

There is still much more that we haven’t seen. Equipment in the beta is limited to presets, so crafting and resource gathering haven’t been shown, so is the character creation. Yet even so, this is shaping up to be one of the most anticipated games coming next year. Full disclosure, as soon as the beta ended, I immediately pre-ordered the game. We can’t wait to jump in on January 28th.

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