It’s not always easy to get into games with a steep learning curve, especially when they are built around deep systems, knowledge of previous games in the series, and painstaking commitment. A lot of gamers have curiosities about Monster Hunter games, but feel intimidated by their inaccessible nature. I am one of those people. I’ve spent some time with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on 3DS, but didn’t last very long. The concept was intriguing enough to pull me towards the game, but my dreams of mastering the game didn’t exactly pan out. Surely all the time I spent with JRPGs, Dark Souls, and Mega Man had taught me all I needed to know about systems, combat, and generally “sticking with a game”. Alas, I was not ready for the hunt.
I am a patient gamer, and I don’t give up easily. However, after a number of hours with Monster Hunter, I became frustrated with the game’s apparent inability to teach me its complexities, slow combat, and difficult-to-master weapons. Of course, it didn’t help that my hands were constantly cramping up on the 3DS game pad. Simply put, I didn’t have time to study this game and seek advice from forums and FAQs when there was so much else to play at the time. Going forward in today’s gaming ecosystem, I feel the need to push myself to move past games that don’t grab me after a few hours. There are simply too many games and not enough time to experience them. This year has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, though truthfully, we needed a break from the constant onslaught of solid game releases in 2017.
Monster Hunter: World is the latest release in the long-running franchise with a dedicated following, and it’s especially appealing to Western audiences. This is a popular series, but most of its fanbase is in Japan, where the gaming climate is very different. World is more accessible than previous entries, but it still requires dedication and an understanding of its systems. The series has been stuck on handhelds for some time now and it’s certainly going to feel good to hold a proper controller while looking at a big screen television again. In addition to being easier on the eyes, a home console game evokes a different mentality than a handheld game. For most, a home console is a primary gaming platform, rather than a handheld which many use secondarily for commuting or traveling. Generally speaking, that equates to longer play sessions, ease of use, and overall comfort.
Controls have also been a barrier in these games, as they have utilized “legacy controls”, or outdated controls that exist for the sake of preserving the style of the original games. However, World seeks to modernize the series by using more standardized third-person melee and shooter controls that are familiar in today’s gaming age. Guns are smoother, swords are easier to connect with a target, and the overall traversal is improved. Paint balls, which have previously been used to mark and track prey, are now replaced with the more active scout flies, which automatically follow a monster after you’ve picked up on their scent. This means you have to do less manual tracking, allowing you to focus on other things such as battle preparation.
While you don’t often hear people talk about Monster Hunter‘s story, there is a good amount of lore to the franchise, and some of it is rather interesting. Capcom have taken steps to push this more into the forefront of World, which is helpful in today’s gaming climate where we are often reliant on story to push us through a game. Now there is more of a motivation to learn about the world and the monsters that inhabit it, which will certainly help me get invested in my hunts. Perhaps this will serve as a gateway to the greater Monster Hunter franchise and I can finally understand why people dedicate hundreds of hours to these niche games.
Even with these quality of life improvements, Monster Hunter: World still isn’t a game to simply jump into and get sucked in immediately. Just like its predecessors, there’s going to be that steep learning curve. The difference is that the controls and systems are more streamlined and familiar to modern audiences. Stalking and hunting a monster is still going to require immense planning and clever strategy. Hopefully players can have fun using these tactics and enjoying the story without having to struggle through clunky controls.
Monster Hunter: World released today and I can’t think of a better time to delve into this time-sinking, complex action RPG. January and February are proving to be slow months for 2018 game releases, which means there isn’t as much pressure to get through World in order to make room for other games. Had this game come out last year, it might have only spoken to hardcore Monster Hunter fans, but in early 2018, it has some breathing room. If you had to juggle this game with last year’s huge releases (Breath of the Wild, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Horizon, etc.), it would have surely got lost in the chaos. There is a huge community of people willing to help new players understand the art of the hunt. You’ve got a month or so to spend before more big releases hit, so take your time delving into all that Monster Hunter: World has to offer.