First Impressions: Monster Hunter: World

Well, Monster Hunter: World has been out for about a week, and The Cartographers Guild has been busily delving into it . . . along with over eight million other people worldwide. MH: World has become both the fastest-selling and best-selling game of Capcom’s history.

I was worried, as a long-time fan, about what would happen if the Monster Hunter series finally became popular. What changes would Capcom make to try and hit the mainstream gaming market, and how would that impact the gameplay of Monster Hunter? I’m certainly not anywhere close to the most skilled hunter to ever bag a Rathalos– translation, I think this game is pretty hard– but even so, I enjoy the challenge of Monster Hunter. Historically, this series does not hold your hand, and I’ve enjoyed that.

A good Hunter needs to use all the resources at her disposal, makes use of traps and debuffs, and makes sure her gear is carefully chosen to give herself the greatest advantage in the upcoming hunt. A good Hunter also relies on her team. She strives to be the best team player she can, because the game rewards you for that. It’s easy to interrupt or impede your teammates during a hunt; rhythm, coordination, and communication are key.

If the players get knocked out three times during a mission– one person three times, three different people once, or any combination– the mission fails, so the game really encourages you not only to do well individually, but for your team. You do not want to be the Hunter that arrived in inappropriate gear, didn’t bring enough or correct supplies, or is in some other way unprepared. Yes, sometimes hunts fail even if you’ve done everything you can to get ready, but it’s pretty embarrassing to be the person that ruins things for everyone, especially if it’s because you were careless.

The definitions of “skill floor” and “skill ceiling” seem to change somewhat depending on what game you’re playing (League of Legends and Overwatch forums, for example, seem to differ on what exactly a skill floor is), but I’ll try to keep it simple. In a video game, the skill floor of a hero you can play or weapon you can use is how bad you can be with them, and the skill ceiling determines how good you can be. Based on this very general definition, Monster Hunter is a game with a high skill ceiling. No matter how good you are at the game, there are always ways to get better at it, no matter which weapon you decide to bring to a hunt.

Basically, if you want to reach your full potential as a Hunter, you’re going to have to work pretty hard, and that’s the way it has always been in the Monster Hunter series. Even if you’re good at the game, there’s probably room for improvement, but it’s still a lot of fun (and perfectly winnable) even if you don’t want to pour a million hours into mastering your weapons.

I tried not to read a lot about Monster Hunter: World before it came out because I didn’t want spoilers. But I couldn’t escape the general sense that the long-time fans were afraid of what would happen if the game got dumbed-down “for the casuals.”

It turns out that we needn’t have worried, at least in my opinion. I’m only a few days into the game, but so far I’m really enjoying the changes that have been made to the gameplay. Most of them that I’ve detected so far are myriad quality-of-life (QoL) changes, and the list is long.

For example, I know people were worried about the Scoutflies, but I just love them. For the uninitiated, in the old games, you splatted your quarry with a Paintball when you found it, and then you could see it on the map when it ran or flew away from you. The Paintball eventually wore off, and then you’d have to hit it with another one. How did you find your quarry in the first place? Well, you either ran around from zone to zone until you stumbled on it, or you memorized both the map and the mission because it always started in the same place.

Scoutflies, once you know your quarry, will lead you in a glowing trail right to it. Once the outraged cry of the offended dies down, you’ll see this is not nearly as simple as it seems, and certainly it’s not nerfing things for the casuals. Actually, the Scoutflies add complexity to the game. Scoutflies, at first, only lead you to points of interest, like some kind of mark or indication that a monster has been there: a footprint, an animal carcass, a smear of mucus, a scattering of scales, etc. You have to find enough of these to identify what made them, then you can go to your map and tell your Scoutflies to focus on that monster. Basically, you actually have to learn to track a monster before you can track it. And it’s much more interesting than throwing a Paintball at a wyvern, let me tell you.

Scoutflies also can lead you to gathering nodes, and gathering nodes, once you’ve found them, are marked on your map! What a wonderful QoL improvement! The areas of MH: World are much more complex than the areas of previous games, so just memorizing gathering locations probably wouldn’t be enough anymore.

High level armor sets still have set bonuses, like in the old days, but individual pieces also just offer single skills, so mixing and matching to make an armor set with the skills you want is easier than ever. And there is no more gunner vs. blademaster armor, armor is just armor now. Simpler, technically, but provides those with the inclination to customize many more options.

At camp out in the field, you can eat at the Canteen (if you die and need to eat again for the bonuses, there is a cooldown, you can’t just get those bonuses whenever you want), access your stored items, even change your equipment mid-hunt! All impossible in prior games.

I’m sure there are those that would say this makes the game easier, but I don’t agree. If you’re hunting a monster for the first time and you just did not calculate well what you should have brought, will changing it make the monster easier to hunt? No! It’ll hit you just as hard in all the same ways it would have before, I guarantee you. It’s not going to hold back. Now you have the opportunity to try different strategies without starting the whole mission over.

I could go on, and I’ll link an article that gets into this more extensively, but the short answer is that most of the changes I’ve seen in my first few days of Monster Hunter: World fit this theme. Many things are simplified for new or infrequent players, but those who want to delve deeper into the game are in no way deprived. There seem to be more options for customization than ever, mobility and convenience are improved, all without making anything seem easier. Apparently not all my fellow Hunters agree with me, but I, for one, do not feel like the monsters have been nerfed. There are more of them, their AI is more complex than it’s ever been, they can use their environment to their advantage now . . .

. . . and so can I! I can’t tell you how much I’m loving how it feels to be a Hunter in MH: World. I can jump off of ledges and mount my quarry. It doesn’t do a lot of damage, but I can knock it over, giving my teammates and I an opportunity to wail on it. I can slide down terrain and use the momentum to launch into the air, or use my advancing attack to climb a wall and leap, both opportunities to mount the beast as well. There are critters and plants I can hit to provide me advantages, heal me, blind my enemy, and more. The monsters can knock over rotted trees and certain rocks and such in the environment . . . but why don’t you lure them over there and drop that stuff on them first?

I prefer to play this game with other people, preferably people I know, and there seems to be a lot of thought put into improving the online play experience as well. There are no longer separate single player and multiplayer quests, for example, no quest you have to play alone.

Not to say this game doesn’t have its downsides, and this point brings to mind one of them: yes, you can go on all quests with other players. BUT main story cutscenes have to be watched alone, which means if you want to play with other people, you have to play the mission alone to the point where the game tells you you’re allowed to fire an SOS flare to call for help.

Now, I have yet to play the game with random people, and I doubt I’ll do much of it, so using SOS flares isn’t something that appeals to me. Also, I tend to play with three other people, typically my fellow Cartographers. So that means we all have to enter the quest separately, do the mission until we can have help, then three of us have to leave the mission and then go join the fourth person’s quest to resume.

All this assumes that nothing goes wrong with the online session you’ve created to play in. If the last few days are any indication, it probably will. One of us is constantly getting kicked out of the session for some reason, which means someone has to make a new session and everyone has to go join that one until it breaks for someone else, and you have to do all that again . . .

I’m really hoping they patch that sort of thing pretty quick, the online session malfunctions. I imagine, with as well as the game has sold, that’ll be a high priority. The other gripes I have so far don’t really have to do so much with the difficulty of the game– it’s always been difficult and I’ve never considered myself magnificent at it– as they do with the complexity.

For example, wow these maps are intricate. It’s not going to be easy to memorize them, mostly because they have multiple height layers, in some cases three or four of them! Now, I’m very new to this game and maybe more time will help with this grievance, but I’m definitely having trouble getting around. And as I don’t have a ton of time to practice and get to know the maps on my own, preferring to spend my free time playing with my friends, I often feel lost and like I can’t keep up.

Monster Hunter games typically start kind of slow with a high learning curve, though, and I really feel like Capcom has done a lot to address that, make it less painful, without depriving the longtime fans of what they love. Am I struggling at the beginning of this game? Heck yeah. I always do. But I feel like I’ve gotten more, I’m overwhelmed by all my options . . . it’s a problem of abundance. And I’ll take that over deprivation any day. It’s gorgeous, it’s tough, I’m enticed and incentivized to practice, get better, and be an asset to my team . . . it still feels like Monster Hunter to me.

 

References:

Monster Hunter: World, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monster_Hunter:_World

Why do so many people confuse quality of life changes with lowering difficulty, Gamespot.com: https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/boards/211368-monster-hunter-world/76223205

Monster Hunter World: 47 Changes Only Fans Will Notice, IGN.com: http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/11/22/monster-hunter-world-47-changes-only-fans-will-notice

What is the difference between a skill floor and ceiling? Battle.net: https://us.battle.net/forums/en/overwatch/topic/20759355930

The difference between a “Skill Floor” and a “Skill Ceiling”, Reddit.com, Overwatch University: https://www.reddit.com/r/OverwatchUniversity/comments/67pv2g/the_difference_between_a_skill_floor_and_a_skill/

Picture Credit: https://www.tumblr.com/search/monster%20hunter%20world%20gif

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