New to Monster Hunter? You Should Start with Monster Hunter: World
As a series, Monster Hunter has never been very inviting to newcomers, what with its often clunky controls, deep combat, and very close attention to the minutiae of item management, among other things. To make matters worse, by remaining true to its roots through several iterations, the series has earned criticisms for failure to innovate. Nevertheless, Monster Hunter still maintains a cherished place in many gamers' hearts for the exceptional quality of gameplay. With the upcoming and highly anticipated Monster Hunter: World, though, much of that has changed, to where even total noobs should consider giving the franchise another try -- especially with the final beta coming up.
What Is Monster Hunter Anyway?
Monster Hunter games are exactly what they sound like. You hunt monsters. A lot of them. After the initial tutorials, the games settle into a predictable loop of taking monster hunting quests, hunting said monsters, carving (aka looting the monster's carcass), and crafting new weapons and armor from the gathered materials. Despite being an RPG series, your avatar has no levels and gets no stat increases as time goes by. Instead, you survive based on the quality of your gear, so it's imperative to find the best material and keep crafting to improve your capabilities and give you a better chance at survival against powerful monsters. And as you'd imagine, combat plays a central role in all of this.
"Welcome to the Jungle"
The "World" in Monster Hunter: World isn't just there to fill space. At last, Monster Hunter gets a fully realized, in-depth world to explore. And it's completely seamless. Unlike previous MH games, World has no load times to interrupt your exploration or monster chasing as you transition from one region to another.
That's a good thing by itself, but it's even more important in terms of making the gameplay immersive and accessible. After you whittle their health down to a certain degree, monsters almost always turn tail and run back to their nests. That entails you chasing them to a new area or two, interrupting the game's flow as it loads the new map each time -- a problem made null by these new alterations to the established formula.
Then there are the monsters themselves. Of course, MH:W looks amazing, with dragons and dinos presented in full HD for the first time. It's a big step up from the series' recent outings on the 3DS which were, naturally, limited in their graphical potential. For some, that's more than enough reason to give the series a try now.
But it's the way the monsters behave that makes it even better. At times, monsters were known to attack each other or come up on players unawares, though it was never a very organic experience. Now, however, the monster you're hunting is just as likely to be attacked by an even bigger critter passing through, or that other critter turns its attention to you instead. Think the epic battle in Peter Jackson's King Kong -- minus the gorilla (and minus Peter Jackson). Like the changes in the world itself, it helps pull you into the fantastic world and keeps you coming back for more.
Tracking monsters is much easier in World as well. In previous entries, you would down a potion, then suddenly have an idea where the monster was located -- nothing too out of the ordinary for a series that includes cat warriors, but still a mechanic that seems shoehorned in a bit. World gives you Scoutflies, little bugs that follow the monster's trail and lead you straight to it, at once a much more natural fit for the game and one that's much easier to handle since you have a tangible track to follow.
Capcom introduced a number of other adjustments to make hunter life much smoother and easier. When performing an attack or even drinking a health potion, your character used to stand still, which was a bit of a double-edged sword in terms of regaining health. But, at last, that's changed. You can move while attacking and glug health potions on the run. It speeds up combat, certainly, but it also keeps the system from seeming completely artificial. After all, for most of us, the last thing we'd do when fighting a mutant dragon is stand stock still while tending wounds.
Speaking of combat, a few other aspects received a boost too. When you start a new Monster Hunter game, you pick your weapon of choice and go from there. But, not all weapons are made equal, and some, like certain swords, used to be an absolute pain to wield -- clunky combos, exceptionally slow attack speed, and the like. It's been balanced out with World, though, making combat much more inviting for those of us just trying to get used to things.
Item management has never been intuitive in MH games, but World gives you the option of setting different groups of favorite items to access on the fly. Rather than navigating through multiple menus just to get a simple necessity, it's suddenly become much easier, with just a few button presses taking you to your favorites. That's a vast improvement anyway, but in the heat of battle, it makes the difference between frustration and victory.
Mounting your quarry is a key feature of most monster hunts, and in earlier games, even the fairly recent Monster Hunter: Generations, it was not an easy task to accomplish. It requires you to position yourself just so, and then your stamina has to last long enough to take the monster down. That, too, has received some changes, where it's easier to leap onto your prey and takes less stamina as well.
Despite these significant improvements for the series, some issues remain. The controls are as clunky as ever, slightly less cumbersome than the original Resident Evil, and there is still a sizable learning curve. But that shouldn't scare you off. Dedicated series fans decided to create a support group called Adopt-A-Hunter to take fledgling hunters under the guidance of MH veterans. In addition to getting help with things the game might not explain so well, or just learning via observation, it helps ease newcomers into the MH community -- fun and useful in itself, but even more so given World's multiplayer options.
Nothing Stopping You Now
Monster Hunter has been around for many years now, but remained fairly niche. With the attention Monster Hunter: World has been getting recently, it may finally go mainstream, and it's not hard to see why. Most of the series' major barriers have been lowered, if not completely removed. Combat is actually satisfying, there are no significant interruptions to the game's flow, and for those still struggling, there is the option of pairing with a series expert to help. What's holding you back from giving it a go? Nothing.
Are you planning on giving Monster Hunter: World a try, or are you a longtime series fan? Let us know in the comments!