It’s been a long eight months waiting for the PC release of Monster Hunter World following its console debut in January of this year. We got our hands on a copy to see how the franchises “most accessible title” plays with the old mouse and keyboard, how well it runs on PC and most importantly for those of us that don’t own a console or maybe never played a Monster Hunter game before: is it worth it?
If you’ve done any research on the Monster Hunter franchise you’ll quickly find that it’s notoriously not the friendliest to new players. Capcom set out to change that with Monster Hunter World and, while it still remains moderately complicated in some aspects, wasn’t totally overwhelming to get a foothold when first starting out. While the game is riddled with complex systems that require you to invest time and obtain knowledge through gameplay then first many hours of gameplay seem to be easy enough that you can slowly digest the MULTITUDE of menus and systems at play without being gimped to the point of futility when trying to kill you some big baddies.
Following a fairly dull story intro where you find yourself on a boat you’ll get the opportunity to create your avatar as well as your Palico - a cat-like companion. Character creation wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen but it certainly wasn’t anywhere close the worst. I would say it lands solidly on adequate ground giving you the ability to change just about everything on your face from mouth shape to eyebrows. You aren’t going to be sculpting your model like we’ve seen in some games or adjusting height and weight sliders but I didn’t really miss those options. If you just want to jump into the game you also have some presets you can choose from. You’ll also choose your default starting equipment (leather, chainmail or none) which can be changed after you get started in the game.
Your palico also has presets you can choose from and a slew of options - though less than the human counterpart. You’ll be able to change the fur and fur patterns, ears, tail, eyes, etc. as well as the clothing and defaults armors. A little about your Palico: They are a badass companion that accompany you on hunts when your solo or duo that will offer small heals in a clutch as well as provide some distraction to monster when you tuck away to take an antidote, potion, or sharpen your weapon. You’ll find these little cat-people everywhere in Monster Hunter World so I hope you’re not a dog person.
Monster Hunter World at its core is a game that plays like its title suggests: you hunt monsters. Usually very large ones. Your freshly customized hunter (after a little playable intro I won’t ruin that transitions you from the ship to the island) starts their journey in a New World that is simply gorgeous. A lush jungle full of harvestable plants, teeming with creatures both big and small (and usually aggressive) that you’ll explore day in and day out. Unlike games like Dauntless the world in MHW feels more alive. There are times where you’ll be tracking and hunting some baddie and find half way through your engagement that some other big baddie has decided they’re going to join in on the fun. I’ve seen monsters attacking each other and even eating their smaller brethren. Capcom has done an amazing job at making the world feel alive and it’s a wonder to explore.
There is a storyline though I personally find it kind of shallow. It really just serves to drive forward your constant hunting and killing of more and more baddies. The main point of the story revolves around the movements of your main foe, Zorah Magdaros, a humongous lava monster and your constant slaying of different monsters to build up skill and gear to take on the biggest badass of them all. It’s a thinly veiled motivation and the games weakest point in my opinion. But for people that know what kind of game this is, the story isn’t really the point so it’s doesn’t hurt the game in any significant way.
Something that does hurt the game in my opinion is insane number of menus and their complexity. There are tutorials in place but there’s still a lot that isn’t intuitive or well explained. The menus for forging and upgrading armor are a mess and a lot of the systems that are later critical to successful missions (like hitting up the cantina for some food) aren’t emphasized well enough minus a passing mention during the first parts of the campaign.
Speaking of forging and upgrading armor this is the other HUGE part of the gameplay loop in Monster Hunter World. While you’re out and about killing monsters, you need to make sure you’re looting and harvesting their corpses for their monster parts. If you break off any of their parts during the fight you want to make sure to snag those as well. All these items are used to forge and upgrade your armor and weapons. You’ll find that if you want a nice matching set of armor and weapons you’ll be going on missions to kill the same type of monster over and over again because there is simply no way you’ll collect enough parts off one kill to forge all the gear you need. While each different armor type provides bonuses for different element types to me the main payoff is in the outstanding aesthetics - the art team has done an amazing job with the graphics in MHW and it makes it a joy to play.
I didn’t play at all with a controller because, honestly, it shouldn’t function any different than it does on console. I stuck purely with keyboard and mouse and for the most part it felt very intuitive and well executed with a few exceptions. Using the radial menu to select one of my consumables doesn’t seem to function right (I can only choose the cardinal directions (N, S, E, W) and not the diagonals in between) so I’ve resorted to using my mouse wheel to switch between them - which can lead to mistakes and time lost during the heat of the battle. Another weird binding was using the Shift key to sheath my weapons, which is also the sprint key. It took a while to get used to and I’m sure there’s some reason it’s like this that has to do with how bindings are ported from the controller - but it still feels weird. Outside of that I haven’t felt hindered at all for my choice to use a keyboard and mouse instead of my Xbox One controller.
I need to come and say right away that the version I’m reviewing is technically a beta release of the PC. It’s my understanding that optimizations are still taking place and indeed over the course of my review I saw improvements to my performance between patches. That being said I still feel there is room for improvement.
Firstly, my system shouldn’t have a single issue running any game at my chosen resolution. I game at 1440p on a 1080ti with a Ryzen 2600x overclocked to 4.3Ghz. As of the day I’m writing this review my framerate issues have been solved but for a while I was failing to reach 60fps in some cases which was simply insane for the setup that I have. I can only hope that the optimizations that are taking place will be beneficial across the board so that users with more budget friendly systems will be able to experience smooth gameplay without overly compromising graphical fidelity.
Textures seem to be largely unchanged from the console version which I feel is a mistake. PC hardware is capable of processing higher texture resolutions and I think that Capcom really should be taking advantage of that. The main improvements that I can visually detect on the PC versus the console version just by looking are better anti-aliasing and a greatly improved draw distance. Again, I feel there’s a lot more headroom that’s not being capitalized on and I hope they continue to add graphical improvements to the PC version.
Monster Hunter World is a solid title that will soak up a lot of time if you enjoy beautiful graphics, hunting beautiful, dangerous and unique creatures, and crafting buttloads of weapons and gear. The learning curve is considerably more shallow than previous Monster Hunter titles but simultaneously steeper for beginners than it usually is for games in general. So, if you have the intestinal fortitude to dive in and learn a few complex systems you’ll really be doing yourself a favor as Monster Hunter World is one of the best entries to the franchise we’ve seen yet. It’s complex, it doesn’t hold your hand and friends to help may be in order but if you give it a chance you’ll find that it is a world worth every minute of your time.