I was not happy during Sony’s E3 2017 press conference in Los Angeles when we learned that the newest entry in Capcom’s monster-hunting series, Monster Hunter: World, would be releasing worldwide in early 2018 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Why wasn’t I happy? What’s missing from that list? Monster Hunter was leaving Nintendo consoles behind. (It also fell in line with not-so-promising rumors that were floating around, as well).
It’s also a weird decision on Capcom’s part. Worldwide, Monster Hunter is the publisher’s second-best-selling franchise — yes, ahead of even Street Fighter — with 40 million games sold. The Monster Hunter series has long been a behemoth in Japan, but has only recently taken off in the West, and this has happened on Nintendo’s consoles.
With Monster Hunter: World, Capcom risks upsetting the Western fan base that has helped the series grow from a narrow niche during its tenure on the Wii, Wii U, and 3DS and pushed the series to become a million-copy seller in the West for the first time with Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. And for a title like Monster Hunter — where fans put hundreds of hours into each game — cultivating or alienating that fan base could be everything. And while Japan will be getting a Switch version of Monster Hunter XX this fall, it looks like Monster Hunter: World may be eclipsing that version’s hopes of ever seeing a localized release
This isn’t the only reason the announcement seems odd. Japanese players have long kept Monster Hunter afloat, and they seem to prefer playing the series on portables, not consoles, following the trend in Japan. This means that Monster Hunter: World is not only gambling with its growing Western fan base, it is also risking losing its important Japanese fans as well.
No doubt Capcom is hoping that the game will have strong sales on the PS4’s huge base in the West — it is the top-selling console, after all. Maybe it will. This move could also attract players who might be interested in checking out the series now that it isn’t restricted to Nintendo systems — or even portables — in the West.
Either way, it’s feels lousy for Capcom to leave its super-dedicated Japanese base, and its growing Western audience, all in one move. So it’s a good thing that Monster Hunter: World feels good so far.
A whole new world
I played Monster Hunter: World for this first time last week. And despite some sticking points, I dig what I tried out.
To be fair, Capcom has a lot of reasons for shifting Monster Hunter away from the 3DS. I spoke about these reasons in my review of Monster Hunter Generations, which felt more like a stop-gap measure than anything else. And in a lot of ways — hello, voice chat and visuals! — Monster Hunter is well overdue for an upgrade.
Whether Monster Hunter: World is all that is needed — or that players want — in such an upgrade is still uncertain. But I’m feeling pretty good about it so far. I spent about an hour-and-a-half with World, going through two quests and also spending some time with its version of Moga Woods/expeditions, the latter of which is still being figured out for the final game. I hunted two new monsters: The Great Jagras and the Anjanath, as well as the returning Rathalos.
In World, hunters can now switch out gear in the middle of a quest, a first for the franchise. I went with my tried-and-true hunting horn, which boasts some new changes. You can use shortcuts to play songs, and World also displays all the notes for the tune in the UI. It also highlights which songs are active at any given time. I’m not sure if I like either of these additions, though, and the horn combat itself felt kind of stiff at first.
Changing weapons isn’t the only thing players can do mid-quest. World also supports drop-in multiplayer. The quest line is also smaller: No longer are there separate single player and multiplayer quests. Hopefully that doesn’t mean less quests overall — I’m a fan of two quest lines — and it will also be interesting to see how the drop-in options impact difficulty of the battles.
Being on consoles obviously means a bump in visuals over the 3DS, which means things like a sunset in the distance looking pretty. Some of the realism, though, was a tad too much: The Great Jagras started vomiting at one point while I was giving it the beat down, which is a bit of realism I don’t need when fighting monsters. I’m also curious to see what the final UI settings will be like: World throws a lot of info at the player, which was hard to take in, but yet the UI was also on the small side.
Another new addition is the damage numbers that now show up onscreen when a player attacks monsters. They can be turned off, but it was honestly something that I barely noticed while I was playing. It did take a bit to figure out the camera, though, and I’m still not sure if I’ll be able to get it to work quite how I want it to in the final version.
Another cool new feature is sliding. Hunters can now slide down sloped terrain, which just felt satisfying. Mounting — praise poogie — is returning, so hunters will still be able to jump on the back of monsters and attempt to bring them to the ground, through the various Styles and Arts from Monster Hunter Generations are not.
At the end of a hunt, new Hunter Highlights are given out, awarding various end-game titles to players. One player in my group earned Support All-Star honors, while another got Shiny Collector. It looks like a little cool new addition. Mantles are also new pieces of equipment. I didn’t get to try them out, but one of them, the Glider Mantle, essentially lets players become a flying squirrel when they jump, which looks like it will be an awesome lead-in to, you guessed it, even more mounting.
Other additions, however, I’m still not quite sure about. Capcom has been putting a lot of focus on the new destructible environments and how monsters fight and interact, but both of these seem to take away from — or even get in the way of — me actually going toe-to-toe with a beast. I don’t want another creature doing damage to the monster that I’m trying to take down, nor am I really a fan of dropping rocks on a monster instead of just attacking it. The good news is that the environments didn’t come up a whole lot in my demo and are probably avoidable. The monster interactions, however, could be something that becomes bothersome in the long run.
I also don’t care for the new Scoutflies, which are bugs that will track monsters for you, meaning you don’t need to wander aimlessly around a map and rely on paintballs. I’m not a fan, but it may come down to how — and how often — they will appear in the final game.
But an hour-and-a-half with any Monster Hunter game is the definition of a drop in the bucket, a small sampling of a world I’ll (probably) spend a ton of time in. All that matters now though is that, so far, it’s looking quite good. We don’t know all of World’s mysteries yet.
Including its biggest: If fans will follow it to new its console and PC home.