The Monster Hunter series — a Call of Duty-style juggernaut in Asia — has struggled to take off in the West for its entire run so far. That is mostly due to the fact that Westerners don’t usually play big 3-D action games on handhelds with terrible controls and bad/non-existent online features, much less 3-D action games that are tight-lipped about all its major mechanics, where the best tutorial is a more experienced friend.
Capcom seeks to change all of that with Monster Hunter: World, an entry that seeks to entice a wider audience for once. Capcom did that by stripping away the annoying bits, putting in a story campaign to contextualize your progress, buffing up the graphics for the sake of extremely dense mini-sandboxes and adding actual tutorials before handing you an actual ergonomic controller to kill giant monsters with 14 varied and interesting weapon types.
Monster Hunter has always been a pure expression of “the RPG loop,” and World doesn’t change this at all. You and up to three other players prepare to hunt a monster by grabbing your favorite weapons and huge armor sets, preferably grabbing a meal at the canteen for huge buffs during the hunt. You then track the monster down and fight it while wrestling with stamina, hunger, ammunition and weapon sharpness. After killing it, you carve materials out of its corpse and the immediate environment, then take those back to base to create and upgrade even stronger weapons and armor.
What makes Monster Hunter so uniquely enjoyable stems from the extremely confident and upbeat way it carries itself. You can take a giant set of metal bagpipes and beat a fantasy T-Rex to death with it. You can frequently watch a bunch of cheerful tiny cat people make a huge meal for you, led by a grizzled Meowscular Chef, who gingerly places the finishing touch, before he requests you to fetch better ingredients by telling you about the mad gains you can get from it. The battle music is usually loud, bombastic and full of trumpets. The animations are all exaggerated and goofy, as is the dialogue, and the characters are all cheerful and motivated. The Monster Hunter setting is silly, gratuitous and fun.
The actual combat itself, the core of the experience, takes getting used to. You’re made to pay attention to the monsters, spotting the tells in their attack animations and looking for the best chances you have to lay into them. Making use of your superior intellect to waltz all over monsters that should be eating you for breakfast is intoxicating.
However, making use of the varied systems on offer requires quite a bit of learning, and, while World is better than past games in this regard, I went along fine in part because I spent a bit of time with Generations and a friend who knew what he was doing. I also spent some time in the open beta ahead of release getting used to the weapons, singling out the Insect Glaive — a weapon that lets you pole vault and stack buffs — as my main weapon beforehand.
Getting over that curve, however, will reward you with a wealth of content and surprises, wrapped up in gorgeous graphics and presented with a smile that just won’t quit.
Logan Graham is a senior studying media arts with a focus in games and animation at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Have you played? Let Logan know by emailing him at email@example.com.