“Accessible” was far from the defining trait of Monster Hunter games of the past. Despite its massive popularity in Japan and the love some players from other countries have for it, the series also proved to be tough meat to sink one’s teeth into for many others. Things, however, have changed for the newly-released (for PS4, at least) Monster Hunter: World. It’s still a game that requires some effort from its players, but it has turned out to be a more tender - and accessible - offering for beginners than its predecessors.
That more welcoming nature isn’t owed entirely to some radical change in design, although the shift from segmented maps to seamless and gorgeous open levels - each giving the impression of an open world - definitely contributes to it. That’s thanks to Monster Hunter: World being made for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC instead of handhelds or the Wii. The greater power of these platforms has allowed the game to do away with the issue of loading screen interruptions. Now, hunts and exploration can feel like one continuous affair, a simple but welcome aspect that removes a potential source of irritation for players.
Playing a notable role in the game’s improved accessibility are several small quality-of-life changes, and these aren’t necessarily related to the new open level-design. Some are as simple as allowing players to run while chugging down healing potions, instead of requiring them to stand still to do so. Weapons can now be changed at base camps, instead of necessitating a return to one’s house. These camps can also be used for fast travel. The introduction of scout flies makes finding monsters an easier affair, while feeling more akin to tracking compared to running around randomly, especially with footprints and such located along the way.
Then there’s the introduction of drop-in multiplayer via the use of in-game flares. Pop one and it’ll open your game to others, allowing for company or potential saviours to join in the hunt. Another way of looking at it is that you can allow friends to join your current quest without worrying about having to gather together first. Either way, it simply makes playing with others more convenient.
Regardless of whether one plays alone or with others, the tweaks to the controls help to make the gameplay feel like less of a hassle. Last November, game director Yuya Tokuda admitted to Polygon that the ones in older Monster Hunter games had their issues. “We know that the controls for Monster Hunter have been idiosyncratic in the past and they've been more built upon legacy systems rather than having been designed from scratch,” he had said. Monster Hunter: World makes things less awkward, whether it’s by including the option to “click a stick to run” - instead of assigning the function solely to R1 - or making guns offer an experience more similar to other third-person shooters. Producer Ryoto Tsujimoto added that the effect of the latter was such that the typically sword-wielding director ended up using guns as well thanks to the new ease of using them.
That’s not to say that things have been dumbed down to attract newcomers, however. Reviews and previews have pointed out that the game’s controls and feel still take some getting used to. Part of that is due to how the controls - as the newcomer section of Tech Advisor’s review points out - are still a little odd. But the other reason is that combat here is slower - especially when heavier weapons are used - and methodical, requiring effort and patience from players. Just jumping in to hack and slash mindlessly won’t do the trick here.
Damage numbers have been introduced in Monster Hunter: World, but these can be turned off if players prefer to rely on in-game visual cues like blood splashes to tell if their attacks are making contact. Enemy health bars are still not part of the game, so determining how close to death a monster is will definitely require a reading of those cues. A large number of weapons, armor, items and such are still featured. Its upgrade systems still contain depth and make the cycle of hunting a monster to craft something out of its materials compelling.
The pace of the action might still annoy some, but at least the game doesn’t take too long to get things started. Past games have had slow starts thanks to their tutorials’ design, taking up hours of time to get past while not being terribly entertaining during that period. Capcom has worked to improve the opening experience by getting players to the action quicker instead of being forced to progress through dull tasks. Now, it doesn’t take long before players end up hunting the iguana-like Great Jagras - far from the mightiest of the game’s monsters, but still a sizeable and intimidating quarry.
Monster Hunter: World is still not an experience that everyone will enjoy, but it’s at least a little more likely that newcomers will come to enjoy the life of a monster hunter.