New land, new weapons, new monsters to slay
It's a bit of an understatement to say that seeing Monster Hunter World's reveal was a surprise. During Sony's E3 presser, we caught a glimpse of the new adventure title in the Monster Hunter series, which is not only the first Monster Hunter on a PlayStation console in 11 years, but it also happens to be a bit of a departure from the standard MH gameplay. Its a more story-driven title with a focus on exploration and balancing single player and online co-op gameplay. This refocused take on the classic Monster Hunter setting will enable players to take their hunter and explore massive open areas to find new monsters, forge new gear, and take on the toughest challenges the new world has to offer.
While at the Capcom booth on the show floor at E3 2017, I got to see a rather extensive live demo of Monster Hunter World, and it's aiming to shake things up for the series. Though while die-hards fans will likely find the new premise and design of this title to be a bit of a departure from what they know, the developers have fleshed out this more adventuring take on the series to offer a more open world to explore with its own living and dynamic ecosystem to engage with.
Set in a newly discovered continent, hunters from all over make their way to the new land to work with a newly established science organization that aims to discover, track, and study the various new monsters that inhabit this vastly different ecosystem. Playing as a new hunter, you'll have to explore the continent and its various regions to see what this new land has to offer, and along the way you'll find new challenges and dangers that even seasoned hunters will have to train hard for. These regions are massive, and they feature no loading when traveling across the landscape. The setting also has a day and night cycle--which switches up monster behaviors.
Judging from the debut trailer alone, it's easy to tell that there have been a number of changes from past Monster Hunter conventions--such as the focus on more solo-oriented experiences, more traversal options, like the grappling hook, and some more action oriented gameplay. With that said, Monster Hunter World is still about finding resources and slaying tough beasts.
During the demo, we saw our hunter take on a quest solo to find samples of mucous from a new monster known as the Anjanath. A cross between a giant feathered lizard and a T-Rex--with some fire-breathing capabilities--the Anjanath is one of the apex predators in this region, and many of the smaller beasts avoid it. One interesting thing about this demo was that it showed off the dynamic AI present in the monsters. The developers refer to it as a living ecosystem, and monsters will react in real-time, either avoiding apex predators, or engaging with weaker or weakened monsters to find an easy kill. During one moment, the Anjanath was on the run after the hunter sprung some traps and weakened it, and the smaller monsters took the opportunity to jump in to try and finish it off, only for it the take them out swiftly.
Like in past games, hunters will have to utilize materials and other gadgets to stay ahead of the game. While in the field, the hunter can find material such as the new scout flies to track particular beasts. Over time, these scout flies will level up and become more useful in their tracking skills. In addition to new materials, the hunters now have new gear and gadgets to use. Much like the grappling hook, which allows for easy traversal and for staying on top of beasts that try to shake you off, ghillie suits are now a thing for the hunters. One suit allows the hunter to stay invisible from monsters, while another will create aggro from all large monsters in line of sight.
With the open space to move around in, the hunter has to become more versatile to adapt to the dangers of the continent. Scattered around the regions are safe huts, which allow players to stock on supplies and change their load outs, which is a first for the series, as past titles forced you to commit on your choices before you go on a mission. All 14 weapon types from across the series make a return, and customization will play a larger focus in Monster Hunter World. What I really appreciated was that there seemed to be a clearer indication of what gear types are effective, showing all the stats and buffs they offer players. There's much more clarity here, which I think many many fans will appreciate.
As the hunter catches up to the Anjanath, the hunter climbs on top of it and hits it multiple times. During this section, we got to see the expanded combat gameplay, which feels far more dynamic. Just as the hunter chopped off its tail, which could be harvested for materials, the infamous Rathalos, a famous Monster Hunter beast, swoops in hoping to steal the kill. The Anjanath and the flying beast head off into a tense battle, sending the hunter flying in the chaos. This is another example of the dynamic world which reacts in real-time, which will make exploring the space interesting, as opposed to the more static placements of monsters in the last games.
Eventually, the Anjanath--despite being on its last legs--forces the Rathalos to flee. Just then, the hunter swoops in to deal several shots from the bow gun's new ammo-types, such as the short-range Wyvern Ammo, which delivers the final blow against the beast. After its defeat, the hunter harvests the remains, completing the quest. It was a really exciting mission to watch unfold, and it was impressive to see just how dynamic the space of the world is. I got some strong Dragon's Dogma vibes -- a game that focused a lot on verticality in epic fights -- and that sort of style is used really well here.
Monster Hunter World will no doubt be a departure for the series, which will likely ruffle the feathers of fans. At its core, it's still very much a Monster Hunter game, but now decontextualized to focus more on exploration in a far more open and lived-in space. With no loading screens and online drop-in and drop-out play, there are a lot of improvements from past titles present in Capcom's new take on Monster Hunter, while still retaining much of the tried and true resource-gathering and hunting gameplay. I'm impressed with how it managed to transition to open spaces, and it'll be exciting to see the sort of adventures that will come from these new locales in the Monster Hunter universe.
For more information on Monster Hunter World, which is set for an Early 2018 release, check back with us at GameSpot and our E3 hub page.