Monster Hunter World is, in many ways, a mystery. How will the game teach its notoriously in-depth combat systems to new players? How well will the online systems work? What is the full scope of the world that players will explore?
Capcom hasn't answered those questions yet, but it did allow me to play through a multiplayer mission with the game; and there's one thing I can say definitively about Monster Hunter World at this point: the gameplay strongly adheres to the Monster Hunter formula.
That might sound too obvious. But the sentiment around the game, especially across message boards and article comments, has been primarily been concern that World will make too many concessions for Western audiences. The fear seems to be that the game will dumb down its complex battle system for something dramatically more simplistic.
And Capcom has made some concessions to make World, in some ways, easier. Quest markers help guide you around the environment in a way that eliminates some of the trial-and-error exploring of previous games. And being able to call in friends to help in the middle of a hunt is a feature the series just hasn't experimented with before. But the overall feel of World's combat is, almost to a fault, incredibly faithful to the franchise's roots.
Monster Hunter is infamous for its in-depth combat system. Each weapon is essentially its own class, and there are 14 unique weapons. The combos, timing, and strategies for each are so different that, to be truly, effective, the game almost requires specialization. And even then, it takes dozens of hours to master the nuances of a particular weapon type.
But the combos and controls for the weapons in World, even shifting from a handheld device to a home console controller, feel strikingly familiar. Anyone who's invested time in Monster Hunter previously will find World's playstyle recognizable. And even without playing the game, the one thing that's apparent from trailers of the game is World's visual upgrade. Monster Hunter World finally looks like the Monster Hunter game that you imagine when playing. Generations and 4 Ultimate didn't look bad, but there's only so much detail that can fit onto a portable console's screen. Freed of those constraints on a large-screen TV, you see little details about each monster and even your own character that you might never have noticed before. The way that muscle and sinew ripple, or the ragged breaths of a beast on its last legs.
So the bigger mystery with Monster Hunter is actually: how will the game be received when it comes out in the US? Games like Dauntless, which went into open alpha recently and that is strongly inspired by Monster Hunter, show that there's an appetite for open-world creature slaying. And the online environment of something like PS4 and Xbox One allow for shared experiences that, in the US, are much more common ways for gamers to get together than gathering around the collective glow of a few 3DS screens.
Monster Hunter has always been much more popular in Japan than any other territory, but World could potentially be the game that elevates it from niche Western franchise to verified worldwide hit. The game has a demanding learning curve, but so does the undeniably popular Dark Souls series. And games like Destiny show that there's a mainstream passion for loot-driven quests that require an extensive amount of grinding (another mainstay system of the Monster Hunter franchise, but one that requires a lot more time than a single-mission to be able to comment on any improvements).
Series fans are undoubtedly excited for the high-fidelity graphical facelift of World, but will that be enough to bring in a new crowd of Hunters? That's a mystery that will can only be answered when the game launches next year.
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