Monster Hunter World has probably been one of the games I have been most cautiously optimistic for in a long time. On one hand, I can totally see it being a breath of fresh air for the series, opening it up to new players by easing up on some of the nuances and, let’s be honest, the sheer slope of difficulty that is learning Monster Hunter. On the other hand, I was nervous that those changes might destroy the core of what makes the game the game. Those quirks, as silly as it might sounds, actually make up part of the series’ soul. Sometimes you need to be reminded that making silly mistakes will completely ruin a hunt.

This game walks an insanely fine line. Insanely fine. Fans of any series that has been around a long time, especially those with cult followings; your Dark Souls, your Monster Hunters, Dynasty Warriors, they can be jerks. Not jerks in the way that they hate everything (though, looking at the announcement for MHW reactions, woof), but they scrutinise and obsess over details. Despite being fans, they’re hard to please. I got my copy of this game a bit later than others, because well, sometimes I forget to ask for code, but after putting a solid amount of time into this, I’ve since finished the ‘main game’ and I can honestly say I think fans will be impressed.

There’s a lot of changes and I don’t want this review to go for a million pages (though, I could see me talking anyone’s ear off about it for hours), so I’ll try and keep things fairly high level. Stepping into the New World, it’s the Hunter’s job to help the expedition set up camps, investigate monsters and to solve the issue of the Elder Crossing, which is happening more often than it normally should.

What this means in gameplay terms is that instead of tonnes of missions that you’ll have to do specific ones of to progress, the game clearly tells you which missions progress the plot, and which are optional. Each mission tasks you with taking down a monster (or, rarely, gathering something) by yourself or with friends. Each mission is open by default to other players, so they can join you if they are in the same online hub as you, or you can fire an SOS to open it up to ‘all players’. Personally I prefer to hunt solo, as I feel the challenge is better for me.

New changes that I absolutely adore include Scoutflies, a group of fireflies that shows gatherable objects, or highlights monster tracks or even, as your research increases, helps you find traces of the monster you’re hunting  and acts as a little GPS. This is important because the maps are much larger. Gone are the maps of old with small areas with screen breaks between them, instead replaced with larger, more complex, multilayered maps. Without the scoutflies, navigating these biomes would be incredibly difficult. With scoutflies, your map becomes this living, breathing record. Large monsters and their statuses, gathering locations, traps, endemic life, small monsters, the lot. You end up using this map as your gospel.

The feeling of Monster Hunter is still present, which is a relief. Monsters are tough, they have specific habits and rituals. You kill (or capture) them and use their parts to make new gear. That’s the loop of the series and it still feels good. I actually really love the new monsters, but I will note that it doesn’t feel at present that there are as many as I would like. Already I am starting to feel a bit of the grind, mostly due to the comparatively small roster. Capcom have work ahead of them with the support of this game, because they may have to break the mold and charge for ‘monster packs’, else add new monsters to the game for free. I’m actually find either way. There’s no “G” rank, the hardest difficulty of monsters so that might dissuade some people.

No new weapons have been added, but I honestly think that’s ok. There are still 14 weapons, each of them split into multiple trees. Every game I like to look at a new weapon, so this time I chose hammers. This means my job is to stand near the monsters head and boop it ‘til it falls over. Learning a new weapons was actually made easier with a real training area! Finally (with damage numbers) I can actually spend some time in a safe environment learning my weapon. The game even tells me what combos I can do from the attacks I’m currently using, so those that really want to get into it, they can learn in a sandbox.

Monster Hunter World is a marvel, honestly.  It’s a huge amount of quality of life changes, and a lot of these changes really help open this series up to newcomers, which is awesome. Hardcore fans might find the QoL changes dumbing down. Sure, it takes out a bunch of the jank, you don’t need to carry whetstones, items are crafted if needed on the fly (if you’ve got ingredients), but honestly I think it’s ok to remove this jank, for the greater good. My bigger issue is around the setpieces, I don‘t think the biggest, special monsters are inherently interesting. I also don’t think the endgame roster is as big as it could be. Finally, the endgame is flawed because it relies heavily on RNG (random chance of investigating monster tracks to get a chance of getting a ‘tempered’ investigation), which can be frustrating. On the whole though, this is right up there with a list of the best games in the series (shout out to you, MH4U).