Reviewed – Monster Hunter: World for PC

Editorials, Reviewed

Monster Hunter: World finally made its way to the PC after an eight-month wait. The franchise as a whole has had quite a dedicated following in both the East and West that has generated quite a few sequels and spin-offs to the series on consoles, handhelds, and even mobile platforms. The delay in release was meant to give developers some more time to make sure their port to PC was a successful one because it is the first game to make its way to that platform. Capcom finally decided to take the plunge, which seems to be the right move, since the game’s already sold over two million copies on PC since it’s subsequent release. It looks like PC gamers are finally getting a Monster Hunter experience that PlayStation and Nintendo fans have had for years, but does the port stand up to its console predecessor and how well does the Monster Hunter experience transfer over to the PC? For many gamers, this will be their first steps into the shoes of an expert Monster Hunter, so let’s see if it’s a good one.

The premise of Monster Hunter: World, (MHW) is relatively straightforward. Players create their character and are dropped into the role of a world-class monster hunter who’s just journeyed across the ocean, to hunt monsters naturally. The character creation system is something player with find familiar. Here you’ll find all your standard sliders, collections of the nose, lips, eye shapes and menacing looking scars to choose in customizing your look. There’s nothing particularly exciting or unique about the creation system, but it fills its niche just fine. Players will create some attractive looking, or in my case, goofy-looking characters. One small and pleasant feature is the developers have allowed for spaces to be used in a character’s name, which is something I wish we would see more of in new titles across any genre. When you’re all done customizing yourself, you’ll have the opportunity to customize your Felyne friend, who is a cat-like companion that hangs around and helps you throughout your adventures. The creation tool for your Felyne is a simplified version of your own character creation tool, so there are some options for it, but nothing too deep. Don’t be surprised if you see your cat-friend running out there with a different hunter and another name attached to it.

Once you’ve arrived at the new continent, there is plenty of new biomes to explore. These separate regions in the game have a collection of different wildlife, plants and of course, monsters to hunt. You’ll see everything from lush oceanside jungle to barren deserts, and much more as your character explores the new continent to unlock even more stunning; and in some cases, absurd looking regions. These areas are full of little hidden corners and nooks that will usually have new items, rare creatures, and even characters that can give you a leg up. Players that enjoy freely wandering and exploring in games should love these multitiered, complex regions of the map. Character advancement is tied to their gear, so if you want to do more damage, or be resistant to particular elemental effect, players will have to change or upgrade their armor, weapons, and accessories to keep up with their quarry. Advancing through the game and becoming a higher ranked hunter means you’ll unlock more weapon and equipment choices. The better a character does, the more gear becomes available. Each of the weapons has their individual upgrade tree that can be explored, too. A character also isn’t married to a single weapon-type and Players can choose to swap a weapon in between missions. Each weapon comes with a different move-set to help take down enemies. As a result, weapons will have different tactics that a player or group can employ to maximize damage to a Monster. The Sword and Shield for instances provide a character with improved defense and faster attack speed, while a weapon like the Gun Lance grants a character the ability to shoot at a monster from range. If you pick a weapon that doesn’t work for you, no worries you can always craft another one out another one. With the number of weapon-types available and upgrades for each of them, players shouldn’t find themselves feeling bored with the combat for a while.

Monster Hunter’s constant focus on preparation will often have your character eating a meal to boost stats like health, stamina and even damage. Players that don’t eat before going on a hunt will undoubtedly be at a disadvantage compared to any other hunters they are playing with, but most certainly the Monsters themselves. This portion of the game is quite pretty and full of activity. The delicious looking food that may actually look good enough to make you hungry when you see it. The downside to the Canteen portion of the game is that you’ll see a lot of the same actions and the same food over and over. There’s also no way to skip these sequences, and after a few hours, you will likely find yourself feeling pretty bored of them. There are also upgrades to the Canteen itself, which will add some variety to the time spent there, but honestly, you’ll likely get sick of those as well, since it just upgrades the food you see and these upgrades just replace the previous food and animations. There’s also a variety of items that the player can pop throughout their time in the field which keeps their character feeling as fresh and perky as a spring morning. These items grant health, stamina boosts and even attack damage or speed. Some of these items are an absolute must if you want to be a successful hunter as well. The whetstone is an item that keeps your weapon sharp. Sharpness is a stat degrades over time as the hunter fights beasts. If a weapon becomes too dull, it can no longer penetrate a monster’s thick hide. As a result, a minimal amount of damage is dealt, and our hunter’s combo is broken, leaving them open to attacks, especially from tails, seriously, watch out for those tails. The items and buffs require time and in themselves can be a dangerous decision while fighting A monster. It’s easy to try and step away to drink a potion, sharpen your blade or grab a mid-combat snack of nuts only to take a spiked head, tail or load of vile poisonous spit to the back. Since these character animations take time to execute, it adds a nice bit of tension to the combat experience and again focuses on strategy and foresight. Mechanically, most of these features will be familiar to people who have played pretty much any action game or RPG in the last ten or so years. While not fresh, it does allow players to focus more on just playing rather than learning how to play.

Like the weapons, armor, and items, questing will be something most players recognize as well. Everything’s posted on bounty boards or are given to you by your handler. A bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young woman who’s more than willing to provide you with advice. She’s also, as you may expect, a walking, talking anime trope. Occasionally she’s sending you off to speak with other characters, or you’ll see exclamation points scattered about the map. These characters will usually have a quest to give you. The weird thing about this is, those characters aren’t giving you a mission, not really. They are just there to inform you that it’s available and that’s about it. It’s easy to forget or assume that once you’ve spoken with someone who has a golden exclamation point floating about your head, that you’ll likely get a quest. Not so, no, once the NPC and player have made one another’s acquaintance, the player will need to go back to the handler or the bounty board to accept the quest. The way questing is managed seemed a bit strange to start with but was easy enough to adjust after playing for a little while. You can check the board for whatever you might need, and you won’t get stuck in long, drawn-out conversations to progress the game’s story. The board is also where you can join other player sessions or respond to calls for help, called “SOS missions.“ These are calls for help that other players in the world request by shooting a flare. In standard RPG fashion, there are, of course, a slew of side-quests to do for the good folks of Astera. Early quests in the game won’t punish you too badly for having a loadout that’s not quite right for the battle, but later on, some monsters get pretty nasty, and it can ramp up kind of quickly. The early game monsters feel a little bit too easy and don’t seem to really do the job of preparing players for the colossal, flying motherfuckers that come a bit later in the game. Experienced Monster Hunter players may be bored with the first four or five hours of the game, while after six to ten hours, a new player suddenly finds themselves fighting much more complicated and dangerous monsters. Players can always call for aid from another player so there’s a chance to take down something that’s may a little too big for a single player. There also might be some unexpected assistance from other monsters on the map as well. Monsters have some interesting interactions in each area that aren’t immediately apparent. The largest of the beasts usually controls the area and will fight or sometimes eat other monsters they meet while moving through their territory. An interesting interaction is that if you’ve severely wounded a monster, others creatures in the area may pick up on this and attack the bully that’s been pushing them around all this time. It’s best to find a bush to camp out in and watch the majesty that is Mother Nature unfold, as two or more horrific beasts rip into each other like the bloodthirsty monsters they are. When the fighting’s all over just collect your loot from those gullible, dead monsters.

The port from consoles to PC, especially for a first-time was a pretty decent try; it is however not without its problems. There have been many complaints about crashing and stability issues with recent driver releases, that were supposed to improve the experience, but instead, seem to have caused problems for some. Another problem seems to be with textures displaying at higher graphics settings. Armor, clothing, and weapons, as an example, look muddy or fuzzy and is much more noticeable at high resolutions. The low-quality textures aren’t problems the console counter-part has experienced. So, for now, at least, the console version of the game currently has higher resolution texturing than the PC port, making it a better visual experience. This is likely a bug that hopefully, Capcom will fix in the very near future. Monster Hunter also seems to have some difficulty in maintaining 1080×1024 resolution, with a steady 60 frames per second. Even with GTX 1070 and the 1080 family of cards, people seem to be struggling to get their rigs to pull over 60 fps. It is, however, hit or miss for people and is likely another bug that needs to Capcom will have to address. I was lucky enough not too experience many issues with fps on a GTX 1080Ti and maintained an average of about 85 fps. That being said, high-end graphics cards should be performing better. For how good Monster Hunter looks, there shouldn’t be such poor, and unsteady frame performance. There are a few settings that can be tweaked or turned off entirely that will probably give players back some frames, but some of those settings also run the risk of making the game look quite a bit different. In the Advances Graphic settings, there’s an option called “Volumetric Lighting.” This setting is mostly responsible for the clouded or misty look in the area. This same setting also seems to be responsible for heavy frame loss when it’s raining. Disabling this setting will give players quick a decent frame boost, but there is a bit of a loss of ambiance and aesthetic to the experience. This setting is also left entirely up to personal taste, as disabling it doesn’t affect how the game plays and may get a player a much-needed boost in fps by turning it off. These graphical hitches and bugs, unfortunately, shine a glaring light onto the fact that Monster Hunter: World is a console port. This fact also becomes evident if you’re playing with a keyboard and mouse. After an hour or two it’s just not a comfortable experience. The best way to play this game without a doubt is a controller. Since it was a console game first, using the scheme it was initially intended for is going to yield the best results and probably the least amount of frustration. MHW also seems to be plagued with disconnect and failure to join errors in multiplayer, which for some, has affected their experience, and understandably so. Sessions appear to be unavailable to join for no apparent reason and groups that have already joined up may find their group disbanded after a generic error code tells players they are no longer able to play online. The only fixes for this I’ve found were to cancel the current session and set up a new one or if that does not work, then to quit the game and relaunch it. Sometimes Monster Hunter: World fails to find a host altogether from launch and the player is forced to play in offline mode. While texture issues and stability problems are undoubtedly annoying, those will likely be fixed. If Capcom cannot keep players connected through a hunt, then that’s going to be a much bigger problem down the line for the game. People can deal with muddy, low-definition looking textures, but not being able to play online consistently for a game that’s meant to be played with friends will kill the game if the issue is not resolved.

The Monster Hunter experience has taken a first, good step into a new platform. There are a few rough edges though that need to be worked out, and hopefully, Capcom will be receptive to folks that are experiencing performance issues. The idea that the textures technically look better in a console environment than on the PC is an issue that developers should address quickly. This new game has improved on what we’ve come to expect from the Monster Hunter formula, and if you’re a gamer who enjoys a bit of a grind and a more methodical action experience that most RPG’s don’t have. MHW is at its best when players team up and rip into some gigantic beasts they’ve got no business hunting alone, but can knock out as a group. MHW offers both a great multiplayer and single player experience that is hard to come by, and it’s about time the PC gamers finally got a taste of the experience that console gamers have had for a while. Even with its issues, I still have to recommend this game. Monster Hunter: World is fun, the environments are detailed and slaying gigantic monsters is a thrill. Monster Hunter: World is a unique journey and a fresh addition to the PC platform that I hope we’ll see more of in the future.