Monster Hunter: World is an expansive game which requires patience and skill to master. The title takes place in a semi-open world setting where you're tasked with understanding Elder Dragons, while also hunting down various other creatures. Elder Dragons are rare, elusive monsters that have lived since ancient times, and are able to bring about the destruction of entire ecosystems if they desire.

The premise behind the game might be simple, but it tells a somewhat complex story. You're part of the Fifth Fleet in pursuit of a colossal Elder Dragon known as Zorah Magdaros. Once every decade, Elder Dragons trek across the sea to travel to a region known as the New World. This migration event is referred to as the Elder Crossing and has baffled the Guild for years. The Guild is the main governing body in the Monster Hunter universe, and they work alongside the Elder Dragon Observation to monitor and research particular species. To get to the bottom of this mysterious pattern, the Guild forms the Research Commission, dispatching them in large groups to the New World.

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Background and missions

The game begins as you're shipwrecked upon arrival to the New World after an attack by Zorah Magdaros. The main objective in Monster Hunter: World is simply to battle gigantic monsters in epic locations. As a hunter, you take on numerous quests to kill increasingly difficult beasts in their unique habitats. Depending on the region, like the Coral Highlands or Rotten Vale, you encounter different monsters which utilize their environment to their advantage.

You never feel like you're battling mindless creatures.

For example, due to the extreme nature of the Rotten Vale, the region is a breeding ground for resilient beasts. Being exposed to death and decay not only makes these creatures incredibly tough, but they also have a few tricks up their proverbial sleeves. A giant lizard-like monster coats its body with tar and then rolls around in the bones of the dead to gain thick armor. You'll have to get through that first to do some serious damage to the softer hide underneath.

While the story revolves around acquiring contracts to hunt down monsters, the enemy variety the game presents is truly astounding. Just like previous entries in the franchise, Monster Hunter: World maintains the sense that the creatures are the stars of the show. Even if you come across a Kulu-Ya-Ku or Pukei-Pukei in the wild, you realize that they have distinct personalities. Unlike other games, you never feel like you're battling mindless creatures.

Playstyles and weapons

A large part of the journey is discovering what playstyle suits your skill level. Whether you choose to equip a massive sword or a projectile weapon, mastering it takes time. For example, you may not like how an oversized hammer feels in comparison to the quick attacks of a bone sword. There are dozens of options, so determining what works for you is imperative to success. You can also craft, upgrade and purchase new items at any time.

The poor weapon tutorials don't make it easy to pick and choose.

Unfortunately, the weapon tutorials don't make it easy to pick and choose. The best way to learn about all the weapons is to try them out individually. There are numerous side quests which revolve around gathering resources or accomplishing some other minor task for a vendor back at camp. Testing out new loadouts works well during these scenarios. There's also an expedition option available but it's a little more unpredictable because you never know what creature you'll encounter during your journey.

Risk and rewards

Gamers who take down monsters receive numerous materials that can be used to create stronger weapons and armor in order to hunt down even more dangerous monsters. This is the basic gameplay cycle Monster Hunter: World relies on to keep players engaged. Capcom has promised aggressive post-launch support which will add new monsters and other challenges for experienced players. If they deliver on this task, the game might keep you coming back for more.

Monster Hunter: World will keep you coming back for more.

Even if you choose to forgo the side quests, we estimate that it should take you around forty to fifty hours to complete the main campaign. However, that seems like the beginning of one's journey in Monster Hunter: World because there are so many items to craft, foes to vanquish, and research to conduct.

Multiplayer

While we tested out the game mostly in the single-player environment, Monster Hunter: World allows you to team up with your friends to carry out various missions. Playing with game in online co-op isn't necessary but it does make it significantly easier when you're fighting flying creatures which require different types of attacks to take down, not to mention monsters the size of buildings.

Monster Hunter: World allows you to tackle missions in co-op mode.

One of the most unique features is the ability to send up an S.O.S. Flare when you foresee failure. This allows other gamers to join your party and help you take down a particular creature. This is a standard ability in many games when you're stuck at a boss, and it's definitely a welcome addition to Monster Hunter: World given the intense encounters you have on every mission.

Customization

Monster Hunter: World features in-depth customization options which allow you to tailor your character and feline companion. It's great to generate a hunter that looks somewhat like you. This process allows for deeper immersion because you feel like a part of the game.

Deep character tools allow you to create figures like Geralt of Rivia.

If you take the time to experiment with the character creation tools, you can even character famous figures like Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. There are a lot of options here but it'll take you some time to become familiar with them.

Performance options

Monster Hunter: World on Xbox One X features a number of graphical modes. The options available are "Prioritize Resolution", "Prioritize Framerate", and "Prioritize Graphics". As expected, Prioritize Resolution renders the game close to or at 4K, so it appears incredibly clear. Prioritize Framerate adjusts the visuals so that it targets 60 FPS as closely as possible. Lastly, Prioritize Graphics enhances the shadows and other effects instead of simply rendering them with more pixels. Out of all of these options, Prioritize Resolution seems to be the best because not only does the game look great on modern displays, but it also has the most stable performance. Unfortunately, there are problems associated with all of these settings.

From our playthrough on Xbox One X, it appears as though the frame rate is erratic on all three options. This means that even when Prioritize Resolution is selected, the frame rate doesn't stay locked at 30 FPS. There's also noticeable judder at times due to frame pacing issues. However, this is by far the most stable the game gets because Prioritize Framerate and Prioritize Graphics feel less optimized.

We recommend playing the game on Prioritize Resolution.

While Prioritize Framerate targets 60 FPS, it feels as though it rarely hits that figure. While the movement and combat is noticeably smoother, it's still not ideal because Monster Hunter: World requires timed attacks and copious amount of dodging. Prioritize Graphics is a little better but it still feels off.

Prioritize Graphics mostly adds more foliage and lighting but it still appears to suffer from strange frame rate anomalies. It's unclear what the exact nature of the problem is, but Capcom should've included a 30 FPS lock in the game because it would've helped eliminate the uneven frame times. Hopefully the developer will add that option in the coming weeks. Almost every other game out there gives players the option to lock the frame rate at 30 FPS, so it's unclear how such a significant oversight took place to begin with. For that reason, we would recommend playing the game on Prioritize Resolution because it offers the smoothest experience, providing you're playing on an Xbox One X.

Bugs and problems

Even though there are a lot of great aspects to Monster Hunter: World, there are a few issues which need to be discussed. Most of these problems stem from the dialogues and technical elements of the title. Issues like poor lip-syncing are jarring to witness as they occur so frequently.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the explorers in Monster Hunter: World claim that they aren't against nature and are only here to observe. Monsters are supposedly a part of the ecosystem. However, most of the quests revolve around killing them — even the most gargantuan of beasts — so there's a noticeable dichotomy between the story and actions. While this isn't a game-breaking flaw, it does make you question if the story and gameplay teams communicated well with each other during the development cycle. Eliminating or simply rewording some of the dialogues would've easily solved this problem.

Most of Monster Hunter: World's problems stem from the technical aspects of the game.

Monster Hunter: World has a steep learning curve if you haven't played past entries in the franchise. The combat is difficult to master but it never comes across as a daunting task. Unfortunately, the upgrade system is what many gamers will struggle to comprehend. There are just so many options that it can feel overwhelming.

Just like the weapon tutorials, upgrade tutorials don't do a great job of explaining the mechanics. While bettering armor is easy, the different weapon skill trees are hard to decipher. Even after playing the game on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 for hours, we struggled with the system until we researched previous games in the Monster Hunter franchise. Various websites and YouTube videos do a better job of explaining how Monster Hunter: World works than Capcom.

Beyond the lip-syncing issues on Western versions of the game, some of the voice acting just isn't that good because there is a lot of forced delivery. While the lip-syncing issue probably couldn't have been avoided given the target audience of Monster Hunter: World, greater quality control should've been exercised when recording dialogues. Luckily, even with all of these issues, the game stands strong due to its rewarding gameplay, and mostly intriguing story.

Monster Hunter: World review conclusion

Overall, Monster Hunter: World is a great game which runs best on Xbox One X. The Monster Hunter franchise started off on the PlayStation 2 in 2004, but then became a Nintendo exclusive for many years. Titles like Monster Hunter Tri, Monster Hunter 4, and even Monster Hunter Generations were only available on systems like the Nintendo Wii or Nintendo 3DS.

It's great to see that the franchise makes a triumphant debut on Microsoft's machine because many gamers expressed concerns about optimization and other issues before launch. If you like challenging experiences along the lines of Dark Souls, be sure to give Monster Hunter: World a go. The game will keep you engaged for dozens of hours because it takes patience more than anything to become a legendary hunter.

Pros:

  • Gorgeous visuals.
  • Addictive gameplay.
  • Strong Xbox One X support.
  • Intriguing creatures and world.

Cons:

  • Unstable performance.
  • Uneven voice acting.
  • Opening can be frustrating.
  • Poor weapon tutorials.

4.5 out of 5

Monster Hunter: World went on sale for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on January 26, 2018, starting at $59.99. A PC version is scheduled for Fall 2018.

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