The only thing more satisfying than a successful Monster Hunter hunt is wearing the armour you made out of the beast you took down. I watched as Monster Hunter World director Yuya Tokuda hunted down a giant beast during a demonstration at E3, and while the weapons and monsters were great, the game’s world was the most impressive part.
Monster Hunter World is the next entry of the hugely popular Monster Hunter franchise, which I’ve become familiar with by playing on 3DS. In these games, players take hunting contracts to defeat dangerous beasts, either capturing them or killing them for glory and loot.
Tokuda’s target was an new T-Rex creature called an anjanath. He was joined by a companion, one of the small Palico cat teammates that frequently turn up in this series. His furry friend gathered items from the environment as Tokuda began to search for his target. The process indicated that hunts are more involved now. By finding different markers in the environment such as footprints, piles of anjanath mucous, or scratched trees, Tokuda was slowly able to locate his target thanks to a group of ‘scout flies’ who formed a glowing path to the monster that grew stronger as he found more and more evidence.
One of the clumsier aspects of previous Monster Hunter games has been how the world is broken into various zones, with loading times separating each one. In Monster Hunter World, the map is broken into designated zones like before, but there are no loading times. As a result, Tokuda was able to easily move from location to location as the hunt pressed on. The world also looks more alive, with plenty of other monsters and a day/night cycle that imparts a terrific sense of space. It felt like a proper jungle, and some of the monsters even hunted other, smaller monsters. It looked like a lot of fun to get around, with smooth transitions between stalking, running, and even vine-swinging.
Tokuda eventually found the anjanath sleeping in a cave. Thus began an extended fight that showed off more of World‘s new features as well as improvements to old Monster Hunter standbys. Tokuda started off aggressively, leaping at the monster with his great sword and mounting the beast. This is a tried and true mechanic from previous games, but it was a bit more detailed here. Players can now climb around monsters to attack specific body parts and weak spots.
Tokuda was tossed off as the monster thrashed around, which caused a nearby tree to fall over. The vines from that tree caught the anjanath in a trap that allowed Tokuda to land some extra hits. I’m a bit suspicious about how easy it will actually be to use that sort of environmental aid in the heat of the moment, but the demo showed several more, including poison plants that could summon a pool of damaging toxin to lure monsters into and rocks that could be dislodged from cave roofs to fall down on their heads.
Things got even wilder when the fight drew the attention of another nearby monster, a great jagras that quickly fought with the anjanath before getting killed when the giant anjanath chomped on its neck.
Everything had devolved into chaos by this point, but that chaos was mitigated somewhat by a handful of additional tools that helped Tokuda gain control. The most important was a “slinger,” which functioned as both slingshot and grapple hook. It could be used to fire special ammo or trigger traps, but also allowed Tokuda to zip right back to the monster when he was knocked off, keeping combat moving along. He occasionally donned a “challenger’s mantle” as well, which drew the monster’s attention and made it easier for him to lure it into traps.
After fast travelling back to camp, Tokuda armed himself with a rapid fire bowgun that used a variety of special ammo, including explosive sticky rounds and ammo that turned the weapon into a small flamethrower. The final stretch of the hunt took place in a constricted space that turned out to be the nest of a large, dragon-like rathalos. The monsters attacked Tokuda’s prey and left it weak enough that he was able to finish it off with a final barrage from his bowgun.
Like all E3 presentations, this one was calculated to show off as many interacting systems and flashy moments as possible. I still set my cynicism aside once I saw it in action. Monster Hunter World has a lot of promise, thanks in large part to a new approach to world design. It feels less like a hodge-podge of video game levels and more like a real place where you will hunt, chase, and fight your prey. Monster Hunter World is coming in 2018, which means there’s still plenty of time for me to practice killing testucabra on my 3DS.