A Monster Hunter Holiday Appreciation Post

Happy holidays, everyone! As I sit here writing this snow is falling outside, which is pretty rare for Seattle. In fact, it has been years since we had a white Christmas, and I’m really hoping that one or two inches stick until at least tomorrow morning.

I was planning on taking a short break from blogging to enjoy the holidays, but I was finally able to purchase a new PS4 (my old one, a first generation PS4, broke about a month and a half ago) and that meant I was able to play the Monster Hunter World beta. Normally I would wait until my Weekly Update to talk about it, but I’m damned impressed and I wanted to at least put my impressions out there before the beta ends. It’s a game I think deserves visibility, and I feel like it is still a relatively niche series.

Let me start off by saying this: unlike many other bloggers/content creators who write or talk about Monster Hunter, I am not an expert in any way, shape or form. My first Monster Hunter was Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the 3DS, and while I played a fair amount of it, I wouldn’t say I dove particularly deep.

Part of what kept me from fully enjoying it was that it was on such a weak system. The devs worked some technological magic on those games and they look great for games on the 3DS. There’s the kicker: while I don’t think graphics are the most important thing, with a big, sweeping game like Monster Hunter you can tell that the tech held them back.

Not so on Playstation 4 (moving forward, keep in mind I’m playing on a PS4 Pro, and I’ve heard that the game can get pretty framey on a base model PS4). This game is gorgeous. It is one of the best looking games on the console, up there with Horizon: Zero Dawn. Fields of lavender sway in the wind, water looks murky and muddy and wet, mud gloops and glops with a slimy sheen. Every part of every level has a sense of atmosphere, of a real place familiar yet alien. In the old versions of the game, due to tech limitations, the large levels in which each hunt takes place were split into smaller, bite-sized areas with a short loading screen in between each. No longer. Now each level is sprawling, massive and complex, comprising of multiple levels of verticality, and ranging from rivers to dense forests.

The animations have improved, too. They were already stellar on the 3DS, but now every character flows between moves with remarkable realism. Each motion you take looks natural, adding to the authentic feel of weight behind attacks. Even just moving around the level feels better than before; on steep hills your character will slide nimbly down, and if you attack at the end of the slide it sends you careening satisfyingly into the sky so that you can bring your attack down on the beast’s back. There are little shortcuts that you can take to speed up your traversal, like vines that let you swing like Tarzan through the canopy of the forest.

In the old games, tracking down the monster was a somewhat random affair. You would wander the map for a while, sometimes with some prior knowledge of where the monster would usually show up, sometimes not. Once you found the monster it would try to run away once it had taken enough damage, and if you didn’t hit it with a tracking item you’d have to repeat step one all over again. It was a system that was very harsh on newcomers. Now you have to scour the level for clues, such as footprints or… *ahem,* excretions,  and once you have found enough clues your scout flies will light the path to the creature. You can still stumble on it organically, adding to a sense of excitement and randomness.

Now on to the stars of the show: the monsters themselves. They’re really fucking cool. I think that’s all that really needs to be said, but I’ll talk a bit more about them anyways. There are three hunts in the beta: a Jagras, a big ol’ hairy iguana looking dude, a Barroth, I gigantic armored T-Rex/Rhino hybrid with a crest that’s quite difficult to break, and an Anjanath, a mean, fire-breathing dinosaur with a weird nose ridge and wings. The most remarkable thing about these three is how unpredictable they can be, how smart the AI is. The team behind this game has done an incredible job at making them act like real animals. They’ll surprise you sometimes, but they also have habits that can be used against them. It truly feels like an exciting hunt. There are other animals that populate the map as well, and even though they aren’t the focus they have their own behavior patterns as well. Just last night as I was playing with my friends (coop in this game is incredible) we noticed that, while we were fighting the quest monster, a group of stegosaurus-esque creatures had formed a circle, tails pointed out to protect themselves. It had little effect on our battle, but I’m sure if the quest monster or one of my teammates had tried to attack those steggos things would have gotten even hairier.

On top of all that, occasionally another monster will show up and start attacking the monster you’re hunting, and if you’re not careful it will attack you too. These monsters are usually the top predator of their territory and they can do massive amounts of damage, so be prepared for a white knuckle fight. You can also just run away, if you can get out of the beast’s clutches, and multiple times my team scattered as the Rathian (pictured in the image at the header of this article) swooped in and literally picked up the monster we were fighting. The neat thing is, theoretically, if you’re good enough, you might be able to take on that Rathian, though with the time limits imposed on each mission it would be quite difficult.

All in all, I have almost nothing but positive things to say about this beta. I was pretty excited about this game, but now I’m STOKED. It’s a must-buy day one for me, and I feel that everybody should at least give it a try; after all, it’s a free beta, and you don’t need PS Plus to play with yout friends! Hope to see you all hunting monsters.

Did you play the beta? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy holidays, and Stay Optimistic!

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