Monster Hunter is a long running series where you do just that: hunt giant monsters. The series has been around since the early 2000s, usually on hand held consoles such as the PSP and the 3DS. But, after a long wait of almost 10 years, ‘Monster Hunter’ is back on home consoles! But how does it compare to the other games in the series?

The basic game play of Monster Hunter revolves around completing quests, which usually consist of either killing or capturing a large monster, delivering specific items, or simply walking around a map and exploring. These missions reward you with currency, which you use to buy the buff-inducing food that you eat at the start of every mission and to pay for the armour and weapons that you craft, as well as the materials that you use to craft these items. Due to these quests usually not giving you enough materials to craft a full set of armour, or a fancy weapon, you are encouraged to repeat quests multiple times so you can get the equipment that you want, giving the player a large amount of agency. Speaking of fancy weapons, the equipment that you use to fight off the monsters range from the mundane to the bizarre. Weapons range from overly large great swords and hammers, to more creative ones, such as swords and shields that combine to create large axes, and crossbows that work in a fashion similar to modern fire arms, with different ammo types that can be switched out based on the player’s current need. But there are some even more ridiculous weapons, including a staff that allows the player to pull off flips and jumps which also shoots bugs, to hammers that double as large musical instruments. And no, I’m not joking.

I’m also not joking when I say that cats are a huge part of this game. Yes, cats. If you decide to play this game offline and without other players, you are joined in the field by a ‘Palico’, an NPC anthropomorphic cat which helps in combat by healing the player, gathering supplies and attacking monsters (they also make a large array of cat puns, all of which are adorable). Cats do show up a surprising amount in the game, including in the café in the main hub area, where you are served by cat chefs who are let by a super buff fitness trainer cat who can’t stop talking about ‘gains’ in his dialogue.

While this is all pretty standard for a Monster Hunter game, there are some new additions to the game play which are incredibly exciting. The first of these is the Slinger, a wrist-mounted slingshot and grappling hook that the player can use to climb up cliffs and shoot projectiles at monsters. This opens up new ways to play, with players able to latch onto ledges, allowing them to then make aerial attacks on larger monsters, or shooting flying monsters down with stones collected from the environment. Another new addition is a tool called the Mantle. This has various uses that the player unlocks over time, with the first setting being similar to a gillie suit, allowing the player to hide in almost plain sight, which often gives the player some much needed relief to sharpen their weapons or drink health potions. While I am a bit annoyed that the Mantle takes a long time to recharge between uses, I do think it is still a very useful tool, and it is incredibly fun to find new uses for it.

Simply put, the game looks fantastic. While the relatively low quality graphics let the games down in the preceding instalments, Monster Hunter: World is beautiful to behold. Everything, from the almost photo realistic food, to the many sets of armour the player can create and equip throughout the course of the game. The animations are also amazing, especially the weapon animations which tread the fine line between looking devastatingly realistic and exaggeratedly cool. But, of course, the star of the show when it comes to animation and art design is the titular monsters themselves. The game takes full advantage of the higher resolution and quality graphics of home consoles, allowing the monsters, the majority of which tower above you, to feel imposing, menacing, beautiful and awe-inspiring all at once. From the smaller monsters that you first encounter at the beginning of the game, to the behemoths that take time and planning to effectively defeat, everything about the monsters is incredibly well designed. However, this doesn’t stop some characters from falling into the uncanny valley at times, with the biggest offender being the Handler, a character that the player visits to receive quests and who accompanies the player into the field.

I haven’t delved too far into the story just yet, but what I’ve found is pretty barebones. The player is a hunter in the Fifth Fleet, so named because it is the fifth fleet of ships to make the long journey to the New World. The idea of these expeditions is to discover the reason why the ‘Elder Dragons’, large, almost mythological monsters, migrate to the New World. After rendezvousing with members of the other fleets, the hunter is tasked with capturing an Elder Dragon, as well as helping to make the New World habitable. While this is all very exciting, it would be remiss of me to ignore the fact that the game is almost arguably celebrating colonialism. Despite the fact that they sometimes made it difficult to complete some research tasks, the monsters in this game don’t really seem to threaten the main out of mission hub area that much. Unlike in earlier games, where monsters were shown attacking settlements, or as actual threats, in this game the lines between peaceful creature and rampaging monstrosity become more blurred. I’ve had multiple instances where I’ve been on a mission and a supposedly hostile monster will simply walk past me, only becoming aggressive if I attack it first. This, combined with some rather uncomfortable choices in dialogue (“When in doubt, burn them out!” chirps the Handler after my character shoots fire bombs at some grazing monsters so we can set up camp) means that the game sometimes feels more like a big game hunting simulator more than anything else. The problematic messages the game pushes do bother me to a certain extent but it’s not overwhelmingly bad; like I said, only occasionally does the game slip up and go from fun, ridiculous action game to slightly weird colonial fantasy. Some people will have less of an issue with this game’s politics than I do, but I still think my discomfort with the game was worth noting. This isn’t the only series that involves fighting huge creatures, and has handled the portrayal of the monsters incredibly well in the past, but Capcom have seemed to have slipped up in this instalment, and that does put a dampener on my excitement and love of this game.

All in all, Monster Hunter: World is a fantastic game that is slightly let down by problematic writing. The game play is fun, if repetitive in parts, but all the hunts that the player goes on will be unique, with different weapons allowing various different play styles. While I haven’t really tried the multiplayer aspect of the game, I’ve heard good things, and I’m hoping to dive into it as soon as I possibly can. The new tools that the hunter has available to them all feel essential, and I can’t even imagine how I managed without them. So, Monster Hunter: World. It is a good game. Shame about all the colonialism.