Following on from the previous review in progress article (link), this review in progress article is going to review the High Rank portion of Monster Hunter World. Touching a bit on story, its main focus will be the game’s ability to flow from Low Rank to breaking High Rank and into the “Meta Rank”. Lasting about 60ish hours, with 10 of them being purely nonsensical hunting for the fun of it (more later). Whilst the previous article glossed over aspects of the game as a whole, this is going hunker down on the hunting experience between hunts and the in-between flow of the game.
Previously, lots of the game had large inclusions of story, such as exploring the new areas, the ecology of the landscapes and how they came to be. With the entire New World mapped out, spanning five areas in High Rank with the addition of the Elder’s Recess. The game continues to evolve the narrative at a much slower pace. Whereas previously the climb between Hunter Ranks involved a few quests, which borderline makes Hunter Ranks mute as you went from HR1 to HR7 in the course of a few hours. MHW almost puts the brakes on that in High Rank, with the constant searching for Elder Dragon tracks. The game doesn’t do a good job explaining that you’ll accrue research points by doing optional quests in the relevant maps. Because of this, several hours were spent doing expeditions and finding tracks in the wild. The experience being slightly bloated, it feels like an artificial method of elongating the time in High Rank. I only found out about optional quests for boosting my research when my friend figured out my endeavour was the painful route, after discovering the whereabouts of Kushala Doara and Teostra in the Ancient Forest and Wildspire Waste respectively. So quite some time was spent searching for clues.
But what about Nergigante? The lead up to the eater of Elder Dragons was definitely something, but after facing a constant barrage of Elder Dragons, his presence could best be described as “the Elder Hunting experience”. Part of this comes from the Monster Hunter World beta, having slaughtered him so many times then. Facing it in the story lacked the same emotional impact, when compared to facing him blind the first time and him hitting like a brick wall. Having figured out several of his key moves, the only real challenge as a Lance user I faced was having the necessary guard related skills from armours. His one shot moves became a trivial matter with the best guard in the game, and unless I played really recklessly he wasn’t so much as a one shot threat than a “stamina eating freak”. It was only changing to Charge Blade and its weaker guarding capabilities I met his ferocity, especially as a Heavy Bowgun user with no guards/shields (that wasn’t cheesing with Slice Shots).
This leads into a slight problem World fundamentally has: it lacks variety. Whilst I’m not inherently against streamlining content, case in point the harvesting system changes, the lack of weapon options is a notable problem. With there being one main weapon for each element, with the odd exception. The game has a much more narrow weapon tree, and the armour in the looks department is up for argument. But compared to previous games, this has easily the weakest design points. Rathalos and Rathian, the two most iconic Monsters in Monster Hunter, have the worst designs with less showcase of their design and emphasis on armour. The game in some regards places more emphasis in weapon skill theming and there are less options because of that. The change in armour skills and how they function is definitely a positive, mix sets have never been so powerful until now. With the reversal of the old Talismans changed to craftable/equipable charms, and decorations being the new charm farming for those additional points. The game in this regard almost takes two steps forward, but one step back. The difference between Alpha and Beta sets is without a doubt a subtle, but a deeply, rewarding system of balancing skills in armours and decorations. But the lack of distinct “Fashion Hunting”, the game is a slight struggle for that endgame look (more in follow up Meta Rank article).
With the narrative plateauing off, so too does the available new Monsters to hunt. Granted World provides a distinctly unique experience that previous games and generations have yearned for, the game’s locking of content behind investigations almost holds it back in this regard. With the optionals being hidden by quite a bit, praise has to be given with the game’s attention and attachment to the theme, with a lot a of show, don’t tell in display. Parts of the game feel obtuse, with no clear progression line. The game almost takes that nought to sixty in reverse. Not to say this isn’t a great game, but when compared to previous hunting experiences the game doesn’t have that same of “what’s next to hunt” or “who am I am skinning next?”. It was at the point of facing the final hidden Elder Dragon that I got into a heated argument about what this game almost lacks.
Lasting for two hours, we debated about what this game is almost forgetting. This devolved into three main points about High Rank, to a lesser extent Low Rank too. Firstly, the game doesn’t have that many monsters to hunt. Being more comparable to the launches of the first game in a generation, it’s worth mentioning that compared to Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, 4 Ultimate and Generations, this has the least monsters. To a certain extent, there is a slight over expectation from my part of what World would offer. Whilst the variety of Monsters is great for beginners, thanks to the more gradual learning curve of Monsters. With the inclusion of updates that’ll bring new Monsters, it’s strongly lacking for compared to the Ultimate titles. Having about half the roster size for Large Monsters, the fact over half of the Monsters are new should be impressive and largely noteworthy. But as a “Veteran/Seasoned Hunter”, the current system feels like a someone took the skin off the finished game that would’ve left me satisfied.
Secondly, the rejig of the flow of the inventory/armour/weapon management is almost more painful than fun. As stated earlier, the armour and weapon variety is sorely lacking. Whilst it’s expected not all Monsters make weapons of all varieties, the substitution and (almost) removal of previous weapons (to a lesser extent) designs creates a rather homogeneous experience. Whilst the upgrade system is nice, the ability to mix-and-match is incredibly handicapped now. Seeing the HD version of certain weapons is glorious in some aspects, but not seeing previous expectations is disheartening. Especially for fans who love gimmick builds that come from the “Fashion Hunter” experience, the design approach of “realism” is bland at times. The only notable exception to this rule is the gloriousness of the Kirin armour for guys and gals being intact, but as for everything else, they’re not exactly meeting the Monster Hunter expectation.
Finally, its gameplay length isn’t great. Okay bare with me here, this isn’t to say I won’t spend 100+ hours in the game. Far from it, I’ve almost sunk that much time post breaking High Rank (Meta Rank article to follow). Breaking down the game, it doesn’t require you to hunt the other Monsters. It does, however, require you to explore the game. This disconnect is intensely jarring, as well as the multiplayer problem being worse than Monster Hunter Generation’s Hunter Rank break into higher Ranks. That forced people to post their Urgent Quest for it to be completed. The need to watch cutscenes prior to hunting as a group made group progression was a nightmare, as well as the unskippable cutscenes. The inclusion to rewatch them is a plus at least. But this highlights a problem the game currently has, where once you reach endgame of High Rank. Everything becomes largely a cakewalk to clean up missing armour/weapon sets. Whilst I was inevitably going to do handicapped hunts, such as naked-runs (no armour or mantles) and speedhunts. The fact the game doesn’t make sure you’re fully ready by skill testing you on the likes of Azure Rathalos and Black Diablos. Variants that are infamously hard in their previous incarnations, players facing Nergigante and the alike are bound to run into difficulty. Side note, Pink Rathian is without a doubt easier here than her 3 Ultimate counterpart, when I was maining Lance then.
My personal ending notes of High Rank: Desire Sensor sucks. two Rathian Gems, 13 Rathian Plates, but only three Rathian Spike+. Lots of Zenny problems. Lance is too good now to not be an unstoppable force, it it weren’t for the chip damage. Palicos are too adorable and are the hidden endgame. Aside from that, Monster Hunter World continues to be a game that I can’t quite put down for the right reasons. Monster combat and Meta Rank climb article to follow, with the actual score to end this trilogy of articles.