The jump from tiny handheld to a bigger screen couldn’t have come at a better time for Monster Hunter. Console audiences are hungry for a huge online experience, and huge is definitely the best word to describe Monster Hunter. Monster Hunter World feels impossibly vast, an impenetrable tangle of complex systems for rookie hunters to bounce off, even with some steps taken to make it easier to pick up.
Monster Hunter World plays out like your character has supped from the ‘drink me’ potion from Alice In Wonderland, letting your tiny avatar climbing through oversized trees and doing battle with impossibly large monsters, slicing away at their ankles with vigour, or leaping down onto a beast’s spine from above to bury your tiny weapons into its hide.
You feel small, you are small and that creates an immediate impact. You don’t feel like the hero, but a journeyman plying your trade. Hunting monsters is, for your avatar, a business decision, and business is booming. The first monsters you hunt are tiny like you, easily dispatched with a flurry of attacks. Later, the things you’re tasked to hunt shake the ground when they walk, scattering smaller creatures as they stomp around.
These hunts are similarly scaled up, and rather than 15 minutes of action, you could be tracking your prey for 30 minutes, only for them to run off into a hidden cave, requiring more investigation to give them a battering.
Monster Hunter World’s combat is elegant, a series of blows that requires a working knowledge of the combinations and perfect timing to achieve, making you look like a stone cold master when you get it right. Fight a wyvern, though, and your avatar looks like a drunk attacking a double decker bus. A flying double decker bus that wants to eat you. Enemies don’t stagger under your blows but do start to show damage over time, armour looking cracked or damaged and legs starting to limp under your assault.
You’re here to conquer this new world of monsters, but you’re such a tiny cog in Monster Hunter World’s massive machine that amassing enough strength to exert your dominion and cut down the huge beasts feels like a real achievement.
It’s this sense of scale that makes Monster Hunter World feel like a big hitter on consoles, but it also delivers a sense of spectacle that has been missing in other recent always-online games and that, combined with the drip-feed of new content, should win it an enduring audience.