If you look at my Open Critic Page, you will see that Monster Hunter is listed as one of my favorite game franchises. I’ve been with it from the very beginning with its very first title on the PlayStation 2. Through its incarnations on the PSP and Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii, 4 Ultimate and Generations on the 3DS, and finally Monster Hunter World on the PlayStation 4.
World succeeded where every other monster hunter game failed, captivating the western audience and gaining mass appeal. It was one of the games nominated for game of the year 2017. If you had told me that even five years ago, I’d have laughed at you.
Monster Hunter World is by far the best-looking Monster Hunter with the slickest animations and most visual detail. It brought with it a ton of quality-of-life improvements that honestly makes going back and playing the older ones difficult. Capcom knocked it out of the park, improving the game in so many ways, and making the correct moves that were needed to propel the game into mainstream popularity. But what did it cost?
Well, it cost me, and a lot of other old fans. Monster Hunter has been, from day one, a challenging game. One that asked you to commit to your actions, to plan ahead, and to prep for a hunt against creatures far more powerful than yourself. It was thrilling, and when you pulled it off, it felt good. Monster Hunter World lost that magic.
The game is far less challenging than previous iterations for several reasons. Some of the quality-of life-changes are fantastic. Unlimited pickaxes and bug nets are amazing, gathering while on the move speeds up the monotony of preparation a great deal and I love it.
However, some changes directly impact the challenge. In older titles, you would do a silly little flex after drinking a potion to heal. It was goofy, but its purpose was to force you to commit to your actions, to watch the Monsters’ patterns and heal at the right time. You had to be careful or you were taking a hit. In World, the flex is gone and you can run while healing.
Some may argue that you could simply exit to another zone through a loading screen in older games, well sure. You can do that in Monster Hunter World as well, sans the loading screen. The monsters really aren’t that persistent in pursuing you and safe spots are everywhere.
World disappointed me at launch. Now with the massive expansion Iceborne coming soon, I wanted to try again. To go in with an open mind, perhaps I had been too hard on the game before? Sadly, that wasn’t the case.
Replaying solo, I’ve made it to Zorah Magdoros without upgrading the starting set of armor and weapons. I’ve fainted zero times. There are 32 unique large monsters in Monster Hunter World including ones added post-launch. I cut through seven of them without doing so much as a single upgrade. Encountering a new monster used to be exciting, but now it’s simply another dull thing for me to button-mash to death.
Even if you were to take every concession away, bring back the flex, and whatnot. It wouldn’t matter. The monsters don’t hit hard enough, the hunter hits too hard and the hit-boxes are too forgiving. I’ve stood under the feet of a monster and chipped away at its ankles while two or three of its attacks simply missed me for being there.
You can gather and craft flash pods, traps, and explosive barrels to aid you, but why bother? Just wail on it until it’s dead. Capcom did a truly amazing job with its environments, lending you a wide variety of tools you can use mid-fight. Drop some boulders on the beast, smack a flash bug so it stuns the monster, mount it near a vine tree and entangle it.
You can even lead it into other roaming monsters and take advantage of the situation when they fight each other. But the magic is lost, you have numerous tools at your disposal to grant you an advantage on a hunt. Ye,t the advantage is never needed in the first place. It’s faster to just button mash your way to victory.
Granted those seven monsters I mentioned were all low rank, and a popular defending argument is that they were always easy in low and high rank, that the “real” challenge didn’t begin until G rank, that Monster Hunter World doesn’t have (But Iceborne will be bringing an equivalent of.)
I’m unmoved by that defense, because, well…I always found every rank hard in the previous games. If you feel that way, I guess that means you are a better hunter than I! That’s okay! But Gideon the lesser hunter still finds that Monster Hunter World is easy. What does that say?
Capcom claims they have dialed up the endgame challenge in the upcoming expansion, which remains to be seen. But even if it’s true, the entire base game is still a waste of time for me.
Furthermore, Capcom has scaled back how multiplayer works in Iceborne. As it stands now, a two-player hunting party faces monsters scaled for four players. In Iceborne, it will now scale downwards to two or three people. The problem is, my partner and I do not struggle at all with how it currently works. At this rate, Iceborne will actually make it easier.
Why does this matter? Well, look. Monster Hunter World is a great game aside from its lack of challenge. I am so happy this series has exploded, that people everywhere are now enjoying the game that I have always loved. But as a long-time fan, It just hurts to be left behind.
The original Monster Hunter came out in 2004. Myself and other old-guard fans have been with the franchise for 14 years and multiple platform changes, following the series wherever it moved. We were the ones playing this silly Japanese game with dragons and comically large swords when most people turned their noses up at it. The old fans knew the physiological difference between dragons and wyverns! We were weirdos!
Only for Capcom to hit its stride with World and give us the middle finger. “We have the mainstream market now, we don’t need you.”
I’m under no delusion that we hardcore folks are a smaller demographic. But we stuck with the game the entire time it was a niche game, for over a decade, don’t we at least deserve a difficulty toggle?
Money talks just as much in the gaming industry as anywhere else. Does that mean anytime a group of players becomes the minority market demographic we should just go, “Aww shucks”…and be quiet?
Difficulty settings solve a lot of problems in many games, everybody can play the game the way they want, and it’s why I advocate for them so much. I don’t want Monster Hunter to change so that mainstream or more casual players can no longer enjoy it! I just want an option that enables me to enjoy my favorite game franchise again, because I desperately want to!
This isn’t about feeling superior to other players. It’s not about making people feel bad because they have to play on the lower settings. It’s about trying to enjoy my favorite series again. Some people don’t enjoy games without a challenge, I’m one of them. Monster Hunter has given that challenge to me for over a decade, now it’s gone.
It scares me, that I may not be able to ever enjoy it again, even in the next iteration. With World’s success, Capcom has no reason to cater to me. The old games and those who propped them up may well become a relic of the past, a memory that fades away. It’s more frustrating than Plesioth’s hip-check in the older titles.
Hopefully, I’m wrong and Iceborne surprises me, but I won’t hold my breath. I will, however, continue to voice my support for difficulty settings to not only Capcom but other game developers as well.
You might also be interested in my thought on the Importance of Challenge in Gaming.