Monster Hunter: World’s Living Ecosystem Creates Unexpected Gameplay [E3 2017 Preview]

Monster Hunter: World feels like the biggest step for the franchise since the series added online functionality. This new entry coming in 2018 marks the first time it will be available for a PlayStation home console since a Japan-only title in 2010, and the first time a core Monster Hunter game will be on PC and Xbox One. Though a Switch version is notably absent, it is great that the series will be able to expand to an audience outside solely Nintendo or mobile phone owners.

The jump to PS4, Xbox One, and PC has caused significant change for Monster Hunter graphically. Our hands-off preview started us off in a stunning, ancient jungle-like forest. The forest was dense, with foliage and vines all around you no matter where you looked. Animals roamed around, living out their own personal daily schedule. We were treated to a fully-voiced cutscene where we were given a target monster to take out with a strict time limit and location.

The character we spoke to was voiced well, but was noticeably stiff to look at. Lip syncing was a disaster and her mouth was just about the only animation we could see the character performing. Despite that, the detail on her was sharp. After receiving our quest that was the crux of our demo, we were free to do whatever we wanted in the massively open environment. The presenter playing the game live decided to go off the beaten path for a little while, and this is where we caught our first glimpse of the living, breathing ecosystem that Capcom is touting as the biggest feature of World.

Monster Hunter Screenshot 1

Soon after setting out on exploring the forest, we came upon a river where we witnessed a small creature be eaten by a huge toad-like monster. Utilizing the new Assassin’s Creed-inspired stealth mechanic, we stalked the frog inside a nearby cave where it spit out its prey to feed its hungry children. This was but one awesome example of how alive the ecosystem is, even when you aren’t around to witness it.

After wasting far too much time, we got back on track towards defeating our target Anjanath. We came upon the hulking, hairy T-Rex creature in its cave sleeping. We woke it up by utilizing the new slinger that serves a multitude of purposes; in this case, launching a stone to lure it out into a more open area fit for taking it on. The presenter playing underestimated the ferocity of the Anjanath and was quickly found and pursued. He ran slipped through a small open space in some vines to catch a break, only for the monster to continue its relentless chase and burst through the massive trees like they were merely popsicle sticks.

The environment is fully-destructible, so explosions and huge monsters can cause lasting mayhem everywhere. While it tried to hit us by breathing fire, we ran around behind it and were shown the new mounting mechanic. We were able to climb its back all the way to its head Shadow of the Colossus-style and begin unleashing attack after attack with our greatsword until it knocked us off. But the player’s strategy wasn’t defeated entirely, as they finished luring the Anjanath into a vine trap using the environment that held it for quite some time while we recovered.

Monster Hunter Screenshot 2

Using a combination of the map and the easily accessible radial wheel, we fast traveled to our camp and switched to a heavy bowgun just in time before it broke free. From there, we were chased through the forest until we reached a dead-end cliff, forcing us into a final stand. The area was much smaller than the last, so the player quickly lost health from its attacks. Right as we were going to die, the sounds of the Anjanath attracted a smaller winged creature that distracted it and bought us precious time. The Anjanath made short work of it, eating it up whole. Just when it set its eyes back on us, we heard a loud screech and a winged Rathalos appeared, causing it to suddenly forget we were there once again.

The two behemoths began wrecking each other in a cinematic but totally unscripted event. Whilst distracted, we came up behind the Anjanath and shot off its tail for valuable materials. It quickly realized it was going to lose to the Rathalos so it retreated with us in tow. We followed in total secret using the new ghillie mantle suit that hides your scent. The Anjanath ended up going back to its cave and lying down to recuperate. With our versatile bowgun that could be used as a machine gun, heavy shotgun, or even mortar depending on your ammo choice, we blasted it at point-blank range with a special wyvern shell that finished it off and completed our quest.

Even though I only got to experience one area of World and see a single quest, the dense environment and living world has me excited for the potential for each hunt to be vastly different than the last. The seemingly endless possibilities are wonderful, certainly taking the series in an interesting and beautiful direction. It remains to be seen just how large the world is, but it’s reassuring to know that every inch is lovingly crafted to be as real and alive as possible.