Monster Hunter Wilds — a world alive with promise, and a few deadly monsters as well

1 month ago 65

I don’t know why, but I bounced off Monster Hunter: World. Perhaps it was the obtuse way you had to engage with your friends if you hadn’t already both beaten the same content, the frequent loading screens, or the bugs at launch, but for some reason I just couldn’t lock onto it. That didn’t stop me from trying, though. The gorgeous graphics, the frenetic gameplay, wide variety of combat options and weapons, the oh-so-cute Palico buddies you’d see every time you needed to cook some incredibly realistic food – it had every element I wanted in a game. I went into Monster Hunter Wilds expecting that I’d once again bounce off again…but this time might be different.

Throughout the demo, I noticed a few things that stood out to me mechanically. Where World would have you haul all the way back to base to prepare for just about anything, Wilds makes that easier by allowing you to bring a replenishment tent. The frequent loading that dotted World was replaced with a seamless world that, it turns out, is more than double the size of World. The fiddly navigation was smoothed over significantly as well. World was fairly locked down, but thanks to our demoists, Yuya Tokuda (Director), Ryozo Tsujimoto (Series Producer), and Kaname Fujioka (Art Director and Executive Director) taking more than a few runs at the same area, we got to see some crazy parkour that simply wasn’t possible before, including running along the top of some strange basin rocks to bypass a bunch of area – a true shortcut. All of these, along with the menus, map, UI, monster cataloging and collecting, stealth, riding, and the new grapple hook are just a handful of the wealth of improvements Monster Hunter Wilds is bringing to the table, and frankly I’m sure I’ve missed even more than that. It’s a total overhaul, removing any friction between you and the hunt, whether you are fighting with friends or going it alone.

There was one other big adjustment I heard during the demo that is sure to be a hit – your Palico friends now have voiceovers (Meowovers? Yes, that’s it). As they accompany you into the field, they become part of the team. More than just support characters, they also offer guidance and advice, helping you navigate the environment, some tips and tricks they might know on the beast you currently face, or when it might be time to take a break and eat some once-again incredibly realistic food. During our demo, our buddy called out that our shock trap was deployed and ready to zap our prey, and Tokuda-san reinforced that these are dynamic and that there were a lot of these cues already in the game. If that doesn’t get you excited, you can toggle a button to turn it all back into meows and yips like we heard in World, but where’s the fun in that?

Monster Hunter Wilds - 2nd Trailer: The Hunter's Journey

Inevitably, combat has gotten a lot of the rough edges filed off. Lessons learned in Iceborne and Rise / Sunbreak have made their way here, including some tweaks to the Light and Heavy Bowgun and the addition of a new grapple gun. This grapple mechanic allows the player to exploit the verticality of the map more easily, as well as grab items or even pull themselves onto the backs of creatures where they can hold on for dear life while they wail away with their greatsword. These are things best experienced than seen, but suffice it to say the team is working on removing any combat frictions as well.

Back in town, we see more adjustments that help make the game feel more alive. NPCs no longer stand in place, waiting for you to come see them. Instead, they roam around, completing tasks and attending to their own schedule. That means you might find the smith everyone is so ga-ga over, Gemma, banging away in her forge, or she might be out in the town square having lunch.

While the town was located within the desert of the Windswept Plains and within walking distance of our target, getting around the vast world might require a bit of help to do it well. Enter the Seikret , a creature that reminds me of an Archaeopteryx mixed with some sort of lizard. Leaping onto its back, our demo took us out into the desert and towards another small settlement where the locals focused on cheese and livestock for a living – ingredients we’d need for camp food later. Friends of mine who played the first few games and loved the puns will be happy to hear lines like “Have a gouda day!” and “Put this to gouda use” and other good cheese puns from the local cheesemonger. The team proudly proclaimed that “the puns are back!” and I’m sure they’ll make for a “gouda time”, if a bit groan worthy.

To find our target, our driver brought up a new 3D map, complete with height maps and all sorts of data. It looked straight out of a movie like Avatar, and it was incredibly easy to read. Our target liked to hang out nearby, so it was back onto the Seikret to finally confront the beast. But first…it’s time for some food.

Capcom’s attention to detail around cooking is an obsession, with a lavish devotion to detail that borders on the insane. Our Palico friend prepped our steak and gouda combination. Laying a healthy helping of cheese over the absolutely gorgeous hunk of meat, we watched it sizzle as the cheese melted over it, making it a succulent dish that our protagonist proceeded to eat like a savage. It looked pretty, even if we looked like a disgusting oaf eating it. Our belly full, it was time for our showdown.

In the reveal demo we saw two creatures featured prominently – the giant wooly creatures called Doshaguma, and the worm-like creatures known as a Balahara. In this case, we’d be trying to take down an Alpha Doshaguma. Riding up to the herd, we saw one that had a more reddish coloring – that’s our target. Using a Ghillie Mantle, we approached quietly and unleashed a sneak attack. This also exposed a new mechanic – persistent wounds.

The creatures you face will show wounds from your attacks. These wounds are tied to a new “focus mode” that helps you aim your cursor in such a way to hit the red-highlighted wounds for maximum damage. Doing so will cause additional damage, of course, helping speed the creature to the grave more quickly. Undoubtedly we’ll see foes that are difficult to hurt, other than those wounds where they’ll be vulnerable. We didn’t get to see this mechanic in motion, but it’s not hard to visualize. As the creature thrashed about on its back, very upset with its perilous situation, our fight began. This brings me to another improvement featured prominently in Wilds – emergent gameplay.

We didn’t have a quest given to us by a quest giver to take down this Alpha Doshaguma. It’s something we stumbled upon during our travels, allowing us to join that fight instantly, either alone or with friends. It means you should be able to roam the world, taking down foes you encounter, and still getting credit for it, rather than having to hunt it again just because you didn’t happen to receive the quest. It’s a welcome improvement and dovetails nicely with the new tent mechanic – you should be able to stay in the field until your supplies run out, rather than constantly running to town for the next quest.

Back in the fight, we suddenly found ourselves alone and fighting against six very angry Doshaguma, including the Alpha. Outgunned, we jumped back on the Seikrit and began to kite the enemy towards a narrow pass to thin the herd, but we had another hidden tactic as well. You see, down in this pass is the hunting ground of the Balahara. Once we pulled the Alpha and a few stragglers down into this area we had two ready options – either drown them in the nearby quicksand pit, or let the local wildlife take care of the monster for me. But then again, why not do both?

Maneuvering the Doshaguma near a sand pit attracted the nearby Balahara, who was more than happy to coil itself around the Alpha Doshaguma. The battle that ensued was a cacophony of lightning strikes, screeching, monsters flailing about, and us occasionally zipping in for an opportunity attack to help finish the job. Ultimately, the Balahara pulled the Doshaguma down into the quicksand, taking care of my hunt for me and leaving me with some loot for my efforts. We are told that the world is filled with such opportunities, just waiting for the player to uncover them. If we did encounter a foe that we were struggling to take down, the returning SOS Flare mechanic would allow you to request help from other hunters, but it does bring me to the one thing that I found supremely disappointing.

The only bad news I heard while checking out Monster Hunter Wilds is that the team is doubling down on the awful mechanic for multiplayer. You will still have to go “witness” some aspects of the game by yourself before you can then re-experience it with your team. It means you can play the game together…until you can’t. Frankly, it’s probably the biggest blocker for me as it means my wife and I can’t play together unless we periodically stop having fun so we can both grind the story. I implore Tokuda-san and the team – please fix this or let me at least toggle it. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that this could be a showstopper for cooperative couples who game together where one party is working overtime to protect the other. Put simply, my wife isn’t going to go grind the game solo just to play it multiplayer.

Overall, it was exciting to see what Monster Hunter Wilds was bringing to the table for both new and returning players. New mechanics and improvements galore should make getting into and staying in a hunt easier than ever. While I’m disappointed with forcing the player to “witness” events solo before they can be enjoyed together, I’m still hopeful there’s time enough to patch that pointless mechanic out before the game launches sometime in 2025 for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC.

Stay tuned for more SGF coverage, and previews like this, right here at GamingTrend.com

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming.

Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter.

Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 28 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes), and an Axolotl named Dagon!

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