At the start of the year I had started doing this thing that I've always been interested in. Basically, if I'm not sure what I feel like playing, I check Metacritic's list of highest rated Xbox One games of all time and just let that list pick for me based on whatever I haven't played already. Generally speaking you'll see a lot of titles in there that you'd expect: your Grand Theft Autos and your Witchers and so on. But it's always sort of surprising and exciting when a new release pushes its way into the list. Especially since I'm still working on the Top 10 right now.
I'll be honest when I say that I wasn't actually all that excited about Monster Hunter World when it was first released. I hadn't bothered with any of the previous entries. I don't know. It's just hunting monsters right? It sounds like Pokemon for grown-ups or something. Plus I've heard that the fights are long. So just one long battle? I don't know. It just sounded so tedious to me.
But it turns out I was super wrong. Although there's no doubt that the early hours of the game are filled with what amounts to tutorials and lots and lots of reading and poking around menus and well... confusion, it doesn't even matter because the game is just so absolutely compelling so immediately that you can't help but get caught up in it all.
Before actually starting you're given access to a rather deep character customization system. I like this. And what I like even further is that you're granted access to this system even after you've started playing the game so it's totally possible to continue to tweak your character's physical appearance as you see fit throughout the campaign. This is a nice touch. Me, I always do the same thing. Back when I played the first Dragon Age game I really liked the default character name/appearance that was generated for me, so I always just recreate her in any other role playing game that I can.
What I did not expect was what came next: The ability to make my cat. See, each player has a little cat who accompanies them to help in battles. Oh, and they also have a little raft for water sections. It's adorbs. So yeah, I made my oldest cat, Pierce in the game. And then I got my ass out there; first tackling the obvious tutorial bits and then piecing together how to upgrade my armor and skills and how to interact with other players in the game.
Of course a big part about what makes this game so brilliant is exactly what makes Phantasy Star Online or Destiny so brilliant: The blurred lines between a single player story campaign and the open world anything-can-happen multiplayer game. Monster Hunter World is the sort of game that gives you a world and a series of systems and lets you go and make your own anecdotes.
There will be naysayers whose biggest complaint about World will be its repetitiveness. And that's valid I suppose, though no more so than in the aforementioned Phantasy Star Online or Destiny or Diablo III. And in fact that repetitiveness may well be its biggest selling point for some. There's a certain compelling comfort that comes from getting into a kind of groove in a game like this. It's like each new quest - each new monster - is different, but the same.
There's also a very constant progression, it's just so much more gradual than in something like Destiny 2. Rather than being overburdened with choosing from a dozen new guns you picked up in a single mission, here it's all about finding parts to craft new gear. Between missions you might have enough materials and money to slightly upgrade one piece of armor. It's a different kind of gearing-up, with tougher decisions to make. And it takes a long time to really feel like a badass. Which is good. You're constantly reminded that YOU are the underdog in each battle. Perhaps that's why it feels so great when you finally find yourself the victor.
I'm just now a little past the midpoint of the main story quests, and am about ready to start treating Monster Hunter World like Destiny. Which is to say that instead of focusing solely on this one, it's be a game I continue to come back to making gradual progression throughout the year (and looking forward to the various seasonal events). Not to mention I've barely touched any of the optional side-quest stuff yet. So as it stands now, I know it's still early in the year but Monster Hunter World is probably the first game to have a shot in the running for my 2018 GOTY.