Hands-on with Monster Hunter World’s weekend beta – and how it compares to Dauntless

I won’t lie: The Monster Hunter World beta on console last weekend isn’t going to give you the best sense of the full monster hunting experience. It won’t let you explore the world like Link in Breath of the Wild. And it won’t scratch the full MMO-experience itch.

That being said, as someone who’s played multiple iterations of the series and deeply exploring the gaming genre as a whole, I found that MHW still surprised me with its freshness.

Old dog, new tricks

When I first heard about Dauntless, MH’s closest cognate, I was impressed. Simplifying certain parts of the MH experience for a broader audience sounded like a great idea. The game’s execution experienced at E3 and on my own made me feel like it has a potential audience. However, post-E3 MHW leaks had me geeking out hard. While Dauntless has its own weapon combos, art style, and direction, a lot of the more palatable and streamlined design is going into MHW instead – and it’s launching sooner.

Simple things like being able to change your gear during the hunt gives you flexibility Dauntless wasn’t allowing. For example, as a hammer user, I’m often like the tank, choosing new gear that gives me more aggro management than I often got in previous MH games. I’m at the front trying to direct combat and stun the monster so my DPS friends can cut off monster tails, break legs, and so on. However, when they just don’t get how to play with me, I can easily change to the Switch Axe, a weapon that has fantastic reach and DPS, perfect for picking up the slack newcomers may not realize they’re dropping.

I didn’t see a lot of people talking during my hunts, and no one used a keyboard, so I am debating whether I should ditch console friends and try another solo experience when the game eventually goes to PC, but at least end of hunt awards point out who was helping the most, from healing to stat ailment applications. I never saw a raw DPS award but did see it for breaking monster parts, which is how you get certain loot for crafting (sadly absent from the weekend demo).

Changes like the scout flies make the game not just easier but more hunter-esque. One thing missing from the demo is that you’re often a hunter-gatherer in these games. You get some health potions and rations for stamina, but you’re killing small monsters for meat and cooking them up. You’re gathering fireflies to make flash bombs. You’re mixing herbs and honey for elixirs. The scout flies help you find not only these parts but monster footprints, mucus, and other biological evidence. We’ve graduated from simple hunter-gatherers to hunter-Batmen/women. We’ve seen this in trailers, but the detective work gives my gut a different feel from past MH games.

Streamlining in general has aided basic gameplay. For example, you grab most items on the run, so you can grab some honey, eat some meat, and check a footprint without stopping. However, if you do take a breather, you can eat that meat a lot faster. If you have to dodge a monster while drinking a potion, you still can keep that steak for a bit, and you get some partial healing to boot. It’s not just that we have new tricks (which I need to learn); we have a far more immersive world.

The world of the hunter

While you can’t climb every tree or jump off every ledge, I was still surprised with how interactive the environment was. At one point, I found a low-hanging vine, climbed it onto a pathway on a tree, and swung vine-to-vine across the forest to find my prey. I touched weird bugs and watched them explode into light. I saw a guy power up his switch-axe (the sword mode as almost a chain-saw like special attack somehow) and then somehow mount the leg of a monster, cutting into it as the poor beast tried to shake him off (if you figured out how to do this, please teach me in the comments below). Even when you mount the beast first, jumping off the tail when it’s swung at a rock only enhances the feeling that you’re on a giant beast capable of smooshing you like a roach.

The game’s not easy, but the demo may be easier. This is by far the prettiest MH game, which greatly aids the immersive feel, but for a veteran, there were a few times where I was asking myself whether the monsters were moving more slowly than before. It could be that the demo gives us gear to help people survive better, or that I’ve just been playing for awhile and have grown accustomed to the pace.

Either way, I won’t say for certain things are easy because I really struggled to find a group to beat the beta’s hardest hunt. Part of this may be because of the larger maps. While previous maps were divided into zones you needed to load, it felt more obvious about where to look for your prey. Gamers ignoring the detective work component of the hunt seemed lost. The forest level being shown has a lot of vertical play, so players who don’t notice vines and pathways leading up could be passing giant dragon nests for the entire 20-minute limits. While this was a bit frustrating for me (most hunts in the series have 1-hour limits), it does help give newcomers a sense of the biggest draw of the game: the actual monster hunt.

Not only are we hunting monsters, but they hunt each other. While the series has done this in the past, this is another level entirely. Desperate monsters will try to search out prey, ignoring your attacks as they wrestle with another monster trying to take advantage of the larger one’s injuries. As with the trailers, I also experienced a moment when I was caught in the middle of a three-monster melee, with one flying away and another getting trapped in vines.

Waiting to feast

There’s a lot to like about Monster Hunter World’s beta demo. Talking to other gamers these days, I feel like I probably come across as jaded, often scorning AAA titles that just don’t feel that revolutionary to me. “Gimmicks” at least give me something to explore, but without other players, I don’t stick to the games as well. However, MHW feels new. The demo was accessible enough for my friend to hunt with me at the recent Playstation Experience and not die, but challenging enough for me to be banging my head online as I try to take down optional side-monsters harder than the current hard-mode boss.

Sadly, though, the beta hasn’t allowed me to play with friends online. I’ve never had a great experience with the series in terms of pugs, generally having to find a group via message boards or (in Japan) game cafes. The new social features may fix this, but the demo didn’t showcase this. It also didn’t show how crafting items or armor may be different, nor did I get to see if the storyline finally graduated into something worth remembering. There’s still plenty to experience at release, but the demo did do a good job of giving a solid experience that should help people figure out if this is the kind of game they could enjoy. I can’t imagine a more accessible, streamlined way to experience Monster Hunter, and considering the series’ reputation, that’s saying something.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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22 Comments on "Hands-on with Monster Hunter World’s weekend beta – and how it compares to Dauntless"

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Alex Malone

Is this only on consoles?

I really like the look of the game but haven’t played any of the series before so am considering this one, but don’t have a PS4 or xbone.

Also, how does the multiplayer work? I’m not a fan of online coop – I love MMO and love split-screen coop, but for some reason have never enjoyed online coop – so I am a bit worried I might miss out on a lot of content / monsters if I stay solo.

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cursedseishi

Console release is January, PC release is pending announcement but will be later. The weekend beta was PS4 only.

As for the multiplayer, it’s lobby based. Prior to now the lobbies have been 4-players max, which is the number of hunters allowed to head out on a hunt. World is bumping it up to 12-16 with multiplayer being drop-in if you choose it. Multiplayer is an option, though for some quests it will likely be recommended or necessary.

Personally, I’ve always had a small group to play with but even ‘pug’ groups aren’t the worst. Chat has been restricted until now or non-existent, so we’ll see how it handles but if you’re the host of a quest it doesn’t pay for others to screw you over. You’ll also be able to lock rooms or quests, so you can restrict access to just friends if wanted.

Xijit
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Xijit

I was unsatisfied with it: I was expecting a more MMO-ish experience, but there clearly is none to be had.

This is just another Monster Hunter title with minor revisions to the standard formula and the 20 minute time limit killed my interest as it left no time for actual exploration, or crafting, or experimenting with the environment.

I guess what was really wanting was Dragon’s Dogma online set in the MH world … because Dragon’s Dogma really was / is an RPG with MH bosses.

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nobleeinherjar

For what it’s worth, the 20 minute time limit was only for the beta (as I eventually learned), and the full game will have multiplayer hubs that might help the game have a more MMO-ish feel. Though, hunts will still be a maximum of 4 players, so if that’s a deal-breaker that won’t be changing. There will also me something like guilds players can join with up to 50 players, though I haven’t read up on if you can communicate with everyone at once.

I’d also argue that the minor revisions in MHW make all the difference. The changes to inventory management, gathering, and crafting trim away a lot of the busywork and downtime of previous entries.

Threevo V
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Threevo V

LOL…. it was a hyper single focused bite sized beta. Either way good riddance. You werent really interested in giving it an honest attempt anyways. If you were, you would have realized all the limitations to this beta stress test and utterly ridiculous it is to formulate opinions around the game based on it.

Solaris
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Solaris

Dude, the game comes out in a little over a month. What you see is what you get.

Threevo V
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Threevo V

No it isnt.

What we had were 3 isolated hunts with a bunch of preset loadouts to stress test online functionality and give a taste for nee players to the series to get a basic feel for combat.

There are more than 2 maps. There is a city hub with various avenues for character development from monster reseaech, gathering amd crafting supplies and gear, palico training, player quarters.

Frankly speaking, i find it mind blowing how any sane adult gamer would even think for a second that the beta was in any way indicative of the full package here.

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cursedseishi

The game comes out in a month or so, true, but what was given isn’t meant to represent the entirety. What you “see” is hunting monsters, that is it. As I’ve said elsewhere through the comments, it doesn’t include every single change and mechanic. It’s essentially the floor demo used in conventions from what I’ve seen and heard. And for obvious reasons, those would have to be focused and short bursts of a core loop of content.

The 20 minute limit isn’t what is in the main game. Crafting isn’t going to play a part when you don’t have access to the town hub. And saying that the revisions are ‘minor’ is a disservice at best to the changes and tweaks to the game overall.

It does sound like it might not be a fit for Xijit’s expectations, but then again it isn’t meant to be an MMO. I do agree it would of been nice to have had the weekend demo allow at least some free exploration of the jungle area.

Xijit
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Xijit

K

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Tobasco da Gama

We’ve seen this in trailers, but the detective work gives my gut a different feel from past MH games.

Nice. This is something I’m really looking forward to. Like PvE Evolve. :D

It’s also one of the things that isn’t clicking with me in Dauntless. There’s no hunt at all, you just wander around picking flowers until you find the Behemoth.

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nobleeinherjar

I am so very happy that I have knowledge of previous MH games so I can really appreciate the changes being made in MHW. I did a few hunts in the beta with my main hunting buddy and it was some of the most fun we’ve ever had playing MH together.

Not having to worry about breakable tools, being able to sharpen my weapon with a quick flick of the right stick (as well as being able to see my exact level of remaining sharpness), and the changes to health potions are all just so amazing. To say nothing of the awesome environmental interactions, more involved mounting mechanics, and the streamlining of gathering and crafting. January 26th cannot come fast enough.

But I will say I’m rooting for Dauntless, too. I’m looking forward to giving it a try when it launches.

Edit: My only concern is the twenty-minute time limit. I hope that’s just for the beta. Or that there will still be expedition missions for when you just want to free hunt and gather stuff. In terms of changes to the MH formula, I would honestly be okay with them eliminating the time-limit altogether.

cryptshadow
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cryptshadow

I heard the 20 min timer was just for demo and thats its actually a 50 minute timer on release.

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cursedseishi

I have a feeling it was just for the sake of the demo. Things were likely tuned to have it better fit in a shorter burst, and I believe the beta itself was based off the versions shown during conferences/expos. I ended up doing Barroth in his buffed Multiplayer version solo and still had a few minutes left even with me playing like crap.

As for expeditions, they’ve confirmed those will be available as well as after finishing a hunt in the main game you can choose to remain there and do other hunts and the like. People have had access to the actual game and have played hours of it, and so far from what I’ve seen/heard the limit is its usual set.

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Grim🎃 Darhk

As a long time MH Player, I’ve found Dauntless extremely wanting. I don’t want to call it crap, but…It’s crap. Honestly most of the Japanese MH Knock offs are just genuinely better than dauntless. Dauntless is also just fucking ugly. Like, I’ve never seen character models I’ve disliked so much, Cool monsters only get you so far, Cool armor is bloody important too.

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Tobasco da Gama

IMO, the armour is fine, but the faces are just… wrong.

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Grim🎃 Darhk

To be fair, I’ve only seen like the first five sets. And yes, the faces are the worst I’ve ever seen.

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cursedseishi

Wish I could answer the Switchaxe move more completely, but the mount and blast is part of a new mechanic. After you have the sword charged from axe mode, attacking a monster in sword mode further charges it up and when maxed it lets you use the sword burst like the mounted attack. It isn’t an actual mount attack, but like the new gunlance’s explosive bolt stab its something for added damage and flair.

The demo released I think is based off an older demo, obviously gameplay isn’t representative, but if you look around channels like Arekkz and Gaijin Hunter have covered changes pretty thoroughly. Especially with crafting, you can make a ‘wishlist’ to inform you when you have the needed items, view them on your hunter as a set–much like MMOs do now with preview windows, and with weapons even downgrade them. It’s only lets you go down one step, but it refunds all of the items used to upgrade it so its somewhat less costly when you use that rare Rathian plate only to find you don’t like the weapon as much as you thought. And from trailers, story looks like something they are definitely focusing more heavily on, which is part of the trend with recent releases.

As for difficulty in the demo, the game provided sets up to and around Anjanath’s armor (the ‘expert’ mission) which gives a lot of leeway regarding Barroth and Great Jagras. Tweaking sets and getting a good group, I’ve seen people downing Diablos and Rathalos in the beta, but it’s definitely a time-intensive task aided by the rather generous offering of items the demo gives you.

I mostly played offline, but the Anjanath hunt I also played Multiplayer and it looked like there might of been at least a couple of asian-region players in it. The game will have cross-chat options ala Final Fantasy 11/14, but communication for the target monsters is hardly necessary. Despite being the expert, Anjanath is far from difficult and is a far cry from what the Big Bad elder dragon will require.

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Zora

My impression was that in the unwritten, secret race to create the most dreadful PuG experience, monster hunter largely outdid dauntless in proving strangers can be more deadly to you than a pack of monsters. Adds to the thrill if you can stomach the idea.

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Loyal Patron
Armsbend

Monster Hunter is a normal game and Dauntless is copying MH while being in early access. The latter being true this is one of the first and last Dauntless articles I’ll ever post in – much less consider buying it. Nice timing Dauntless!

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Tobasco da Gama

Yeah, yeah, we get it. The only games you care about come from AAA studios.

Threevo V
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Threevo V

Sorry but its true. Say what you will about the heart and honesty going into dauntless.. it was DOA the second MHW was announced. It has nothing to do with AAA studios vs underdogs / indie studios.

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Loyal Patron
Armsbend

For this instance I consider Capcom squarely in the B Tier.

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