Capcom‘s venture into the augmented reality space began with the launch of Monster Hunter Now, a collaboration with Niantic to bring locational-based mobile gameplay to one of their biggest franchise.
Monster Hunter Now has officially launched on the 14th of September, 2023, featuring an augmented reality locational-based gameplay that brings the hunt to the real world. That said, what does this fresh take on the Monster Hunter series have to offer?
Kulu-Ya-Ku in my Backyard
As a collaboration with Niantic, the developers responsible for augmented reality and locational-based games of well-known IPs such as Pokémon Go, the latest mobile venture by Capcom follows a similar vein, pitting players against formidable monsters in real-world locations through the use of GPS tracking.
Like Pokémon Go, monsters will appear in random locations for players to interact with, however, unique to Monster Hunter Now, areas are separated into biomes and the creatures are specified to certain environments. As such, players would need to travel to different locations in the hope of tracking down their target monster.
That being said, Paintballs made a return ever since its absence in Monster Hunter World, now serves as a way to save a monster you encountered for later.
The gameplay largely follows the loop similar to other Monster Hunter games where players repeatedly hunt specific creatures for their carves to gradually forge and upgrade their equipment. However, since monsters show up at random, it can very often feel like you are not progressing much in terms of weapon and armor power.
Concussing Monsters with Oversized Hammer
The Monster Hunter franchise prides itself on technical combat systems, so when transitioning into the touchscreen of mobile devices, many of the advanced weapon mechanics have to be stripped away. Of course, that does not mean the combat is bad as, despite the limitations, the developers still managed to capture some of the weapons’ identities.
The control scheme is straightforward, allowing you to engage with the Monster Hunter combat with only one hand, tapping the screen consecutively for the weapon’s bread and butter combo while holding allows you to perform moves unique to each weapon such as a block with the Sword and Shield or executing the iconic Charged Slash for Great Sword.
While the combat may look simplified, many of the weapon’s core mechanics still remain such as the Long Sword’s Special Sheathe where players have to time and release a counter-attack. Moreover, hunters would also need to target certain parts of a monster to do more damage and break them for more rewards.
Defensive options are easy to execute as well, simply swiping the screen when the monster glows red would have the player immediately dodge the incoming attack. Unfortunately, the game locks the player with the Sword and Shield for the early parts of the game, meaning that you do not get to try other weapon types without making significant progress.
To briefly explain the progression, the game begins with a short story introduction and slowly provides you with quests that you need to complete to advance your HR levels, though they mostly cover simple requests such as hunting a few large monsters. Since large monsters spawn at random, your progression can be halted and results in a slow climb of HR to unlock features such as the other weapon types.
What’s in the Shop
As diverse as the ecosystem of the Monster Hunter world may be, the game’s launched roster feels lacking as early encounters revolve around the same few creatures, becoming repetitive very quickly. The equipment choice is also limited and many of the early armors from the other games such as Alloy, Hunter, and Bone are not found despite their history of using accessible materials to craft.
Of course, as a free-to-play title, the game features microtransactions through an in-game shop which fortunately does not offer a boost to damage or lock certain special equipment away. That being said, many items offered in the shop largely focused on granting benefits to a user’s overall account such as inventory expansion, Potion refresh, and Wonder Orb, a consumable that increases the access range in the field.
As mentioned, the in-game shop offers Potion refresh through paid currency, that is because the game’s progression is tied to the amount of healing you have. While on the field, you can engage with an unlimited amount of hunts but your hunter’s health is shared in each hunt. This means that after sustaining heavy damage in one hunt, your next battle would start you with low health.
To combat this, the game offers a set amount of First-Aid Med each day, allowing you to heal yourself up before engaging in your next battle.
Minoto’s Great Art
While many aspects of Monster Hunter Now are well crafted, Niantic made a blunder with the game’s UI and UX direction. Instead of implementing the iconic simple 2D vector item icons the series had since its first game, Niantic opted for cartoony 3D renders, which conflicts with the rather minimalist UI design.
Furthermore, if players want to engage in multiplayer hunts, the steps to join other hunters can be complicated, having the need to scan other people’s QR codes in order to play together.
On the other hand, the auditory design and soundtrack captured the atmosphere of Monster Hunter while mixing in electronic elements, modernizing the music from the intense tribal drumming of the battle theme to the franchise’s iconic “Proof of a Hero” in café style remix.
As many fans would agree, the monsters are the stars of the series and Niantic has implemented an in-game guide to the many creatures. While simple in content, the in-game guide does offer short descriptions that detail the monsters’ biology and some tips on how to handle them, allowing for some interesting reads.
Herb Foraging Gone Wrong, Rathalos Flying In
In collaboration with Niantic, Capcom brings part of Monster Hunter into our reality, successfully evoking some of the thrills of the hunt. While controls were simplified, many combat actions still felt impactful and captured each of the weapon’s characteristics.
Though at launch, the game lacks much content that would keep the attention of fans, creating a feeling of repetitiveness as players engage with the same few monsters over and over again. Of course, this would not be much of a concern in the long run since the game is a live-service mobile title that already has much content planned for future updates.
All in all, Monster Hunter Now manages to capture many aspects of the series is known for, offering some short bursts of entertainment.