Monster Hunter World is an enormous game. I mean that both in terms of impact (it’s the bestselling Capcom release of all time) and the degree of content. But last week, the developers decreed we’re nearing the end of major new additions. “The Final Stand” — which reintroduces the classic and terrifying black dragon, Fatalis — will also be the final “title update” for the cooperative action game. It marks about two and a half years of (mostly) free support. As a result, now is the best time ever to play MHW.
The 2019 paid expansion, Iceborne, added two new landmasses and dozens more monsters. But post-release “Fests,” or time-limited events, have been the best excuse to hop in ever since. They allow players to farm for randomly rolled skill gems en masse and replay nearly all other in-game event quests. These are a typical source of MHW‘s true endgame: fashion. Items called Layered Armor let you change your character’s appearance without sacrificing skills. You acquire them by participating in Fests, finishing event quests, and occasionally crafting.
Event items range from adorable to absurd: floppy fish daggers, a total transformation into Sakura from Street Fighter, golden monkeys riding on your head, etc. Yet everything also feels handcrafted. A lot of live service games either go too far or not far enough in this arena — grabbing anything and everything they can, without regard for aesthetic coherence, or being too afraid to get zany. MHW walks the line better than any game like it that I’ve played (and I play a lot of live games).
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Beyond the goofy stuff, the Fatalis update will finally allow players to layer Master Rank (i.e. endgame) armor. As such we’ll be able to make some truly sick as hell designs. MHW even has loadout slots for custom outfits — something I desperately wish all my live game favorites, like Destiny 2, would add as well.
Do I wish Monster Hunter was a little less cheeseball with female armor? Oh, absolutely. That’s not going to stop me from making my girl into a sexy samba dancer/musketeer/Final Fantasy protagonist that swings a giant flute around in battle. Maybe I’ll add a steel wolf helmet or demoness horns.
On that note, just about the only limitations with the new Layered Armor seem to be gender and progress through the game. Layering normal gear means grinding; grinding means gathering random drops to increase you power. That’s where the Fests come in.
Thanks to the catch-up mechanics, these seasonal events let players come from behind to play with their friends. That’s especially useful if you make the jump to PC — as I did after 1000 hours played on PS4 — and want to rush back to your previous power level. Capcom even brought back two years’ worth of seasonal content for six straight weeks leading up to The Final Stand. So you can catch up, finish fast, and finally look damn good once you do.
It’s a perfect indicator of how comparatively generous MHW is next to other live games (like the aforementioned Destiny 2). You can finish just about any time-limited event in an afternoon. Playing further will grant more goodies (like tickets you can trade for more bites at the random drop apple). But really it’s a game where you’re meant to see and play everything — because it’s good enough and big enough to support that.
That’s what makes Layered Armor the real endgame. Making a more powerful hunter is part of the process, but it’s so attainable that it’s not the ultimate goal, leaving scores of fashion options as the primary thing to chase. Meanwhile, the 14 different weapon types with totally unique play styles and upgrade paths give users plenty of actual gameplay to master, while those rare gems make min-maxing possible as well.
It’s sad to see the game’s major free content (smaller updates, like more quests, will still be added over time) near its end. At the same time, MHW feels about as complete as a first stab at HD Monster Hunter could. Things like creature variety, more weapons, and new locations all feel appropriate for a full sequel. And Capcom has multiple Monster Hunter teams! Presumably one of them is working on whatever comes next.
In the meantime, this puts the final brick in the game’s lengthy loop, adding hundreds of hours of crafting and photo mode shoots in one fell swoop. Fatalis is exciting, but sick-ass outfits are why I hunt.