There's an unavoidable feeling of guilt involved in Monster Hunter World's monster hunting. A feeling that niggles away during every lengthy pursuit and each thrilling victory. A small sense that slaughtering these bizarre and beautiful creatures is wrong.
Monster Hunter World hasn't tempted me to take up veganism. I'm not calling it an imperialist fantasy, brandishing its fans trophy-hunting Eric Trumps or demanding the series be renamed Monster Hugger, but there's a small part of me that thinks maybe I should.
Capcom's series is about hunting monsters. Obviously. There's nothing wrong with that. It's a setup that has spawned a series of popular games that, based on this new player's time with World, offers a unique, rewarding and exhilarating experience.
I'm not averse to killing these beasts at all, and have still enjoyed my time with what is an incredibly well-crafted game. What I think the game lacks however, is a better justification for its dozens of hours of slaughter.
The problem stems from World's plot, which sees a group of researchers follow a gargantuan Elder Dragon to a mysterious, uncharted island to find out why it and its kind migrate there.
Humans are a new presence here, cast as observers and scientific, but who through their own actions and those demanded of the player, come across as slightly-demented killing machines.
Under the pretence of "research" the many colourful characters that inhabit World's various hubs speak enthusiastically about the wealth of wildlife in this New World, then task the player with hunting and killing basically all of it.
It wasn't until I was about six hours into the game that I discovered it was possible to capture creatures instead. It's considerably tougher to pull off - as it should be - but only pushed as a possibility in a smattering of side quests until further into the main story.
In a game that offers so many options to its players - from the armour they wear to the items they craft and use, to the multitude of weapons they can select and upgrade, it's a shame the choice between hunting to kill and hunting to capture isn't fundamental.
Hopefully this is something Capcom pursues in the inevitable follow-up.
A lot of the marketing for Monster Hunter World has pushed the vibrancy and authenticity of its setting, selling players on the idea of of an immense ecosystem in which monsters interact organically and anything can happen.
Capcom has created a superbly realised world inhabited by creatures that feel genuinely wild thanks to some incredible animation and a healthy dose of unpredictability that brings to mind Trico in The Last Guardian.
These creatures graze, they find water sources, they attack with intensity and desperation, and when injured they hobble back to their nests sounding as wounded as they look. It will be difficult for most players to not feel at least some level of empathy for these creatures, because they're that well realised.
I will continue to hunt Jagras, Anjanaths and Barroths, but without a better justification for doing so the game loses an additional depth it could have had and becomes a more mechanical and cold experience.
Yes it's called Monster Hunter, but World has been marketed on the authenticity of its world and everything in it. As they are, the monsters aren't monsters but animals, and if the goal is to make that wildlife feel life-like, then the game would be better served if it was able to offer up a compelling reason to end that life.
As it is, in the game's crucial early stages the reasons offered for hunts amount to, "This Anjanath is in our way" or "This Great Jargas might eat someone" or "This Kulu-Ya-Ku might steal supplies".
If a Great Jargas had actually eaten someone or a Kulu-Ya-Ku had stolen supplies that at least would be a reason, if not a convincing one.
It's during its opening hours or moments however that any game needs to offer up some level of context and justification for the player's actions. Monster Hunter World doesn't do this well enough. It's still a great game, and hunting is still fun, but it could have all been better still.
As it is there's a part of me that feels guilty, and wants the animals that were just going about their business to tear my little hunter a new one.