Monster Hunter World has been described as the ideal game for newcomers to the series, but mostly by those that know their Barioths from their Kulu-Ya-Kus. I wouldn't have recognised either of those if they bit me on the arse – and they may well have during my time with the game so far.
Monster Hunter is about... well, it's not exactly coy about that. In its large fantasy worlds, players come together to take down all creatures great and small in service of purchasing and upgrading gear for the bigger battles to come.
For a first-timer there's lot to take in. Like so many games of this size and scope there's an immense amount to understand and master.
It takes time to get to grips not just with the wealth of gameplay nuances there are, but with what Monster Hunter is.
Capcom doesn't exactly make that easy. Rapid-fire tutorials overwhelm you with dense passages of text, promoting the idea that players should learn through reading rather than doing.
For all the reading you do though, it's through putting everything into practice that freshman hunters will come to understand what makes Monster Hunter more than the hack-and-slash RPG it may appear to be on its surface.
It's about hunting monsters, obviously, but during my first few assignments I ventured out into the big, gorgeous 'New World' to fight them instead. I sought to do as much damage as possible as quickly as possible, and inevitably that only got me so far.
What I needed to appreciate was the difference between a fight and a hunt: the need for forethought and a constant situational and environmental awareness.
This starts to click during the latter quests of the initial jungle and desert areas. When the monsters get larger and more fearsome, hunts become prolonged chases broken up by skirmishes finely balanced between triumph and becoming an Anjanath's lunch.
Each species of monster feels unique and genuinely wild thanks to some incredible animation, but for their authenticity as living, breathing creatures, they're also predictable enough to encourage a certain level of planning.
Beyond that, maybe there's an element of the environment that can be used to your advantage as well, like an overhanging rock, a plant holding poison to spill or an electrified frog that can cause temporary paralysis to even the mightiest beasts. Co-op adds another level of strategy to the game, and becomes the preferable mode of play – particularly when faced with tougher challenges.
Hunts are about keeping on top of a whole variety of factors. How much stamina do you have left? What attack is the monster going to unleash next? Is there time to pop a potion before it reaches me? Is there another monster I can draw into the fight to help me out?
The constant awareness required keeps tensions high, as do the timer and stock of 'lives' (you don't die when your health is drained, you faint and return to camp) that come with each quest.
When everything in Monster Hunter World clicks, the game is thrilling, but it takes longer than it ought to get a real taste of what makes the series so popular. There are so many systems at play at any one time, and yet very few of them are initially explained to the player in a lasting way.
Those familiar with the series know what they're talking about though. Monster Hunter World is a more accessible game than any of its predecessors, but new players should be aware that they'll need to take their time to understand the depth of what's on offer.
Regardless of its problems with showing the ropes, World does a good job of making itself open to players no matter their skills. Experienced players that know exactly what they're doing will have fun of course, but more casually-minded players will as well. As long as you're open to it, World caters to all kinds of styles and approaches.
Long-time players will slide back in with little friction, but for new players it can feel like six or so hours of stumbling around in a bit of a daze, trying to figure out a very complex system. Complex, but rewarding, and well worth sticking with.