Monster Hunter: World - The Monster Is You

The real monsters in Monster Hunter: World aren’t the dragons or other reptile inspired bird-monsters—as stubborn and challenging as they may be—it’s you, the hunter.

You’re the real monster. That’s right, you. How does that make you feel? Awful, right? Well, that’s the point. Capcom’s Monster Hunter: World tests a player’s level of sympathy.

Monster Hunter: World tasks the player with hunting down and either killing or trapping monsters that roam the nearby environments. While the game’s main focus is hunting monsters and collecting materials to craft and build armor, the story or motivation behind the hunt isn’t always great.

As a hunter and member of the Fifth Fleet, players are summoned by the Research Commission to provide support in the New World. In particular, they focus on the study of Elder Dragons that threaten the ecosystems. This is the one instance that slaying the beast makes sense. Hunting the Elder Dragons means saving the ecosystem, including the other monsters who live there.

The situation comes down to the age old question of the good of the one versus the good of the many. Taking down Elder Dragons is an easy choice since it is hard to be emotionally invested in a giant world threatening creature. Not to mention, Elder Dragons are some of the more exasperating monsters to hunt, making it easy to beat them out of frustration rather than out of an obligation to save the world.

The other monsters in the game pose less of a threat. They are only dealt with because they impede your research by living in their natural habitat, except for when the game throws them all over the map. How dare they live their lives!

To make matters worse, once you reach a certain level most monsters won’t engage you unless you start the fight, so they’re happily minding their own business until you hit them in the head with your great sword like the monster you are. If that wasn’t enough, as a monster becomes weak they physically begin to show it. Their bodies appear mangled and they begin to limp away, afraid, in fear of losing their lives. It’s then that the player begins to question, are they the monster or am I?

It’s in these moments that the simplicity of the hunt becomes more complicated. When a monster is running for its life, it appears less like a monster and more like a small, wounded animal, making it hard to justify the kill. The alternative is trapping the monster, but even that just throws the monster into the arena where it will constantly fight for its life anyway, or become a research subject.

Ultimately, the game makes it harder for the player to kill the monster. The monsters aren’t always easy to take down depending on their rank and often take a lot of time to fight. The added layer of empathy only makes it more difficult. It’s hard to feel good about killing a monster when you pick up one of their wyvern tears along the way.

To make matters worse, many of the monsters hardly look threatening. For example, the Kulu-Ya-Ku is hardly a towering monster. He’s a tiny bird wyvern that likes to steal eggs. Yes, the Kulu-Ya-Ku can be stubborn, and when he starts bashing you in the head with a rock, your sympathy can quickly turn to frustration, but you have to remember, he’s fighting for his life. In the scheme of things, the Kulu-Ya-Ku is an easy kill, and generally harmless unless provoked, so when it begins to limp away, remember, you did that. You chose this.

If that’s not enough, then just remember, you’re wearing the skin of some monster’s dead loved one. So really, who is the monster here? The unprovoked big red dragon dog, or the person wearing its friend’s flesh? Monster Hunter: World tests a player’s sympathy in ways many games don’t, just to make things that were already hard a thousand times more difficult.

In the end, Monster Hunter: World is an action role-playing game where your role is the mean ol’ hunter and if you don’t feel even a little bad about breaking a limping monster’s face, then you really are a monster.