I’ve followed the Monster Hunter series for quite some time. I remember attending my first (and only) Tokyo Game Show in 2011 and waiting in line to play Monster Hunter 3G. I got a small swag bag for waiting in line and still have it. But I got invested in the series after spending so many hours in Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch in 2021. So, when I got a notification that Monster Hunter Now was available on mobile, I immediately downloaded it. Having spent the last week with the game, it’s fun but the mobile mechanics hurt it.
From the people who gave us Pokemon Go
This isn’t the first Monster Hunter game on mobile. What stands out with the latest version is that it’s made by the same people who gave the world the immensely popular Pokemon Go Series, Niantic. Like that game, this transforms your neighborhood into a world filled with monsters that need hunting.
Like Pokemon Go, your environment dictates your gameplay experience. In previous Monster Hunter games, you are searching for monsters in different environments, and the same holds here. At the moment, there are three environment types: Desert, Forest, and Swamp with them rotating throughout the day.
At the same time, certain notable landmarks in your area will also serve as key locations in your hunting. Where I live, the nearby park has two key spots: the park sign and the playground, where you can collect key materials daily. Monsters, both big and small, and other collectibles are randomly placed and change every so often, which serves as both a good and bad thing.
A progression system that works but is also incredibly frustrating
The randomization in Monster Hunter Now frustrates me because so much of the game’s progression is tied to completing key objectives. So far, chapters require you to slay X regular monsters, X larger monsters, and some other objective. As so much of the game is random, getting what you need to complete a chapter might only a few minutes of playing or you may need to spend an entire day.
The most annoying challenges were the ones that required finding specific items or upgrading weapons, which also required a specific item. If you’re not in an area where you can collect mushrooms, then you’re blocked from progressing until you do. You can move around your environment in the hopes that you find a spot where that particular item might be, but it’s never a guarantee. The same is true for certain monsters. If you don’t encounter the one you need, then you’re out of luck until you do.
On the flip side though, the game does a good job of progressing your weapon and armor availability. You begin with a blade and shield but over time you’ll have others including katanas, blitz, bows, hammers, etc… But with my time so far, I’ve stayed with the blade because I’ve upgraded it enough that it’s more powerful (and faster) than the other weapons.
Massive battles all have a timer
Previous Monster Hunter games have a flow to them. You’ll search for your target and once they’re found, the battle will have phases. You expect a battle will take a good chunk of time because the monster will always flee and make you chase after it.
For a mobile game, that kind of mechanic doesn’t work. You want quick battles, so everything here is on a timer, with larger monsters all having a 75-second timer to complete. With my blade, I’m able to dispose of all larger monsters in that time frame. However, now that I’ve unlocked 3-star monsters, it’s taking almost the entire timer. If I attempt a battle with one of my weaker weapons, then I don’t stand a chance.
This can be frustrating since the game does want you to try different weapons, but you can only really do so against the smaller monsters. To upgrade your weapons, you need to collect items, and the best material comes from the higher-rated monsters and those key locations. So, again, if you aren’t in the best spot, then you’re out of luck until you scrounge up the materials you need to improve them.
No multiplayer yet
Another key element of Monster Hunter is its collaborative nature. The series is incredibly popular as a co-op action game since some of the most exciting hunts are those done with allies. I don’t know anyone in my area who would be playing this. I’ve never encountered a situation where I’ve been in a location with other hunters.
I don’t see how Niantic or Capcom will try to encourage multiplayer. Yes, Monster Hunter is popular but it doesn’t have the appeal that Pokemon has, so getting people together may prove difficult. If hunts require multiple players to complete, I suspect they’ll have to introduce Bots to help combat the low player count.
I’m also not sure how much long-term appeal there is with Monster Hunter Now in comparison to something like Pokemon. Right now, I’m encountering the same few monsters. My Monster guide includes seven large monsters and only five small ones. That’s not enough variety to keep me engaged long-term. My Hunter Rank is 26, and I am currently playing through the game’s sixth chapter. If I’m “over-leveled”, that’s only because of the complaints I mentioned earlier.
Not sure I’ll continue for much longer
When I’m hunting and trying new things, Monster Hunter Now is fun. Unfortunately, the repetition, especially with the lack of content variety, makes it hard to recommend even to the most hardcore of fans. If you’re new to the series, then this is a decent place to start and understand the concept. However, I’d still recommend playing any of the more recent console games instead.