When Niantic and Capcom announced their previously announced real world hunting action RPG Monster Hunter Now (Free) for iOS and Android, I was in two minds about the project. I didn’t care much for Pokemon GO and heard a lot of recent complaints about how that was handled from my friends who used to play it regularly. But, I adore Monster Hunter, and have put in thousands of hours into Monster Hunter World and Monster Hunter Rise while also loving Monster Hunter Stories and its sequel. I knew I would try Monster Hunter Now, but just wasn’t sure it would stick for me. Having played it daily since launch more or less as much as possible, I have a lot of good things to say about Monster Hunter Now, but also some ways I hope it improves.
If you’ve not followed it, Monster Hunter Now is a free to play game akin to Pokemon GO using Niantic’s AR technology, but it brings the world of Monster Hunter to the real world. Having now played it, Monster Hunter Now feels like it is trying to appeal to Monster Hunter World players more than classic Monster Hunter game fans with its monster selection, weapons, and more. If Capcom and Niantic’s aim with Monster Hunter Now is to bring the essence of Monster Hunter or the brand to more players, it will likely succeed, but how is Monster Hunter Now for a huge fan of the series and someone who plays the games daily? That’s what I’m going to address in this launch week review.
Monster Hunter Now begins with a pretty decent story by franchise standards. I was interested in Qualily’s (new character) dialogue and also learning the ropes of how Monster Hunter Now flows through the Palico who helps you out. You begin only with access to the Sword and Shield weapon, and eventually unlock more like the Great Sword (my favorite weapon in Monster Hunter) at Hunter Rank 14. You then unlock more of the weapon types at the next Hunter Rank. That’s basically the main progression alongside monsters becoming more difficult and the upgrade system.
So how does Monster Hunter Now translate the core gameplay loop of the console games to mobile with Niantic’s AR technology? In Monster Hunter Now, your location decides what is available to you. It encourages you to move around as you’d expect from a game like this, and does things quite nicely early on. You can tap around to collect resources like ore or bones, and have access to small monsters and large monsters. The opening chapters and tutorials force you into a pretty-fixed path to move ahead, and while a lot of this was boring for me, it will help newcomers learn the basics of combat, weapons, items, and more. There are daily quests that unlock early on called Special Quests to earn more Hunter Rank points as well. You also end up having to face “Urgent" monsters that are harder than the ones you’ve faced so far, just like in the console games.
Combat initially is just you tapping the screen to attack a monster and swiping to dodge when it glows red indicating it is planning an attack. I never cared for the Sword and Shield, so I tried getting through these bits quickly. Each weapon also has a separate skill that you can use by tapping and holding the screen. You soon unlock a special ability which charges up as you take down more monsters, and also unlock armor skills and weapon skills. As you hunt more monsters, you need to forge and upgrade armor with the game conveniently notifying you when your equipped gear can be upgraded. This upgrade system is similar to the main console games, but quite a bit simpler early on. Elemental damage and affinities seem to play a larger part here right from the start. You can also enable motion controls for aiming and targeting by tapping the symbol on the top right during battles.
Visually, Monster Hunter Now looks really good. The interface is nice, and the animations all feel faithful to Monster Hunter. Weapon designs, a good resolution even on older iPhone models like the 11, and a 60fps hunting option all add up to make for a pleasant and polished technical experience in Monster Hunter Now.
On the audio side, I’ve been impressed with the new arrangements of classic Monster Hunter tunes, and the remaining sounds from the games that have been perfectly implemented into Monster Hunter Now. This truly feels like the team understood how to make a game feel and sound like Monster Hunter, despite the simplistic nature. Niantic also added haptic feedback which is a nice touch in a game like this. I liked the HD Rumble while playing Monster Hunter Rise on Switch a lot, and it is nice to see some of that make its way here even as simple haptics.
What does Monster Hunter Now include at launch?
Monster Hunter Now only includes six weapon types at launch. You begin with Sword and Shield, then unlock Great Sword, and soon after unlock the other four including Light Bowgun, Bow, Hammer, and Longsword. In terms of monsters, Monster Hunter Now also has a lot of the Monster Hunter World monsters, but not all of them. I imagine major updates will start adding monsters from that game and hopefully from Monster Hunter Rise as well.
Multiplayer is available, and it also supports the adventure sync option for tracking location when the app is closed for paintballs and gathering by your Palico. I can’t even remember how Pokemon GO launched, but Monster Hunter Now feels like it has the potential to do great assuming Niantic supports it properly. Since the developers clearly used a lot from Monster Hunter World, I hope the support it gets post launch is also as good as that and Iceborne rather than Rise.
If you try playing Monster Hunter Now while in a car, it gives you a warning to click to confirm that you aren’t the driver, and then still doesn’t let you play if you move too fast. You need to wait a few seconds in place before it lets you interact with points of interest or hunt again.
In terms of monetization, I didn’t feel the need to spend so far, but we are still about a week into launch only. The in app purchases range from a one time starter pack with consumables and gems to a release celebration pass that gives you gems daily for a month. There are also direct purchases for an item box expansion and a few gem pack options. The big point of contention is in how health potions and first aid meds are handled here. You get the latter daily, but you will need to wait till you have enough health before you can hunt so you might think paying gets over the time barrier for that to replenish. The way I look at this game, if I ran out of health, I’d just wait till the next day and come back. I wouldn’t consider paying for health potions. This could change with updates or when I run into later monsters, but as of today, nothing has felt essential from the in app purchases.
In terms of what I’d like to see come in updates, I don’t really have a frame of reference to other Niantic games right now, but I want Niantic to add more of what makes you actually learn monster patterns, explore, and hopefully bring in large-scale raids sooner than later. Combat is fine for newcomers, but it can be repetitive for veteran players. It is going to be interesting to see the pace of new content and features for Monster Hunter Now.
I definitely recommend checking out Monster Hunter Now if you’ve enjoyed the recent entries in the series or are a newcomer looking to see what Monster Hunter is all about with the lowest barrier of entry. In its current state, it isn’t as deep as proper console and PC Monster Hunter games, but it does its job at giving you bite-sized hunting action on the go when you’re out and about with a lot of love put in for Monster Hunter. I hope the combat gets more depth through updates, but I’m pleased with the launch state of Monster Hunter Now and will be playing it regularly and checking out updates whenever new content is added.