Niantic’s ongoing quest to replicate the monumental success of Pokémon Go has led to numerous attempts, but it’s Monster Hunter Now that might finally break through.
From the moment I was greeted by the iconic “Proof of a Hero” theme song on the game’s home screen, it became evident that Monster Hunter Now was a labor of love. Niantic’s Tokyo studio, with significant support from Capcom, has dedicated years to crafting this mobile AR experience, and it shines through in the game’s fidelity. It manages to capture the essence of the Monster Hunter series while adapting it seamlessly into a Pokémon Go-like format. Although some immediate issues need attention, and long-term concerns loom regarding its monetization, Monster Hunter Now stands as Niantic’s first contender since Pokémon Go that holds the potential for colossal success.
What sets it apart?
Monster Hunter Now introduces a unique twist to the PoGo formula. Where Pokémon emphasizes collecting creatures, Monster Hunter revolves around power progression, and this concept translates beautifully. As you venture into the outdoors, you’ll encounter monsters to battle, minerals to mine, plants to gather, and bone piles to sift through – all yielding valuable crafting materials. These resources empower you to craft and upgrade your weapons and armor.
This sense of progression, where every action contributes to your goals, imbues short gameplay sessions with genuine purpose. Unlike Pokémon Go, where earning a few XP points can feel inconsequential, Monster Hunter Now always offers the promise of crafting or leveling up gear, just a few more hunts away.
What distinguishes Monster Hunter Now even further is its map and biome presentation. The game allows you to expand the map to reveal every monster and gatherable item across vast, mile-wide biomes. In contrast to Pokémon Go’s focus on PokeStops and random encounters, Now enables you to plan your route strategically, tracking specific monsters or gathering materials. This lends purpose and variety to each play session, with biomes resetting every three hours, offering a fresh landscape to explore repeatedly.
Combat in Monster Hunter Now retains the tap-based mechanic but incorporates the series’ hallmark emphasis on preparation and timing. Each weapon boasts unique stats and playstyles, while your armor pieces contribute to your defense and grant specific skills. Crafting your ideal loadout to tackle different monsters closely mirrors the core experience of the main games. This flexibility and variety in gear pursuit remain a hallmark of Monster Hunter, setting it apart from other RPGs.
Hunting monsters in Now is straightforward but not necessarily easy. As you tap to engage your target, you must closely monitor the monster’s actions to anticipate and respond to its attacks effectively. Perfect blocks or dodges grant attack advantages and may even lead to cinematic counterattacks. This level of engagement, though rewarding, can be more demanding than the simple act of throwing Poké Balls and may deter some players. Balancing the game’s hunting mechanics with real-world movement can prove challenging, especially if you aim to avoid taking damage, as hunts are limited to 75 seconds to keep you active. Yet, these challenges contribute to the game’s intensity and immersion.
Now’s monetization model warrants discussion. While it presents challenges, it isn’t as egregious as some other mobile games. The primary expense revolves around potions needed for healing. You receive five free potions daily, and you can store up to ten free First-Aid Meds. Running out requires either purchasing potions at a rate of approximately 40 cents each or waiting an hour for your health to naturally regenerate. Below 30 percent health, you can’t initiate a new hunt.
This system resembles the traditional stamina or energy mechanics seen in many mobile games. For sporadic players, it may pose no issue, but those planning longer sessions might need to invest real money to avoid interruptions. The catch here is that unlike other energy-based mobile games that can be checked in at any moment, Monster Hunter Now requires physical activity. If you lack the flexibility for multiple short walks throughout the day, longer gaming sessions could become challenging. Network issues may also lead to unwanted damage even when you execute dodges perfectly.
Additionally, a significant progression concern looms over the game. If players advance too rapidly, completing the story and unlocking five-star hunts, they may find themselves facing monsters too formidable to defeat within the 75-second time limit. If gear isn’t strong enough, and weaker monsters become scarce due to fast progression, completing hunts becomes an insurmountable challenge.
These issues can be addressed. Introducing the ability to craft potions, a concept consistent with Monster Hunter’s theme, could alleviate the pay-to-play pressure. Expanding the roster of available monsters upon unlocking five stars could counterbalance the difficulty curve. However, the paramount question revolves around Niantic’s commitment to long-term support.
To the future
Investing in a game developed by a company that recently shuttered its LA studio and laid off hundreds raises concerns. Niantic’s track record includes launching and swiftly discontinuing several titles, and the fate of Monster Hunter Now hinges on its initial success. It’s a game with immense potential for growth, with only a fraction of its weapons and monsters available currently. Numerous mechanics, such as trapping, fishing, palico abilities, and item crafting, could enrich the experience further. Monster Hunter Now may evolve considerably in the coming years, and its future success relies on sustained support from Niantic.