Monster Hunter: World’s latest crossover event combines dangerous monster fights with the in-depth roleplaying of The Witcher 3 for a special quest that perfectly captures the tough work of a Witcher.
The story, which went live yesterday, begins with a mysterious creature stumbling into the Monster Hunter universe. The creature, a grimy little nekker from The Witcher 3, is shortly followed by the arrival of series protagonist Geralt of Rivia. Geralt jumps through a portal and finds himself face to face with your monster hunter. After reports of bloody monster killings in the Ancient Forest, Geralt sets off to investigate the cause. In a move somewhat unusual for the series, you take direct control over Geralt during his investigation. Armed with his signature swords and magic, you go on a quest full of intense boss fighting and bite-sized RPG sleuthing.
There’s a lot of detail in this crossover event. You don’t just control Geralt and fight some monsters. You also search for clues and talk with characters in a dialogue style entirely lifted from The Witcher 3. These moments are some of the best in the entire quest. Monster Hunter: World doesn’t really give its characters time to shine and rarely even gives them names. Watching Geralt interact with some of the item givers and researchers that I’ve come to rely on during my hundreds of hours of Monster Hunter: World is a welcome chance for them to receive genuine characterization. It’s even better if you play with English language settings. Doug Cockle, who voices Geralt in the Witcher games, returns with his signature mixture of world-weariness and snark.
The cause of all the strange happenings in the Ancient Forest is a leshen, a sort of primal woodland beast from The Witcher. This boss battle is both a perfect recreation of The Witcher 3’s intense combat and also one of the most frustrating fights I’ve had in Monster Hunter: World. The leshen has a variety of tricky attacks that require intense dodging, from summoning a swarm of crows to sending writhing plant roots through the ground. The idea is to dodge around, sneaking in attacks until you can use Geralt’s Agni rune, which unleashes a fire spell that stuns the beast. When you find your rhythm and manage this, the leshen fight is incredibly rewarding. It’s not quite as fast-paced as The Witcher but Geralt moves and fights nearly identically to how he does in his own games.
In practice, this happens less than it should. Many of the leshen’s attacks can knock Geralt flat on his ass, and they all come fast. In smaller areas, they can be difficult to dodge. The leshen can also cause the bleeding status effect, which can sap your health quickly and it can even summon a small horde of tiny lizard-like jagras as flunkies. As a result, there are portion of the fight where Geralt goes from badass witcher to absolute chump getting smacked around by birds and dinosaurs. You can block, as Geralt’s weapon functions as a sword and shield, but it doesn’t always work out. The leshen’s high health pool means that the fight lasts long and alternates between exciting highs and very frustrating lows, even by Monster Hunter standards. Many Monster Hunter fights are exhausting but few bat you around as much as battling the leshen. For the moment, this quest is single player only but a more difficult multiplayer-focused version of the leshen is coming at a later date.
At the end of the day, that is a small issue given how much this crossover event feels like a proper Witcher quest. If you grind out fights against the leshen, you can craft Geralt’s sword and even get a costume that allows your normal protagonist to dress up at him. Those are nice, but the real joy is playing an event that fits so perfectly into the Monster Hunter mold. A second part, which involves Geralt’s companion Ciri, is coming soon as well and will run from February 15th to March 1st.