Monster Hunter: World is the kind of game you can lose a lot of time and, judging by some fabulously absurd costumes, dignity to. An enticing loop of hunting and loot with which you’ll fight bigger creatures means that it’s often compared to Destiny, and that’s true on many levels. Although they’re poles apart in a superficial sense, they both have a deceptively rich mythology. In particular, there’s a fascinating nugget of lore that marries Monster Hunter gameplay and backstory together in the neatest possible way.
There’s good reason that the humans of Monster Hunter are obsessed with their prey – more than it making for a fun player experience, anyway. According to in-game lore and fan theories (such as this one by CMDR-Gimo on Reddit), an advanced civilisation from long ago used these creatures as fodder to create devastatingly inhumane tech. It’s real-world animal testing blown up to mad proportions; thousands of monsters were wiped out in pursuit of this goal until the savviest decided to fight back. Called ‘Elder Dragons’, these beasts were phenomenally bad news. In fact, they completely levelled civilisation. We’re descendants of the few humans that managed to survive. Fast-forward a few centuries and it’s an unforgiving life. The land is now overrun with monsters and any settlements we cobble together are in constant danger. Humanity has learned enough not to repeat its mistake, though; our characters are part of a ‘Hunter’s Guild’ that exists to maintain balance between monsters and mankind so that none of this can ever happen again. Monsters are only killed when their population booms or they become a threat to society, and none are exterminated. The goal is equilibrium, not extinction.
This is a logical way of justifying our exploits out in the wild. Rather than being a slaughter of wildlife for fun, we’re trying to encourage stability between us and nature. Furthermore, it leads to a unique setting we rarely see in other fantasy games. While I forget who suggested it on Twitter – I did have a trawl through my timeline, but no luck – it’s been suggested that there’s very little agriculture or farming in the Monster Hunter universe. Firstly, whoever-it-was suggested that there’d be little need for it when every resource we could possibly require (from armour and food to architecture, tools, and clothing) can be gained from the abundance of monsters who roam outside our door. Secondly, the high percentage of violent nasties means that staying in one place and working the earth isn’t viable. We’re outnumbered quite spectacularly, and there’s always a chance some hulking t-rex will stomp all over our crops. Or, you know, eat us. This would lead to entirely different traditions, habits, and culture. I find that really intriguing.
If nothing else, it’s refreshing. We don’t often see such drastic variation in fantasy settings, and that ignites the sense of discovery this genre is known for.
Check back each Friday for more on pop-culture lore, characters, and theories.