One of Monster Hunter World's new features builds on something the older games always implied, without ever fully realising. It's the simple idea that monsters probably don't like each other and, when in close proximity, they kick off. In the older games you could get two monsters in one area, and they'd occasionally aggro on each other and attack, but it was never really a fleshed-out aspect of the hunt. In Monster Hunter World, it's brought to life in amazing fashion.
It's loosely structured around the idea of 'turf wars' – monsters battling over a particular area of the map – but these are not the only ways monsters will kick off on each other. Most pairings have one bespoke animation, a spectacular example of strength like the way in which Anjanath picks up a Great Jagras in its jaws then flails it from side-to-side. Outside of this, they'll use their regular attacks on one another. And the reason this is all so amazing is that usually you're stuck in the middle.
Monsters attacking each other is nearly always a surprise. You're fighting a Rathian with nary a care in the world when BANG — your hunter's suddenly sent flying fifteen feet by a Barroth charge. You pick yourself up and turn around to see the Barroth dunking on the Rathian you've already softened-up, seizing its chance to get a few good licks in.
Or you'll be fighting a Barroth in the mud when, all of a sudden, a Jyuratodus appears from beneath it and snakes itself around the slower, bulkier monster. You can almost feel the Baroth's fear as this new opponent starts squeezing – though that doesn't stop you seizing the chance to get some nice shots in.
As this all suggests, the magic of the monsters fighting each other is the unpredictability. Sometimes you'll be cruising on a hunt when all of a sudden a bigger and fiercer monster takes an interest in your prey, and the hunt's danger level shifts way up. Other times you'll be getting a kicking and then a wildcard pops up, not only doing damage that will help out the hunting crew but distracting a nasty monster long enough for everyone to heal and get ready for round two.
The best of the lot? for me, it has to be when monsters seem to hold grudges and go for each other, again and again, over the course of a single hunt. The way this escalates is like nothing else. I decided in this case it might be better to show rather than tell, so made a short video showcasing how one battle spread out across the same hunt. It features an Anjanath (the purple T-rex one), Rathalos (red dragon) and a Tobi-Kadachi (lightning cat-thing). I'm sorry for my JR impressions, I'd had too much coffee.
This kind of running war is by no means the exception. Often you'll be on hunts where the same monstery faces keep on cropping up. Maybe the best aspect of it, as I say in the video, is that the smaller ones are no pushovers. In fact the Tzitzi Ya-Ku might be my favourite monster so far for exactly this reason. The Tzitzi is a small dinosaur-like monster that can be easily bodied by the larger monsters. But it has one cool trick you won't believe: the ability to send out a bright flash that stuns enemies.
So what you'll see with the Tzitzi is it'll turn up to a fight, where you and a big monster are going at it, then it'll stun you both before you've even noticed it's there. After which it'll jump in, whack one of you, and run off. Ten minutes later, when you've forgotten all about it, it'll turn up and do exactly the same thing again.
A huge part of Monster Hunter World's appeal is how it doubles-down on the ecosystem suggested in the earlier games. It has an enormously deep impact on how you feel about this environment, particularly when you end up in one of those hunts where a fight turns into a rock-em sock-em grudge match, and the monsters just won't leave each other alone. The way that the bigger monsters fight is just one example of how well this focus on ecosystem works but, by my lance, it's the most spectacular by far.