How I became a Monster Hunter and loved it

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Monster Hunter always appeared to me like a game for crazy people. I was mostly exposed to it through Jason's various tales and none of it ever added up. Insane animation priority, no lock-on, timed missions, bosses with no life bars, combat that looks like you’re hitting a tree trunk with a wiffle bat, taking a knee to sharpen your weapon in mid fight.. what IS this game? At the same time I was always drawn to it for the insane amount of weapon variety and customization. The loop seemed like something right up my alley - kill monsters for parts and make unique looking gear from them. That sounds rad. But I was always scared of this eccentric Japanese behemoth from the handheld world. When the game landed on Game Pass I decided to take the plunge, the worst that could happen is I would lose a bit of time and move on. I’m really glad I took the plunge.

Monster Hunter World is dense and very Japanese. This is a game that despite its massive tutorialization at every step, still requires a whole lot of homework on your part if you’re a newcomer like I was. It’s hard to tell what is intentionally obscured and what is a result of this series evolving over a decade and the existing fanbase simply knowing how the pieces fit together. The entire “campaign” of Monster Hunter World is one long tutorial that slowly introduces you to various aspects of the game until after the final “boss” is felled you get to start playing for real. After about 30 hours I was beginning to feel comfortable in this world, but it took a lot of effort up front to get that far. Some things take forever to unlock while other elements are glossed over fairly quickly. For the entire first half you’re fighting monsters in what is known as “low rank” and the moment you advance the story to “high rank” all that armor you crafted instantly becomes obsolete. This is probably something obvious to series veterans, but I was a little shocked at how much time I wasted grinding some monsters when I really should have been plowing forward instead. It’s these little “I wish I knew this coming in” tidbits that can really trip you up early on as you learn how everything fits together.

The most important and most intricate aspect of MH:W is obviously the combat. The game is essentially a series of boss encounters in a beautifully hand-crafted open world that serves as your arena. You take on “hunts” and then track down the monster in the world and either slay it or capture it. Of course crafting is a huge part of Monster Hunter so along the way you’ll be collecting all manner of ore, bugs, honey etc., but when it comes down to it, you’re here to fight. Theres well over a dozen weapons to choose from and they all have very unique movesets and systems to master. I would say that the game is evenly split between learning your weapon, and learning the monsters. Most of the weapons in MH:W require a level of commitment both in mastering the moveset and animation priority. Wind up attacks can be intensely long and I spent a great many hunts getting knocked around because I was stuck in an attack while a monster was charging right at me. This is why knowing your beasts is essential. Every monster has very specific moves and tells that with time you will learn to recognize and in turn exploit as openings for your most devastating attacks. It’s a delicate balance of knowing when to advance, when to retreat, and how to dance around these towering beasts with a sword thats twice as tall as you are.

Learning what buttons to press isn’t as easy as you might think. To the games credit the training area offers a fairly competent rundown of each weapon, showcasing its most basic functions and combos. Digging deeper into your journal you can find useful tips and tricks on their basic usage and there are even small clips that let you know the basic tenets of their usage. Even so.. There are a lot of hidden mechanics that simply aren’t made very clear. Since I heard so much about this crazy Charge Blade contraption I decided to dive into the deep end and attempt to master it. Initially I decided to try learning on my own, practicing the different moves against a wooden pole and seeing how it all worked. I thought I had a handle on things and then decided to check some YouTube videos to see if there were any tricks I had missed. I believe I spent the next several days watching and re-watching 20 minute long in-depth tutorials on how to properly use this thing - and then it took another 20 hours of hunting monsters to feel like I somewhat have a handle on what I should be doing and when I should be doing it - and there are 13 more weapons to choose from! All offer their own varied levels of complexity, meters, charges, stances.. It’s mind boggling.

I could go on about the strange controls, the camera, the way you spend a lot of these hunts clipping into a monster and slashing it’s ankles.. Monster Hunter World is dense, and replete with gameplay. After you finally finish the campaign which takes quite a while if you’re inexperienced like I was, you can pick up a new weapon and spend the next dozen or so hours learning how to use it and going down it’s many upgrade paths. You can grind monsters for parts to craft that perfect armor set or simply collect them all. There is so, so much to do here. What really won me over though is the humor and positive vibes this game exudes. Everyone is in a constant go-get-em high. Your cute Palico companion is always making faces, and acting silly. There is a pig you can pet in the base.. Not only is the game vibrant graphically but it’s just fun to be in that world of goofballs. If you’re looking for a big time sink then I can definitely recommend Monster Hunter. You will have to watch a fair bit of YouTube tutorials but once you start getting it, the experience is very rewarding.

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