Monster Hunter has been around for almost 15 years, but Monster Hunter: World will likely be the first time many gamers try the series. There's a reason for that; the franchise is as well known for its epic wildlife and big swords as it is for not being new player friendly. While Monster Hunter: World will no doubt bring a set of unique and possibly brand new systems to the franchise, there are some general rules and formulas the series follows that new players will want to understand prior to diving in. That's what this article is for! Welcome to Monster Hunter 101.
What kind of game is Monster Hunter?
Action RPG is the easiest way to describe Monster Hunter from orbit. But it’s not like Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana — games synonymous with that genre. The stages you will hunt in often teem with lots to explore and inspect, like Skyrim. When you finally find your mark, taking the creature down can be a long and arduous process in the vein of Shadow of the Colossus. Put all of those experiences together and you have something close Monster Hunter.
Those before mentioned experiences, however, don't include the heavy emphasis on crafting and resource management you'll face in Monster Hunter on downtime in the franchise's various hub cities. Quest givers often have new hunts for you, which can open up access to new resources, or even bigger hunts. Your feyline partners are managed at home base too. Bookkeeping is another big identifying factor of Monster Hunter.
Taken all together, you can see how one solitary definition of Monster Hunter can mischaracterize the game a bit. Monster Hunter is just Monster Hunter.
What do you do in Monster Hunter?
Short answer: hunt monsters.
Longer answer: hunt big creatures in order to increase your hunter rank and supplies stash, in order to make new equipment and hunt bigger creatures. Monster Hunter games sometimes have a story, one that most often includes a main plot of chasing away/defending the land from the menace of some epic beast and pursuing personal fame and glory.
What is a monster hunt like?
When you first go to hunt a monster, it’s best to approach the task in stages. When you walk up to the quest givers to get hunting, they will display a list of hunter ranks to choose from. When you select one, you’ll then get a list of hunts that will fall into one of three categories: Gather, Hunt, or Capture.
Gathering missions are basically free roaming missions, where you can enter the stage selected for the explicit purpose of filling your bags with everything you can find. This can be difficult to do when you also need to kill a boss monster within a time limit, so these become sought after opportunities to stock up on things with no real pressure. Monsters will still lurk in these missions as normal, but you’re under no requirement to kill them. Just turn your Paw Pass in at the appropriate chest, and you’re golden. There are also gathering missions that task you to collect and return a certain amount of an item before a time limit. This could mean things gathered from the environment, or cut off of a monster.
The next mission type is Hunting, and it’s the bread and butter of your time with Monster Hunter. You have a target, or number of targets, and a time limit to take them down. Capture missions are similar, except you cannot kill the target, and must take it in alive using traps and tranquilizers. You can capture targets in Hunt missions as well, but not the other way around. Capturing targets usually raises your chances of getting something rare from them, so if you’re looking for high end materials, you were probably doing this, anyway.
Step One - Prepare
After you decide on a mission, it’s time to do some planning. Take note of the environment you’re going to. Does it have zones of extreme heat or cold? Does the boss have elemental strengths or weaknesses? Are the monsters in this habitat know for harassing hunters with status effects like paralysis or poison? All of these questions and more have answers in the form of items or equipment you should bring to make your life easier.
It’s very important to not ignore these things. Using a weapon with the right elemental properties to take advantage of a weakness can be the difference between an easy hunt and a painful one, especially at higher levels. Stamina is a resource who’s maximum value shrinks over time, so bringing stamina items is key to lasting in long missions. Maps with weather effects that can slow down your stamina regen to hurt you over time must be dealt with to succeed. Do so without prep at your own frustrating peril.
Step Two - Hunt
When you deploy, either with a crew of like minded individuals or alone (or with a feyline), you get dropped into camp and are let loose. You peruse the camp, take some supplies from the supply box, and get to the target.
Base Camps: Base Camps are where you first spawn into a mission, and where you will return if knocked out in action. In your camp will be a bed to recover your health and stamina, and a pair of chests. One chest is full of missions supplies that are for you to use during the mission, and the other is where you’ll turn in quest requirements.
In every mission, the target monster(s) spawn in the same place every time, so repeat instances of any given mission makes finding the target quickly an easier task that the previous time. Before deciding to engage, you should also decide if you want to do some gathering first. It will be much harder to do so with the monster on your scent, so if you need to get something, you should do it now.
When you finally find the creature, the fight will get much more frantic. These guys have big attacks and take a lot to wrangle. After taking a lot of punishment, or if particular weaknesses are exploited, they can enrage, making them faster and stronger. But it’s not all one sided. Many monsters have big weakspots in places like their faces, bellies, or tails, which allow you to maximize the damage you can do to it.
Once you fell it, you harvest from it, and go back to home base.
What do you do besides hunting?
In between hunts, the Monster Hunter games have had a great many ways to spend your time. Mainly, you’ll be taking the items you’ve collected and carved in the field, and use them to create more and better items is a couple of ways.
Crafting will be your main priority when not hunting monsters. Generally, you’ll be turning raw materials into usable items like Potions or ammunition for your next adventure. Many of the general sundries you need for a hunt are sold by shops in the hub town, but often some of the higher level items must be crafted to obtain.
Items: There are literally hundreds of items in Monster Hunter, and many of them are craftable or used in crafting. Most common items can be upgraded into better versions of themselves (i.e. Potions into Mega Potions).
The other thing you’ll be crafting: weapons and armor. Those scales, plates, fangs, and claws your carving off of marks all fit into patterns for equipment. Even equipment that features ore instead of monster parts often require a key monster piece somewhere down the line.
Once you have the proper amount of monster materials, you can make the appropriate piece of an armor set. Each armor set usually gives general defensive stats, plus any elemental strengths and weaknesses the monster had. So if you’ve been farming a monster with fire resistance, the armor you’re making will likely share that quality.
It’s also worth noting that historically there are two sort of types of armor — a type for those who use melee weapons, and a type for those who use ranged weapons. These have been melded together in Monster Hunter: World.
Each piece also grants points of an Armor Skill. Armor Skills grant passive abilities to you when enough skill points are accumulated. Some of these abilities are defense, like increasing your resistance to high pitched monster roars that can disable hunters for a short time. Others are more offensive, like granting hunters higher chances for critical hits.
Armor Skills usually need a minimum amount of total points (often 10) to be active, and a full, matching set of armor usually provides that minimum. Know that gaining more armor skill points and hitting higher point thresholds (15, 20, etc.) will increase the effectiveness of some skills. Augmenting armor with craftable Skill Gems is the only way to do that.
What about weapons?
Like armor, weapons require some mixture of ore and monster materials to make, and will often take on properties of the monster who’s pieces it heavily features. If a creature you’ve been farming paralyzes hunters frequently, it’s weapon probably will too.
Unlike armor, weapons can be upgraded either in to more powerful versions of itself, or into completely new weapons. Here’s a rough example, taken from the Iron Sword greatsword tree from MH4U:
Say you start with the Iron Sword. For a handful of Iron Ore and some zenny (the currency of MH), you can upgrade it to the Iron Sword+, which is basically the sword you know just slightly stronger. From here, you have a choice to make. You can invest more Iron Ore and a new type of mineral, Machalite Ore, into the blade to transform it into the Buster Sword, a blade marginally stronger but much sharper than the Iron Sword+.
Weapon Sharpness: All melee weapons in Monster Hunter have a sharpness, measured on a color coded gauge from red (lowest) to purple (highest), in ROYGBIV order. Sharpness is basically a bonus damage multiplier — at Yellow you are doing full damage, so you want to keep the gauge from going any lower than that. Some monsters require a minimum sharpness level to hit them successfully, and different parts of the same monster might have different sharpness requirements.
Alternatively, you can add some claws and a hide of a monster called the Great Jaggi as well as some Machalite Ore to produce the Rugged Great Sword, a much stronger blade that isn’t sharp.
Almost every weapon has branching options like this, and determining how you will navigate these weapon trees often dictates how you’ll spend your time farming monsters and gathering things in the field. In the past, committing to an upgrade was often a stressful decision, because before wikis had clearly outlined the many branches of these trees, it was difficult to know what you were invested in. In Monster Hunter: World, you’ll be able to downgrade weapons back to certain points in the tree if you aren’t satisfied with the weapon you’ve made.
Wow! That’s very involved.
Yes, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of how variant and dynamic weapons can be. Also, crafting weapons and armor isn’t the only thing to do in Monster Hunter that doesn’t involve hunting monsters.
Past games had farming systems, where you could plant seeds, add fertilizer, and assign felyine workers to tend the crops. In a short time, plants would grow, and it was a great supplement to gathering plants in the field. Fishing and mining mini games have dotted the series in different forms with the same goal, giving you access to those materials without having to go out and find them.
Feylines: Feylines are those anthropomorphic cat folk that live and work among people in the Monster Hunter series. They are chefs, blacksmiths, adventurers, laborers, and sometimes, even monster hunters themselves. Feral feylines often patrol mission maps, looking for hapless hunters to steal from. In Monster Hunter: World, some wild feylines will actually help you fight monsters by springing traps on them.
Feylines themselves have expanded their role as the games have progressed. Once just passive stagehands and occasional mischief makers, now they not only accompany you into battle, but can be played as in an entirely separate mode. They can be raised and have their stats and abilities grow and develop, which is its own intricate system with even more nuance than equipment crafting. You will have plenty to do outside of chasing down big, scaly beasts, that's for sure.
How much of this will come to Monster Hunter: World?
Hard to say, as the beta didn’t explore anything but a handful of hunts. These ancillary systems have come and gone and come back again throughout the series, so there’s no telling what all exactly made the cut until it launches. That said, there is a baseline genetic code of Monster Hunter that will be familiar no matter what else changes, and that's what this rundown is looking to reinforce.
Monster Hunter: World will no doubt be a new horizon for this long running series, one that will reinterpret and reintroduce concepts in a way we haven't seen before. To keep up to date on everything we know about it, come to our Monster Hunter: World Wiki.
Jarrett shares his love of video games and geek culture through feature articles on Gamepedia. He prides himself on his deep attraction to Japanese beat-em ups and his god-like Bushido Blade talents.