Monster Hunter World

An early retrospective of Monster Hunter World/Iceborne, to discuss its merits and flaws for the next game

Content of the article: "An early retrospective of Monster Hunter World/Iceborne, to discuss its merits and flaws for the next game"

So, with World nearing the end of its development cycle, it’s time to do a retrospective. For someone who has played the series since Freedom Unite with at least 500 hours per game, World made a lot of fundamental changes to mechanics and systems that had remained static for 5 generations. With decent sized nostalgia glasses (MH3U is best game, fight me) and me having played World long enough that the ‘ooh new!’-factor has worn off, let’s take a look at what I would (not) like to see next game.

Before I start, some things to note. I haven’t fought the (Ancient) Leshen or Alatreon, nor many of the Arch-Tempered Monsters (with the exception of Kirin), so I can’t comment on them much. I will say 3 things on them, though these things may apply to other things as well.

  1. I play 99% solo, and I’m not ‘naked speedrunner’-great, although I can kill every monster reasonably fast. As such, I despise quests that force you in MP.
  2. I don’t like being railroaded into a certain playstyle.
  3. Putting in a hard succeed-or-fail-damage-barrier is unnecessary in this game, and a very artificial way to make a fight more difficult. Monster Hunter already has mechanics that encourage and reward aggression and a focus on damage with monster staggers, temporary buffs from weapons and items and the new Healing Augment. Monsters like Zinogre and Gold Rathian also have buffed states that can be stopped by damage, rewarding aggression and skill. Don’t forget the fact that simply spending less time on a hunt is a reward on its own as well.

Having said that, let’s actually look at the game now. I have 4 categories: “Good” (requires no changes, even if it can be improved), “Good but flawed” (good, decent or functional as it is, but can use some changes), “Bad with potential” (mediocre or unnecessary, but can be changed to be better), and “Bad” (please don’t put this in the next game). For readability, I tried to Bold the main points.


Good:

· The additions to each weapons’ moveset are amazing. Personally, I favor smaller quality of life changes that amplify a weapon’s identity, like the Lance’s Power Guard, the Greatsword’s s True Charged Slash or the Gunlance’s Wyrmstake Blast, without changing its playstyle. The Hammer’s Big Bang, for example, felt unnecessary. However, overall, every weapon has been improved, in a much more natural way than Generation’s Styles and Combat Arts did.

· Rolling backwards is a godsend. No more comment needed.

On a more serious note, the increased mobility in this game improves the flow of the hunt. My main weapons (GS, Lance, GL, Hammer, SwA, HBG) have felt fewer improvements in this regard, but I have seen what they have done for all weapons. The SwitchAxe’s ability to move around more freely and switch around between Axe and Sword mode allows an experienced hunter the ability to switch when appropriate even in the middle of a combo. I have small fear related to this topic, but I will discuss this later.

· Alexander is my bro. Yes, Alexander is my feline companion. The companions in this game are great. Customizable enough, without being overly complicated and confusing like it was in MHGU. Their contribution to the fight is noticeable (especially if you give your companion a status weapon), they are active for the vast majority of the fight (no hiding in the ground for 50% of the hunt like Cha Cha, damn him) and they will use their skills frequently. Being able to give them the order to use their skills is also very useful, especially the Healing Skills (if you ask me). I barely use any Potions anymore because of Alexander the Bro.

· No more flexing after drinking, thank goodness. Basically, the ability to move around while consuming items allows you to actually stay in/near the fight when healing or refreshing buffs. This was probably a necessary change with the removal of separated areas (old school hunters, imagine drinking a potion the old way in World. Yes, that feeling of panic is natural), but it’s still a great change.

· No more Pickaxes or Bugnets! A QOL change I support wholeheartedly. Sure, without Talismans from mining spots and the Base Camp allowing you access to your items at all times, it would not have been as much a problem as in the old games. But still, few things were more frustrating than running out of pickaxes in the middle of a gathering quest.

· Extra Inventory Space for materials? Yes please! Mostly because it saves some effort managing your inventory. Even in the old games I would rarely need more space for materials, but it did limit what I could bring to some extent.

· Tracks are an excellent and natural replacement for Paint Balls. For anyone who doesn’t know, in the old games, you needed to throw a paintball at a monster to track it on your map. Once you knew monsters a bit, you didn’t actually need paintballs anymore since you knew where the monsters would hang out or move to. Still, it’s great that I can always tell where a monster is now.

The way the system works is also quite clever, because it still uses the same learning curve as paintballs without the hassle and a major reward at the end. You don’t immediately get all the information, nor do you automatically follow a monster the first few hunts, so you still have to learn a monster’s habitat and how it moves around. Gathering tracks is, however, still low effort to do, and once you have fought a monster a few times you will have gathered all the tracks. In the old games, this knowledge was in your head, but now the game just shows it to you. At this point, the tracks (and research level) are usually little more than a quality of life thing (you’ve fought the monster enough times to just know most of it), but boy, if you ever lost track of a flying monster in the old games, you know how nice it is to just know a monster’s location. Having all the Wiki-information in regards to elemental weaknesses, hitzones and material rewards doesn’t hurt either.

· Augments are an excellent way to personalize your weapons and make a decent late-reward. You can easily do without Augments, but they still feel pretty nice to have. It would be nice if the Healing Augment wasn’t so comfortable to use, because the others feel pretty mediocre compared to it. I have used all Augments on at least one weapon though, so it’s not that bad. I do have major criticism on the way you farm Augments, but I’ll address that later.

· I love cooking cats. I’m not even a cat person, but the food cutscenes are absolutely amazing. All hail Grandma Felyne and Arnold Catzenegger.

· Safi’s weapon customization system is very interesting. Just the Set-bonus Skills make Safi weapons so very useful for someone like me who likes to make a lot of different sets without following any meta. It helps that I found Safi to be entertaining to fight. I could even grudgingly tolerate the MP-aspect of it, though I hope they make it easier for SP to farm them as well. Also, maybe make the Set-bonus skills a separate part to unlock with maybe the Mantle of that monster? I spent way too much time unlocking Zorah’s Set Bonus on my GL.

· Turf Wars are awesome. They really do bring the world alive, and reinforce the idea that this world is a hypercharged ecosystem where aggression is rewarded. A few more unique Turf Wars would be cool though. Seeing Glavenus suddenly act like Anjanath when he bodyslams a Diablos is a bit strange. Also, more stuff like Diablos breaking each other’s horns. Maybe even different outcomes, where one monster just wins, perhaps based on the relative size of a monster (a gold sized crown beats a regular sized monster)?

· The maps are gorgeous and varied, while still projecting a coherent picture. The Wildspire Waste is my favorite in that regard. Other maps are still beautiful and never with jarring transitions. The maps are a tad too big for my taste, but you can just warp around the camps, so that’s fine. The environmental traps are pretty niche, and I tend to forget they exist in the middle of combat, but they are still very satisfying to use. Maps are a solid 9, better than any previous map in Monster Hunter.

· Namielle is my favorite Elder Dragon. I tend to prefer the midgame monsters to the Elder Dragons, since Elder Dragon are often a bit over the top. However, Namielle is perfect for me. It’s not mind-blowingly difficult, but still poses a serious threat without relying in gimmicks or insane AOE (more on that later). More importantly, its design is very unique, especially soundwise. Visually, it reminds me of Abyssal Lagiacrus, but easily makes the transition to the land while still remaining an aquatic monster.

· Eating midquest is awesome. There’s nothing negative I can say about this. I have mixed feelings on the changes to the basecamp in general, but I have restarted too many quests because I forgot to eat to not 100% love the ability to eat midquest. Praise the Handler (in this one, tiny aspect).

· I wish to give special attention to a few monsters. Anjanath looks awesome and has just enough twists on the generic T-rex design. Fulgur Anjantah is even better in that regard. B-52 Bazelgeuse looks absolutely amazing and it’s a really unique Flying Wyvern, even if the fight is only average. Odogaron is a very cool fight, with an aggressive and mobile style that still feels manageable.

· Since I’m a loner gamer with little to no social life, I like the overly attached Pub Lass. It feels good to be appreciated, even by a bunch of ones and zeros, sue me. I do miss bitchy Arena Lass though. The new Arena Lass is very nice, but a bit of smack talk was hilarious.


Good but flawed

Ah yes, now come the walls of text. Apologies. It’s hard to say a lot about something that’s just good. I already felt I overused words like ‘awesome’, because they don’t mean much even if they accurately convey a feeling. On the other hand, it's easy to just say "this is bad" without arguing why, or how it can be better in my opinion.

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· Confession time: I hate every facet of Tempered Monsters. Apparently, they’re “infused with bioenergy from the Elder Dragons from living in the New World for so long” (from the MH Wiki). The whole bio-energy thing in World is basically magic, and to me, it feels far too fantasy for a Monster Hunter game (which practices pseudo-biological ‘realism’). In practice, however, Tempered is just the absolute laziest way to increase difficulty: crank up the numbers. More damage and health, and presto, a more difficult fight! At least Hyper Monsters had some different timings in their attacks, though even less justification from a lore perspective.

In case you think I just hate the concept, I kinda do. But, I did love Frenzied Monsters (Apex not as much). Why? Two reasons. First, as little as lore and story matter to me in a MH game, I was always interested in the biology of the world. How does the ecosystem work? Why can these monsters get so big? Et cetera (My usual answer is “low gravity, mineral rich soils to strengthen bones and scales, and the existence of an extremely efficient form of photosynthesis to hypercharge the food chain”). The Frenzy virus is comparable to rabies in its effect, and to infectious spores in its spread and lifecycle. Rabies (and Frenzy) spread through contact, which explains the aggression that comes with both. It can, however, also create a symbiotic relationship with its host and fuel its aggression and power without killing the host (Apex, which sucks gameplaywise despite its cool concept). With the addition of a few nice cinematics to sell its effect in action outside of hunts, Frenzy is almost realistic (I mean, totally not, but still).

The gameplay side of Frenzy is equally interesting. Unlike Tempered Monsters, where it’s just increased damage, or the Hyper status, which is just more damage and slightly changed timings on certain attacks, the Frenzy virus does so much more. Monsters do more damage, are far more aggressive and reckless in their attacks and will change the timings on their attacks seemingly at random. But that’s not it: the Hunter can get infected as well. If you overcome it by doing enough damage in a time window, you get a damage boost yourself! If you don’t, you become more vulnerable to attacks. But wait, there’s more! You can knock the virus out of a monster temporarily with special items, leaving you a large opening to attack and weakening them back to their regular state. Frenzy makes once easy monsters a new challenge by randomly messing up their timings and reducing your windows with their increased aggression, but you are rewarded for fighting through it with a damage bonus and a large opening to attack. Even ignoring the lore, Frenzy is a far more interesting mechanic in the way it changes the fight. It punishes and rewards. That’s not even mentioning the presentation. The purple hue is pretty cool and noticeable; I didn’t know until today that Tempered Monsters have a metallic hue, so I guess that a draw. However, just look up a few Frenzied Monsters, and listen to their roars. That is how you sell a monster gone berserk.

However, I do have another confession. A few days ago, I found myself thinking “Hm, do I want to just do a quick run for this material or do I want to challenge myself with a Tempered version.” Yes, that thought is the only reason I don’t condemn Tempered monsters to the depth of hell. It’s still lazy design (which isn’t the same as bad design though), and far inferior to Frenzy in gameplay, presentation and background (just watch the frenzied Zinogre cinematic for an impression), but I guess it does its job.

Still, bring back Gore Magala please.

· Monsters are far more mobile in World than older games. It adds challenge and makes them more natural in most cases, less clunky, less like a videogame boss. Rathalos in older games often looked a bit silly with it aerial movement, but it’s much better now.

However, I have noticed a problem in World. Monsters struggle to keep up with the hunters. The greatest victim of this is Nargacuga: a jumping menace in older games, now ridiculously easy since most weapons are just as mobile or have too many tools to keep up. On the other side, they went overboard with Barioth, who just jumps around the area like a maniac compared to older games and feels frustrating. It might just be me, but it feels like the devs are struggling to keep certain monsters challenging without relying on homing attacks or movement that follows you quickly no matter where you are. I’m also certain this is where the fixation with AOE that this game has comes from. Kushala Daora, Lunastra, Deviljho, Velkhana’s walls, all have annoying ways to restrict your movement besides regular hitboxes from their attacks (that noticeably can’t be blocked, which annoys me as a Lance and GL player).

I’m a bit worried where this might lead. Again, I might just be paranoid, or bad at dealing with these AOEs because I play slower weapons. But I’ve played enough games in my no-life to trust my instinct on this.

· The new skill system is fine. The point system is, admittedly, easier to understand and probably easier to minmax. I also really like the Armor Set Bonus Skills that you get from equipping 2-5 pieces. It creates an interesting dilemma: do I want this Armor Set Bonus Skill and be forced to use a suboptimal piece of armor, or do I want to use a bunch of (theoretically) less powerful skills that I can minmax to hell and back? Of course, this falls somewhat flat in practice. Almost none of the skills hit that sweetspot of being good enough to actually want while requiring a reasonable sacrifice. Most skills aren’t good enough to actually warrant any kind of sacrifice or don’t really need a sacrifice because pieces you need are good on their own. But hey, it might be balanced better in the future.

In my opinion, it has sacrificed something that made Monster Hunter unique though. The old system, for those who don’t know, required 10 points in a skill to activate the skill, with some skills improving at 15 or 20 points. There were even negative skills that activated on -10! Each armor piece gave a few points in a skill, and the same went for decorations and talismans. The problem (and interesting part) of the old system was that 9 points in a skill gave nothing. You needed 10, or you wouldn’t be getting anything from that skill. This system was, obviously, a bit frustrating and difficult to understand for new players, since they tend to just pick and mix whatever armor pieces they can afford, resulting in a lot of skills with 7 points but no active skills. However, I just need to say Athena to old players and they might get a flutter of nostalgia. Puzzling out an armor set that gave you just the right amount of points was glorious. The old system felt much more rewarding to figure out and master than the new. This is probably nostalgia for a clunky old system that repelled new players, but I stand by my opinion on this.

· The Hubs are pretty, but jeez are they big. Seliana is much better than Astera, but still pretty big to run around. Oh, does anyone remember the Research Base? Nah, didn’t think so. Bit of a shame. The Online Gathering Hubs are very nice though.

· The story is fine, and serves decently to get you through the game. The whole bio-energy stuff is annoying to me, because it reeks too much of magic. Monster Hunter has always been about pseudo-biology to me. Firebreathing is implausible and very dangerous, but not impossible. Same goes for a symbiotic slime that explodes when deposited. Same goes for electrical organs. Hell, even icebreath could theoretically exist. Elder Dragons have always breached that pseudo-biology thing, but they were mysterious enough that it never bothered me. Making bioenergy an entire plot point was a bad idea in my opinion, because it ruined that mystery that kept is safe from scrutiny in the game’s theme of pseudo-biology. Like guns in Harry Potter: you know they exist, but we don’t acknowledge that because it ruins the themes of the story.

Also, yes, the Handler in annoying, I’ll get to her, but overall the story is inoffensive and guides you through the game. Hell, World is the first MH game that put some actual effort in the story (ignoring the Frenzy virus, which was a masterful blending of gameplay and story that I’m fairly certain happened by accident). So sure, not bad. Definitely not great, since it fails to actually establish anything interesting that remains relevant throughout the game, or develop characters in a meaningful way, but not bad.

· Ah yes, the Guiding Lands. I love the concept of the Guiding Lands. A large area where you can just run around and kill any monster that emerges for rewards. If you don’t need anything specific, the Guiding Lands are a cool way to kill a few hours.

Unfortunately, the Guiding Lands have a problem that I call “being triple conditional”. Ignoring the whole gathering sidequest of it, which is silly, what’s the point of the Guiding Lands’ rewards? The materials for Augments. As I said above, Augments are great. However, all Augments require specific monster parts from the Guiding Lands. This sucks, because this is where the “triple conditional” part comes in. Firstly, you need to have the right Area Levels. You can at most keep 3 areas at Level 7, so you never have potential access to all monsters, nor can you just kill monsters at your leisure because it can upset the level balance. Secondly, only 3 monsters are present at a time, 2 if there’s an Elder Dragon, so if you’re an unlucky fellow like me and you don’t have a lure most of the time, good luck getting the monster you want to show. Thirdly, since Augments are pretty unbalanced, a lot of monsters are just not worth fighting if you care about the rewards. For example, Rathalos materials are only needed for the last Rarity 10 Weapon Defense Upgrade.

Now, since the Elder Melder exists, it’s not that much of an issue. I would still prefer a system that just allows you to pay for the Augments with any material of that Spiritvein tier, with a discount for using the ‘right’ monster materials. No extra work to trade my useless stuff for slightly more useful stuff. Just spend a few hours in the Guiding Lands and Augment away.

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· I mentioned this briefly before, but I’m a bit torn on the Base Camp giving you access to your weapons, armor and items. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a magnificent QOL change. However, it removed an aspect of multi-monster-quests that forced you into a somewhat interesting decision: what weapon do I bring? Do I want a weapon type/element that is suboptimal but decent for all monsters, or bring a set focused on the most difficult one? As said, it’s a small complaint (especially since multi-monster quests are dead anyway, more on that later), but it’s another example of the game sacrificing old jank/limitations when they added interesting aspects to the game. Flexing after a Potion is silly. Not being able to bring your entire wardrobe is understandable.


Bad but with potential

· So, Investigations. I’ll be frank: they’re unnecessary and flavorless. At first, I liked them, but over time, I noticed their glaring flaws. Let’s take a look at how MH quests used to work. In the old games, there were no Investigations or Assigned Quests, just Optional Quests, a few of whom were mandatory to unlock the Urgent Quest that in turn unlocked the next tier of quests. To farm stuff, you had do the optional quests over and over again. Now, in more recent games, some quests were available semi-randomly. These quests were (almost) always multi-monster quests, and would rotate after you did a quest.

Investigations did away with the entire need for regular Optional Quests, since they are 99% superior. If I have an Investigation available of a Monster I need to kill, I’ll take it over the Optional Quest. Maybe if the Investigation has a 20 minute time limit I won’t take it, but I can comfortably kill almost everything within those 20 minutes, without dying. So ya.

Even worse, Investigations have killed the need for multi-monster quests that I mentioned earlier. Let’s say you need to farm for Rathian Mantles. In World/Iceborne, you go for the Rathian Investigation that has the most Gold rewards and just hunt her a few times until you get it. Usually, you get it before the Investigation has been used up. In the old games, you didn’t have that luxury. There was often a choice: what quest do I pick? You could do the single Rathian quest: besides carves, capture and parts rewards (which rarely added up to more than a 5% chance), all quests had a table of rewards with odds of getting it. A simple quest like this usually gives a 1% chance to get it from quest rewards. Or, you could do the triple Rathian quest for more carves/capture rewards. The quest still gives about 1% chance to get a Mantle from the quest rewards specifically, but you triple your odds of carving a Mantle without tripling your time spend (health in multi-monster quests is lowered, though still more in total than a single monster). Or, you could do a triple-monster quest that makes you fight a Rathian, Diablos and Seregios in the Desert. Sure, you only kill 1 Rathian and 2 unrelated monsters that might give you trouble, but this quest gives an 8% chance to get one in the rewards! Now this is an interesting choice. The single quest is the most basic, and always available. The triple Rathian quest of often absent from the list, but potentially triples your odds of getting it. The triple monster quest however, gives you a much higher chance as well. Which quest you will most efficiently be able to farm, will depend on your skill matchup versus other monsters as well. Do I wait for the triple monster quests to pop up again and do another quest, or just do the regular Rathian quest again?

Now, would you ever do this with an Investigation? Do a triple Monster quest when you have a single monster quest available? No, of course not. Investigations offer potentially a lot of freedom, but again, it’s a new, flashy system with the depth of a dried up rain puddle that offers no interesting choices, that replaces an old, admittedly janky system that offered players a choice on how to deal with it. I can’t even remember the last time I did a multi-monster quest in World to farm. Because there is no point in challenging myself.

Investigations aren’t flawed in concept, but very much in execution. I would advocate removing them, but if you want to keep them, fine, let’s theory craft. Investigations would be interesting if they did away with the Bronze, Silver and Gold (and Purple) rewards. Instead, replace them with a simple triple row system. You get a row of rewards for each monster in the quest. Kill them all, and you get three rows, each one dedicated to a monster, but this still triples your odds of the miscellaneous rewards (such as decorations). Additionally, make each quest give a bonus chance to drop a material of the tier that is equal to the amount of monsters (basically a different drop table with higher odds for rarer rewards). One monster gives a bonus to the base tier (Scales, Shells, the least rare stuff). Two monsters gives a bonus to middle tier stuff (Tails, Spikes, Wings, et cetera). Three monsters gives a bonus to the rarest drops (Plates, Gems and Mantles). This means players can actually snipe for these rewards. You can do the same for the Tempered Monsters: give an amount of rewards for the number of monsters killed, with the tier of rewards for the tier of the Tempered Monsters you killed.

I could come up with more ways to balance Investigations for whatever purpose you might see in them, but I have made my point. Investigations are an unnecessary addition to World that replaces a system that was fine with a gimmicky system whose randomness is largely meaningless once you have farmed a few of them. You know, the most annoying way to develop a game, which entails replacing an old system that was interesting with something that is way easier to understand for new players and usually less interesting.

· More Monsters. Don’t misunderstand me, I totally get why World especially had such a small rosters. Importing all the stuff into a new engine is time- (and thus money-)consuming work. And frankly, the game has 71 Large monsters, which is comparable to late-3ds games, and only significantly beaten by MHGU. Yet, I have 2 complaints.

The first is something most people will agree with. Even Iceborne has little variety in Monster Types. There are no Leviathans, large Neopterons, Snake Wyverns (Najarala), Carapaceons, Temnocerans (Nerscylla) or Amphibians. There are Fanged Wyverns (4 legged), Brute Wyverns/Bird Wyverns (2 legged), 2 types of Flying Wyverns (Tigrex skeleton and Rathian skeleton), 3 Piscine Wyverns nobody likes and the Elder Dragon Skeleton (that almost everyone uses). Only Kirin, Leshen and Rajang fully break the mold. Thus, there’s a lot of monsters that are similar in their fights (regular and Pink Rathian, regular and Azure Rathalos, regular and Black Diablos, Great Jagras and Great Girros, Kulu-Ya-Ku and Tzitzi-Ya-Ku, Teostra/Kushala Daora).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Diablos and Rathalos are the same fight for sharing a skeleton. I also don’t mind monsters sharing similarities. I love subspecies, since they put a new twist on a familiar monster, so your old skills aren’t wasted but you still have to adjust. But that doesn’t mask that it’s still the same monster underneath. To add to that, of the new monsters in World and Iceborne, only Legiana, Bazelgeuse, Odogaron, Great Jagras and Tobi-Kadachi offer something new compared to old games before you get to the Elder Dragons. The new Elder Dragons are pretty cool though. And again, I get why. Reusing skeletons saves development time. But remember, that excuse works for 1 game only. I do have faith the MH-devs will deliver next game, though, so I’m not worried, but it’s a valid criticism nonetheless.

The second is a more personal gripe. I’m not a fan of Elder Dragons in generals, as I said regarding Namielle. I prefer the mid-game monsters in general, since I prefer pseudo-biological realism over high fantasy magical creatures. Since World partially embraced the live-service, they added new monsters over time. To make these monsters exciting, they had to be, well, exciting. So, Iceborne has a whopping 18 Elder Dragons in a roster of 73 (compared to 6 out of 51 in MH3U, 13 out of 93 in MHGU and 13 out of 75 in MH4U). Please, for the next game, focus on the midgame again, with only a few Elder Dragons to keep them, you know, special.

· To really make the game world feel alive, you need more small monsters, both in the number of monsters on the map, and the amount of different species. Basically, I’m hoping for actual herds of herbivores walking around. Maybe even form a defensive perimeter when a large monster shows up? Smaller monster dashing through the forests. Gastodon actually doing something besides bothering hunters. As it is, every small monster reminds me of the fact that this is a game, and not a living world.

· I really don’t care for the sidequests of capturing bugs, taking screencaps or dealing with Gajalaka’s. Again, a personal gripe, I know. It just doesn’t add much for me. I play this game to slowly kill monsters 10 times my size, not take selfies with uncooperative hummingbirds. They’re harmless enough, I suppose, but the Canteen is enough Japanese silliness for me.

· So, you may have been waiting for it, or you may have simply pushed her existence from your mind like an embarrassing moment in High School. But yes, I do need to acknowledge her existence, defend her briefly with little enthusiasm and then send her back to the Canteen so she can keep stuffing her face while I take my quests from the quest board. The Handler.

I’m by nature quite laid back. As such, the Handler never bothered me that much. Sure, I rolled my eyes every time she almost got herself killed because of anime naivety. Sure, her obsession with food is one of those anime tropes that turns me off the entire genre. Sure, I frowned every time she called me ‘Pard’ (who even says that). Sure, she reminds me of Cha-Cha and Kayamba in a bad way with her ‘We did it’ stuff, taking credit for shit I did. And yes, of course I prefer the Serious Handler, I’m a professional.

But you know, the Handler harmless enough. She gives me little (annoying) sister vibes and some of her outfits are… you know, not little-sisterly. I also enjoy her animations when she sends a lure in the Guiding Lands. I still very, very much encourage the game to do something different next game. Maybe allow us to choose a Handler at the start, choosing between 3 types (overly attached Pub Lass, Serious Handler and The Handler are a nice balance between… types)? Or show us far more of the Handler’s backstory and, more importantly, her work. Show us she isn’t just stuffing her face on my payroll. Or for goodness’ sake, the Serious Handler already has most of the required animations, why can’t we change back to her in this game? Just say the Guild recalls the regular Handler for some admin work, if you don’t want to feel guilty for kicking her out.

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Hell, maybe add a romantic subplot. No, I’m not trying to convince the developers to allow me to date the overly attached Pub Lass. Now shut up, or it might not work.

· Time for another large topic, one that might strike some unlucky people right in the heart: the Decoration and Talisman system. For context, in the old games those were reversed. You bought Decorations with monster parts and money, and you farmed for randomly skilled Talismans. Or rather, you mined Talismans from Mining Spots. A good Talisman (or Charm, back then) could give you slots, up to 7 skill points in the best skills and up to 12 points other skills. One of the best Charms you could get in MH4U, for example, was Handicraft +5 with 3 slots, for a potential +9 Handicraft if you fill those slots. To put that into perspective of the old system: most armor pieces gave +2 to +4 at most, with those pieces that give more skill points having less slots. Charms were, on average, less powerful than those in World, but the best charms could open up entire new skill combinations.

So, from its position in my retrospective, you can probably guess my overall opinion, but let’s take a look at the positives. Old players will remember MH3U’s Charm Tables. Your character was giving a predetermined list of charms (20.000 possible charms in most tables in MH3U) at its creation. There were 17 tables, 12 of which were fine to very good, with all having a decent selection of late-game charms that combined good skills with other good skills or lots of slots. The remaining 5, however, were the Cursed Tables. These were absolutely, godawful bad. They had only 200-800 available charms each (compared to 20.000 for each of the 12 good ones) with almost no good late-game ones. Also, one table famously had no 3 slot charms AT ALL, and another prevented Rustshards from dropping (which were necessary for some armor sets. Yes, you could be locked out of entire armor sets if you were unlucky). MH4U fixed this system by simply resetting your charm table every time you loaded the game (and removing/changing the Cursed Tables). However, as you might have figured out, this adds a WHOLE LOT of randomness to the game. Especially since you needed to mine for the best change to get new charms, this system could be very frustrating for those looking to minmax. World changed that system to be more consistent, both through the changes to the Skill system in general, and by swapping the way you gathered Charms/Talismans and Decorations around.

I was lukewarm at best about the skill system. I’m flat out not happy about the new Talisman and Decoration system, though not furious either. Once again, this falls in the ‘let’s change a unique mechanic to something easier and infinitely more generic’-basket that World carries on its back. Yes, the new system is more consistent: unless you are very unlucky, you will be able to farm most decorations you need in a few grinding sessions, and buy whatever Talismans you need.

But I would argue 2 points against the new systems. Firstly… well, it’s boring! I have spent many hours puzzling out armor sets with the Charms I had found. Some sets were only possible because I had found the perfect Charm. I distinctly remember a virtually perfect GL set I had crafted in MH3U because I had found a Charm that gave +12 Artillery (out of 15) and +6 Guard (out of 10/15). Every Charm you found had the potential to allow completely new skill combinations. In World, however, Decorations are more like a bingo card: I already know what Deco’s I need, I’m just waiting for them to drop. And once I have all the Decorations I need, I’m never going to look at them ever again. It felt frustrating to miss out on Decorations, rather than feeling like I just need to be a bit more creative with the old Charm system. Yes, Charms were random, and I’m always hesitant about randomness, but in this case, it’s only about 10-20% of your possible points that are random. Your Charms were like the cherry on your armor pie. The Decorations in World feel like bricks missing from a wall that I have planned out from the start.

Secondly, the way you gather Decorations is slow. This is probably partly my bias against Tempered Monsters and Investigations, and I might even be contradicting myself here, but I don’t like being forced to do Tempered Monster Investigations to reliably farm Decorations. In the old games, I would often just take an afternoon ‘off’ from hunting and do a few Charm runs, where I would grab a Gathering Armor Set and just run around in the volcanic area, mining everything I see. You could easily get 10-20 Charms per run. Even the best Investigations in World don’t give more than 10 if you are lucky. And since you need a lot more Decorations than Charms, you’re stuck hunting Tempered Elder Dragons for a while if you really want that Expert +2 Deco, matey. And no, I do not know why doing ‘Charm runs’ is fine with me when the side quests in World bother me. Probably nostalgia?

In short, the old system was random, but rewarding, because a single good charm could overhaul your entire Armor Set collection. The new system is equally random but feels different, more focused on the frustration you feel when you don’t have all the Decos wou want, compared to the old system that made every Charm a possible game changer. I’m probably being biased and nostalgic here, but I do think the old garage-sale system had a personality that the new shopping-list system sorely lacks.


Bad (with a side of salt)

· Arch-Tempered. Seriously? Tempered got a bare pass from me, mostly because I was feeling nice. But Arch-Tempered is the definition of taking a monster, maxing its damage to make every move a near instant-kill, adding a move to make it ‘special’ and calling it a day.

Just make it a deviant, or a subspecies with increased speed and aggression, but STOP PUMPING UP DAMAGE NUMBERS TO FEIGN DIFFICULTY. And no, one new move is not enough to make it different.

· If you need an embodiment of everything wrong with Monster Hunter Iceborne’s design philosophy, look no further than Lunastra. Large AOE attacks, instant kills for all but the most safe builds, and, perhaps the sin of all sins, allowing her to move before you do after she roars.

Jokes and salt aside, Lunastra is a decent fight (if I’m being generous), but she feels overtuned. I mean, go feminism for her being stronger than Teostra, that’s fine, but it’s a tad too far. Anyone who has played a MOBA will know what I mean: it’s when a hero/champion/god comes out and has too much of everything, without feeling fundamentally flawed. Tweak her damage, range, speed and maybe make her charging state more vulnerable by adding a really obvious tell that she’s gonna do it or just making it easier to interrupt.

· Let us go offline without pulling out my ethernet cable and bring back pausing the game. Even without PS Plus you have to host a room. Why.

· In the same vein, all quests should be reasonably completable for solo players as well. Yes, Safi, Behemoth and Kulva can be completed solo, but again, not everyone has the time to get good enough for that. MP only doesn’t bother me that much, but I’m not going to pay for a month of PS Plus if I just want to do a few Safi runs this one weekend.

· Looooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaadddddddddddddiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggg tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeesssssssssss. Man, the game looks beautiful but I sometimes forget I’m playing the game because I get distracted during loading times. Let’s hope the next generation fixes it a bit.

Source: reddit.com

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© Post "An early retrospective of Monster Hunter World/Iceborne, to discuss its merits and flaws for the next game" for game Monster Hunter World.




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