By Neil Merrett
While essentially just providing a choice of swords, axes or bow and arrows, each of the dozen or so weapon types available in the Monster Hunter series effectively offer very different ways to play – almost as if offering the player a different genre of game to master depending on their choice
The Monster Hunter series has spent the last 18 years trying to effectively answer the question of how many different ways there are to beat gigantic dragons, dinosaurs or hell cats with pointy sticks.
You could argue that such a description sells short a game series that in its latest two iterations – released across various home consoles and PC platforms – has seen over 22 million copies sold worldwide.
Yet the series’ core gameplay loop is built around an entertaining repetition of prepping your kit, hunting gigantic fire or poison-spewing beasts, cutting them up for parts and heading back to base for the next mission. Granted, the player’s success will occasionally be interrupted by brutally being beaten or stamped into exhaustion by a fur-lined fire T Rex, and then vowing, either alone, or with friends or random online players, to return and turn its brother in law into a pair of snazzy purple armoured trousers.
There is arguably something spitefully satisfying about chasing down and then finally capturing or killing some magnificently designed digital giant creature to get even more things to hunt with.
Thankfully, the game is also a lot of fun.
The ability to forge sometimes fabulous outfits and customisable armour for the player character or their ridable dog and support kitty are just one notable part of the appeal of Monster Hunter as a series.
Players are also charged with hunting increasingly vicious, explosive and sometimes flatulent beasts with the hope of breaking off vital parts of their bodies to be forged into even more powerful and elaborate weapons.
These weapons range from battle bagpipes and hammers, to steam punk electric chainsaw style blades that switch between an exploding sword and an axe. Somehow the transformation between one sharp weapon for another offered by the ‘switch axe’ doesn’t feel redundant – especially when digging it into a beat’s rump and unleashing an electric shock to a justifiably ill-tempered abominable snowman thing.
There are also ranged bow and arrow-style weapons that can let other players target precision shorts or inflect devastating elemental damage from afar – so long as they can keep their distance.
Use of these weapons transforms the player experience into more of a strategic shooter based on prep, targeting weak points and picking the best ammo for the job at hand.
Interestingly, each of these weapons serves as an effectively different game. They can only be swapped out in between missions or when taking a detour to a basecamp hidden away in each of the playable hunting grounds.
Much as games such as Diablo use different classes to offer players a choice of the way they may want to play the game, the weapons of the monster hunter series require the player to adapt to very different mechanics of using weapons that are a variation on stabby, shooty, cutty or blunt-force hitty things.
An additional innovation introduced by Monster Hunter Rise on the Nintendo Switch are wirebugs that have given players more acrobatic Spider-Man-style abilities to launch into bad guys weapon-first, or dramatically escape certain death in a split second bit of timing.
This innovation has served to make combat in the game a little more dynamic in terms of attack speed and traversing the game world. Wirebugs can also be charged to customise how players use a weapon with additional defensive and offensive abilities such as spinning attacks that can do devastating damage if timed well, yet also leave the player open to counterattacks.
The wirebugs also let the player swap out certain playing styles for using a particular weapon mid-battle, if they have the time and inclination to experiment.
Whether these additions are ultimately welcomed by the growing Monster Hunter fanbase will ultimately be down to personal preference. But they have certainly added to the cinematic appeal of landing a devastating attack on a giant beast you have opted to slay.
There is a definite appeal to trying to master a specific weapon in the game and build several different variants of that weapon for the specific needs of a certain creature, such as unicorn-like beast with a penchant for electrocuting groups of foolhardy hunters.
But the game also builds in a sense of longevity by encouraging players to experiment and try and learn the mechanics of a range of different blades, hammers and weapons. Each one of these weapons essentially plays like a different type of game – even when performing the same missions as a solo player of part of an online squad.
Some of these weapons include:
Horn-based weapons; these are big guitars or pipes that you smack creatures with, sometimes with explosive flourishes, while trying to string together combinations of notes as if a playing a rhythm game to provide useful buffs to improve players strength or defences.
It is a style of play and weapon that is not for everyone it seems:
Hunting horn mains on Monster Hunter Rise be like… pic.twitter.com/kzY50YiaBR— DataDaveTV (@DataDaveTV) January 12, 2022
Dual Blades; these are smaller bladed-like weapons, or beastly boxing gloves that are based around less powerful attacks that can be combined together in quick succession into a flurry that can be charged up and then unleashed when a player is confident they can unload sustained close-range attacks without reprisal.
The Great Sword; in comparison to the speed of the dual blades, the Great Sword is a weapon that is much more cumbersome to wield due to the weight of the weapon. Single attacks or combos can be charged up and can often rely on the player to be patient and carefully time their blocks and dodges, before choosing an opening to launch a slow, but devastating ground or aerial attack that can stagger and stun a beasty.
I was looking over video of #MonsterHunterRise and the wirebug could reinvent combat in the game. Look at how the hunter baits the monster to attack and punishes it with a great sword. So dope. Read more thoughts here https://t.co/StI5x3VrvD pic.twitter.com/4LfG9c56RQ— Gieson Cacho (@gcacho) September 18, 2020
The Long Sword; this is arguably a much poiser weapon that always players to string together more balletic posed moves focused on sheathing their blade in between attacks and then unleashing explosive combos on an enemy.
The Switch Axe; as the name suggests, this is a weapon that the player begins using like a large cumbersome club for sustained powerful hits that can be charged up after successful hits to unleash explosive elemental attacks that requires around ten seconds or so to unleash without the player taking damage. The player is able to transform the cumbersome axe into a sword that can unleash a range of quicker attacks with less range before unleashing steam-powered carnage on a player.
Charge Blade; a single handed sword and shield set of weapons that can be used for blocking and striking enemies, before being combined together into a two-handed elemental club that can be used for aerial-based or powerful ground attacks. The player’s ability to switch between modes will allow a range of different combos and manoeuvres to attack while also avoiding a claws and teeth.
What is your preferred weapon-type in the game and why exactly does it appeal to your preferred way of playing videogames? Let us know in the comments.