I’ve sunk plenty of hours into Monster Hunter World, and after a very long collective time spent playing it and trying to do time attacks with hours of resets, I’ve had my fun with the game. Except there’s a catch, unlike previous games I’ve never had a question of “what’s left to do?” before the 200 hour mark. It’s easy enough to just say Monster Hunter World has a small roster size problem and that the endgame core loop is killing Tier 2 and Tier 3 Tempered Monsters. Fundamentally, it’s the core game design of the player’s progression and how how players actually interact with game, also power creep is a real problem.
My closing opinion from my Monster Hunter World review hasn’t changed much: it’s the best MonHun entry to date, but is simultaneously the worst MonHun game. It keeps the core gameplay loop of killing Monsters and making equipment out of it with meaty combat gameplay, but what mattered most was the endgame and the emergent gameplay stories that went into the gear you crafted. My fondest memory (maybe with Stockholm Syndrome) is spending many hours killing Brachydios on the 3DS with my High Rank Great Wroggi set wielding a swordfish in an active volcano. World’s endgame isn’t lacking in terms of weapon diversity and has expanded on what players can choose to run and still be part of the META (to an extent). But in the grand scheme of things, everything’s almost been too accelerated and refined that there’s no fat for players to chew on.
Functionally, Capcom has evolved the series to be more “in line” with modern games. Movement isn’t as restricted as it was before, where it used to require more precision. Clunkiness isn’t quite the right word but there was more weight and intention required in each move. Whereas in the New World, the hunt dynamic has changed where the player is more able to act and respond to the Monster. This aids in keeping fluid and dynamic gameplay, and in the hands of good Hunters only increases their proficiency in a fight. But player skill doesn’t mean much when the core of Monster Hunter is the gear based loot progression and the grind for it.
This might be a meandering opening section to an article, but it’s to paint a picture because Monster Hunter World’s refinement of content has very much backfired in the long run. So let’s get to the first point: Hunters are too powerful. Period. The new skill system is easy to use and understand, but lacks an element of depth or complexity with the removal of a plus/negative system. The biggest removal though is the skill pollination between armour pieces. Once Drachen armour dropped, the need for mix sets is nearly extinct. Rewind to previous games, it wasn’t enough to just have the Elder Dragon sets (partly because they kinda sucked). You needed additional off pieces/sets for that extra point and it helped elongate the grind to building your set, assuming you had the charm to fully optimise your set. Whereas with the current skill system and decoration RNG make and break sets with how rigid it is.
The new investigation system with the bronze, silver, and gold boxes is a layer of RNG. Inherently, they cut the grind down by shortening the time needed for that one drop. Whilst this cuts the required time on hunting a Monster consecutively for a drop, the act of hunting a Monster with the current scaling for solo and multiplayer HP does diminish the overall quality of the game. It can help players who don’t have the time or focus to play the game for that long. However, when your kill times are around the five minute mark with easy to reach stun locks, the hunts feel less like hunts and more like chores similar to taking the trash out. The lack of a concise endgame exacerbates the lack of gameplay variety. This is only made worse by the endgame demanding gems/rubies from Anjanath, Odogaron, Rathalos, Legiana, Teostra, Kushala Daora, Nergigante, and Vaal Hazak. But in reality, you only hunt Anjanath, Odogaron, Nergigante, and Kushala for augmenting weapons.
Variety is key to maintaining a fun and compelling gameplay loop, it’s the bread and butter of the MonHun series. And to nip the decoration and tempered Monster argument by the bud, it’s reductive to just blame decoration farming when it’s the systemic design forcing the player into a monotony of lack of progression. Rewind to playing the game during the story mode, it’s a relatively short affair, with very little deviation or force to do side-questing. You can remember your walls, your hard encounters and where you struggled to face and beat said Monsters. We saw difficulty spikes as moved through the food chain, hunting bigger game, there was a clear progression.
Fast forward to slaying Xeno’Jiva, then what? Hunter Rank cap was removed and then you faced twin Tempered Bazelguese. Not gonna lie, it hit like a truck, but the thing that I remember most is that we had two of the same Monsters in the map at the same time. Call me a masochist, but that’s interesting. It takes the expected dynamic of a hunt and throws you something you didn’t quite expect. Then there’s nothing until Tempered Kirin and, chances are, you haven’t augmented your armour yet by then. I know speaking from experience, and others, that the Tempered Monsters/investigation system was poorly explained. The game had previously laid the groundwork of holding your hand and guiding you around the New World. And then, it doesn’t.
The game goes from non-Tempered Monsters to HR27 required ones, skipping the HR13 restricted ones. That leap is incredibly jarring, and chances are when you play the game first time around and spend time hunting things, you’ll have gotten enough points to go directly to HR27. I know on the PS4 I hit the cap immediately, and after beating Tempered Kirin I was in the 70s. PC wasn’t the case because I’d already learnt all of the systems and got to endgame in less than 50 hours. And then Arch-Tempered Elder Dragons were added, I’m not gonna say if they’re good or bad additions. Personally I enjoy them for the most part, Kirin’s scary as hell with its damage buff, Teostra is a return to form, Vaal Hazak is a different kind of PTSD/war of attrition, and everything else, I’m in borderline spite. Arch-Tempered Xeno’Jiva was hell. Now then, the additions alone wouldn’t hurt the game except each update pushed the boat further out in terms of power creep. Arch-Tempered Nergigante was balanced around the power creep, being a paradox of being aggressive but cautious with some moves making slower weapons nearly impossible to use without god RNG on certain moves.
Gamma sets are straight up the Alpha and Beta having performed the fusion dance from Dragon Ball. Relative to Drachen, they’re tame now (except Xeno’s, that’s stupid powerful). But the actual inclusion of Arch-Tempered Monsters, currently only available to Elder Dragons, hammers how restricted and rigid the endgame of World is. Everything else falls by the wayside, and Capcom hasn’t added or tried to balance the power dynamic of Hunters to the Monsters we hunt. The only exception to this is Lunastra’s optional quest which is similar to her Arch-Tempered form. Not to make matters worse, Kulve Taroth’s addition the game has only inflated the problem of World’s lacking gameplay loop. The armour is a once and done thing, but the RNG dependent weapons add more grind to the game at one slight problem: it’s the equivalent of charm farming except more time consuming but still as monotonous.
Arch-Tempered Kulve Taroth has remedied this slightly with better drop rates, except her new Kjarr weapons have also inflated her pool. They aren’t for anything new or to progress in something, peaking in terms of power very fast. The game’s variety also plateaus because of it, where the ability to minmax is so regimented and makes/breaks builds that you’re unable to diversify a build because decorations are so set in stone.
As for Iceborne fixing the current content problem/draught, there’s an easy enough fix and that’s adding more optional quests like the tempered Monster arena quests but expanded. Take the Tempered Monsters into the arena as a test for players and lock behind it certain drops like Hunter tools or unique drops required to finish Gamma pieces assuming they’re here to stay for Master Rank. This helps increase the diversity of the game, and because they’re optional arena quests, they don’t have to obey normal hunting expectations. But fundamentally, the game’s lack of a challenge and accessibility to kill things hinders how much a Hunter has to learn. If you’re going to keep the solo and multiplayer HP scaling, have more challenge and event quests that demand the player to either get better or group up. Personally Arch-Tempered Monsters should only have one set HP like Behemoth and Ancient Leshen, if they’re the best they should demand our best.
But that only puts a band-aid over the endgame and variety, unless Capcom gives us 66 quests in the last rank, that would be a very big band aid for content and variety (maybe). Even so, we have a loot problem. The current investigation system only feeds back to itself and doesn’t actually progress in other aspects of the game from a systems perspective. If the player is going to be showered in drops, there should also be a respective bin/sink for them and not just in Zenny. I’m talking using it for armour augmentations and having it so that Tempered Monster scales/hide/bones are required in the process. Yes it’s elongating the tail end of the game, but it helps give more meaning to the armour than just Zenny, armour spheres, and one time need of a streamstone + gem/bone.
Now for the most potentially controversial change, retooling how the current armour set bonuses work entirely, and their core function for the player. The current iteration isn’t bad, it works and has a clear advantage over the previous incarnation. But as stated, the actual ability to make mix sets has removed the need for variety. As for the “fix”, the current set bonus and how it functions is too rigid and doesn’t allow for much flexibility. Also, Master’s Touch on Drachen set has nearly wiped out the need for Teostra’s armour variant unless you needed Critical Element from the Rathalos set bonus. Rather than outright remove the skill from the set, I would like to see the generalising the skill’s availability onto either species or given to Monsters with similar attributes. Granted, World’s roster is small but the goal is to lengthen and improve on the core gameplay variety.
Let’s take Nergigante’s set bonus Hasten Recovery. That’s a skill attached to a Monster who’s known as the apex predator and a hunter at that. Using that, could keep it as a general set bonus skill that can be used on other Monster armour sets like Deviljho, another apex predator. And as a joke, Great Jagras. Yes this is niche, but the actual premise can easily be applied to other Monsters for other skills. Teostra’s Master Touch can be applied to Odogaron’s armour set, or maybe Xeno’Jiva’s Razor Sharp/Spare Shot set bonus. The biggest catch to this is how lower tier Monster armour sucks, badly.
Here’s where part two of the armour skill overhaul takes place, using the current decoration farming method, we use the tempered investigations to farm for the mysterious, glowing, worn, and warped feystones but instead of instantly appraising them, they’re a currency for upgrading and unlocking things. Using the feystones, they can be converted into decorations with the current tables (with maybe the addition to have different tables if a catalyst is used like Warrior/Hero Streamstone), or they can be recycled for other aspects. These unappraised feystones can be used to strengthen an armour’s skills (keeping the Gamma sets aside), they can be used to boost an armour pieces skill or unlock its hidden potential. This not only requires that Monster’s materials but other Monsters.
Taking the Deviljho’s Alpha set as an example, it currently doesn’t have any set bonuses and as far skills go, kinda suck: Partbreaker 3, Handicraft 3, Speed Eating 3, Latent Power 3. The biggest draw for optimisers and speedrunners is the Handicraft 3, Latent Power has niche uses but let’s focus more on the set’s fantasy element of being “Deviljho”. You can augment the armour with a streamstone to increase its defence cap, and you can also strengthen its core abilities. Taking its current skill set, an armour piece can become tailored for the player by increasing a skills’ potency. For instance, the helm has Handicraft and Latent Power. By augmenting the armour piece using the feystone (of varying qualities), you can make it Handicraft 2 or Latent Power 2. Whilst it doesn’t exactly “change” the meta it makes certain sets now more viable than they were. Also, some sets might lack in skills but by making certain skills armour set bonuses, it can bring other sets into use.
Let’s take Lunastra’s 2 Piece bonus: Stamina Cap Up. This is a set skill that is incredibly useful for bow users and has largely fallen out of favour in the meta. But to make it more usable and have more impact within general play let’s change it so that Anjanath’s 4 Piece requirement can be changed to two or it's greyed until you unlock it by feeding it materials from Lunastra. Also, some skills like Mind’s Eye can also be activated by mixing Rathalos parts as they’re both 4 Piece Set Bonus Skill. The biggest caveat to this is that the actual UI for skills can become bloated, especially given its current size and keeping it clean is a challenge.
But this system change s the feedback loop for Monster Hunting. It’s no longer just hunting the strongest (Elder Dragon) Monster, it’s about being able to make an armour set fit for purpose. Whilst the augmentation process of the armour to strengthen a set bonus is lengthening the grind, especially if you make sets for different weapons. It primarily gives players a better way to make their mark than just four piece Drachen set + X armour. As to the current state of Monster Hunter, this implementation and its potential ramifications on power creep mean little to nothing because, rather unfortunately, Hunters can just add all of the skills into a set now. On the plus side, the weapons we’re using have diversified (ignoring the fact the vast majority of the good weapons are locked behind Kulve Taroth). Whilst I doubt Capcom or the Monster Hunter team will read/see this, I thought it’d be a fun thought experiment in analysing the game’s current design and where the current armour system has been improved and falters in other areas. Do you think this would’ve helped the endgame and made it less shallow? Do you have other ideas or disagree with my thoughts? Post in the comments and maybe what you hope Iceborne adds? Until that auspicious occasion, happy hunting hunters for Iceborne.