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If you do most of your gaming on a PC, and as such haven't had the chance to play any of the Monster Hunter games yet, you might be interested in this PC Gamer article that tries to explain why the series' long-time fans love it so damn much and why you should be excited about Monster Hunter: World coming to your platform of choice this autumn. An excerpt:
There's a good chance that Monster Hunter's popularity and fandom has blindsided you. Unless you're entrenched in Japanese pop culture or a huge fan of handhelds like Nintendo's 3DS, Monster Hunter might seem like an obscure series made even more confusing by people wrongfully comparing it to Dark Souls (something I'm ashamed to be guilty of). But with Monster Hunter: World now out on consoles and arriving on PC this fall, the series has stepped out of its relative niche to become one of the most popular games in the West right now.
So what's the big deal? You fight giant dinosaurs with ridiculously large weapons—is that really what has people so excited? Not even close. There's so much more to Monster Hunter than meets the eye. If you're new to the series and wondering if Monster Hunter: World is for you, this primer will walk you through the basics, helping you understand why this game has a fanbase that easily rivals videogame greats like Pokémon—definitely not in size, but in passion and loyalty.
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The execution phase is where Monster Hunter truly shines. While people often liken the combat to Dark Souls because of its slow, weighted pace, it's far more akin to a basic fighting game. Each of the 14 extremely diverse weapons in Monster Hunter: World have their own combos to memorize and there's a satisfying amount of depth to how you can string those combos together.
Take the Charge Blade for example: This hybrid weapon builds power in the sword and shield mode before switching to the axe mode to unleash that power and deal obscene amounts of damage. But there's a ton of minutiae to learn. Certain attacks give you automatic blocking frames, protecting you from a surprise hit from a monster, for example. It's a stark contrast to the Dual Blades, a highly-aggressive weapon that relies solely on mobility to survive. Good Dual Blade users will have an innate understanding of invincibility frames and can read each monster's attack. And that's just two of the potential 14 weapons to master—including three ranged options.
What makes Monster Hunter so thrilling is that you're leveraging a deep combat system against monsters that are equally as deep. Each one behaves differently in battle and you'll always feel like you're struggling to keep up with their attacks. The Tzitzi-Ya-Ku has retractable frills that emit bursts of light that will stun your character if you look at them, while the Paolumu is a rat-like wyvern that inflates its neck to float around and fire bursts of pressurized air to knock you down.
When attacking, you need to be smart about where to focus your damage. Every monster has weak spots and organs that can be destroyed, limiting their abilities while also providing extra materials for armor crafting. The Rathian, for example, has a deadly tail-swipe that inflicts poison, so chopping off its tail is always a good idea.
Because these are actual creatures and not just treasure-protecting bosses, monsters will frequently flee combat if they take too much damage. It sounds annoying, but you'll be thankful for the breather. Each fight is like a boxing match, and the pauses in between rounds provide a necessary moment to heal or eat food to regain stamina. Weapons become dull the more you use them, eventually bouncing off a monster's tough hide. Finding a moment to sharpen your blade is always tough.
What's fascinating about this is that, like Pokémon, players begin to develop a deeply personal relationship with certain monsters the more they fight them. Each one is so distinct, so packed full of personality, that they ascend beyond mere videogame bosses and become something more. Like a real hunter, you quickly learn to respect these creatures.
That's where the preparation phase leading up to these fights becomes so necessary. To even the playing field, you might equip armor that grants you a resistance to being stunned or you might use a weapon that deals slashing damage so you can destroy the Tzitzi's flash-frills. If you're playing with a party, you'll coordinate to lay traps. One player using a bow might hit the Paolumu with sleep arrows while another lays barrel bombs at its head for a rude awakening.
You might be wondering if there's any point to killing these monsters beyond the mere satisfaction of doing so, which leads us to probably the best part of Monster Hunter. If you're a sucker for good-looking armor, Monster Hunter is unparalleled.