With many people having a lot of extra time on their hands these days, for various reasons, I‘ve gotten asked quite regularly what I‘ve been playing. I‘ve played a few games over the last few months, including things like Final Fantasy VII: Remake. But there’s one game that I‘ve largely used as my answer. One game that I‘ve played for nearly 250 hours since April. One game that I was certain I‘d get bored of far before now… One game that just keeps pulling me farther in… Monster Hunter World.
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My first experience with Monster Hunter was with the original game, ten plus years ago. I played up to the point where you have to steal a Rathalos egg a few hours in, and couldn’t finish that quest no matter how hard I tried. I thought I was supposed to be hunting monsters, not doing chores.
After Monster Hunter World came out, I played that for around 18 hours solo, before getting kind of bored. I was bored with the fact that it felt like a button masher, and that the game didn’t seem concerned with changing that mindset with proper tutorialization. Tutorials were there, but as I would learn later, most of the teaching and info shared in-game is anemic at best. Still an improvement over the first game’s two and a half hours of fetch quests, but not good. This video isn’t about how terrible MH World is at teaching players and explaining itself, but keep that in mind going forward. Nearly everything I talk about had to be learned from outside sources because the in-game resources were inadequate.
Instead, this video is about something Monster Hunter World does well that I don’t see anyone really discussing much. Monster Hunter World has probably the fairest and respectful grind I’ve seen in a game that’s predicated on grinding. I’m someone who -like many, I’m sure- is pretty allergic to grinding. I think grinds should nearly always be optional. Leave repetitive chore duty to the people interested in it. But it can be remarkably difficult for games to get the balance right, particularly in games that expect players to grind, like live service titles.
Monster Hunter World is a game that defies normal game design conventions. It’s a game predicated on a grind aimed at keeping players playing… and yet it’s a game that has almost never felt like a grind. There are really three core pillars that allow this to be the case, based on how they were designed.
Mechanical Depth, Grind Design, and Rewards.
Despite what the first 20 hours or so made me feel, the game is indeed incredibly deep, varied, rewarding, and balanced in most ways. Once you’ve watched some of Arekkz Gaming’s weapon tutorials and chosen a weapon, the game becomes anything but a button masher. Each weapon is extremely varied in design, practicality, and rhythm, to the point where every weapon type almost feels like its own game in terms of playstyle. This by itself would probably keep most people going for a long while, even if the grind was awful.
Thankfully, the weapon category isn’t the only choice you’ll make. As you play, more and more choices compound on each other to create a sense of layered strategy, which can make coming up with builds incredibly rewarding. You can design your own playstyle around armor abilities, decorations, your Palico gadget of choice, your own similar tool slots, what food you choose to eat before a hunt, the sharpness of your weapon, whether it’s blunt or severing, the consumables you’ll bring in, whether you’re slaying or capturing the monster, what environment the hunt is in, and even any dedicated friends you may hunt with. The list is enormous. You’re never short on different ways to tackle a hunt.
Again, this would get you pretty far on its own. But a lengthy, uninspired grind is still lengthy and uninspired. So what does World do with the actual grinding itself to keep you engaged and progressing instead?
The core of what makes MH World’s grind so special is the design ethos Capcom has employed in the core progression of the game. Instead of filtering players down one of a couple of select lanes to grind through until their brain falls out, Capcom has chosen to spread the grind out into as many avenues as possible. They never really put a grind behind a mandatory wall of RNG that you can’t manipulate, nor down a long hallway of steps, you can’t expedite.
Firstly, the game limits itself to two core currencies that are used in everything. That’s just enough so that undue pressure isn’t put on earning a single currency, but not so much that the player’s earnings are spread too thin. Zenny is largely used for buying armor and upgrading weapons, as well as purchasing consumables. Research points likewise are used for upgrading your Palico’s equipment, sending out Tailrider Safari’s, fertilizing the Harvest Box, Melding, and buying things from the Argosy. There are no microtransactions to skip earning these currencies, which means the game isn’t built to slow you down to encourage spending real money. These currencies are not difficult to come by, and as long as you’re not spending them completely frivolously, you should always have enough to move forward when you want to.
That’s important because while there are a ton of things to make progress in while playing Monster Hunter World, one stands above them all as the central goal for every hunter… making new equipment. You could honestly play through the game doing almost nothing but hunting for new equipment, and the game would fundamentally feel the same. You hunt to gain materials. You use those materials to make better equipment, which allows you to hunt tougher monsters. And then you use the materials from said tougher monsters to repeat the process. You do not level up in Monster Hunter in the traditional sense. Your character is always the same. What changes is the equipment you’re using.
This might naturally lead one to assume it’s necessary to grind out each monster one by one. But that’s thankfully not the case. It’s not necessary to gather the Jagras equipment, then the Kulu-Ya-Ku equipment, then the Pukei-Pukei equipment in a linear fashion in order to stand a chance against the next monster. Armor and weapons are spread between rarity ranks, meaning a lot of them are similar in general defenses. So as you play, your focus is on picking and choosing which equipment you want to chase. It’s less about raw stats, and more about abilities, elements, sharpness, etc. If you want the Anjanath armor set and the Barroth greatsword, you simply hunt Anjanath and Barroth for the required materials. And you can also use Armor Spheres to upgrade the basic defenses of equipment as well, allowing even early armor in a given Rank to stay relevant if that’s what you want.
In terms of how you’ll be hunting these monsters, the player has a few types of quests they can undertake, with an endless amount of modifiers and quirks to keep them interesting.
Assigned quests are the most straightforward. These are story missions. You do them once, and then never again. Generally, once you finish an Assigned quest, you gain access to a similar Optional one. If you capture the monster, you can gain the ability to fight it in the Special Arena, where there are unique traps to speed things up, and the monster doesn’t need to be tracked, nor can it run away. Optional quests also include many other variations though, like quests for NPCs which will change the context in which a hunt takes place. Maybe this Anjanath is really large, or you need to hunt two monsters back to back.
Event quests are similar to Optionals, but they usually have much more quirky design and can come with even more unique rewards, along with the usual spoils of the hunt. This is where you can find stuff like the crossover quests with DMC, Final Fantasy, or The Witcher. Some monsters can include remixed features, like the Greatest Jagras hunt, which is a massive Great Jagras that hits extremely hard but vomits feystones everywhere, allowing the player to grind for equipment decorations extremely easily. I like to wrap Special Assignments into this category as well since they’re more or less the same thing, but generally much tougher.
Each of these sections -some more than others- gives the player many different ways to tackle the same monster. Want to fight a monster you find particularly tough? Maybe look for an optional where you’re hunting that monster and another one you find much easier back to back. Why? Because the more monsters you’re fighting in a single hunt, the less health they each have. Less health means you have a better chance of surviving against the tougher monster. You could also look for hunts that include that monster, which gives special rewards you might want so that you can double up on the value of your earnings. Or what about trying to find a hunt in an alternate location that works better with your build? The hammer for example has an incredibly powerful jump attack, which can be used to great effect in places like Elder’s Recess thanks to its abundant ledges and hills. So maybe see if you can hunt your monster there.
All of this would be pretty great already if it wasn’t for the last category in the quest board… a category that likely goes underutilized by many players because they don’t fully understand it. The Investigation category is a fantastic alternative to normal Optional hunts and Events, which affords the player a much greater chance of getting rare materials, with different limitations imposed on each Investigation. In one Investigation you might only be allowed to faint once instead of three times, while in another you might have half the amount of time to finish, or maybe the monster might even be Tempered, meaning it’ll hit significantly harder and have more health. These quests still offer normal rewards, as you would expect. But what makes Investigations stand out is that they also offer the player a handful of special reward slots, which offer exponentially higher chances at rare materials.
Take Rathalos Rubies for an example. There are several ways to get these. You have a 1% chance of obtaining one if you capture a Rathalos, carve its body, or break its back. There’s a 2% chance when carving its tail and a 3% chance for breaking its head. That means at best, the drop rate for one of these specific actions is a 1/33 chance of getting a Ruby, and at worst it’s 1/100. You can fulfill multiple of these requirements in a single fight, but it’s impossible to do them all. Hammers can’t cut off tails, for example, meaning a tail carve is impossible without joining an ally who has a severing weapon.
However, Investigation rewards massively improve these odds. Let’s say you find an Investigation where you have to slay a tempered Rathalos, which gives you three silver bonus rewards, and two gold bonus rewards. This not only means all of the normal drop chances apply across your regular spoils, but every silver bonus affords you a 6% chance of dropping the Ruby, and every gold has a 13% chance. This means you roughly have three 1/16 chances to get it from the silver bonuses, and two 1/7 chances from the gold bonuses, on top of your normal breaks and carves.
I’ll reiterate really quickly that the core problem is that the game doesn’t explain any of this to you directly. A simple solution would be to add drop rates to the bestiary as your research level goes up.
Once you understand Investigations, it and all of the other quest options provide enormous variety and rather excellent drop chances for basically all materials. All of this would be fine if the game stopped there. It might feel a bit limited and stark, but overall the player would have enough avenues for progression to keep the time-wasting Grind Goblin away. But impressively, Monster Hunter World just keeps going.
Footprints and other evidence of monsters not only give players research points to spend, but they can occasionally give you monster materials. Melding allows the player to turn items cluttering your inventory into other items or materials you might need. The Plunderblade Palico gadget allows your Palico to carve a lot of extra materials from the monster as you fight. Tailrider Safari allows the player to sent out a search party to collect materials from specific areas, flora, and fauna. The Argosy is similar, and with both this and Tailrider Safari’s, the player has some control over which types of items may appear.
The player also has the option to answer SOS Flares, or join the quests of random people if they leave the quest open. This can be a great way to speed up hunting while also helping struggling players. And you can use the same system yourself to occasionally get the help of extremely powerful characters to dominate monsters in minutes.
Lucky Vouchers are another mechanic which doubles the Zenny you get from hunts, give you more rewards at the end of the hunt, and slightly raise the
chance of obtaining rare rewards. These vouchers are obtained as login bonus, and you can carry up to five at a time. If you already have the max amount of vouchers, up to five more will be stored up until you use your current ones, meaning they don’t go to waste like in many other games.
All of this means you’re never left wanting for a different way to collect the necessary materials, and therefore never left grinding a single quest like it’s an MMO raid boss.
The game also has no shortage of ways to make the most use out of your materials when you have finally obtained them. Firstly and arguably most importantly, the game allows you to roll back most weapon upgrades, giving you all of your materials back. This means the only permanent cost for most weapon upgrades is the Zenny you spend. On top of this, branches in weapon trees generally require the same materials across all weapon types. So you can even revert a greatsword or whatever to get the materials back, and then use those materials to immediately make a hammer of the same rarity and type, with no additional cost beyond the Zenny.
While armor isn’t put in upgrade trees, and therefore can’t be rolled back in the same way, you can use Armor Spheres to upgrade it, as previously stated. And both armor and weapons can eventually be Augmented, to continue to personalize and refine them. Armor and weapons also rarely require materials from multiple monsters, meaning your hunts can stay focused. And even when they use materials from the same monster, each weapon upgrade or piece of armor usually requires mostly different materials. So instead of needing five Jagras skins for each piece, one piece of armor or might require five skins, then another requires five fangs, then another three claws. This way you can potentially get drops for multiple weapon upgrades and armor pieces in a single fight.
Abilities can either be gained through armor, or through decorations you can slot into armor. And most armor sets have an Alpha and a Beta version, with one having more inherent abilities, and one having more slots for decorations to put your own abilities in. And while some armor sets will offer set bonuses for wearing many pieces of the set, you can mix and match armor sets however you want. You can also Meld unwanted decorations into new ones if you need.
The game might seem like it’s predicated on min/maxing to succeed, but that too is optional. Skilled and strategic play lets you play how you want. I for example run a hammer with the Tigrex armor set, meaning I get a massive boost to my ability to heal and buff, and can also heal and buff allies at the same time. With my decorations and equipment I can heal almost instantly, put my weapon away faster to get to my healing in the first place, allies get 100% of the healing and buffs I give to myself, and I have a 75% chance of not losing a consumable when I use it.
The hammer meanwhile is a weapon that focuses on knocking monsters out and breaking parts, rather than severing, using elements, or status effects. It’s moderately quick, and deals high damage, but requires some finesse to use well thanks to its short range. There are a lot of things to keep in mind with this weapon, including keeping your hammer buffed to increase damage, KO, and flinch resistance. More than arguably any other weapon, the hammer is also designed to take advantage of the environment, with an insane spin attack on offer when you slide downhills, and a ledge hopping attack that is both great for massive raw damage, KO, break damage, and mounting damage when used correctly. And the high attack stat of hammers pairs incredibly well with things like the Affinity Sliding ability which boosts critical hit chance by 30% after sliding, and Airborne, which boosts jumping attack damage by 30%.
All of this combined means that I’m more or less in a dedicated team healer and support role. I don’t attack particularly frequently against more aggressive monsters, but when I do, I hit like a truck, specialize in mounting, knocking the monster out, and breaking armor. It’s enjoyable to play like this, but it’s also not an absolute requirement to succeed. It’s just the way I choose to play. I can say for certain that people firing off SOS Flares certainly appreciate it though.
Again, the thing that makes World’s grind not feel like a grind, is that it spreads its options for grinding out so that there is always a multitude of ways to go about achieving your goals and utilizing your rewards. Yes, it requires a lot of learning obtuse systems and rules to reach that point, which is why I think an experienced player serving as a guide is necessary for most new players to get the most out of the game. But it never just outright says “If you want this hyper rare weapon with this even more rare, randomized stat configuration, you’d better do this one mission thirty or forty times and hope it eventually drops.”
Early on my friends and I were bummed about the fact that you couldn’t share materials. We did insanely stupid stuff, like completing an arena fight against several Odogarons upwards of fifteen times, just so that we could all get the drops we wanted. We thought that was efficient, so it sucked when someone got two or three Odogaron Gems, and nobody else got a single one. It was a running joke for like 20 hours that one of us was desperately looking for a Wyvern Gem, while everyone else who didn’t need one was finding them semi-regularly. But once we learned the systems, we realized that a depressing mindset wasn’t necessary. We had options that ensured we were honestly never more than just a fight or two away from having all the materials we could need.
If my count is correct, there are 69 monsters currently in World if you include Iceborne Even the reskinned monsters provide value, with core moves being added or altered in ways that drastically change how you approach the fights. At a certain point, there are so many monsters to fight that it never really gets boring to fight the same monster for the thirtieth time, because it’s probably been hours and hours of playtime since you last fought them. Along the way, they almost become characters of their own, and we regularly gave them personalities and nicknames based on our experiences. Angie (Anjanath) is always butting in on fights she doesn’t belong in and trying to assert her dominance. She’s a regular Karen.
Nerd Gigante (Nergigante) thinks he’s super tough, but he’s generally better at falling over than actually being a threat.
We’ve got the not so great, Great Jargass (Great Jagras), Koo Koo Kachoo (Kulu-Ya-Ku), Pookie Pookie (Pukei-Pukei), MooMoo (Paolumu), Rat-Dog (Odogaron), Nickelodeon Slime (Brachydios), Deviled Eggs (Deviljho), the more powerful Salad and Deviled Eggs (Savage Deviljho), Frugal Anjanath (Fulgur Anjanath), Barnaby (Banbaro) and so many others that carry a fondness for their unique mechanical and aesthetic designs, as well as the memories we created while fighting them. And that wouldn’t have happened if the game was more about repetition and raw playtime on the development side.
If I were to try and summarize what makes Monster Hunter World’s grind uniquely a positive, special experience, it would go something like this:
Monster Hunter World’s grind is not about collecting absolutely every piece of gear. It’s not about building the absolute best, min-max setup, or reaching some arbitrary max level. It’s about getting the equipment you want; equipment that resonates with you, and then finding the ways you can make the most of it. While not perfect, it’s a game whose grind includes all of the best pieces of longterm progression, without wasting your time… without the grind.
But what d’you guys think? I’m sure a lot of you have played Monster Hunter World. Do you enjoy how its grind is built? Did you know about how effective half of these options were for streamlining progression? How does it compare to your favorite grind in another game? Sound off below, and I’ll see you next time!
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