Monster Hunter has until recently been a fairly niche series in the West, but the latest entry, Monster Hunter World, looks set to change that with its leap to current-gen home consoles and PC. PS4 players have been given the chance to play the game early – following on from the PS Plus beta earlier this month, there’s currently an open beta running until 5 PM on Boxing Day. With that in mind, here are some handy hints for players who are new to the world of monster hunting.

1) Learn your weapon’s moveset…

While it might be tempting to jump straight into one of the three quests on offer in the beta, it’s a better idea to spend some time in the training area first to try out the 14 different weapon classes on offer. Each one handles very differently, so it’s worth taking the time to figure out which one you like the feel of and get to know its various combos and abilities.

One of the easiest to get the hang of quickly is the Long Sword, which offers some simple, fluid combos which you should be able to master fairly quickly. It’s also one of the more mobile weapons, giving you an easier time avoiding attacks once you head out on the hunt for real.

2) …then learn the monster’s

There’s no shame in running away from a monster while you learn its attacks

If you’re facing a monster for the first time, rather than running straight in and blindly flailing your improbably massive weapon at it, take a while to learn its attack patterns. By far one of the most useful skills in Monster Hunter is being able to use visual cues to work out what your target is about to do next and react accordingly. Learning when and how a monster is going to attack and how to avoid it not only has the obvious benefit of keeping you alive, it also means you can reposition yourself to get some sneaky hits in – if the monster takes a while to recover its footing after an attack, that’s your opportunity to jump in and bring the pain.

3) Keep sharpness in mind

One of the key stats in MH is sharpness. If you’re a Blademaster (melee hunter), as you land hits your weapon will gradually lose sharpness, indicated by the sword-shaped meter underneath your health and stamina. As your sharpness falls beneath certain thresholds, the meter will change colour to indicate it’s gone down a level. As well as reducing your weapon’s damage output, you’ll also find that a blunt weapon will start to bounce off harder areas of the monster’s body, interrupting your combos and sending you into a stumble that leaves you vulnerable to attacks.

The sword-shaped bar below the stamina meter slowly depletes as your weapon loses sharpness

To remedy this, you’ll need to use a Whetstone, handily accessible from the new radial item menu. Sharpening your weapon takes a good few seconds and you won’t be able to move until it’s done, so wait until your target is moving to a new area or is distracted by your Palico or fellow hunters.

Certain special attacks ignore weapon sharpness/monster hardness and cut through regardless

It’s also worth bearing in mind that even at maximum sharpness, your attacks might still end up bouncing off particularly tough monster bits – in the beta, for instance, even the sharpest weapon won’t ordinarily cut through the Barroth’s rocky head crest. There’s still a way around this though – certain special attacks ignore weapon sharpness/monster hardness and cut through regardless. If you’re determined to crack the Barroth’s noggin, try using the Long Sword’s Spirit attacks, the Switch Axe’s sword form, the Charge Blade’s axe swings or the Hammer’s fully charged spin attack. Or alternatively, pick up a Bow or Bowgun and blast away to your heart’s content.

4) Make the most of status effects

One of the best things about Gunner weapons – Bows, Light Bowguns and Heavy Bowguns – is the range of status effects they can inflict using their special coatings/ammunition. Simply apply the relevant coating or ammo and fire away, and once you’ve hit the monster with it enough the effect will take hold. Poison and paralysis are fairly obvious in their use, the former dealing damage over time and the latter stopping the monster from moving for a short while to let you get in a flurry of attacks uninterrupted.

Load your Bowgun with special ammo to quickly inflict status effects

Sleep, on the other hand, has a less obvious use. Once a monster’s fallen asleep, the next attack to hit it (and wake it up) will deal triple the damage. The best way to make use of this is to plant two Large Barrel Bombs next to it, run out of the blast zone and then set them off with your slinger – if you’re using a Light Bowgun and can plant some mines in the same spot, even better. This also applies to when a monster falls asleep naturally to recover its health once it’s nearly dead, meaning that if it limps off to its nest for a kip you can land a potentially fatal blow with little effort.

The other major status effect is K.O, which functions similarly to Paralysis in temporarily stunning the monster to let you get some free hits in. This is caused by hitting the monster in the head with impact attacks; whack it in the face enough times and it will start staggering around with stars circling around its head for a few seconds.

Every time you successfully inflict a status effect, the monster’s resistance to it will increase

The main weapons to inflict this with are the Hammer, Hunting Horn and Charge Blade (using the axe form’s phial attacks), although other weapons have certain attacks which deal impact damage, such as the Great Sword’s shoulder barge or the Sword and Shield’s shield bash.

There is a small caveat with status effects in that every time you successfully inflict one, the monster’s resistance to it will increase and it’ll be harder to inflict again. This also applies to mounting monsters, so unless you’re using the Insect Glaive with its handy pole vault, don’t focus too much on aerial attacks if you’ve already toppled your target a few times.

5) Teamwork makes the dream work

Multiplayer has always been at the heart of Monster Hunter, and World is no exception. Not only is teaming up with friends to smash dinosaurs in the face a hell of a lot of fun, it also makes killing said dinosaurs much easier. That said, there are a few things to bear in mind when playing online.

First, it helps to try and keep your weapons varied – every weapon has its pros and cons, so by using more you can cover more bases. For instance, you could combine an Insect Glaive (for easy mounting and toppling), a Light/Heavy Bowgun (to inflict status effects), a Hammer for K.Os and a Great Sword for raw damage. While having a variety of roles isn’t essential as in other RPGs (it’s hard to argue with the killing efficiency of four swords that make Dwayne Johnson look like a midget), it can help to make things easier. In particular, a Hunting Horn can really tip the scales – the buffs from its songs affect everyone on the team, meaning you can transform your party into an unstoppable four-man army if you hit the right notes.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be slaying the fearsome Anjanath in no time

It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on where your teammates are when you’re attacking the monster. There’s nothing more annoying than perfectly lining up a charge attack only to be sent flying by a stray Switch Axe swing, so try to space out rather than all attacking the same spot to avoid interrupting each others’ attacks. On the other hand, getting hit can have its uses – certain attacks like the Switch Axe or Great Sword’s upward swings can send fellow hunters soaring upwards. This can allow them to get in a sneaky aerial attack, helping them to mount the monster (it’s probably best to make sure your teammate knows the plan before sending them skyward, though).

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