Every new “Monster Hunter” game is an opportunity for Capcom to rein in another curious bystander who’s heard about the series, but never quite cracked why it’s so popular. “Monster Hunter Rise” is Capcom’s latest attempt — and it’s an early front-runner for best game of 2021.

Still, despite the name really describing the game’s core loop to a T, “Monster Hunter” isn’t as simple as it sounds. It’s a wonderful collage of interlocking systems that makes every hunt a rewarding, dramatic experience. “Rise” introduces a few new features — and we’ll get into those — but this guide will also touch on some “Monster Hunter” fundamentals to ease you in.

1) Choose your weapon

You have 14 weapon types, all with unique move sets and features and almost completely different from one another. No weapon is “the best,” because each weapon type will later be upgraded by the monsters parts you collect. Selecting a weapon type mostly means choosing what kind of hunter you want to be.

It’s worth testing every single weapon type in the training area of Kamura village, the hub of “Rise.” My advice is simply to choose the one that feels the most fun to use, whether you like how heavy or light it feels, how cool you look, and how much you understand the weapon. Some weapons, like the charge blade, will require a lot more training and understanding. I won’t go into how to use a charge blade here, since you practically need a doctorate for it, but I highly recommend the legion of YouTube creators in the “Monster Hunter” community.

If you want more concrete answers: The most forgiving weapons to pick up initially, in my view and going by precedents established in older games:

  • Sword and shield: Quick and easy to understand for any novice adventurer, with easy combos and strong defense
  • Longsword: Reach and power, without sacrificing too much speed
  • Dual blades: Quicker and more damage-per-second than sword and shield, with far more agility
  • Long bowgun: If you want long distance damage, the long bowgun basically turns the game into a third-person shooter

For years, I’ve relied on the channel Arekkz Gaming for my weapons guides, and they’re already beginning to upload tutorials.

2) Don’t forget to eat before every hunt

I’m not being a nanny about this, and neither is the game. Eating a meal before every hunt means you get bonus health and stamina for the rest of the mission. In “Rise,” you eat the Japanese dumpling snack dango, and you can choose a la carte up to three dumplings that will give you additional boosts, like faster weapon sharpening, some light resistance to fire damage, or even an increase to your damage.

These aren’t free meals, but the costs are so low and the gains so high that you have no excuse to skip a meal unless you’re simply going on a hunt to pick herbs or other materials, and don’t plan on fighting. You can eat meals either at the village hub or at your base camps out on the field. There’s a reason there are meal stations everywhere. If you’re going to hunt a monster, don’t skip a meal.

3) Grab the free items from the supply chest

The first thing you’ll see at the start of every mission is a supply chest. It’s filled with free potions for health, rations to refill your stamina, and some other hunting goodies like traps or tranquilizer bombs (if you’re looking to capture your prey alive for even more rewards). Don’t skip these either. It’s literally free, and even if you only end up using one of your own potions, that’s stuff you could’ve saved for later. You don’t lose anything by grabbing these at the start, so like eating, make sure to include this as part of your pre-hunt routine.

4) Single player and multiplayer quests are separated

“Monster Hunter” was a pioneer in console online gaming, a bit too ahead of its time on the fledgling PlayStation 2′s servers. But Capcom seem to devote just as much attention to the single-player experience, more so than ever before on “Rise,” with single-player monsters being significantly easier to take down than the multiplayer ones.

“Rise” separates the singleplayer and multiplayer campaigns into two different hubs and progressions. Progressing by yourself doesn’t mean you’ll be progressing in multiplayer, and vice versa, so make sure you’re doing both. The “Rise” singleplayer campaign is quite short, and will likely take you around 20 hours to complete, so it’s not a bad idea to tackle it first and gear yourself up before going online with your friends.

The great thing about “Monster Hunter” is that you can easily join your friends anytime, no matter how prepared you are, and doing so will only give you rewards you were going to need anyway.

5) Make sure you’re always doing optional quests

When accepting quests, don’t miss out on the optional quests, which basically act as small challenges that net you rewards, most notably armor spheres, which boost defense on individual armor pieces. These small quests include simple things like “pick up five herbs” or “mine 5 times” or “kill one monster” — all stuff you’re going to be doing anyway.

Some armor sets come with base defense stats, but if you want to make your prettiest set keep up with the game’s challenges, you’re going to need a lot of armor spheres. Just always remember to top off the maximum amount of accepted optional quests before going on your hunt.

6) Pick up everything

If you think a pile of bones isn’t going to net you anything good, you’re clearly new to “Monster Hunter.” Pick up everything you can.

You’ll quickly discover that every item in “Monster Hunter” has an important role: herbs to make potions, ore outcrops and bone piles for weapon upgrades and armor crafting, insects for temporary boosts that’ll last you through the hunt. And if you’re following my advice and grabbing those optional quests, picking up everything will probably complete a few of those quests, giving you more armor upgrade spheres.

“Rise” makes collecting so much easier thanks to the new Wirebug mechanic, which allows you to swing all over the map like Spider-Man, and your Palamute mount, a wolf dog creature you can ride. You can collect, carve and mine while riding your trusty canine steed too, making this deceptively arduous process easier than ever before. Like eating and grabbing your free stuff, make “picking up everything in your way” a part of your monster hunting routine.

7) When to upgrade your weapons and armor

One of the early frustrations with “Monster Hunter” is how difficult it is to tell when you’re supposed to upgrade your gear. Power progression is all in your hands, and the game really doesn’t guide you any which way, because there are simply too many paths to take.

Sadly, the best way to tell whether you need to start upgrading is when you notice that you’re fainting a lot (in “Monster Hunter” parlance, this is called “carting,” because your body is dragged off the field with a cart). There are no equipment “recipes” to find or gain here. The town blacksmith has all the know-how to upgrade your stuff, he just needs the monster parts from your kills.

My best advice is to check back with the blacksmith after every hunt to see what he offers. Chances are, you might have enough materials for a high-fire-defense chest piece that would be of great help against a fire-breathing Rathalos dragon, one of the first difficult skill checks in the game. But you’re going to want to at least consider swapping out different armor sets for different situations. Make sure to use the game’s handy feature that saves outfit setups, so you don’t have to swap out individual pieces every time.

8) Study the monster animations and movements

The only reason anyone could reasonably compare this to “Dark Souls” is that the two games have a huge emphasis on animation. When you swing, your character is committed to the full length of that animation cycle, unless they get hit. This means much of the game is about careful reading of monster movements and knowing when to strike.

Don’t be afraid to take a breather and keep some distance between you and your prey. Let them thrash about. Check for blind spots, and know when to take advantage. Don’t stress about the time limit the game gives you at the start. It’s almost always more than enough time, until you start fighting the apex predators, at least.

9) Here’s the appeal of ‘Monster Hunter’

It’s a weird bullet point in a tips guide, but part of the journey in becoming a monster hunter is playing the game and reaching the moment when it just clicks, and suddenly you understand why a company in Japan is allowing their employees to take the day off for this game’s release.

With your weapon of choice you go out and hunt monsters and you “carve” out monster parts. Returning to your home village, you use those monster parts to either make new weapons or new armor sets. These new items are often gorgeous in design, highlighting a unique feature or beauty mark of the monster you carved it from. Killing a feathery dragon enables me to create armor for my dog that makes him also look like a feathery dragon.

“Monster Hunter” games can run anywhere from 20 to well over a thousand hours of playtime thanks to all the experimentation possible with armor, weapons and how they work against different monsters. And in “Rise,” the monster parts are collected just a bit faster than in previous installments, speeding up your pipeline from a novice to an experienced hunter interested in other weapons. Starting all over again with a new weapon or new armor set has never been easier, making the endgame appeal of the game even more accessible for players.

10) Don’t forget to seek help from the community

The “Monster Hunter” community has been a long-running niche group for so long, many hunters are eager to welcome new players. Don’t be shy to ask for help in any of the dedicated subreddits and message boards. Even random games are usually very cooperative, since everyone is working toward the same goals and needs the same loot.

There are also dozens if not hundreds of YouTube channels dedicated to teaching the experience to others. I’ve already mentioned Arekkz Gaming, but here are other channels I’ve relied on:

Gaijin Hunter: Probably the most dedicated “Monster Hunter” channel, they provide the most institutional information drawn from their long history with the series

Rurikhan: Longtime creator dedicated to many different role-playing experiences, mainstream and niche

FightinCowboy: Great for completionists as he’s one of the more-skilled and thorough walk-through players on YouTube

Boomstick Gaming: Best known for being the victim of plagiarism from a now-fired IGN video editor, Boomstick offers out-of-the-box tips delivered in a very straightforward, no-nonsense format

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