I'm new to Monster Hunter. I played one of the PSP games years ago for a couple of hours but was left without a clue, and that was it. I was scared of Monster Hunter as a result. It was one of those long-running series renowned for being hardcore. Would I be able to get into it? I knew people said Monster Hunter World was the most accessible yet, but when they spoke Monster Hunter it sounded like a different language to me. I didn't really want to read guide after guide after guide if I could help it. What I wanted was a friend who knew Monster Hunter to show me the ropes, but I didn't have that so what could I do?
I could be adopted. Not full-on adopted but Monster Hunter adopted. You see there's a service out there for timid Monster Hunters like me, who want to break into the series with the help of a friendly hand. A service offering personal mentors to coach people through the game. Mentors to be on-call to answer questions and group with you. A service called Adopt-a-Hunter, and it's free.
Adopt-a-Hunter is a community endeavour with a website but its beating heart is Discord. All you need to do is put your name down as a novice (or a veteran if you think that's you) and eventually you will be paired with a veteran. Then you begin.
Don't worry, it's not boot camp. You're not signing on for a rigorous training regime of X unmissable sessions a week. It's a much more laid back pairing between two people. Really what you're gaining is advice and a helping hand if and when you need it - a live guide rather than a static webpage, so to speak.
I didn't ask for a lot of help to begin with. The game was doing such a good job of teaching the basics I was plodding along fine. I was answering other people's multiplayer SOS calls for help and progressing from monster to monster. Did I even need a mentor at all? There were always online guides if I needed help. It wasn't until after I plucked up the courage to fight alongside my mentor I realised my error.
What I hadn't considered, and this was crucial, was the incidental question. The kind of question which springs to mind but doesn't stay in mind. The "Oh how does that work by the way?" kind of question. Something not important enough to consult an online guide about and not important enough for a guide to answer. But the countless bobbly bits of braille felt while playing, which, when understood, unlock a whole new understanding of the game.
I underestimated the value of having someone there in person showing their working, too. The people I grouped with before never explained what they were doing or why, but now I had a chance to study someone else's mission preparation, someone else's tracking and fighting style - and I had someone else to study mine. I was learning many tiny lessons I wouldn't have known to pinpoint before, and my skill and confidence were growing.
I enjoyed the company, not to mention having someone experienced and communicative to fight alongside me. There are bottleneck fights in Monster Hunter World, and while they may differ from person to person, the Anjanath seems to come up time and time again. It was a fight which had been frustrating for me after a few failed SOS attempts, but became a pleasure with my Monster Hunter mentor, and the same was true of many fights after.
Tip by tip the game demystified around me. I learnt about having tricks up my sleeve to debilitate monsters so I could hammer their faces into the mud. I learnt about plants I could eat to nullify afflictions monsters spat out at me, and I ironed out what felt like a million misgivings about one system or another. And my enjoyment of Monster Hunter World rose steadily.
What I was getting out of the arrangement was obvious, but I wondered about the other end of the bargain: what were the veterans getting out of it?
"I love this series, I've been playing it for a long time," my mentor told me when I asked. "I enjoy helping other people ease into it." I'm his first novice by the way - he only signed up, like so many others, in the weeks running up to Monster Hunter World's release - but he doesn't seem put off. "You could class it as a 'responsibility', and I did feel this when I signed up, but I've come to realise the more fun you have, the less pressure there is. All I'm doing is playing my favourite game with someone and giving them tips."
I ask around the Adopt-a-Hunter Discord channel and the message is unequivocally the same. "It absolutely does get in the way of my own progress but I enjoy helping them and hearing those moments when they are like 'oh this is really difficult!' and then you watch them triumph," says another veteran. "It's usually followed by 'you did all the work!', and then you say to them 'no not really - you just got better and did it yourself, we did equal work', and poof!, they have the addiction. It really is its own reward."
There are 450 veterans in the Adopt-a-Hunter Discord channel and only half as many novices. It's a ratio which speaks volumes: this community is tripping over itself to help newcomers into the series - how lovely is that?
The genius of Monster Hunter World is it never punishes people for helping those below them in terms of game progression. Not only is the combat loop endlessly satisfying but the looted rewards are always usable and worthwhile, no matter how big the gap. Plus, you never know, maybe you'll train a novice who will become a veteran and a partner in endgame fights - I heard that a few times from veterans too.
With Adopt-a-Hunter I not only have a friendly helping hand available but an enormous active community discussing every aspect of a complex game. There are plenty of other veterans willing to help me, too, as well as group with each other, so everybody seems to benefit. It's exactly the community and following I found daunting before I began. It's as if they've longed for a way to spread the word of a series they've loved for so many years and now finally they've found it, and Monster Hunter's world is all the brighter for them.