If you're like me, then you like to watch gameplay videos of weapons on Youtube before committing to a weapon. You'll see a weapon like Dual Blades attack the legs of a monster and topple it quickly to unload on it's head. You'll see the Heavy Bowgun permanently stagger a monster with minimum effort. You'll see the Bow finish a monster in under two minutes. Then you'll get excited to do the same, create a new game and pick the weapon, only to find out that is not how it actually plays.
Most players will spend a majority of their time progressing through the game and once reaching end game, grind for a bit before moving on to a new game. Well this is for you, these are things videos don't mention about the weapons in their videos or things they don't record because they aren't fun to watch.
I'm the type of player that starts a new game each time I start a new weapon. I immediately lose interest picking up a new weapon in master rank and skipping the progression, because the progression is what this game is about. Below I'll talk about my experience from doing research on the weapons before picking them and my experience going through the game, progressing through Master Rank with said weapon. Please feel free to add in your experiences in the comments as well, but honestly knowing this sub reddit it's just going to be veterans picking one thing they dislike about this post and trashing the whole post.
These experiences will be exclusively solo, as I find playing with random people on multiplayer does not contribute to the fun of the hunt. It will also be without using Defender Armor or Weapons. The Defender set completely invalidates 40-60 hours of gameplay progressing through LR and HR and I'd highly recommend not using it. If you do you'll be doing far more damage than you should and will be basically immortal.
I'm also the type of player that likes to topple monsters before I have the gear to do so. Taking on Rathalos in the HR2 find Mushrooms quest before Great Jagras. Taking on Diablos in the Jyrutodas quest. Taking on the Barioth in the first expedition he shows up.
The Heavy Bowgun is seen as one of the easiest weapons. You can permanently stagger a monster with it and end fights super quickly. When starting a new game, nothing is further from the truth for this weapon. It is probably one of the hardest weapons to start fresh with.
You'll be lacking the modifications in LR, it's recommended you take shield for your first two or three modifications since you won't have guard on your gear. That means reloading will be dangerous and your kills will be slower due to the high recoil. However you won't cart as often and without Evade Extender/Window you can't reliably dodge out of the way of every attack, unless you're so experienced you don't need this guide.
You'll lack the materials to make level 3 ammo, which isn't a big deal as level 2 is more effective until you get better gear. The vendor will sell most of the level 2 ammo that you need, or the materials needed to craft it.
Low Rank isn't too bad, Wyvernheart is your best friend. Tenderize a monsters head, drop a pitfall trap or slam it into the wall and unload your Wyvernheart. It will save you ammo and massively speed up your kills. Use traps offensively!
Sticky, Piercing, Slicing, Wyvern and Cluster Bombs are your friends in LR and early HR. Spread is far too risky without gear to back it up and normal is just too slow. Comboing traps with Wyvern and Knockdowns/Staggers with Clusters will speed up kills a ton when Wyvernheart is reloading.
High Rank is where things get a lot more difficult. You won't have the damage the stagger monsters nearly at all. You can't guard without a ton of chip damage. Evading is difficult since at most you can have 1 Evade Extender at this point. You'll likely struggle through most of HR, especially on the elder dragons like Nergigante. Once you get a proper set, things start getting better. If you spent time farming the proper gear before entering MR, then things will be pretty relaxed in MR. It will take some getting use to the new monster speeds and aggression, but staggering is back on the menu and once you reach Nargacuga things become easier and easier until they are just as easy as they are in the videos.
Lance is a comfortable weapon in low rank. You take some heavy chip damage from guarding, and if you're going to take on Rathalos early on you'll need to dodge quite a bit of attacks or use the environment to disable him. The waterfall, flashbugs, mounting, tail chopping, paralyze toads ect. You can pretty much kill Rathalos before he gets a chance to attack you back even with a low level weapon. Early Diablos is the easiest fight ever. Counter claw his digs and Guard everything else.
The fact that you are constantly on the monster, almost never stop attacking makes this an extremely fast weapon in Low and High Rank for kill speeds.
You CANNOT charge until basically high rank. If your weapon is yellow sharpness a charge will bounce off anything it hits, including small monsters. It's frustrating as that's an important tool for lance. You won't get comfortable levels of green sharpness until High Rank. Bouncing on Lance just feels horrible.
High Rank was really easy as well, build up Guard to level 3 as fast as you can. Master your counter claw and don't get greedy with the counter guards. Pray to the RNG gods you find a Guard Up decoration. Work towards Guard 5 for maximum Comfy, but Guard 3 will work for much of content, especially if you have Guard Up.
Running Guard 5 on the Elder Dragons will make them nice and comfy, even without Guard Up. Lunastra might be a headache, but keep poking away at her face staying close to her body and you'll wear her down.
Master Rank if you don't have a Guard Up things will start to get dicey. Barioth will be the first fight where you'll feel not having that Guard Up. Long range breath weapon attacks will punish you hard. After Barioth it's smooth sailing until the explosive kangaroo. If you haven't gotten a Guard Up at this point this fight will be difficult. His explosions will not only bypass your guard, it will knock you down as well. He will chunk your health. Then Velkana will be by far the hardest fight you've experienced. She spams long range breath attacks that just punish you. You do have the mobility to dodge them, but unless you're comfortable quickly shifting and leaping sideways it won't be an easy fight.
If you do have Guard Up and Guard 5, it's a super comfortable weapon all through the game. Especially once you get a Health Augment. Use the Vigorwasp Palico Gadget until then to make life easier.
You'll likely notice the damage falling off about halfway through Master Rank and the kill timers going up compared to other weapons. It's still a pretty fast weapon, but if you've played others you'll start to feel the kills dragging on.
Hunting Horn is a nice solo weapon. I would not recommend it for beginners are the playstyle is about waiting for the enemy to attack, dodging that attack while also positioning near the head, the judging whether you have time to counter attack or not. If you do immediately deciding the best type of counter attack, which is usually one of three swings. Then aiming that swing so it lands on the head, canceling the recovering animation with a roll that puts you in a safe spot for the next enemy attack or a second swing if you get a stagger.
Early on songs feel soooo short and sharpness is a HUGE issue. The strongest Hunting Horn is the bone, which stays yellow sharpness all the way to the end of high rank where you replace it with the Dodogama Hunting Horn. Now Hunting Horn has a song that prevents bouncing, but song duration is super short without level 2 Maestro. If you're the type of player that can keep a monster from retreating so you don't have to chase it down, your songs WILL run out and your sharpness will be near 0.
If you don't mind reapplying songs several times in a fight, then this is a good weapon. The kill speed is entirely based on player SKILL. The better you are at dodging the more attack windows you find yourself having and the more attacks you have the faster the fight. The damage isn't that bad. The fights feel good, especially Diablos and Rathalos who just crumble to this weapon. The first fight that felt awful was Deviljho. The fight feels like because he doesn't have very many windows to attack safely and most of the time you can't reach his head. It's also a long fight and due to the crappy sharpness of the bone weapon and the short duration of the songs I'd have to bring Whetfish Scales just to take him down in a timely manner.
Funny enough Zorah Mag also felt awful. Now this fight is super easy, and I've done it a million times and hate it. I feel pressured to break all 4 cores and knock all 5 pillars down. Unfortunately due to the low damage of hunting horn it's an extremely tight window to do so. I've actually died to the cores because I'm use to them dying after the second explosion, not the third or fourth. That was just stubborness of not wanting to heal than anything.
Master rank felt awful with this weapon. The windows are so much smaller for the first like 3 minutes of a fight until the monster starts to get tired. Every fight felt like it was dragging on and I had to constantly apply songs. The only options for Horn Maestro didn't feel good to equip, which you should anyway but they are slots I like to use for other more comfy skills. Once you get damage skills, the standard crit line and agitator this weapon feels much better. Throw in a slugger as well and you'll be the topple king. This thing has insane spike damage with the Echo Waves, but there are so few fights where you can get a full Echo Wave combo in. Best way to do so is to lay a trap near a monster after it's knocked down and when it gets up it immediately steps into it while you're mid Echo Wave explosion.
The videos will show this weapon as one of the faster speed killing weapons. You won't experience that… ever. Starting off it's absolutely awful. I feel like you can get faster kills using rocks from a slinger. The entirety of this weapon is based on stamina and decorations lots. Neither of which you have early on. You'll barely get 3 charged shots in before running out of stamina and taking a counter attack from the monster early on until Medium Meals are unlocked.
Don't really have any tips for this weapon early on. Maybe spam the rock skills for a stagger and Dragon Piercer. The kills are super slow. It feels unsafe. I wasn't actually able to kill Rathalos before he left the area with this weapon at HR2. Even in High Rank it doesn't get much better. You need specific kills for Bow to get strong, many of which you need certain decorations to achieve all of. Do everything you can to maximize stamina, craft some Dash Juices, bring extra power coatings. You can stagger monsters easy by spamming rocks, but it's not the most efficient playstyle. Dragon Piercer and the new clutch claw attack are nice at this level.
Once you have the decorations and skills it feels great. You feel like Legolas sliding around, dealing crazy damage, staggering. It's a long grind to get there and you won't see it come together until after Xeno Jiva. Then Master Rank you'll have to do it allll over again, feeling the same lapse of power until once point you feel like the strongest thing ever.
Sword and Shield
This weapon feels great throughout the entirety of the game. There are only two fights all the way until the end of Master Rank that felt bad. The first was Deviljho. He's the first monster you fight that's so big the only thing you can hit is his legs. You can't even reach the weak spot on his chest. At the point you first encounter him, after Pink Rathian, you won't have the gear to topple him. You'll need to get some lucky mounts off and just slowly wear him down. The second is Xeno Jiva. Basically the same reasons but he's not as bad. When he flies in the air hit him with 3 slinger shots to get a huge window. The mobility feels good for keeping up with him and plenty of windows to attack.
Everything else in the game is smooth sailing. The damage output is high, the mobility is high, tons of iframes.
The slinger burst will just carry you through LR. Clutch claw a monster and break some slinger ammo off of them and just spam the slinger burst with it. Piercing Pods and Bombs will obliterate everything. Master perfect rush and that will carry you through HR.
Then on MR learn to master the backstep and you'll have an easy time throughout the entire game.
This weapon is exactly as advertised in the videos. The only difference are the TTS times won't match up until you get Focus 3. Huge hits, they STILL stagger at low gear to LR and HR monsters. Similar to the Hunting Horn but to less of a degree the secret is finding the right window to attack. You can take the easy route and draw attack sheathe over and over until you get a window for a TTS, or try to predict a TTS or Shoulder charge through an attack to open a window for TTS.
I'd recommend trying to master the slinger burst TTS early on as it will be an invaluable tool in MR when monsters shift positions quickly.
This is by far the easiest weapon in the game in my opinion. At no point did anything provide any challenge. Tons of mobility, decent damage output that is just constant. The only annoyance was running out of ammo. It relies heavily on rapid fire for progression. Normal 2 and elemental rapid fire work great. Which means if you run out of ammo of the rapid fire types if feels really bad. With tenderizing that's not as much of an issue as it use to be, since things die to the extra tenderize damage before you run out of ammo, but there are always farcasters to restock. I'm talking about fights you have no business fighting yet, like Bazelgeuse the moment you enter HR and Rathalos at HR2. The wyvernbombs are fantastic burst for knock downs. Honestly if you want an easy game pick up this weapon. It never falls off. It's just always good with quite a few build variety, but the playstyle always stays the same.
This weapon starts off rather awful, similar to the bow, but picks up greatly as time goes on. At first the low stamina prevents you from doing the things you need to do, but the monsters you fight at this level aren't bad. Sharpness levels suck too early on. Anjanath at HR2 will be an awful fight, but ironically Rathalos is significantly easier. Just watch out for the charge and the hop. Once you unlock level 2 canteen and level 3 canteen it starts to feel good. Pick up some Stamina skills and Rathalos set bonus with WE and you're set. It will FEEL good for most fights, but against tall monsters like Anjanath, Deviljho, Radobaan, Xeno Jiva and Urganaan it's not a fun weapon to use. Unless there's a slope. Find a slope. Love the slope. By the time you get halfway through HR depending on how early on you decided to farm HR Azure Rathalos and Rathalos you'll love this weapon and feel super strong. Due to its mobility it doesn't fall off in MR. You can keep up with the monsters just fine. Funny enough a lot of the monsters in MR are smaller, minus a couple, which makes dual blades feel that much better.
However tenderizing is annoying as heck, you can do it quick and anytime, but having to do it twice for such a short duration is annoying. I'd recommend slotting the clutch claw decoration.
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