For my first 70 hours with Monster Hunter: World, I played solo. These days, I'm happy to play alongside other hunters, but I'm still glad I started out by hunting alone.
Monster Hunter: World is a game about squaring off against humongous monsters in dramatic, one-on-one fights. It's also a game about gleefully wailing on those same monsters alongside a group of friends. Every mission in the game can be played solo or with up to three teammates, and there's a significant difference between the two experiences.
I came back to World yesterday after a week or so away, tempted by the new, PS4-exclusive Horizon: Zero Dawn armour set that makes you look like that game's protagonist Aloy.
The limited-time quest is called "The Proving," and tasks you with hunting a T-Rex-like Anjanath in the wild.
I headed out into the wilderness and quickly found myself locked in combat with an Anjanath. Hello, old friend. I thought back to my first encounter with the fire-breathing jerk, and how much of a harder time I had then.
Anjanath functions as Monster Hunter: World's first major "skill check;" the first monster to put up a serious fight. New players who've coasted through the opening missions will likely find themselves stuck, or at least challenged, for the first time.
My most recent fight against Anjanath wasn't nearly as difficult as that first one, but it was still a fun challenge. I remembered most of the beast's attacks, and dodged and parried its most dangerous lunges with ease.
I knew all the dance moves, so I could just relax and enjoy myself. I lured it into a trap; I blinded it with a flashbug. I leapt onto its back when it wasn't looking. I whittled down its health and tracked it to its lair.
When I finally captured it and completed the mission, I found that although I'd harvested a bunch of parts, I didn't have nearly enough to unlock the Aloy armour. Like a lot of things in late-game Monster Hunter, it turned out unlocking that armour would be a bit of a grind. If I wanted my hunter to magically grow red hair and transform into a Nora warrior, I'd need a bunch more high-rank Anjanath parts, as well as a rare Anjanath Gem.
Instead of heading out on another solo expedition, I matchmade my way into a group of players who were also farming the Horizon quest. I rolled into the jungle alongside two strangers, each of us sprinting toward where we knew the Anjanath would be.
We defeated the monster with almost zero effort. Our group mostly just swarmed it, mercilessly hacking as it angrily attempted to fend us off. After we finished I immediately jumped into the quest again, and again, each time fighting alongside a different group. An hour later, I'd beaten the Anjanath four more times.
The contrast between that first solo encounter and my subsequent co-op farming served as a good reminder of why I like playing Monster Hunter: World on my own.
The game is more exciting, and I have much more control over the ebb and flow of combat. That's not to say I think the game should only be played solo, or anything like that. Given how Monster Hunter: World is structured and how much grind and repetition is required in the game's later stages, it's good that you can play it with others.
I generally like to fight a monster solo the first time, but once I need to grind a monster for parts to make armour, I'll eventually just start hopping into groups so I can farm more easily.
It can also just be a lot of fun to screw around out in the woods with your friends, and I even get why some people think of Monster Hunter games as co-op experiences first and foremost. I've beaten Nergigante like ten times at this point, and I sure wouldn't have had the time or the patience to do that all on my own.
Most of my time with Monster Hunter: World has been on my own, though. My recent series of Anjanath fights reminded me how much fun this game is to play solo.
I'm glad I didn't start hopping into matchmaking from the start, especially as someone who's new to the series. If I hadn't been forced to succeed on my own, I might not have overcome that initial skill check against Anjanath, let alone made it through the dramatic showdown against Diablos that came after.
Monster Hunter: World is plenty of fun whether you play it solo or in a group, but I never would have learned to survive if I hadn't started out on my own.