Monster Hunter games are hybrids of action games and role-playing games (RPG), set in a fantasy genre. Gameplay is generally divided between time spent in various villages to manage equipment and resources, and going on quests to hunt down giant monsters that prowl in fields near these villages. The player starts as a novice Hunter and is tasked through quests to help protect and support the villages either by hunting or trapping monsters, or by collecting resources that can be obtained in the field.
Atypically to most RPGs, the player’s Hunter does not have any intrinsic attributes that change throughout the game, outside of a Hunting rank that determines what quests they can embark on. Instead, the player selects armor, weapons, and other equipment that grant certain bonuses or penalties to the Hunter. There are several different weapon types ranging from swords, hammers, hunting horns, lances, bows, and guns, each of which provide the player with different combat maneuvers in the field, and determine the Hunter’s attack strength and potential elemental or status-inducing effects on the creatures they fight. Armor, made up from different pieces, grants defensive value, strengths and weaknesses to certain elemental attacks, and positive and negative points towards specific skills. These skills only activate after the player equips the Hunter with gear that pass a given threshold; for example, by having 10 total points in the Attack skill, the Hunter’s attack is boosted, but may also accumulate -10 points in this skill which can weaken the Hunter’s attack. Thus, the player can work to coordinate different sets of armor, weapon, and additional equipment including talismans and decorative gems that can be slotted into certain pieces of equipment to customize which skills their Hunter will have or to avoid inducing a negative skill effect.
Basic weapons, armor, and other equipment can be purchased from village shops using the in-game currency Zenny, but most equipment is constructed from collected resources, including the spoils from defeating monsters, represented in game as the various parts of a monster like hides, horns, and tails. The core loop of gameplay in Monster Hunter is to equip the Hunter with gear best suited for defeating a specific type of monster, questing to hunt and collect parts from that monster, and construct the equipment from those parts that is generally better in combat than their current gear, allowing the player to engage in more difficult monsters. The monster parts and other resources are given to the Hunter based on various percentages, with some parts appearing with high rarity. The player may often be required to undertake the same quest several times to defeat the same monster type to get these parts. Once equipment is crafted, it can then be upgraded. Weapons typically can be upgraded along a “weapon tree”, where the player may have the option to choose two or more specialized versions of a weapon at a given upgrade point. Armor typically can be improved through armor spheres to increase its defensive value.
A quest will generally designate how much time the player has to complete the quest (generally 50 minutes), the goals of the quest, the location of the quest, and other restrictions. Prior to the quest, the player selects which equipment for the Hunter, as once on their field, this cannot be changed. Each game features several different fields, each made up of several interconnected areas including a base camp where some supplies and a health-restoring tent can be found. Some areas in a field may be very hot or cold, which can affect the Hunter’s health and stamina unless they are protected against these effects