You know, Monster Hunter really takes over my life. I've not been playing anything on my pile, just Monster Hunter. How far have I gotten? Right now I'm on the cusp of 200 hours, and I've finished all the offline quests save for the final two (which are devilishly tricky), and online, I've reached Hunter Rank 7. It doesn't sound like much, but once i clear Hunter Rank 8, I've pretty much unlocked the entire game. From there on it's just hunting and questing for more materials for more weapons and armors.
Which brings me to the subject of today's post: how do you decide which pieces of armor to put together?
In most games, armor is usually rated on the amount of defence that it gives you. The higher the better. When you come to Monster Hunter for the first time, a common misconception that new players make is that they buy armor based soley on the defence stats. "Oh, this piece of mail has 8 more defence point than this other one, it must be better", and they put together a set of armor that has the most defence points.
The problem is, Monster Hunter incoporates a skill point system to its armor that makes it more valuable to put like pieces of armor together, rather than individual pieces with the most defence. In most cases, a beginner should try to make a complete set of armor of the same type, because each piece's skill points will complement and combine together to give you bonus abilities that you otherwise wouldn't have. These abilities, or skills as Monster Hunter calls them, can be anything from increasing your Attack damage, to reducing the time required to drink health potions, or even showing you where the monsters are on the map automatically.
Here's the key: skill points must total 10 or more in order for a skill to become activated. Let's take a look.
This is the skills status page for my hunter, equipped with various pieces of mismatched armor. See the skills? There's a whole bunch of skills listed, but look at the orange highlighted column on the right: each skill only has 2 points or less. That means that none of these skills are doing anything for you at all. Nada.
I often see new hunters with this kind of set up. Here's what I gently say to them: "Why don't you try putting on a complete set? Try all the pieces of the Leather set you started with, maybe, see what happens."
Now compare this mismatched set with no skills to the skills I have on my gunning/bowing set, which is a full Damascus set.
See the difference? Above the line, I have 5 skills activated. On the right most column it describes what the skill does, and you can see the totals to the left. +15 in Thunder Atk, and +10 in Wide-Range, Slime Coating, Reload, and Protection. These are specific skills that benefit using a bowgun or bow.
That's all well and good, but there comes a point where you want to create a custom combination, to try and get certain skills all together that aren't available in a standard complete set.
This is where mixing and matching really gets complicated. Knowing which pieces to put together so that you reach that magic number of +10 points in the skill categories you want involves a lot of finangling and juggling. When you take into account the added complexity of gems that can be attached to armor to give skill points, as well as a charm you can wear that also gives skill points (and may even have gem slots), the head starts spinning and my eyes tend to glaze over.
So I recently was recommended by a twitter friend @j_monster a Windows app that automagically determines mixed armor sets based on the skills you want to achieve. Athena's Armor Set Search for MH3G and MH3U is a free download and it really does the trick. You select which skills you want, and it will calculate what combinations of armor pieces will give you those skills. It will also take into account the various charms, how many gem slots your weapon might have, as well as even what level you are at in the game, both offline and online.
If you're thinking about what armor set to put together to use with your hammer to take down Goldbeard Ceadeus, for example, now you can just plug in the skills you think you need, and voila! Here's the pieces you could use to achieve that.
After all, Monster Hunter is a game as much about the gear and the preparation as it is about executing a plan and killing the monster in the little dance of death that we do. And what a sweet little dance it is.