Monster Hunter usually follows a familiar formula. One to four players eat up, head out, and cut down a beast or two to fashion into magical pants. In MHW, Kulve Taroth changed all that. The game’s first “siege monster” introduced a new style of play — where up to 16 hunters can work together to investigate, rather than slay, the walking city of gold. It was a neat change of pace that introduced randomized (rather than handcrafted) weapons with unique quirks. It intelligently added a brand-new zone and totally different style of play!
It also condenses the worst parts of Monster Hunter World into a single hunt…
Hunting as a group is far from smooth in MHW. Even a year after the game’s single paid expansion, and on the cusp of its final title update, Capcom hasn’t quite perfected the process. Disconnects are common. The lobby system, which might make sense in fighting games or a portable Monster Hunter, just feels convoluted from the comfort of your own home.
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— Monster Hunter (@monsterhunter) April 23, 2020
Finding a decent-sized group for Kulve Taroth involves hitting a filter search, looking for the monster specifically, and pecking through 16-player lobbies until you find one with enough people. Too few means the mission will take longer. Too many means there’s a good chance the lobby will fill up before you load. And so the process repeats. There is no true, proper matchmaking in MHW.
And what if you disconnect mid-investigation? Progress in the siege levels up as you complete side objectives (e.g. breaking gold plating off Kulve Taroth) and whenever other groups in your lobby do the same. Your progress in the multi-mission Kulve Taroth siege is tied to that same lobby. It doesn’t carry over to offline mode. Nor does it come with you if you need to change online rooms. Instead, you’re given a pittance of a reward based on where your progress cut off — a handful of low-level weapons, instead of the smattering of endgame gear you were really after.
This has happened to me more times than I care to remember. Your level determines your reward, so getting kicked before completing the siege, which usually means cutting off Kulve Taroth’s horns and letting it escape, barely gives anything.
There’s actually a lot to love about this system! Kulve Taroth drops crafting material by the boatload mid-mission. Even a failed run can net you oodles of gold nuggets and such. You can turn these in for armor, cold hard cash, or (if you have enough) to an NPC who spits out weapons as if you actually experienced the sweet satisfaction of victory. Nothing goes to waste.
Capcom actually took this bestest idea from Kulve Taroth incorporated it into the Guiding Lands: a new endgame area introduced in the expansion. Monsters drop scales and teeth and parts of their brains there like candy… that somebody dropped. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it is a perfect example of the MHW team building on past ideas. There’s a nearly guaranteed sense of satisfaction you don’t get from most loot games. Even if you fail, you get some kind of reward.
I’m less sold on the second MHW siege: Safi’Jiva. This big, red lizard also offers random weapons. Yet powering them up requires even more random currency. This “dracolite” only drops when you fight Safi’Jiva. So you need to grind and grind to get not just the weapon you want, but to customize it as well.
When Kulve Taroth finally returned to MHW in an expansion update, I was elated. I was so worn out on Safi’Jiva that even the old, lightly updated content felt fresh. Though I wish it once again built on the game’s past.
You can melt unwanted Safi’Jiva weapons down into upgrade materials. The same is not true for Kulve Taroth 2.0. It’s strange to see two sieges — ostensibly similar content — with two different good ideas that don’t match up. Safi’Jiva should have more guaranteed rewards, like the Kulve Taroth parts you knock off the gold dragon mid-mission. Whereas Kulve Taroth should give me more to do with junk loot. Both fights are MHW at its best and its worst; each fight shows how the other could be better.
The updated version of Kulve Taroth actually does away with the siege mechanic entirely. And that’s a bit of a shame. MHW stands out as a purely cooperative live game. Everyone works together against seemingly insurmountable creatures. Putting 16 folks together across multiple quests enhances that sense of working towards a greater goal. The upside of this more traditional fight is much better gear, of course.
As I write this, Kulve Taroth is about to take the place of Safi’Jiva yet again. The two monsters alternate in and out every few weeks. Much like the sieges themselves, this keeps things fresh! It’s also a constant reminder of the game’s faults. It’s also also a constant reminder of why Monster Hunter will go down as one of my favorite games this generation.