Posted by: Leek | November 21, 2015

Monster Hunter Cross Demo: Insect Staff Impressions

So I’ve had a day and half worth of playtime sunk into the MHX demo and I figured it would be time to write something out. And, since it’s what I’ll be running in my first playthrough, I figured I would go over my impressions on the insect staff changes. It’s not huge but I’ll just go over some general changes, the two hunting moves given, and the merits/demerits of each of the styles.

General Changes

If you haven’t been keeping up with Cross news, you might have missed the big posting that jump attacks overall had been nerfed. Monsters are slightly more resistant to jump attacks from the getgo, and it’s going to take you more than a few trips to the air if you want to take something down. However, insect staff still retains the same control of the air and doesn’t require a particular style to perform the usual vault. There was very little reason to vault endlessly to begin with, so the largest change for most users will come in the form of what skills you choose to look for in your armor sets.

-Insect Stamina
The other biggest change is you’re given a clear view of your insect’s stamina meter when you send it out. Stamina had always existed in 4, but it was impossible to tell how much longer your insect would stay in flight before you lost control of it. Overall, this could be considered a minor buff as you can now manipulate your actions accordingly to adjust for stamina. Otherwise, the frequency you can can send your insect back and forth is relatively unaffected, unless you’re constantly attacking from a rather large distance.

Hunting Moves

– Mushi Matoi / Bugoboros
The first to be revealed and, generally, best of the hunting moves provided in the demo. Mushi Matoi is allows you to give yourself a tiny glowing orb that will slowly circle around you for a fixed period of time. If it happens to make contact with the monster, it will inflict a small amount of damage and happily go about it’s business circling you. While it doesn’t make contact too frequently, the damage piles up very quickly and allows you to stun lock a monster if you’re able to stay on it with your basic combos. However, it is harder to get full value out of Mushi Matoi against monsters with frequent movement, or anything you need to resort to constant hit and run tactics against. The charge time is on the longer side, but the effect lasts for a good minute and half so you’ll spend almost as much time with it up as down.

However, there are a few pointers to remember before activating Mushi Matoi. The move itself does have a long activation time (somewhere between three to four seconds) and you’re completely vulnerable until your friendly, shiny bug starts circling you. So be sure any surrounding monsters are a little distracted before you activate it. Roars are another thing that can interrupt the animation, so make sure the monster isn’t about to let one loose or you can kiss all your hard earned meter goodbye. Your bug companion also has little care for what it makes contact with. So try to make sure you don’t need to jump onto bomb duty while your bug is active. Or, if you really need to get a bomb out, just make sure you’re ready to eat all that explosive damage with the monster.

Overall, Mushi Matoi is most likely going to be a staple hunting move to bring along for staff users. It can benefit you even if you’re not on the attack as long as you’re in the monsters vicinity, and it can even sneak in some extra damage if you’re getting attacked.

-Extract Hunter
Extract Hunter is the second insect staff only hunting move provided and the more questionable of the two. Extract Hunter was something a lot of staff users were looking forward to, but the overall performance of it feels a little below average. Extract Hunter (like Mushi Matoi) has a lengthy startup animation (around two seconds) that ends with you tossing your insect forward at full force in whatever direction you aimed. If your insect manages to hit a monster, then it inflicts damage and collects a special rainbow extract that immediately sends you into a full powered state. While it sounds like an incredibly handy move (especially with it’s low charge time), it generally ends up having very little payoff given the difficulty of use.

As I said before, the move itself has a lengthy startup animation and, the worst part, it can’t be retargeted once you activate it. So if a monster happens to shift it’s position during that two seconds, then you’re going to miss and can’t do anything about it. Not to mention, the state triggered by rainbow extract lasts for a much shorter time than if you collect each separate extract per regular. This can be worked around by building meter for Extract Hunter while in your powered state, but it’s a slightly ambitious expectation to expect to pull that off consistently, as it also requires you get a clean hit with every Extract Hunter use. The last negative is that Extract Hunter will consume all of your bug’s stamina upon use, so don’t expect to try and hold that extract for exactly when you want to use it.

On the more positive side, it is impossible to fully judge Extract Hunter’s capability without having full damage numbers and knowing whether or not your bug build will greatly affect it. For staff users using a power bug build, it can easily translate to consistent and powerful damage as long as you can hit it consistently enough. But the demo build does make me feel that I would rather take a general skill in place of it.

Overall, I hate to break it to staff users that you’re one of the few weapons that has very little breathing room in terms of using multiple styles. I don’t want to say that two of the styles are completely useless, but I do believe the demerits that come with each heavily outweighs the merits. Because of this, I’ll be explaining the styles in order of what I consider least useful to the most useful. Mostly due to the fact that the more useful styles are better explained via how unsatisfactory the other styles are.

Originally, Striker was the one style that I had the most ambition for as a staff user. With how the weapon played in MH4, I had a strong feeling that building up a ton of meter over a short amount of time would pose very little problem. The unfortunate thing is that the simplification made to staff in Striker actually work strongly against it. In Striker, your A button becomes dedicated to sending out your bug. This means that you almost completely lose combo manipulation while in Stiker (as X is your only means of standard attack). This can be painful to an experienced player as the ability to manipulate your combo on the fly allows you to easily re-tune it to fit in any situation. And, while the combo provided by Striker’s X mashing isn’t horrible, it generally feels as if you ultimately don’t build gauge any faster than you would with a better tuned combo in other styles. With this in mind, is the extra hunting move provided by Striker really worth it given the control you lose? I don’t think so. After playing around with several weapons, I do feel that two hunting moves is enough to get by that you won’t have any reason to cripple yourself playing Striker with insect staff.

While it was originally being considered to be the end all style for every weapon by a lot of players, Bushido has ended with mixed results for many. While the ability to perform just dodges at any given time is great, the trade offs for certain styles requires very specific play, staff included. So what’s the big deal with Bushido for staff? Anytime you send out your bug it will completely drain it’s stamina. This means no redirection or calling it back immediately. So if you want to use your bug effectively, then you better make sure it makes contact with the target you want. Now this isn’t completely horrible as marking the appropriate area of the monster will usually guarantee you get the extract you desire. And if you perform the just action after your dodges you can quickly grab some extract off a monster while you proceed to continue your attack. However, the usual ability to constantly poke the monster with your bug between attacks is huge, and generally Bushido turns that time into making sure you mark the monster properly for your bug. The real problem is the Bushido style is mostly meant to reward experienced players for having particular elements of their weapon down, and those rewards don’t feel very strong for staff. I definitely prefer it over Striker, but I believe the remaining two styles actually highlight stronger points for staff users.

Aerial was a style I figured would be a complete hit or miss for staff. The weapon already comes with the embedded ability to vault, and I wasn’t sure how this style would affect the weapon’s original abilities. But compared to Bushido and Striker, Aerial is the style that keeps the more important core elements of staff the same. The big change happens in your natural vault. Rather than the usual vertical vault that comes in every other style, Aerial causes you to launch yourself at full force at around a thirty degree angle. And, while it feels strange for awhile, you’ll quickly see the merits it has in allowing you to either get in a quick strike on a monster or out of particularly hairy situation. Otherwise, it behaves just the same as the regular vault and you can still attack as well as aerial mark at any point in your jump. Pair this will Aerial’s natural ability to spring off of monsters and you have a style that offers multiple ways to dodge and re-position yourself during a hunt. I don’t expect Aerial to be picked frequently with staff, but it is definitely a style to look towards if you need the mobility and are willing to sacrifice an extra Hunting Move.

It won’t cause any thrilling changes in your gameplay, but Guild style is probably going to be what most staff users will fall back on for the majority of quests. If you’ve followed along, you’ll probably realize it’s really hard to pick other styles unless you’re ready to sacrifice a lot of utility in your weapon. Striker cuts aggression, Bushido cuts bug utility, and Aerial just fills a very niche slot that you won’t need to worry about very often. So Guild really just fills the middle ground too well where you can’t do anything special, but at least you have all your utility and two hunting moves to show for it.

Summing It Up
The most important thing is to take everything in this post with a grain of salt. It is just a demo, and there are mountains of unknown content that could easily affect a lot of things down the road. New skills, certain hunting moves, bug builds, monster behavior, and much more could easily change the game down the line. But something will definitely be required for staff users to really consider eating all the demerits to play Striker or Bushido. However, it was very well known early on that every style wasn’t meant to fit every weapon. It’s just a shame that staff’s demerits have to be as heavy as they are.

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