As we said in our Monster Hunter World: Iceborne review (opens in new tab), it's an exciting evolution of everything World established. It's got beautiful environments, dozens of fun and brutal monsters, and the increased difficulty that World desperately needed. Unfortunately, it also inherited some of World's worst traits, like crapshoot decoration RNG and boring weapon designs. Many players - myself included - have grown increasingly frustrated with weapons as they've unlocked more gear, to the point that the Monster Hunter Twitter (opens in new tab), Reddit (opens in new tab), and YouTube (opens in new tab) communities have all expressed heavy disappointment. It's not enough to undermine the otherwise stellar expansion, but this has seriously hurt the enjoyment of Master Rank for a lot of players.
If you've missed this particular controversy, let me catch you up to speed. In all the Monster Hunter games before World, weapons were highly stylized to show off the traits of the monster whose parts were used to craft them. This made them pop out and contribute more to your hunter's identity. But in World, many end-game weapons - I'd say 30 to 40% of them - use the bone and iron weapons as a base and basically staple a few pieces of that monster to them. As a result, a lot of weapons pretty much look the same, and by the same, I mean bad. There are dozens of drop-dead gorgeous weapons in Iceborne, but if anything, these standouts just make the homogenous iron and bone designs look even worse by comparison.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I get that, but I defy you to find one person that prefers the Brachydios dual blades, longsword, and switch axe to its great sword, longsword, and hammer. The samey designs don't reflect that monster's abilities and appearance, so they don't communicate the same power and individuality that more bespoke weapons do, and this problem extends far beyond "I think this sword looks dumb."
Firstly, these weapons used to look way better. Again, Brachydios is a good example here. Its weapons all look great in Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, but while Capcom kept some of the same designs for World, they defaulted to the bone bases for things like the longsword and dual blades, and I honestly don't know why. I can only assume it was due to some form of development constraint - limited time, money, or manpower perhaps. Fair enough, I suppose, but that doesn't make these weapons any less ugly.
Even if World was your first Monster Hunter game and you've never been spoiled by the old weapon designs, it was pretty clear in the base game that some weapons got way more love than others. As such, most players were hoping to see the Master Rank weapons in Iceborne improve on this, not repeat it. Instead, we got dozens of Master Rank weapons which look indistinguishable from High Rank weapons.
This goes back to how aesthetics tie into power. No, a better-looking weapon won't actually make your character stronger, but it will make you look stronger, and that idea is a central part of Monster Hunter. You don't improve by leveling up, you improve by making gear from the monsters you've hunted. This gear lets you display your feats in a meaningful way, and it makes weapons and armor more aspirational. I've crafted weapons in Generations Ultimate just because of how cool they look. I'll never use them, I just wanted to own them. The weapons in World have had the opposite effect. I actively avoid ugly but strong weapons just because I hate the way they look, and I know I'm not the only one. I want my character to look and be strong, and I just can't achieve that with bone and iron templates.
The thing that really kills it for me is the feeling of hunting a new monster for the first time and unlocking all its gear. In older Monster Hunter games, I couldn't wait to see what new weapons and armor looked like. I would giddily sprint to the blacksmith to preview new stuff. But in World, previewing new gear is a gamble. Instead of fantasizing about the cool stuff, I'm worrying about the bad stuff while I walk to the blacksmith. Which weapons got hit with the ugly stick for this monster? I hope it's not one of my favorites. Can I really bring myself to use a weapon that looks like this? Why does this weapon type look so basic when this one has so much flare and flavor? These are not the questions I want to ask while playing Monster Hunter.
I can't stress enough that this isn't a deal-breaker for Iceborne, but I also can't overstate how disappointing it is. Boring weapons have always been the biggest problem with World, and they're still the biggest problem in Iceborne. It just feels like a huge missed opportunity, especially for Capcom's best-selling game ever. We can only hope that Capcom improves these weapons in future updates, either by straight-up patching in better designs or by adding Augmented options which better reflect the old style, but I'm not holding my breath. If nothing else, I hope the next Monster Hunter game has more memorable weapons - and before I get monkey's pawed for that statement, I meant memorable in a good way.