Longtime players of Monster Hunter often equate the weapons of the game to individual classes rather than weapons you just swap between. I've learned how each weapon worked since 4U, but I favor the dual blades for aggressive DPS for example, while many people like the simplicity and defense of the lance, and others still want to keep danger at arms' reach with the heavy bowgun while retaining DPS.
Each weapon may look the same when you got a wiff of them during the beta for World, there are some fundamental changes that really shake things up when it comes to how you engage with each weapon. I played almost every weapon during the beta with the exception of lance and gunlance, I still got a look at how they were changed from GaijinHunter. Still if you're not sure which weapon you want to try come January 26, here's a small breakdown on how the weapons have changed for the 5th generation of monster hunting.
The general strategy of the great sword is the same as ever. The additions to its moveset are pretty big defensively and in increasing its burst damage. First, it got a shoulder tackle that has super armor. The number one danger to great sword is charging a slash only to see the monster rear up to attack you. Now you can cancel a charged slash with a tackle and super armor your way through most attacks
Secondly, it got a new, third tier of charged slash called true charge slash. Now the great sword has three full charged slashes, which bumps up its burst damage exponentially. The old strong wide swing is still there for differently timed engagements, but a knocked down monster is going to take a lot more damage now with charge, strong charge, and true charge slash.
The long sword got two new moves which augment how you spend spirit meter. Red spirit meter is still the goal, but how fast you get there and how long you preserve it can be done quicker and longer with the spirit thrust and foresight slash, which both gamble your spirit meter in exchange for more.
Spirit thrust gambles your meter in exchange for rapidly charging meter gain. Hit with it and you can quickly unleash a full spirit combo to level up. Miss and you lose all your meter and have to start over. The foresight slash on the other hand is a special dodge and counterattack. Perfectly evading an attack with it leads to a counterattack that goes right into the leveling up round slash.
Sword and shield:
Most of the sns and moveset is intact with exception with the ability to combo indefinitely with the direction changing spiral slash. It now has a dedicated shield attack button and combo, so it can exhaust and KO easier than ever before. But the big change is of course the addition of the slinger you can use while the weapon is out. It also got a dedicated leaping and mounting attack after its charged slash, which gives the insect glaive a run for its money for mounting.
I can't wait to see how stylish bombing evolves now that you don't need the evade skill. Just drop bombs and use the slinger!
Archdemon mode has been nerfed, removing the demon dashes from archdemon mode and making them exclusive to demon mode. But demon overall got buffed with bigger hitboxes and faster move speed. It's new down-the-back aerial buzzsaw attack is also super cool.
The new big bang brutal combo is a really fun way to lay into a monster if you see a big opening to exploit. It can also take charges and store them internally for later use like a buff, making future charge attacks that much stronger. But it's still the classic wail and wham hammer as ever before.
The horn has been massively buffed, probably in an attempt to sway more hunters into using it since its constantly being treated as pure support weapon. Now, songs are stored and queued up, so a single recital can potentially play three songs in one go and still encore all three again. You can finally see your horn's songlist on the HUD, which is a massive quality of life improvement to encourage more horn users.
You can now forward step with its evade! It also got a new jumping thrust which hits three times while the combo has been restored to its old three hit thrust from before Generations. Defensive lancers got a boon with new shield states to negate all sorts of damage, but what's most interesting will be how lancers will use the jumping thrust together with your range of movement with the evade hops.
In my opinion, gunlance didn't change a lot except for the new wyrmstake driver, which is a whole new addition of burst damage, like how the great sword got the true charge slash.
The undisputed king of the skies feel completely different and powered up with its new midair extender. Not only can you evade in midair, but its aerial strong attack allows you to use stamina in exchange for additional air time to continue racking up spinning glaive hits. While the kinsect got some additions involving the pheromone shot, this change alone makes the glaive undisputed in air contests.
The new dragon piercer is extremely popular among bow users, to the point that you will probably see this attack constantly online in teams due to how powerful it is. It's an obscene amount of burst apparently with no limit on distance either.
Both light and heavy bowguns are completely different, with more comfortable and modernized third person shooting mechanics instead of the old crazy 3DS schemes we've been forced to use for a decade. Bowguns in general feel more intuitive to use: you can move while reloading (except for heavier ammo types), it's easier to move while aiming, you can even move while shooting for the most part. Believe it or not most of these things you had to do while standing still, so bowguns are more fluid in execution.
It's also important to note the appearance of motion values on hit help ranged weapons a lot because accuracy on weak points and hit zones is important to doing actually good damage with gunner weapons. Not to mention critical distance is easier to decipher with your target reticule.
I usually save purchasing and crafting gunner weapons until later on in my hunting career due to the investment in understanding monster weak points and positioning but I may make a gunner weapon earlier since making them work efficiently is no longer some hard science.
I'm a dedicated dual blades user who often makes a great sword later while leaving the sword/shield and long sword for when I want to spice things up before becoming a gunner. But the fact that you don't need to craft gunner specific armor anymore and the quality of life changes for bowgun makes me want to go ham with heavy bowgun machine gunning much earlier.