I only ask because i hear people talk about breaking certain parts of a monster. I don't think I ever noticed breaking anything with a hammer so far. I'm at the very start still so I haven't fought anything big. The Tigrex at the start does not count since we aren't meant to kill it with beginner's gear. I wouldn't want to waste time if I don't have to.
Hammers are a great way to break parts of monsters. You can break things from horns of a Diablos/Monoblos, to claws from Tigrex, to Spikes and fangs from Wyverns such as the Los species. Slash weapons can do the same if I'm not mistaken, just takes a bit more, but they're also able to cut tails from a monster, wielding another carve (Or two), as well as a chance for a reward after completing a quest.
TL;DR: When you break something, their physical look will change slightly, and those rewards will come at the end of the quest.
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Breaking parts is also a good strategy, since many monsters loose certain abilities when certain parts break, such as Lunastra and her "family" losing their annoying shield effect when their horns break, or Chameleos losing its invisibility.
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Strike type weapons can break things easily but they can't break tails. Strike type weapons can also KO monsters when you hit them enough times in the head, leaving them open for more head pounding.
Slash type weapons takes some time to break some parts but the bonus is that they can cut tails. Cutting tails also lets you to carve that tail that was cut off which gives more chances on getting some materials.
So, most of the time you will need to beat that monster again and again with both weapon types so you can get the materials you need.
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