With about fifteen minutes experience with the Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate demo under my belt, I’m hardly the best qualified person to tell you about the ins and outs of what’s new and different in Monster Hunter Generations. Having said that, with this aiming to be the most accessible Monster Hunter yet, you could consider me to be within its broadening target audience.
But accessibility doesn’t necessarily mean dumbing down. You’re still venturing out as a hunter to track down and defeat fantastical beasts much larger than you are. It sinks its hooks into players in the same way that many action RPGs do, with looting, resource gathering and a general lean towards the inherent joys of co-op play and teaming up. There’s a reason why it’s spawned numerous imitators.
Generations liberally takes inspirations from the last decade of games, to create one of the broadest Monster Hunter instalments so far. Instead of one village, there are four, with three of these returning from previous games. There’s a bunch of returning beasts for you to hunt as well, including a number of the flagship monsters from the past. Similarly, instead of adding new weaponry, they’ve looked to consolidate and refine the fourteen that existed previously. Each has its own particular fighting game-like moves and combos that need to be learned.
Fighting monsters is a gruelling dance of death, but I quickly got into the swing of things – those 15 minutes learning the basic controls of MH4U really came in handy – as I hunted the Great Maccao, a beast that we affectionately started to call “that big Chicken thing”. I learnt to look out for its attacks, got to grips with the somewhat cumbersome dodge roll, as well as the slower, heavier attacks of the Long Sword. Despite fainting a couple of times and having to venture forth from the village to track down the monster once more, I actually managed to defeat it within the demo’s time limit! Admittedly, I was helped by the main new addition to the hunting gameplay, that of Hunter Arts and Hunting Styles.
Hunter Arts are powerful new abilities that can be used to augment attacks, buff other team mates, give you invincibility when dodging, and so on. You can only have one of these equipped at a time in Guild Style, which is most similar to the previous Monster Hunter play style, but Striker Style lets you equip three Arts at once, giving you a lot more flexibility. For those who’ve mastered the combat of previous games, the Adept Style will appeal most. With precise timing, you’re can launch powerful counterattacks when you evade an incoming move.
Aerial Style is easily the most flamboyant new addition, though. It adds a little jump to your dodge roll which, when you roll into another player, a wall or a monster, then sees you leaping into the air, and capable of pulling of a quite spectacular attack. Once I got the hang of the button presses, I was arcing through the sky raining down a trio of shots from the heavy bowgun in a spectacular fashion. The jump will also let you leap onto the back of a monster in a way that was only possible when leaping from a ledge in MH4U.
Yet, Generations features one more new play option. Prowler mode might sound like it’s one letter removal away from being a Monster Hunter fan dating app, but it’s actually at the core of Capcom’s latest attempt to make the game more open and inviting to newcomers. It doesn’t really detract from the core hunting experience in any way – could you imagine the fan reaction to this? – but gives you more options in how to play.
Essentially, you’re stepping into the boots of the pussycat-like AI Felyne that normally accompany you on your single player jaunts, with a number of gameplay elements toned down to better suit a novice’s entry point into the game. Aside from these being bizarrely adorable characters, there’s no stamina bar for you to worry about, you don’t have items to use, but have abilities that are charged up by landing attacks, and so on. You’re even given the ability to burrow underground and become invulnerable to attack.
At the same time, it’s quite clear that you’re not a hunter. Your attacks are comparatively light and weedy, and while there are certain combos and nuances to learn, they quite happily accommodate a little button mashing at the same time. You probably won’t be going solo monster hunting within Prowler mode because of this, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its uses for the veteran player. You have unlimited pickaxes and bug nets, which makes playing as a Felyne for a little while an absolute godsend for when it comes time to go resource gathering.
Most importantly, it means that Prowler mode isn’t an “easy mode”, which would put people’s noses out of joint. Yes, it’s potentially an easier way to get into the game for newcomers, but it’s going to be at its best when playing with others who are showing you the ropes. In that way, Capcom hope to bring a new generation of players into the Monster Hunter fold.
Oh wait! I think I just understood the title!