I was a fairly late-comer to the Monster Hunter series, only picking it up after the release of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate (MH4U), and for that, I feel cheated. Why had no one sat me down and told me exactly how great this series is? The gameplay was so excellently focused and never tried to distract the player from the core concept: Absolutely devastating giant monsters and wearing them like hats. Monster Hunter Generations (MHG), far from seeking to revolutionise or alter this basic concept, has refined the gameplay elements that attracted me to the series in the first place. While it does introduce some new elements, these only serve to improve the player experience and keep the hunt going, and even brings a little bit of Nostalgia with it for veteran players. There’s very little to dislike about this installation to the series.
Sometimes they’re hats, sometimes they’re breastplates, but every monster has a wardrobe use!
Regarding narrative, I’m weirdly a little disappointed in the fact that it’s hardly present. I know that the series isn’t exactly known for having expansive or compelling narratives, but MH4U at least tried. You started out on a sand boat heading for a secret, travelling town of hunters and the tutorial for the basic controls involved killing a giant sand monster that would have destroyed the town. In your underwear. Seriously, you were pretty skint when you started that game. Upon your successful arrival, the half-crazed lunatic who helped you during the fight turned out to be your new boss and introduced you to the McGuffin that kept the plot trotting along. It wasn’t the greatest story in the world, but it was at least something, and, as far as I’m concerned, it was an excellent introduction.
Monster Hunter Generations does away with pretty much all of this; no whimsy, no grandiose introductions, just a couple of minutes of exposition and a pat on the rear. You arrive in Behrna, a village founded around the Wycademy, which is dedicated to the study of the various monsters that co-exist in this world. By “arrive,” I mean you literally start in the middle of the village and spend the first twenty minutes being told you’re a hunting assistant to the academy while greeting the locals. You pretty much get right into things at this point, and that’s it; there’s some intrigue created around a few particular monsters, but it’s hardly what I’d call a story. More of a “Look at that thing! I bet you can’t wait to kill it, huh? HUH?”
Actually, I really couldn’t – those bastards make the best looking armor.
The story doesn’t really matter in the long run; like I said earlier, it’s not the main draw of the game. What the game lacks in a decent (or any kind of) narrative will likely make up for that with its nostalgia factor. Aside from Behrna, all the villages present are returning from previous games, and the game also brings back a few old maps that have received some graphical updates. The old maps have also received some slight changes and updates to incorporate the changes in mechanics, which sadly doesn’t include the underwater combat. It was removed after MH3U, I’d heard that it was quite frustrating, but it’s an intriguing mechanic that I would have like to have seen improved and brought back in rather than be left out again.
Hunting down and murdering the crap out of nature’s titans before literally wearing them like trophies, however, is why one plays Monster Hunter. MHG has brought some excellent quality of life updates to the mechanics of the game without altering the core concept, and the result, I’m happy to say, is pretty sweet. Collecting from gathering points or monsters is now done by holding down the button instead of madly smashing the thing. When upgrading equipment, you’re occasionally able to substitute certain materials with others of equal rarity. Hunter styles and arts have been added, with styles changing the way your character controls and arts being abilities that you can use based on your chosen style and weapon. It allows for an even greater level of customisation than was already present in the game.
Which was already pretty dang high.
The difference these changes in design makes is immediately noticeable while playing and makes the Monster Hunter experience much more enjoyable. Hunting styles and arts also don’t just make hunting easier and more adaptable to your preferences but make taking monsters down far more enjoyable. Picking the right style, weapon, and abilities for a particular beastie and then taking it down within just a couple of minutes is damn satisfying. It also encourages players to use weapons that they might not have used before since these additional mechanics really help with adjusting to their use. Being able to upgrade armour every other level based on resources instead of armour spheres also makes progression a little faster in that respect, and far less grind-tastic.
There’s also now a delivery palico that waits at base camp to take an entire inventory’s worth of items back to your stash at the village; even if it’s only just one load, it makes a massive difference. Speaking of palicoes, you can play as one now in “Prowler Mode;” there are certain missions that only prowler palicoes can undertake, but they’re best used for gathering trips. They have unlimited stamina, unbreakable gathering tools, such as pickaxes and bug nets, and, if they’ve been trained right, they’ve even got innate healing skills. It basically means that you can go into harvest tours with nothing in your inventory and get twice as much out of these mission types as you would a human hunter.
I mean, you’ll still kill a lot of the same things over and over, but now they can be used for lots of different things!
In MHG, palicoes feel like so much more than just minor assistants while playing single player mode. Trading, Meownster Hunters, and a new “Palico Dojo” all use Palicoes, and all of it can be controlled from your housekeeper in each village, and the benefits of using them are invaluable. The previously mentioned prowler mode is also excellent; the improvements they bring to gathering missions eventually begin to feel like a side-benefit more than anything. The prowler missions also convey some pretty great rewards and still allow you to gather a whole pile of resources. If players keep up their palico training, they’ll never want for critical items and makes the few occasions where you have to scavenge for items yourself actually enjoyable.
The lack of a G-rank system isn’t all the surprising, as I’m expecting some kind of MHGU to be released at some point as has been the case with the series in the past, just not in the West. Perhaps not, as there is still plenty of DLC content already available and plenty more to come – there’s every possibility that the game will be kept alive in that way. For the moment, however, the high ranking quests are basically your end-game, and that may come as a disappointment for some. I’ve already sunk dozens of hours into the game and I’m not close to completing everything there is to complete, but I doubt it will have the longevity carried by the likes of MH4U.
So, like, a few hundred hours instead of a few thousand.
There are a couple of things that still bug me, like your character feeling the need to pose or faff about whenever they consume an item, for instance. I’m sure that Demondrug tastes awesome and makes you feel incredibly powerful, but do hunters really need to stop and flex while being charged by a rampaging murder beast? They’ve also shaved down the cut-scenes that came with encountering new larger monsters in MH4U, which is disappointing. In MH4U, a new monster meant a little cinematic of your hunter encroaching upon their territory and being confronted in a dramatic fashion. This is still true of the “fated four” at the right times, but everything else gets a two-second clip followed by a Borderlands-style flash of their name before you get down to the fight. Much like the story, it takes away from a lot of the atmosphere I found so appealing about MH4U.
Depending on how you look at it, Monster Hunter Generations is what you might call a perfect sequel. It doesn’t drastically change how the game is played or tries to introduce some crazy new mechanic to keep things “interesting.” It simply looked at what the game was and found ways to improve upon it, which, at least in my opinion, has been accomplished admirably. The level of customisation for veteran players has been upped, monotonous gameplay has been smoothed out, and new mechanics have been introduced to significantly assist players. It definitely lacks some polish when it comes to presentation, there’s no grand story or adventure to embark upon, and some of the atmosphere of MH4U has disappeared. If you were expecting these elements then you may be disappointed, but the rest of the game will see to it that you won’t remain that way for long.